Propagating Potentilla from Cuttings

Last updated : 21 November 2014

Propagating potentilla from cuttings is really easy to do and when done as softwood cuttings during the late spring early summer they root quite quickly, usually in two to three weeks.


21 Plants That Are Easy to Grow and Sell Like Crazy
Propagating Potentilla from Cuttings

Propagating Potentilla from Cuttings


What I am going to show you in this post is propagating potentilla late in the season when the wood is much harder.  I am also going to show you hard I am cutting these plants back and why.

But first let me explain the difference between a hardwood cutting and a softwood cutting and knowing when to take cuttings for propagation.  Plants leaf out in the spring and immediately start growing, here in northern Ohio that usually happens around the third week of April.  Once the plants start to make leaves you should wait about six weeks before you take any cuttings.  Why?  Because when that new growth first appears it is really soft and too tender to support itself as a cutting.

After about 6 weeks the new growth, often called “wood” when talking about plant propagation, begins to harden off.  About 6 weeks into the growing season the wood has usually hardened off just enough that when you take a 4-5″ cutting and stick it in a propagation medium the cutting is just rigid enough to support itself and not wilt and collapse.  Cuttings taken from this soft new growth are considered “Softwood Cuttings” because even though the new growth has hardened off a little bit, it is still very soft and pliable.  Softwood cuttings usually root much faster than a hardwood cutting, but they are also very fragile and fail easily.

In the nursery business we like softwood cuttings because they are so easy to root and they root very quickly.  We also have some special techniques that we use to make this work really well.  In my “Plant Propagation Madness” DVD that is part of my “Small Plants, Big Profits from Home” Backyard Growing System I walk you through the step by step process and share all of my secret strategies that allow me to root thousands of softwood cuttings very quickly and easily.

As the growing season goes on the new growth gets harder and harder which is how the plant prepares itself for the comming winter.  By fall this new growth is no longer soft and pliable but hard and rigid.  It can still be rooted, but because the wood is harder it is much slower to make roots.  However, because the wood is hard and rigid it is much more durable and much less likely to fail as a cutting with no roots.

With plant propagation timing is everything.  Much more important than technique.  In this article I am explain the process for rooting Potentilla, but this same process will work for many, many flowering shrubs as well as evergreens.  So let’s talking the timing since that is so important and will start at the beginning of the year so you can understand the process that the plants are going through.

Note to folks in southern states or warmer climates.  I am going to describe the process and the seasons for cold climates, but it all still applies to you.  It’s just that you folks have a much wider window of opportunity.  Your plants are as close to dormant as they’ll get during the winter.  But you can do much of this year round.  Lucky you!

Propagation from Cuttings in January and February

In January and February plants are dormant.  Not much going on and all of the wood on the plants is hard.  In January and February you can still do hardwood cuttings and stick them outside in a propagation box like this.  I’d prefer to do them early, but you can do them in January and February.

Plant Propagation Box

Plant Propagation Box


This box is 10″ deep and the bottom is open.  12″ deep is actually better.  No bottom, no screen, no burlap in the bottom of the box.  The frame just sits on the ground.  The box is filled with coarse sand.  What sand you buy isn’t all that important but it should be coarse which means larger particles even small pebbles.  The sand needs to be coarse so water drains through it easily so the stems of your cuttings don’t rot.  The cover is just a wooden frame covered with 4 mill plastic.  I then paint the plastic white with latex paint so it reflects the rays of the sun.  The box should be in a shady location because you can use this box during the summer months for softwood cuttings, but if direct sun hits the plastic it will get way too hot inside.

Propagation from Cuttings in March, April and May

March, April and May are typically not good months to do propagation from cuttings because the plants are just starting to wake up, they are starting to grow like crazy and the new growth is way too soft to hold up as a cutting without roots.  That’s why we wait for the wood to harden off.  And when plants are actively growing asking them to make new roots at the same time is just not going to work.  If you live in a southern state, zone 7 or higher, you can probably start doing some softwood cuttings in mid May.  The rest of us have to wait until at least June 1st.

June, July and August

June, July and August  are full speed ahead for making cuttings.  The wood is soft and pliable, it roots quickly and easily and as the summer goes on the wood gets harder and harder.  If you do cuttings early in the summer and they wilt and fail, try some later in the summer.  In the nursery business we like the wood soft and pliable, but it takes a different process to make that work.  So for you hobby gardeners, just work with wood that is a little harder.

Flowering shrubs and most deciduous plants respond well when the wood is soft.  Evergreens you really should give them a few more weeks to let the wood harden off a little.  Usually I don’t do a lot of evergreens until the end of June or early July, but you can do them from then right up until winter.

 September, October, November and December

By the time September rolls around plants are starting to get ready for the coming winter.   But with many plants you might see some new growth in September and that new growth is perfect for rooting cuttings.  As the fall season creeps in the wood really starts to harden off, but that means that getting cuttings to hold up in a propagation box is easier and it’s still a great time to root cuttings.   Fall is a great time for home gardeners to do cuttings.  It takes longer to get rooting results, but do like I do, just take the cuttings and leave them alone until late spring.  You can’t rush the process.  Just be patient.

By December the ground is starting to freeze, the sand in the propagation box is starting to freeze but you can still stick cuttings on the days that things are not frozen.  The freezing temperatures will not harm your cuttings.  Just make sure the sand is moist but not soaking wet through the winter.

Okay, now back to the propagating Potentilla from cuttings.

Pruning Unruly Potentilla

Pruning Unruly Potentilla


I picked up about seven of this scary looking Potentilla plants at a nursery sale.  I wanted them for the landscaping at the old house at the nursery, but knew they’d need some serious pruning.  So I figured while I was at it I might as well stick the cuttings.

Cutting back Potentilla

Cutting back Potentilla


As you can see I cut them back really hard!  Why?  Because they were out of control and Potentilla is a sun loving plant and I want them nice and full at the bottom and that won’t happen if the bottom of the plant is being shaded by the top of the plant.  Had these plants been more aggressively pruned as they were being grown this hard pruning would not have been necessary.  However, I always prune my Potentilla fairly hard each fall because they do grow aggressively.  So I cut them back in the fall and then just let them grow and flower all summer.

So I cut them back hard and sorted through the branches that I removed and I made up about 350 Potentilla cuttings.  Mostly I used the newest growth from the tops of the plants.  You can see some of those cuttings at the top of this post.

I dipped the cuttings in a rooting compound.  I usually use Wood’s rooting compound because it is sold locally here at a nursery supply company and I can buy it in a pint since I do thousands and thousands and thousands of cuttings.  The active ingredients in Wood’s is pretty much identical to Dip n Grow which is easier to find.  If all you can find is powder rooting compound that’s fine.  They all deliver about the same results.  Some people make rooting compound out of willow tea.  I prefer to use what professional propagators use.

Do you need rooting compound?  No.  It helps and it does increase your success on some plants, other plants it makes no difference.  I almost always use it because if I am going to take the time to make 350 or 2,000 cuttings I want the odds stacked in my favor.

Potentilla Cuttings in a Propagation Box

Potentilla Cuttings in a Propagation Box


After dipping my potentilla cuttings I simply stuck them in my plant propagation box that is filled with coarse sand.  I watered them in really well making sure the sand is nice and moist, then I closed the lid and called it a day.  To prepare the cuttings I simply took mostly tip cuttings, made them about 4″ long, removed the leaves from the bottom half to two thirds of the cuttings and I was done.

I could have waited for a hard freeze and did these cuttings after all of the leaves had fallen off but I want to get these boxes full now while I have the time.  The results would have been the same.

Are you interested in growing plants for profit?  I wrote you a note.

Questions or comments?  Please post them below.  I’m trying really hard to respond to as many of these comments as I can!  I enjoy chatting with you folks when I can make the time.





  1. lorraine says

    Hi Mike,
    Thanks for all your valuable information.
    Can you give a little information grafting?


  2. Ben says

    Mike, thanks for the very informative couple of newsletter concerning root cuttings. I live in zone 8 (South Carolina) and am wondering if it would be possible to root some cuttings from a Variegated Lacecap Hydrangea?

  3. Eric Grunewald says

    I’ve had a white grape plant in my patio for the last 15 years, which has been cut back several time (usually when the fence was replaced) but has grown along 15-20 feet of fence and across 40 ft of wires suspended between the fence & house. Usually get lots of small, blueberry-sized white grapes that are super sweet, though this year the darned squirrels & birds took a terrible toll. I tried to get some rooted cuttings to plant in one of my new raised beds, but have a question. Should I favour the woody vine or the vine that’s still green? Both sprout leaves during the season, and I cut back a few vines and trimmed out about 2 dozen sections, dipped in rooting hormone & stuck into the new raised beds. I have lots more to cut back, but little room in which to put them, so which should I favour? Thanks, Mike.

  4. Barbara says

    How I enjoy getting the information you provide in your emails.

    I live in the mojave desert of California and find gardening a challenge at times. But find your tips helpful. I have always loved plants but have had the black thumb when it comes growing things.

    I am now on my way of changing that!

    Would love to have gardens I could truely be proud of!

    Thanks again for making me feel I can do this. Keep up your beautiful work with plants and trees.

  5. Joanne Lighthizer says

    almost forgot~I have been struggling with trying to grow mangos from the seed, they are hit & miss to start but I now have 3 going ,were doing great until the leaves started getting crispy, then the edges turned brown. Can you help w/this? I must have tried over 50 seeds by now w/only 3 that took!! YIKES!! I researched & followed it to a “t”, no idea why the failure rate is so blooming (pun intended) high!! Help please..wanted to have a little “mango forest”.

      • Susan says

        Hi Mike & Joanne…..Heres how I grow my mangos..I have made a rainforest out in my farm yard….maple trees ect…then I put the mangos under them….then I put a sprinkler high up in the trees when the water falls it makes a nice humid place for the an no hard bright light…..

  6. Joanne Lighthizer says

    Hello Mike! Love your emails!!! Have you ever used aspirin to root? I read somewhere to dissolve a handful of aspirin in hot water,let it sit overnight and use by dipping clips in & plant or just set them in the water to root. What are your thoughts on this?? much thanks!

  7. says

    Hi! I live in Pennsylvania, and a rather famous garden expert says you must absolutely NOT prune after September 1st. He said it stresses the plants too much and you could end up killing your bushes. So I have left everything alone, even though some of my rose bushes are still growing like crazy. I won’t even snip off some roses to enjoy in my usual vase on the dining room table because I’m worried that doing ANY cutting of a plant after Sept 1st. is dangerous to the plant’s health. Can you offer any reassurance that cutting back plants this late in the season…as they are preparing for dormancy…won’t damage them? Doesn’t cutting them back encourage the plants to grow, therefore not allowing them to properly harden off for the winter freeze?

    I’d love to have some feedback from you or anyone else on the site here who has some expertise in this area. Thanks!


  8. David says

    I have a large blueberry bush patch with a number of different varities of blueberry bushes(I am in southwest Iowa group 4 zone so they are all nothern highbushes). My problem is I would like to propagate some of the plants and have tried both softwood and hardwood in peat using a white large thin trash bag over the bottom of a cutoff plactic barrel(made a tent like structure)with little result. I will try your sand method next. I have bought two books on propagation(one of them yours) and both do not really address the propagation of blueberries. The amount of started blueberry plants that show up at the big box stores in the spring tell me I am really missing something. The other problem without disturbing them in the peat I cannot tell when they root-it rains in the tent and the cuttings(softwood will stay green and hold their leaves even though they have not rooted for weeks on end) seem to hold up well because they are in constant moisture without adding any water to the system(the bottom of the barrel has holes in it to let out excess water). I will keep trying because of the benefit of blueberries to a person’s health.

    • says

      David, I have never done Blueberries, but they certainly can be done. The peat might be keeping the stems too wet causing the stems to eventually fail. Ideal propagation of softwood cuttings is just moist enough to keep the leaves happy and the stems moist but not wet. The tent method works on a lot of things, so I’d work on the rooting medium.

  9. john says

    I’m from central Alberta Canada,
    Love your letters, and many fine articles.
    I have been growing many cuttings, during the last few years. Not the greatest results, until I started reading your articles. I find them very informative, and helpful. I’m 70 years old, just wish I had this info 20 years ago. thanks again.

  10. Karen Burks says

    I live on 6 acres in NW Arkansas and have very good soil with very few rocks. I do have many trees and lots of shade. When my parents moved into this house, there was a man living in a little house on the back of the property who raised flowers. It was in the deed that he could live here rent free until he died. Before my parents passed away, they tried to look after the iris, daffodils and lilies that he raised and sold, but it was a full time job. Many were sold or given away and some were mowed down.
    We have retired and moved here and are trying to get control. The daffodils and lilies just come up in random places. Some still in rows and clumps and some just a single flower. Many of the iris have been planted around trees or down fence rows and need to be separated or moved to a sunny spot. I also have forsythia, lilacs, dogwood, red buds, maiden grass, roses, trillium, coral bells, ferns, beauty bush, spirea, mock orange, Solomon seal and a host of smaller flowers that I don’t even know the names. I know some of these would be easy to raise and sell and on retirees income would love to do this but I don’t know which ones to start with or when. I have had some minor health problems this summer and didn’t get much done in the yard, but would love to start planning for the Spring. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I read all of your emails and have learn a lot from them. Keep them coming.

  11. Mark Walls says

    Hi Mike!
    When the cuttings are stuck while still in leaf, do the leaves cause any fungal problems after they do drop? Or do you have a good way of removing them without disturbing/harming the cuttings?
    Thanx for all your efforts; been a reader sooo looonnngg that I feel like we’ve met!

    • says

      Mark, I don’t worry about the leaves. If anything they might hold some moisture in the event the sand might dry out over the winter. I do not try and remove them. Now if a ton of leaves blew in from other trees, I’d at least rake off most of them so they can’t matt down. But not the leaves from the cuttings themselves.

      • Mark Walls says

        Thanks Mike,from Mark in Spencer, NY(15 mi south of Ithaca and Cornell U). I think I’ve been with you since 2004 or ’05!!

  12. Cindy says

    Mike, I live in Central/South Texas, where heat, drought and deer are all big issues. I always wonder if the plants you mention can thrive in such an environment. Plants such as ‘potentilla’ and Japanese Maple are not common here. It would really help if you would list zones for the plants you propogate. Love your posts, I’ve even rooted a few of my plants!

    • says

      Cindy, for the most part if you see me growing it, it’s probably good from zone 4 to zone 8. Some things like Japanese maples are okay here in zone 5, but not many do well in zone 4 and below.

  13. nadine says

    i do enjoy reading your stuff, but don’t have much time to play with my plants just yet, hope to in the future.


  14. Tina says

    Hi Mike,
    Can you take cutting and propagate inside using the same methods. I love all your videos they are so helpful and its nice to have someone break it down so the ungreen thumb person can do it too. Thanks!

  15. Beverly Smith says

    Use your info and reprint it with your name and website when I do for Olmsted Falls Garden Club members. We are 56 strong and learn from whatever source we can find. We keep City Garden spots growing and thank you for your help.

  16. Helen Leasure says

    Thank you so much for the valuable your emails. You have inspired me to expand my backyard gardening and I will be working on the propagation box shortly. I now see that I can do so much more and reap benefits from it!

  17. Karen says

    I just love your down-to-earth advice (pun intended). I would guess the weather in upstate New York where I am is very similar to your Ohio weather. That makes your tips especially helpful. I want to do what you do when I grow up.

  18. Mike says

    I have a greenhouse that I built for my wife last year and its just sitting empty because we really dont know what to do with it. Since signing onto your site you’ve given me a truckload of inspiration!! I hope to have this greenhouse start paying for itself soon.
    Thanks for the great info!

  19. Roxanne says

    I have a couple questions.
    In the box you made, how deep does the coarse sand have to be?
    Because it is sand, will it not damage the roots as much when I pull them for transplant or do I need to grab some of the sand with the roots?
    How and or where do I order the clamshell propagator that you wrote about not long ago?

    Thank you…

  20. WhiteHorse says

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the help and tips! I live in the Southwest (Yuma, AZ) and need all the help I can get. It sounds like artificial shade might be the answer to propagation boxes in the sun. By the way; the propagation boxes are a great way to go if you have the room. Do you have any preferences in design other than the ones you stated? Designs on your site? Have a blessed day!

  21. Jerry says

    Mike.. I have a few Cotoneaster and a Dwarf Burning Bush that could use a trim ! Could I use your Hard Wood Cutting technique after freeze as you suggest for both ?

  22. Sharon Smith says

    I was reading your post on propagating Potentilla. I found it to be very interesting. I having been taking horticulture classes for the last 2 years so much to learn. I really found your boxes to be very helpful.
    Thank you

  23. Danelle says

    Hi Mike,
    Thanks for the tips! You mentioned that the plant propagation box needs to be out of the sun. I have a space next to my house that only gets sun first thing in the morning. By noon it’s completely shaded. Would a place like this work for a propagation box in the South Carolina mountains?

  24. cindy says

    Hi Mike,
    I enjoy reading your e-mails and watching your videos. I have really learned a lot from them , i appreciate all the information you have. Have a Great Day!!!

  25. Mike Tribley says

    Mike, Is that really all there is to root cuttings? It sounds almost too good to be true!! :) My wife gets really mad when she cant get “starters” off plants! LOL She tries almost every year to get a starter off the fuchias she buys and fails every time. Any advice you can give her?

    Thank You Mike!!! Keep the GOOD work up.

  26. Julie Richards says

    I love the idea of buying a plant on the clearance shelf and taking it home to propagate. Thanks for the information!

  27. Landon says

    Great how to Mike,

    I do have a question for you. I want to root some knock out roses, can they be trimed and rooted this time year, I have a small 10 x 17 green house that I grow veggies in during the winter, but have a shop where I can build a box like you describe

  28. Kathie N. says

    I live in zone 3, where the temp drops to -20 or more. I can’t see how a propagation box would work here for fall cuttings, any suggestions?

  29. says

    Thanks for all the information you sent.I always wanted to grow plants but where I live is not possible. I live in Mahopac, N.Y., a rich are, t hey usually do not buy.
    Maybe I will when my husband retires and we can go to Flea Market.
    Question, do you have instructions how to grow Peach Tree from the seed I have tried , I have not succeed. Please reply. Teresa

  30. Diane LaBarge says

    I just love all your videos. They are very educational. I love to garden, but since I haven’t worked in 3 1/2 yrs, my money is tight and can’t garden very much. I do plant a couple of tomato plants and squash. Thank you Mike for all your gardening tips.

  31. William Brooks says

    Can I propagate Pine trees the same way? Thank you Mike for all the hard work you put in to giving out information.

    • says

      William, evergreens like Taxus, Arborvitae, Juniper, Boxwood yes. Conifers like pine and spruce are often grown from seed and seldom done as cuttings.

  32. Donna Morrow says

    Mike: First thank you for sticking with me as I read and ask questions….. is this propagtion box built the same way here in S. Texas,south of Galveston? I have tried rooting but has not turned out very good for me. Maybe the box would be a better ~ new idea for me to try…
    thanks for all your info you pass on to us.
    Safe gardening to you..

    • says

      Donna, in your climate you’ll need to put it in a shaded area and I do my propagating in the fall and winter before it gets too hot in Texas.

  33. Norman Layne says

    Mike have you ever tried dipping probagation cuttings into honey. instead of rooting compounds? If so what did you think?

    • Jolene Brown says

      Does honey really work? What about ants and other bugs being attracted to the honey? I live in N. CA., and we rarely have hard freezes. I also have some curly willow cuttings, they were started in water and had great roots, so I planted them in pots. I didn’t use anything to start them. I would like to know what is the best rooting compound? I want to make some cuttings of plants I have in the yard. Mike, can you tell me what you use for the best success? Thank you for your great videos!

      • says

        Jolene, Dip n Grow is really the best and easiest product for you to use. I really doubt that honey has any effect at all on the plant rooting.

  34. Bobby says


    I’ve rooted butterfly bush, hydrangea, gardenia, mexican firebush and lots of other shrubs using your techniques. On a small scale, the walmart bag technique works great.

    How about perennial like purple cone flower. Do you prefer seeds or root cuttings?

    Thanks for the updates!


    • says

      Bobby, I really don’t grow much of anything from seed except Japanese Red Maples and Dogwood trees. maybe redbud. But many of my customers grow lots of perennials from seed. I like cuttings. Just a faster way to get a plant. I also buy a lot things already rooted as do many nurseryman.

  35. Anne Fitak says

    Love your educational emails. Bought the Backyard Growing System and the $37 add-on but feel the grower’s board is a little pricey for me right now. Just waiting to find out what to do with the curly willow cuttings I stuck this past April that are now 5-6′ tall??? Thanks, Mike, for making gardening so much fun :)

  36. Frank Porterfield says

    I live in the south and wonder if it’s necessary to build a bow like you did or is it better to just root the cuttings in the ground or in pots/
    I love youer web advice and e-mails.
    Frank Porterfield

  37. Sylvia Levitan says

    I appreciate your straight-forward instructions and explanations of how to prune, make cuttings to propagate, etc. Your comments are so much easier to follow than many other gardening websites, so thank you for sharing your expertise with the rest of us “would be” good gardeners.
    Sylvia, Bearsville (part of Woodstock) NY.

    • Spiridula says

      Thank you Mike !
      You do a really good job for us, for me. I have 2 Potentilla. I never cut them, but I will do it now.
      Have a nice time !

    • Cathrine Mukome says

      Mike, Thank you so much for the information. Am in Zimbabwe and temperatures are very high,rainy season is setting in.Am doing a lot of cuttings and indigenous trees.Have budded 500 rose bushes- your video was inspirational. Can I purchase interesting/unusual colours for stock from your range.

      thank you and regards, Cathrine.

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