How to Plant Tree Cuttings


Obtaining new trees can deplete your pocketbook, especially when you are purchasing large numbers of young trees for planting in your landscape. Fortunately, many trees propagate from stem cuttings. This asexual method of reproduction allows gardeners to grow numerous trees from one parent tree. Trees, as well as other varieties of plants, exhibit identical qualities to the parent plant when started from individual cuttings. Multiply the trees in your landscape by starting several from cuttings.

Step 1

Choose existing softwood, deciduous trees for your cuttings in the spring or early summer. Wait until the trees begin to develop numerous, new leaf buds. Examine your trees for health before cutting limbs off for new specimens. Take your cuttings from healthy trees that display quality characteristics, such as even growth and color throughout the entire tree.

Step 2

Cut the tips of the new branches to use as cuttings. Carefully bend the branch to determine the flexibility. Soft and semi-soft branches that spring back easily when bent provide the best segments for rooting. Depending on your tree variety, cut tip sections between 6 inches and 3 feet in length. Using a sharp knife, make your cuts at 45-degree angles between two leaf buds to remove them from the parent trees.

Step 3

Strip off the leaves along the bottom one-third of your cuttings. Pull or cut the leaves gently to avoid damaging the rest of the limb. Scrape a long, thin slice of bark from one side of each of your cuttings along the exposed areas where you removed the leaves. These gentle wounds will help your branch develop new roots. Place these cuttings in a bucket of water to rest while you prepare their container for planting.

Step 4

Fill the bottom surface of a broad, deep container with an inch of small gravel. A plastic storage tub or foam cooler works well for this temporary planting site. Scoop in some loose, well-drained potting soil until only 1 to 2 inches of space remains between the surface of the soil and the upper rim of your container. Press pilot holes into your loose soil with a stick or wooden dowel. Make the holes about one-third of the overall length of your cuttings. Set your holes far enough apart that the leaves of your cuttings can't touch.

Step 5

Remove your cuttings from their container of water and shake off the excess moisture. Dip the wet sections of your cuttings into a powdered rooting hormone. Tap the excess powder off each of your cuttings. Insert the cuttings into their prepared holes. Press the soil around the cuttings to hold them firmly in place.

Step 6

Water your cuttings immediately after planting to ensure even dampness throughout the soil. Fresh cuttings require slightly damp soil to develop new root systems. Keep the soil evenly moist by applying more water whenever the surface becomes slightly dry.

Things You'll Need

  • Knife
  • Bucket
  • Container
  • Gravel
  • Potting soil
  • Stick or wooden dowel
  • Rooting hormone


  • Washington State University: Propagating Cuttings
  • North Carolina State University: Plant Propagation by Stem Cuttings
  • "The Green World Horticulture"; Gail M. Lang, Ph.D.; 2007

Who Can Help

  • Purdue University: New Plants from Cuttings
Keywords: propagate trees, tree cuttings, root cuttings

About this Author

Laura Dee is a writer, artist, and the co-owner of Wallace & Wallace Copywriting,an online business which specializes in providing marketing materials and copy to various companies. She has written for Demand Studios since 2008 and is currently working on a series of childrens' picture books.