How to Clone an Italian Cypress


When horticulturalists speak of cloning a tree, what they are actually referring to is the process of rooting stem cuttings taken from a parent. Stem cuttings are used to propagate woody ornamental plants such as Italian cypress. Italian cypress is a native to the Mediterranean region, and grows well through the southern and western United States from USDA zones 7 through 11. If grown under optimal conditions, Italian cypress may reach a height of 60 feet but is never wider than 3 feet. It is a popular screening tree for a Mediterranean landscape.

Step 1

Sharpen your pruning shears before cutting with a sharpening stone. Sharper shears will not bruise the plant and will help the plant root better.

Step 2

Take cuttings from an Italian cypress that is healthy and disease-free. Healthy cuttings typically grow healthy plants. Choose a young, shorter plant--Italian cypress cuttings are more likely to produce roots if the plant is young.

Step 3

Select a side branch from the lowest section of the tree. Position your pruning shears at a point approximately 6 inches from the end of the branch. There should be three points where a cluster of needles emerges, called nodes. Cut across the branch to remove it.

Step 4

Strip the lower two nodes of needle clusters. Dip the end of the branch in rooting hormone.

Step 5

Prepare a 4-inch container filled with a mixture of one part peat moss and one part sand. Insert the cutting 1/2 of the way into the container. Water so the soil is as damp as a wrung-out sponge.

Step 6

Cover the container with a plastic freezer bag. Place the container in a window where it will receive indirect sunlight. Check the cutting daily to ensure that the soil is moist.

Step 7

Remove the plastic bag once the Italian cypress produces roots. Continue to water the plant so the soil stays as damp as a wrung-out sponge. Never overwater, which can cause root rot in Italian cypress.

Step 8

Place the container outdoors in shade during daylight hours in spring once all danger of frost has passed. After 1 week, plant the cutting in full sun and well-drained soil. Cultivate grass and weeds by hand-pulling to keep them away from the tree until the roots become established.

Tips and Warnings

  • A stem cutting will produce a less developed root system than a tree produced from seeds. Because of this, many horticulturalists prefer to graft a tree onto well-developed root stock in order to get a healthier tree with a more developed root system.

Things You'll Need

  • Sharpening stone
  • Italian cypress
  • Rooting hormone
  • 4-inch container
  • Peat moss
  • Sand
  • Plastic freezer bag
  • Watering can


  • University of Florida IFAS Extension: Cupressus Sempervirens: Italian Cypress
  • N.C. State University Extension:Plant Propagation by Stem Cuttings: Instructions for the Home Gardener
  • N.C. State University:Rooting for You: Plant Propagation with Stem Cuttings

Who Can Help

  • N.C. State University: To Clone or Not to Clone
Keywords: cloning evergreen shrubs, propagating Italian cypress, rooting stem cuttings

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."