Tuesday 16 October 2018

Taking hardwood cuttings so easy

Plant of the week - Gaultheria mucronata
Plant of the week - Gaultheria mucronata

Andrew Collyer - Practical Gardening

Taking hardwood cuttings is by far the easiest way to propagate the shrubby plants in your garden. This propagation method is suitable for nearly all deciduous woody plants including trees, shrubs, climbers and roses. It is also effective for many evergreens shrubby plants as well.

A hardwood cutting as the name would suggest is taken from plant growth that is fully lignified or hardened. This material needless to say becomes available in winter which means you can take your hardwood cuttings anytime from November until February.

When selecting your cutting material you want to choose this years hardwood growth not the previous years. This is usually evident if you follow the growing tip down back towards the main stem of the plant until you see a change in the look of the bark. The old growth is usually slightly coarser in texture and there is a slight bulge in the stem. This is the point from which this years growth started and above which you should select your cutting from. The new growth length on the plant depends on the individual plant and its general growth rate. It could be as long 60 centimetres which can provide up to three individual cuttings or as little as 10 centimetres which is only enough for one. Ideally select straight clean growth and a growing tip is not essential as you will be trimming this down anyway.

Once you have identified the growth you want to take as your cutting cut it off from the main plant with sharp secateurs just below a leaf bud. On large plants you are looking to create a cutting around 20 centimetres long on smaller plants 10 centimetres is really the minimum length that is suitable for this propagation method. Once you have made you're flat basal cut you need to make a sloped cut to the desired length for the cutting this time above a bud. This will allow rain water to run off the top cut and also ensure you remember which way is up for the cutting. May sound obvious but not as simple as you might think sometimes.

You should now have a cutting or cuttings that are roughly the size of a pencil with one end flat cut under a bud union [bottom] and the other end cut at an angle above a bud union [top]. These cuttings are going to be buried at least half their length into the soil or a deep pot. The soil should ideally be prepared by digging over to a spade depth deep and if possible adding a little horticultural sand or grit. This is not essential and is an added cost so if you don't have any already I would just select a well drained area cultivate it well to receive the cuttings and leave it at that.

Whenever taking cuttings always take more than you need to allow for failures. The failure rate will largely depend on the plant you are propagating, dogwoods, willows and poplars should take at 95% where as roses may be as low as 50%. Before putting in the cutting in the soil dip the flat cut surface in some rooting hormone, this is worth buying, as it helps the rooting end callous over, keep out disease and encourages root growth. To plant up make a slit in the soil of the prepared area, either in a vacant space in a vegetable area or even in the location you intend for the plant finally. If you are doing the latter still put in at least three cuttings and remove all but the strongest once rooted .Bury the cuttings 150 mm apart and to half of their depth and firm in and water.

If taking hardwood cuttings of evergreens you will need to keep the growing tip intact and only take shorter cuttings of around 150mm. Otherwise use the same methods for deciduous plants. Remember that these cuttings will not be rooted until the end of the autumn next year so place them where they can be undisturbed until then. During the summer keep them watered and free of weeds and just because they are showing growth above ground doesn't mean they are rooted below it. Come next winter lift the rooted cuttings and transplants to their permanent location.

The Argus