This is the easiest stem cuttings method, as they have no leaves to rot and plenty of stored food reserves. It is perfect for a wide range of deciduous trees, shrubs, roses and soft fruit. Most cuttings will have rooted within 12 months.
Hardwood cuttings are taken when the plant is fully dormant in autumn after leaf fall and winter, avoiding periods of severe frost; success is usually best in mid-autumn.
Traditionally, hardwood cuttings are usually made between 23-30cm long, but a length of 15-23cm is usually long enough.
Hardwood cuttings are usually grown on outdoors in the ground in a prepared ‘slit’ trench. Ensure the soil is first dug over and additional organic matter added if the soil is light sand, heavy clay or in poor condition. To make the trench, insert the blade of a spade vertically in the soil and push it forward to produce a straight-sided, V-shaped trench. Add 2.5-4cm of sharp or gritty sand in the bottom.
If you are only taking a small number of cuttings, you can also root them in pots.
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Step by step
- Select vigorous healthy shoots that have grown in the current year.
- Remove the soft tip growth, if there is any.
- Cut the stem into sections 15-30cm (6-12in) long, cutting with a sloping cut above a bud at the top; this acts as a reminder of which end is the top.
- Cut straight across the bottom of the cutting just below a bud/pair of buds.
- Dip the bottom cut end of the cutting in hormone rooting.
- Insert the cuttings into the slit trench with two-thirds of the cutting below ground level. Where a single-stemmed plant is needed, such as with gooseberries, either leave just one bud above ground level or carefully rub off surplus buds.
- Allow 10-15cm (4-6in) between cuttings.
- Check the trench after frosts and re-firm the soil if needed.
- Cuttings are left in place until the following autumn, ensuring they do not dry out during dry periods in late spring and summer.
- If you’re only taking a few cuttings, there is no need to dig a trench, simply insert the cuttings into deep containers of gritty potting compost, such as a 50:50 mix of coarse grit and multi-purpose compost. Keep the pots in a sheltered cold frame or unheated greenhouse until the following autumn, ensuring that they do not dry out.