How to propagate trees from cuttings

poultrydukFebruary 21, 2008

Hey, if you have a tree which you want to clone, but don't want to use complicated methods, look no further. I have recently experimented this method on Asian pear trees, and it works great.


Root Hormone (I used powdered)

Healthy cuttings from a tree of your choice

Local soil (I haven't tried vermiculite yet)

Large pot

White plastic trash bag

Step 1: Attain healthy cuttings from a healthy tree. Remember to always ask permission if you are taking cuttings from someone else's tree. Try to aim for 4-8" cuttings for small trees (such as dwarf fruit trees), and 10-15" cuttings for large trees (such as oaks). Smaller trees will root faster. Try to cut cuttings off of the tree at 45 degree angles.

Step 2: Fill the pot up with soil, and moisten the soil with a sprayer. Create 8" deep holes in the soil for the cuttings. I would recommend no more than four cuttings in a pot with a top diameter of 14".

Step 3: Remove the bark off of the bottom 1/3 of the cutting. Put the bark-less part of the cutting into a glass of water for five minutes. Then, dip the bark-less part of the cutting into the rooting hormone, and GENTLY place it into the already-prepared hole. Try to space the cuttings evenly, and not too close.

Step 4: Gently firm the soil around the cuttings, and mist them. Then, place the pot in the white, plastic bag, and tie the top. I found it works well to gently mist the inside of the plastic bag, as well. Place the pot in place OUT OF DIRECT SUNLIGHT. You may think you need sunlight to root the cuttings, but the sun will dry up the soil. The cuttings do not need to be in a completely dark place, but a medium between bright and dark would be nice.

Step 5: Mist the cuttings EVERY OTHER DAY unless the soil is visibly dry (you can tell this because the soil will crack when dry). Also, try not to water too much, because the cuttings will rot. Although it is tempting, do not remove the cuttings to check on them. Actually, don't look at them at all for the first two weeks (except when watering). Don't worry, they will let you know when their ready. After about a month, smaller trees will begin to grow small leaves and shoots.

It would be best to wait until the trees are big enough to survive the elements before you transplant them. So, in essence, don't put them outside at first sign of growth. Wait about three months after the first sign of growth to do this.

Good Luck!

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kittyl(8/9 Calif)

I'm curious, why are you removing the bark, the cambiun layer? Isn't that the part that would grow or spout roots?

    Bookmark   February 23, 2008 at 4:35PM
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I don't know exactly why, but removing the bark seems to allow the cuttings to grow roots better. Kittyl, ou may be right, though. Next time I will try to keep the bark on and compare the results. I guess it's just a matter of personal preference, but I know that removing the bark works.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2008 at 9:03PM
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kittyl(8/9 Calif)

Someone on the greenhouse forum clarified that the cambium layer is just underneath the bark. They said some practice scarring a cutting to achieve the same result. I had never heard of this, but it's worth it for me to try. I've been playing around with hardwood perennials, so maybe I'll try a few there also. I also have some grapes I can try.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2008 at 1:27AM
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Is this something that should be done before the tree puts out leaves in the Spring? (I'm thinking of trying this, but I've never done anything like it before.) Thanks!

    Bookmark   February 26, 2008 at 1:02PM
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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

Another question - I have asked a couple of times over as many years and never get an answer from anyone who appears to know.

Does one want new growth from the ends of the lower more horizontal limbs or new growth from the top where the limbs are more vertical?

    Bookmark   February 27, 2008 at 12:09PM
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Do you remove the cuttings from the plastic bags after they have rooted? I tried rooting olive trees under plastic wrap but they grew moldy before they rooted.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2008 at 5:15PM
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wyndyacre(z6B SW Ont.)

If you have a look at the Butterfly Bush from Cuttings thread, you'll see a method that can be used for many other shrubs and woody plants as well.

There are many methods of propagation and some methods may be more successful than others on individual plants. You really need to do some research on which method is preferred by whatever you wish to propagate. Some shrubs prefer propagation from dormant, greenwood, softwood, hardwood cuttings. Some work well with layering, grafting.....well you get the picture. :) There are so many methods...

Two good books I own are The American Horticultural Society Plant Propation and The Plant Propagators Bible by Miranda Smith. In addition to showing the different methods of propagation they each have a listing that tells you what method is preferred by many different plants.

There are some shrubs and trees that are so *easy* to propagate, that you could use practically any method and they would grow roots. Some of these are forsythias, willows, dogwood shrubs, purpleleaf sandcherry, blue mist shrubs, butterfly bushes and lots more. All these will root using the method I described in the Butterfly Bush from Cuttings thread. (Which BTW, I've gone on to pot up into 3" pots now because they've grown a big enough root ball.

Here's a photo that shows 2 flats of Blue Mist Shrub cuttings. The right one are cuttings that have just been stuck in a flat of ProMix; the left are ones that were rooted earlier and have now been potted on into 3" pots. Blue Mist is a really easy one...from cutting to rooted plant took only about 6 weeks. I might add that I don't bag my flats but use a clear plastic dome to hold in humidity. I also use a heat mat-not absolutely necessary for many cuttings but very helpful. Obviously, I also have a greenhouse but you don't want to put cuttings in direct sunlight when they are rooting, just bright light. I placed the flats together on the bench for the photo.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2008 at 6:10PM
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After the cuttings have rooted, you can SLOWLY remove the plastic bag. For example, one day you can open the top a bit, the next day you can open it more, and the next day you can remove the bag completely. This helps prevent shock, which would hurt the cuttings, as they are still very sensitive.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2008 at 8:21PM
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Thank you for the info, wyndy! And the picture! :)

    Bookmark   February 29, 2008 at 7:32AM
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An answer for albert 135...Generally, cuttings taken from side shoots tend to develop into 'bushier' plants. This is not true of all of them and I have never seen a list that indicates which plants will exhibit this characteristic. My rule of thumb when propagating tall trees is to take cuttings from the straight, upright top growth. This should give you upright growth and discourage 'Y' trunk branching which weakens a tree and is not desirable. Shrub and woody perennial cuttings made from side shoots usually tend to be fuller. Not always true, but quite often. Try it both ways.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2008 at 9:55AM
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stoloniferous: it would be best to try this method in the winter or early spring, before the cuttings have bloomed and put forth leaves. This allows the cutting to put most of its energy into developing roots, as opposed to maintaining leaves. If you can't do it any other time besides when the cuttings have leaves, I would recommend cutting off the leaves, because they are going to fall off anyway, after the cutting has wasted precious energy on maintaining leaves.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2008 at 10:16AM
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two questions.

  1. Anyone propagated oak trees by cuttings?
  2. When do you take the cuttings?
    Bookmark   March 3, 2008 at 6:56AM
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1: I have not propagated oak trees, but it can be done. It just takes a long time.

2: It would be best to take the cuttings before any new growth (such as in winter or early spring). However, if you must take cuttings withe leaf growth, simply cut off the leaves and/or fruits, then just propagate them like normal.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2008 at 3:35PM
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Thank you Poultryduk! I will take your advice, and go grab some cuttings before they put out leaves!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 1:25PM
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What time of the year do you take and start the cuttings?

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 1:14PM
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hershell: It would be best to take cuttings before leaves appear. However, if this is not an option, trim the leaves and other growth off of the cuttings. It is best to take and start cuttings in early spring.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 4:22PM
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What about a wiegala bush? I want to start a new bush b/c the one I have is in the wrong place. I'm going to try taking a cutting and see what happens but wondered if anyone has already propagated a wiegala??

    Bookmark   June 22, 2008 at 12:13PM
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I prefer air layering for shrubs and trees. It works almost 100% of the time and there is less stress on the cutting because it's still attached to the mother plant.

Weigela is easy to root nanaclaire. Just take a lower branch and bend it down to the ground. Scrape some bark off of the branch and put rooting powder on it and cover that branch with soil where you put the powder. Put a brick on top to hold it down. Go back in about 3-4 weeks and check on it. You can just cut that limb and move your little plant then.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2008 at 3:52PM
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THANK YOU... I just went outside and did what you said and hopefully in 3-4 weeks I'll see roots! Thanks! I want to move the bush and not sure we'll be able to dig it up since it is so big, but we're going to try. Anyway, if I have a baby, that will be helpful in case we can't dig it up. I want to put a new patio where that bush is. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   June 22, 2008 at 6:12PM
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How long do you keep them in the plastic bag? I stuck some plum tree prunings in a pot of peat/compost mix. They've been in there for maybe 3 weeks, some are staring to break bud. Should I continue to leave them in the bag? We should have some good weather coming, even though we had a dusting of snow tonight.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2010 at 1:18AM
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treble(6b/7a MD)


I'm new here, wishing I had read this before I pruned my Jiro persimmon tree about three weeks ago. I couldn't bear to throw the large branches I cut off the tree, so I stuck several of them into a bucket of rain water. Is there anyway to get new Jiro persimmons from these salvaged twigs and branches? I've never grown or propagated anything except from seed and little plants from the store, or else transplanted from another garden.

The tree was dormant when I pruned it a few weeks ago. The main tree is just now starting to leaf out. It is growing in the mid-atlantic region zone 7. Our temps here are between 40-70s'F. The tree blossoms are finished and now starting to leaf out.

Would these prunings be treated as hardwood cuttings? Any advice/suggestions for a newbie will be greatly appreciated. Could I use similar techniques to propagate my fig tree? Thanks!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 2:43AM
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    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 2:32AM
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I tried your instructions and it worked great ( at first). I saw the trees budding out and got a first blossom. then it all went south, I think they received to much direct sunlight perhaps but they dried.Up. I transplanted them into potting soil vs the hard clay they were in. they now look green but no new blossoms? Do you think I can do anything to ensure survival?

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 12:20PM
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there are many propagation vids at youtube and
if you are looking for prop ways of a specific plant, just... youtube(plant name)..hope this helps

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 10:54AM
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danzeb(7a long island)

Many plants are easy to propagate from cuttings as long as they stay moist. For some, rooting hormone helps. A lesser number of plants are very difficult.

Some plants root fast and you may see roots in a few weeks. Other might take 9 months. I've taken summer cuttings and didn't see roots until spring. Many tips have already been posted and most are worth a try.

Propagating Oaks: My squirrels gather the acorns in the fall and plant them. Next summer I rip dozens of new oak tree that I don't want out of the ground.

A friend wanted a privet hedge. He took pencil size cuttings from a neighbors hedge and pushed them into the ground where he wanted the hedge. He watered them regularly. By the fall he had his new hedge and didn't even have to transplant.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 8:37PM
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