Purple Flowering Sandcherry, prunus cistena, is an extremely popular flowering shrub. Covered with tiny pinkish white blooms in the spring and deep purple leaves all summer long make this an all time favorite shrub. But unlike many flowering flowering shrubs, this one is a bit tricky to propagate from softwood cuttings. The softwood cuttings fail easily, whereas hardwood cuttings are tough as nails and fairly easy to root.
When you are taking cuttings during the summer (softwood cuttings) it’s usually only advisable to work with tip cuttings, the top 5″ or 6″ of the branch. But with hardwood cuttings you can remove the entire branch and cut it up into many cuttings. Of course it is still advisable to work only with growth from the previous growing season and not two or three year old wood. Purple Sandcherry is a fast grower so you can often get canes (branches used for hardwood cuttings are called canes) as long as two or three feet that will yield many hardwood cuttings.
These cuttings are about 6″ long and as you can see, they will vary in size because we are using long canes and not just tip cuttings.
When making hardwood cuttings where you make the bottom cut on the cutting is really important. You want to cut right below a node, but not into the node. A node is the bud union, that’s where the new leaf and branch will emerge from when the growing season starts.
You can see the node in this photo and Amber made her cut about 1/4″ below the node. When this cutting starts to form roots they are going to grow right below the node and a healthy node is important to rooting success. But if you cut too far below the node the roots will still form below the node, but all of that extra wood will rot underground and cause issues for the rooting cutting.
The cut at the top of the cuttings isn’t as critical but you want to do the opposite, cut as far above the node as possible. The extra wood at the top of the cutting will actually protect the top node as you handle the cutting. Usually you want to make the top cut from 1/2″ to 1″ above the top node.
Rooting compounds are not like “magic root making solutions” but they do increase your chances of success. When doing hardwood cuttings the rooting solution has to be a stronger strength than you would use for softwood cuttings. You can use a liquid or a powder, test results have shown that one is not really better than the other.
When buying powder rooting compounds you have to buy the correct strength. Some are for softwood cuttings, some for medium hardwood cuttings and some for hardwood cuttings. With a liquid rooting compound like Dip-n-Grow, you buy a concentrated formula and follow the directions on the bottle and mix with water to get the correct solution for the kind of cuttings that are doing. Sounds complicated, it’s not. Pretty simple stuff.
Amber hard at work sticking the cuttings she just made. It’s important to keep your cuttings in neat piles so you don’t get them turned around. If you stick them upside down the will not root!
As you can see we only give our cuttings about one square inch of space for rooting. Do the roots get tangled up? No, I’ve never had a problem with that. As you pull them out and shake the soil away, the roots should easily separate from one another.
Why did we use these big plastic pots? Because we ran out of the deep flats that we like to use for hardwood cuttings so we just filled these plastic pots with our regular potting mix. When doing softwood cuttings we root in coarse sand because we just an entirely different approach when it comes to softwood cuttings. But for hardwoods the potting mix seems to work fine.
As you can see, once we stick the cuttings we just move the outside into the elements, keep them watered as needed, which isn’t much as long as it’s still snowing. If it freezes, if we get two feet of snow, the cuttings will be fine. Chances are they won’t do anything in the way of rooting until spring when it warms up. At that time they start to make roots and leaves at the same time.
Difficult to see in this photo but right behind the buckets of hardwood cuttings are the beds of softwood cuttings that we stuck last summer. They are rooted and they too are out in the cold awaiting the arrival of spring.
These are the hardwood cuttings that we did this summer. Willows, Sandcherry, Pussy Willow etc.
Once these cuttings are rooted I can easily sell them for 65 cents to $1.50 each! Or I can put them in small pot and sell them for $4.97 or in a couple of years sell them in a 3 gallon container for $12.00 or $15.00 each. Me? I like to sell them at $4.97 each and make people really, really happy to get such a great deal.
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