Autumn and winter are the perfect seasons to concentrate on one of the easiest methods of making new plants for free – hardwood cuttings. These are cuttings that you take when the stems have become hard and woody.
One of the challenges when taking other types of cuttings is making sure they don’t lose moisture and shrivel up, while ensuring they’re not so sodden that they rot. They need to be kept in a moist atmosphere, so they’ll quickly form a healthy root system.
Taken in late autumn or winter, hardwood cuttings don’t have leaves, so they lose less moisture than other types of cutting. Also, the stems are already so mature they’re less susceptible to rotting than younger stems. You do have to be patient though, because they take months, not weeks, to root. However, while they may take longer than other types of cuttings, they’re among the most successful.
Which plants work?
Almost any shrub can be propagated by hardwood cuttings – those that make good strong straight stems will produce the best shaped plants. Blackcurrants, dogwoods, shrub roses, viburnum and Physocarpus are good examples, but there’s little to lose by experimenting with almost anything. Spireas, forsythia, hydrangeas, deutzias and weigela are certainly worth trying, as are a few large shrub and tree varieties: elders, poplars and willows are the most likely to succeed.
Native hedges such as hawthorn are fantastic for wildlife, and can be grown easily from hardwood cuttings. While you’re at it, why not try taking hardwood cuttings of a few climbers? Honeysuckle roots well and, to decorate fences and walls, ornamental climbers such as vines, jasmine and Virginia creeper make successful candidates.
Blackcurrant in fruit
Currants, whether red, white or black, produce straight, thick stems that are ideal for this method.
Height x spread: 1.5m x 1.5m
Shrub rose, Rosa mundii
Shrub roses are slightly easier to propagate from cuttings than climbers or ramblers.
H x S: 1.5m x 1.5m
Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diable d’Or’
You can make more of this with softwood cuttings, but hardwood cuttings will root easily given time.
H x S: 2.5m x 2m
Although Buddleja self-seeds, if you want more of a specific variety, you have to increase it vegetatively.
H x S: 3m x 5m
Mock orange, Philadelphus coronarius ‘Aureus’
If well-pruned after flowering, philadelphus should make nice strong canes too.
H x S: 2m x 2m
Forsythia x intermedia ‘Lynwood Yellow’
Any strong new growth resulting from early pruning is ideal to make more of this spring-flowering shrub.
H x S: 3m x 3m
Fat flower heads, then autumn colour. Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’ is also good on heavy soils.
H x S: 4 x 4m