Propagating Woody Deciduous Plants by Hardwood Stem Cuttings

Plants can be propagated by several different methods.  Some woody trees, shrubs, and vines can be propagated by deciduous hardwood stem cuttings.  Plants that can be propagated by this method include willow, poplar, dogwood, forsythia, grape, and gooseberry. 
Hardwood stem cuttings are collected in late winter (when the plant material is dormant) from wood of the previous season's growth.  In Iowa, hardwood stem cuttings should be collected in late February or early March.  Cuttings should be taken from healthy, vigorous plants growing in full sun. 
Materials needed to make hardwood stem cuttings include a pruning shears, rooting hormone, plastic bag, and sphagnum moss or wood shavings.  Use the pruning shears to collect cutting material and also cut the shoots to the proper length.  A rooting hormone promotes rooting of the cuttings.  A plastic bag and lightly moistened sphagnum moss or wood shavings are used to store the cuttings until spring. 
Hardwood stem cuttings are made from the woody growth of the previous season.  The length of most hardwood cuttings varies from 4 to 12 inches.  However, the cuttings of some plants may be up to 30 inches in length.  The diameter of hardwood cuttings typically ranges from 1/4 to 1 inch.  Each cutting should have at least two nodes.  The bottom cut should be made just below a node and the top cut one-half to one inch above a node.  (A node is the point on the stem where a leaf bud or leaf is attached to the stem.) 
Dip the bottom of each cutting in a rooting hormone.  Gather the cuttings together (placing all the tops in one direction) and secure them with twine or rubber bands.  Place the bundled cuttings in a plastic bag containing lightly moistened sphagnum moss or wood shavings.  Store the cuttings in the refrigerator.  Placing the cuttings in the refrigerator keeps the cuttings in a dormant state. 
In early spring as soon as the ground is workable, remove the stem cuttings from the refrigerator.  Take the cuttings out of the plastic bag and plant them in the ground.  When planting the cuttings, make sure their top ends are pointing up.  Completely bury the cuttings to within an inch or two of the top bud.  For many home gardeners, a good planting location would be at the end of a garden as the site would be convenient and easy to maintain. 
A consistent supply of moisture is crucial to the successful rooting of hardwood stem cuttings.  After planting, water the cuttings on a regular basis in dry weather. 
Cuttings that successfully root and grow should be left in the ground for at least one growing season before they are dug up and planted in their permanent locations.  Fall (after leaf drop) and early spring (before bud break) are the best times to dig and transplant deciduous trees and shrubs.


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