I am going to show you how to grow all the flowering shrubs you want, absolutely free of charge. This really does work, in the dead of winter, outside in the cold, snow and freezing weather. I’ll prove it to you.
I know, I know, I know! The plants in the picture look like dead sticks. But they are not. They are very well rooted, very much alive plants that I did as cuttings in the winter of 2013/2014. If you recall, the winter of 2013/2014 was horrendous. Cold beyond cold! Here in northeastern Ohio we were well below zero for days at a time. The coldest day that I recall was 15 degrees below zero F. That’s crazy cold.
The plants that you see in this photo are Grapes, Pussy Willow and Gold Curls Willow. We stuck those cuttings last winter. They spent all of last winter outside in the cold. Just sticks, no roots, stuck in flats and pots of nothing more than potting soil. Come spring the cuttings leafed out and at at the very same time they started making roots.
In this video you can see these cuttings all leafed out and I even show you some of the roots.
By mid summer they were so well rooted that we potted up thousands of them. What you see here are things that we just didn’t have room for in the nursery. They will be potted this coming spring.
So they spent all of last winter out in bitter cold, and they are spending this winter out in the cold once again. I’m telling you that to tell you this; “Small Plants are One Hundred times more Resilient than You Think!
Right now I have tens of thousands of cuttings that we rooted this summer outside in the cold and snow, patiently waiting to be potted up this spring.
In this post I am going to show you a winter plant propagation technique using hardwood cuttings. You can also do this during the summer using softwood cuttings. More about summer plant propagation here.
If you really want to understand plant propagation in the simplest of terms, check out this article, The Basics of Plant Propagation. There you will find all the plant propagation information you need.
Let’s get started.
Go out into your garden and collect wood to make your hardwood cuttings. This technique works great on many flowering shrubs. Evergreens can be done as hardwood cuttings but they are slower to root and the technique is a bit different. How to Do Hardwood Cuttings of Evergreens.
Today we are doing Purple Sandcherry, that’s what you see in the photo. Notice how I let my Purple Sandcherry shrubs grow tall and lanky throughout the growing season? I do this intentionally, never pruning them during the summer. I want them to produce nice long canes that I can use for hardwood cuttings. When doing hardwood cuttings like this you don’t have to work with just tip cuttings like you do with softwood cuttings. You can use the entire cane as you will see in these photos.
With a bundle of cuttings in hand I’ll head inside to make my cuttings.
I like to include Our Miniature Donkeys in these articles because . . . they are a big part of my life and they have a lot of fans! People who can’t have farm animals love hearing about the donkeys. Pam bought me a hammock for Christmas so me and the little yellow dog can relax with donkeys. We’ll see how that goes!
Notice how far back I cut my Purple Sandcherry shrub as I collected the canes to make cuttings? You don’t have to do this, but I can assure you this will not harm the plant. As a matter of fact, the more times I do this the fuller the plant gets. In my case I want as many cuttings as possible and I have these shrubs in the landscape at the nursery for the sole purpose of taking cuttings from them. These are considered “stock plants”.
Once inside I cut the canes into cuttings that are about 5″ or 6″ long. Where you make the cut on the bottom of each cutting is critical. See those dark spots on stem? Those are nodes, or bud unions. In this photo you can clearly see two of these nodes, they are about 2″ apart. A node, or bud union is where the plant will produce a leaf, then a stem next growing season.
When you make the bottom cut on your hardwood cutting you want to cut right below that node, but not into it. The cutting will produce roots right below or actually from that node. The cut that you make on the top of the cutting is less critical and most growers actually make the cut about an inch away from the top node so the stem of the cutting actually protects that node as you handle it.
At the top of the cutting it really doesn’t make much difference where you make your cut. Usually what I do is make the bottom cut, then when I move up the stem to make the top cut I actually cut right below another node because that will be the bottom of my second cutting that I am going to get from that cane.
In this photo you can see where I am making the top cut on my cutting. The section to the left is the cutting that I am making, the section to the right of the shears will be the next cutting that I get from this cane. Notice that once again I am cutting right below, but not into a node.
Simple as that my cutting is done and is ready to stick.
The next step which is to dip the cutting in a rooting compound is really optional. Rooting compounds do help when rooting cuttings but many plants root just fine without them. So if you don’t have a rooting compound on hand, don’t let that stop you from trying this. Me? I almost always use a rooting compound just to give me every advantage of success than I can get. But I’ve rooted a lot of cuttings with no rooting compound at all.
Powder or liquid rooting compound? It doesn’t matter, they both work equally well. I often use Dip and Grow as you’ll see in the video on this page.
Once the cuttings are made and dipped or not dipped, the next step is simple as pie. Just take them outside and stick them in the ground. You can stick them in a flat, you can stick them in nursery pot filled with soil or you can stick them in a bed of sand.
Yes, you are doing this in the dead of winter. So make sure that you have soil that is thawed or some bagged potting soil that you can put into a flat. Don’t over complicate a simple thing. Just get the cuttings stuck in some soil. Just make a slice in the soil with a spade or a broad knife and stick the cuttings about 1.5″ to 2″ deep.
These are cuttings that I just made and stuck. The Variegated Red Twig Dogwood cuttings that you see in this photo I actually bought from one of our members in Washington state. Sounds crazy to most “normal” people, give somebody money for a box of sticks? But I was delighted to do so. I bought 300 of them from her for 25 cents each. Just sticks, no roots. I’ll put the roots on myself.
Notice the snow and the leaves that have blown in since I stuck these? All is fine, these cuttings know what to do. They’ll just chill here in the cold, then as soon as the soil gets close to 45 degrees F. they’ll start working on those roots. This really is an amazing process to watch.
This entire bed is full of hardwood cuttings that I stuck this winter. In this bed I have Variegated Red Twig Dogwood, Annabelle Hydrangea, Double Red Rose of Sharon, Blushing Bride Rose of Sharon, Dappled Willow, Purple Flowering Sandcherry, Triumph Spirea, Dwarf Blue Arctic Willow and Weeping Pussy Willow.
See those pots on the right side of the bed? Those are Golden Curls willows that we rooted from hardwood cuttings winter before last.
As soon as you stick your cuttings water them really well so you wash the soil down around the base of the cuttings removing any air pockets. After that just water as needed to keep the soil most but not soggy. If it gets cold outside and the ground freezes your cuttings will be fine, just water them again when it warms up.
Come spring, as the cuttings start to wake up, keep them watered at least once a day. Keep in mind, they don’t have any roots so if they are in a shaded area that’s better. They’ll make leaves, they’ll start growing, but they still might not have any roots. Just be patient. You can pull one out once in a while to check the progress, you are not going to hurt it. If you feel resistance when you try and pull them out you’ll know they are rooting and just leave them be.
Hardwood cuttings are very durable, but they are also slow to root. We usually don’t get around to potting ours up until at least mid July. We give them plenty of time to make roots.
Stick with me. I will turn you into a professional plant propagator if you let me. Just stay tuned, we put out new updated information on a regular basis.
Indulge Fergus. He insisted that I include this photo of his beautiful nose as he tries to press it against the lens of the camera. Getting donkey photos is more difficult than you think!
Here’s the deal. I promise to share with you some of the most valuable, down to earth gardening information that you’ll find anywhere, but you have to put up with me showing off the donkeys. It’s just part of the deal. After all, you folks on my mailing list named them and have been actively involved with them since they day they arrived at Mike’s Plant Farm here in Perry, Ohio. Thanks for hanging with me and the donkeys!
By the way, their birthdays are March and April and they’ll be two years old this year. (2015)
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