Yard and Garden: Propagating Plants with Hardwood Stem Cuttings

February 1, 2017, 2:31 pm | Richard Jauron, Greg Wallace

AMES, Iowa – There are several ways to propagate a tree or plant on a new landscape. While planting trees, shrubs or vines directly is one option, another is using hardwood stem cuttings to promote new growth with help from the previous growing season.

ISU Extension and Outreach horticulturists can help answer your queries regarding hardwood stem cuttings. 

What are hardwood stem cuttings?

Plants can be propagated by a number of different methods. Hardwood stem cuttings use shoots of the previous year’s growth on trees, shrubs and vines to produce new plants.

Which plants can be propagated from hardwood stem cuttings?

Several woody trees, shrubs and vines can be propagated by hardwood stem cuttings. Plants that can be propagated by this method include willow, poplar, dogwood, forsythia, wisteria, grape, currant, gooseberry and elderberry.


What materials are needed to make hardwood stem cuttings?

Materials needed to make hardwood stem cuttings include a pruning shears, rooting hormone, plastic bag and sphagnum moss or wood shavings. Use the pruning shears to collect cutting material and also cut the shoots to the proper length. A rooting hormone promotes rooting of the cuttings. A plastic bag and lightly moistened sphagnum moss or wood shavings are used to store the cuttings until spring.

When should material for hardwood stem cuttings be collected?

Material for hardwood stem cutting should be collected in late winter (when the plant material is dormant) from wood of the previous season’s growth. In Iowa, hardwood stem cutting material should be collected in late February or early March. Material should be taken from healthy, vigorous plants growing in full sun.

What is the proper size of hardwood stem cuttings?

The length of most hardwood stem cuttings varies from 4 to 12 inches. However, the cuttings of some plants may be up to 30 inches in length. The diameter of hardwood stem cuttings typically ranges from ¼ to 1 inch. Each cutting should have at least two nodes. The bottom cut should be made just below a node and the top cut one-half to one inch above a node.  (A node is the point on the stem where a leaf bud is attached to the stem.)

What is the procedure for rooting hardwood stem cuttings?

After cutting the material to the proper length, dip the bottom of each cutting in a rooting hormone. Gather the cuttings together (placing all the tops in one direction) and secure them with twine or rubber bands. Place the bundled cuttings in a plastic bag containing lightly moistened sphagnum moss or wood shavings. Store the cuttings in the refrigerator. Placing the cuttings in the refrigerator keeps the cuttings in a dormant state.  

In early spring as soon as the ground is workable, remove the stem cuttings from the refrigerator. Take the cuttings out of the plastic bag and plant them in the ground. When planting the cuttings, make sure their top ends are pointing up. Completely bury the cuttings to within an inch or two of the top bud. For many home gardeners, a good planting location would be at the end of a garden as the site would be convenient and easy to maintain.  

A consistent supply of moisture is crucial to the successful rooting of hardwood stem cuttings. After planting, water the cuttings on a regular basis in dry weather.  

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