Perhaps the easiest way to increase stocks of deciduous shrubs and fruit bushes is to use the propagation technique of taking hardwood cuttings. Although this may sound complicated it is actually quite simple, and generally very successful. The most important thing you will need, apart from a knife or secateurs, is a little patience.

The period between November and January is the best time to propagate from hardwood cuttings, although they will be most successful if taken once your chosen parent plant has dropped its leaves. Plants that take easily from this type of propagation method include,

Black currents, Species and hybrid roses, Spirea, Buddleia, Willow, Cornus, and Viburnum – winter flowering varieties

You may find that some plants need their lower leaf buds removed from their cuttings material before being planted. In these cases rub them off using your thumb, leaving the top three untouched. These would include,

Gooseberry, Red currant Deutzia, Forsythia, Kerria, Leycesteria, Philadelphus, and Weigela.

The first step is to select a suitable stem from the parent plant. Make sure that the plant is healthy then look for a well ripened pencil thick stem about 30 cm (1 foot) long from near the base of the plant. Choose those stems that were originally produced early on in the year. If you choose immature stems then your cutting is liable to rot. Cut the stem from the plant using either a sharp knife or a good pair of secateurs.

The next step is to prepare your cutting. Making sure that you are holding it the right way up make a sloping cut just above your proposed top bud, then make a second cut – this time horizontal - approximately 6 inches below the first cut, and just below a bud. For those plants known to be difficult to take root, remove a 1-2 cm sliver of bark from its base. This is called wounding and helps the natural chemicals within the plant to initiate root development. Also consider applying rooting hormone to the base and wounded area, although this isn't usually necessary for hardwood cuttings.

Choose an area of soil that will not be over-exposed to harsh winter weather and dig it over loosely, breaking up any large clods as you go. Then, simply push the cuttings into the soil. Hardwood cuttings, although leafless will still lose some water through evaporation from their surface. Unfortunately, being allowed to dry out is the commonest reason as to why these cuttings may fail.

To avoid this water loss it’s important to leave only a small amount of the cutting exposed above the ground. However if you plant too deep the buds will not grow properly. In practice the third bud from the top is planted just below ground level. Therefore, for most plants, only an inch or so is exposed above ground level.

When finished, don't forget to clearly label your cuttings by their plants variety names. These cuttings should now remain undisturbed until the following autumn. By this time they would have rooted sufficiently enough to be either transplanted into a pot for growing on, or planted into their final position.

For related articles click onto the following links:
RHS Hardwood Cuttings
What is Air Layering?

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