Summer is the perfect time of the year to propagate perennials, shrubs, and trees by stem cuttings. The primary benefit of cuttings is that all offspring are clones, retaining the same genetic material and characteristics as the mother plant. People are often intimidated by cuttings, but with some precautions and proper preparation, many gardeners can reap the benefits of propagating their favorite plants. Materials needed for taking cuttings include a container, rooting medium, a plastic bag, clean pruners, and rooting hormone. The key to cuttings is to maintain a moist, but not wet medium and keeping humidity around the cuttings.
First, choose the branches from which to take cuttings. There are a few types of cuttings: tip cuttings, hardwood cuttings, and softwood cuttings. Hardwood cuttings are usually taken from older wood, while softwood cuttings are taken from newer, more pliable growth on shrubs or trees. Tip cuttings are usually taken from perennials and are taken just below the main growing points. The mother plant should be as disease and insect free as possible.
Next, it is time to dip the cuttings in rooting hormone. Make a cut at a node and dip in a rooting hormone powder. The leaves on the cutting should then be cut in half to prevent excess moisture loss. Once the cuttings are stuck in the medium, a plastic bag can be used as a cover to maintain humidity.
The rooting time varies with plant species and cutting type. Cutting should be checked after 7 – 14 days, every few days by gently tugging on the stem to feel for resistance. Once rooted, the young plants will need special care to ensure they grow adequately throughout the summer. They may even require extra protection during their first winter.
For more information, see HGIC 1054, Hardwood Cuttings for Shrub & Tree Propagation.