Propagating Woodies in the Midwest

There are many benefits to propagating with cuttings (opposed to seed) such as instant maturity, faster growth and easier transplanting.

The first step would be to find a healthy specimen from which to obtain the cutting. You should scout for plants while they are still actively growing and mark healthy branches, as when they are dormant, it will be hard to tell healthy from not.

The rooting media has four functions:

  • To hold the cutting in place
  • To provide moisture
  • To permit the exchange of air at the base of the cutting
  • To provide a dark environment for the cutting’s base

A cutting of evergreen spruce tree with hormone on cut to be potted

With this in mind, there are many options for rooting media. Any mixture of sphagnum moss, perlite, vermiculite, coarse sand, peat, or crushed shale will do well.

Keep the cutting moist, but not over-wet is a very important step in the process. Again, there are many methods to provide a moist atmosphere:

  • Misting
  • A plastic bag surrounding the pot
  • Soaking the pot in water

Auxins or growth hormones are of great help to the success of cuttings. Note that there are different strength suggestions for different types of wood.


In the end, timing will be the largest factor of success or failure. It is also the one factor that is hard to put an exact date on. Below is general information regarding timing (and other information) separated by types of wood.

My propagation professor told me if 1 out of 10 of your cuttings take root, be happy.

Late fall to early spring cuttings:

Deciduous Hardwoods

  • Examples: privet, forsythia, roses, willow, sycamore, crape myrtle, euonymus, dogwood, fig, quince, pear, plum.
  • The cuttings length should be 4-10 inches, with at least two nodes. Cut just below the node and smash end with a mallet.
  • Use an auxin of 2,500 – 5,000 ppm.

Evergreen Hardwoods

  • Examples: juniper, yew, spruce, abies, arborvitae.
  • The cutting’s length should be 4–8 inches, with at least two nodes. These cuttings are hard to root and take time. It is important to maintain adequate moisture levels during rooting.
  • Use an auxin of about 2,000 ppm.

Late spring to late summer cuttings:

Semi-Hardwoods –

  • Examples: holly, rhododendron, olive, euonymus.
  • The cutting’s length should be 3-6 inches. Some leaves towards bottom should be removed to reduce moisture loss.
  • Use an auxin of 1,000 – 3,000 ppm.

Spring to early summer cuttings:


  • Examples: maple, magnolia, spirea, weigela, peach.
  • The cutting’s length should be 3-5 inches. Try to use lateral or side branches for the cuttings. Remove all flower buds.
  • Use an auxin of 500 – 1,250 ppm.

Check the cuttings after a few weeks to see if there are roots forming. If the cutting above looks healthy, continue checking bi-weekly. Once roots have formed, the cuttings can be planted in larger pots. Continue to keep the new plant watered regularly.

© The Naturarian

9 thoughts on “Propagating Woodies in the Midwest”

    1. Cherry Laurels (Prunus laurocerasus), can be done in another, more reliable way!
      Pick a branch that looks good and is long enough to make it to the ground & then some. Basically, don’t pick a middle one.
      You’ll need a good knife (sharp) and 2 bricks or rocks that’s large enough to hold the branch to the ground.
      I drew what I’m trying to say! Probably easier =-)How to propagate cherry shrubs

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!!
      Ouch! But yes, even during propagation class, there were MANY fails. After 13 years, I have only one houseplant that has survived, a rubber tree. I had brought home about 6 things after class and planted them. My junipers just died last year… A new dog next door had the boys trampling them =-(

      Liked by 1 person

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