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?
- 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
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.)
- 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.
- You can either put hardwood cuttings round the edge of a big pot or in the open ground in a slit trench.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Leave the cuttings where they are for at least 12 months or until they are making visible new top growth.
- Move them to their final destination next autumn or winter, the next dormant season.
A Gardeners' World video with David Hurrion here.
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