Taking hardwood cuttings is a simple way to make more plants for free and is the perfect task for a winter day.
As their name implies, hardwood cuttings are taken from fully matured and hardened stems in winter. You’ll need no expensive equipment apart from a pair of secateurs and a large plant pot, and even that can be dispensed of if you have a spare patch of well-drained soil.
Video guide to taking hardwood cuttings
Though rooting is slower in winter, the fact that the plants are dormant means that the cuttings should stand through the winter months without wilting or desiccating. They will begin to grow the following spring and by autumn they will have a decent-sized root system. They can then be dug up, trimmed back to encourage branching out and transplanted to their final spots in the garden.
Hardwood cuttings are taken mainly from deciduous shrubs but some evergreens, climbers and fruit bushes work, too. Apples, pears and plums are best avoided as they’re usually grafted onto a different rootstock to control their growth.
More advice on taking cuttings:
Discover Alan’s favourite plants to take hardwood cuttings from, below.
Ilex x meserveae ‘Blue Princess’
Most are best taken as semi-ripe cuttings in mid- to late summer, but cotoneaster, privet and holly (which can be slow) can be taken as hardwoods in winter.
Look for shoots where the tip bud has darkened and stopped growing. Strip off lower leaves – large leaves can be cut in half. Evergreen cuttings benefit from the additional humidity of a cloche or cold frame.
Twisted willow, Salix tortuosa
Poplar and willow (Salix) can even be rooted from big, old, gnarled lengths of branches.
Honeysuckle, Lonicera periclymenum
Honeysuckle (Lonicera), jasmine, Hydrangea petiolaris, roses (though these are best prepared in October) and vines (Vitis and Parthenocissus). Avoid the soft, spindly growth and work your way backwards until you find shoots that are woody, still green inside and as thick as a pencil.
Forsythia ‘Lynwood Variety’
All deciduous shrubs are worth having a go with. Hardwood cuttings are taken at or after leaf fall, which helps to stop them drying out. Trim off any leaves that are left when preparing your cuttings.
Abelia, buddleia, cornus (dogwoods), deutzia, forsythia, laburnum (though this is often very slow), hydrangea, philadelphus, ribes (flowering currant), roses, salix (willows), spiraea, viburnum and weigela.
Blackcurrant in fruit
Currants (red, black and white), fig, gooseberries and mulberry (will often root from very thick stems). When preparing cuttings of white and redcurrants, rub off all but the top three/four buds to prevent suckering. Rub out buds from the base of gooseberry cuttings when transplanting the rooted cuttings.
For figs, take large cuttings up to 90cm long and wear gloves to protect your hands from the sap, which is an irritant.