Free plants: the hardwood cuttings edition

First published by Rattan Direct on 2 November 2016.

Welcome to another blog post in our occasional series about taking cuttings to make plants for nothing. For nothing, that is, if you’re prepared to put in a little time now and you’re not in a hurry. That’s because hardwood cuttings take about nine to 12 months to establish a root system.

The dormant period, when plant growth has slowed to a standstill, is the best time for hardwood cuttings. This is from October to about February, just before growth starts again in the spring.

Which plants are suitable for hardwood cuttings?

This fantastic display of colour comes from various dogwood species (Cornus), at Broadview Gardens, part of Hadlow College. Hardwood cuttings.
This fantastic display of colour comes from various dogwood species (Cornus), at Broadview Gardens, part of Hadlow College.
© Nick Smith and reused under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0 Licence.
  • Many ornamental shrubs and trees including dogwoods, flowering currant, forsythia and willow.
  • Roses. If you’re renovating climbing and rambling roses you might be able to use some of the prunings.
  • Climbers like jasmine and honeysuckle.
  • Fruit bushes like gooseberry, blackcurrant, redcurrant.
  • Deciduous hedgerow trees.

How to take hardwood cuttings

  1. Take fully ripe (hard) one-year old stems, about the thickness of a pencil. You’ll be making cuttings of about 25-30cm (10-12 inches) long.
  2. Make a cut above a bud at the top (a sloping cut will mark the top and will encourage rain to run off) and below a bud at the bottom (a straight cut will mark the bottom and allow you to push the cutting into the soil easily).
  3. With redcurrants, whitecurrants and gooseberries, remove all but the top three or four buds to create a clear stem. (Leave all the buds on blackcurrants.)
  4. Some people use hormone rooting powder to encourage root formation and to discourage rotting … and some people don’t. This year, I’m not using any and will see how it goes.
  5. You can either put hardwood cuttings round the edge of a big pot or in the open ground in a slit trench.
  6. A big pot filled with gritty potting compost (say 50:50 coarse grit and multi-purpose compost) works well if you’re only taking a few cuttings. Push them about two-thirds in, close to the edge which helps drainage. Firm them in, then water well. Keep the pots in a sheltered cold frame, unheated greenhouse or somewhere very sheltered until next autumn.
  7. To make a slit trench, drive the spade in and move it to and fro a bit. Add a good handful of grit or sharp sand. Then insert the cuttings to about two-thirds of their length, spaced 10-15cm (4-6in) apart. Firm them in, then water well.
  8. Look at the cuttings every fortnight or so and water during dry spells or if the pots are drying out. Standing pots on a tray of gravel with some water in it can help.
  9. Leave the cuttings where they are for at least 12 months or until they are making visible new top growth.
  10. Move them to their final destination next autumn or winter, the next dormant season.

More detailed advice from the Royal Horticultural Society here.

A Gardeners’ World video with David Hurrion here.

Good luck!

Winged thorn rose, Rosa sericea omeiensis pteracantha, grown from a hardwood cutting. Hardwood cuttings
Winged thorn rose, Rosa sericea omeiensis pteracantha, grown from a hardwood cutting
© peganum and re-used under CC BY-SA 2.0 licence

 

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