How to Root a Cutting From a Tree


Most trees and shrubs are best propagated using a method known as "stem cutting." Generally speaking, the cuttings are taken while the branches are in a growth phase known as "softwood." This is a phase when the branch is neither woody nor purely green. The softwood stage is usually reached in early to mid summer, which is the best time to take cuttings to root.

Step 1

Determine if the branch is in the proper growth phase for rooting. Bend the branch in half. If it snaps and breaks, it is in the softwood stage and perfect to harvest for rooting. If the branch bends but does not break, it is still too green. If the branch won't bend in half at all, it is too woody and past the stage for rooting.

Step 2

Cut lateral branches--those that are growing off a larger branch. These lateral branches have the highest chance of growing roots. Make the cuttings about an inch below the second leaf node. A leaf node is the point at which leaves grow out of the stem and also the slight bump left on the branch when a leaf is removed. This is the point at which roots will form and grow. Depending on the variety, your softwood cuttings should be about 3 to 6 inches long.

Step 3

Put the cuttings into a container lined with damp paper towels to protect them from drying out until they are placed into the rooting medium.

Step 4

Fill a shallow, flat container with a rooting medium that is a mixture of half perlite and half peat moss. The container should have drainage holes in the bottom. It should be large enough to accommodate the cuttings spaced about an inch apart. Water the rooting medium well, but do not saturate it.

Step 5

Use the end of a dowel or an unsharpened pencil to poke holes in the rooting medium. Make the holes deep enough so that the bottom leaf node of the cutting will be buried. These holes keep friction from pushing off the rooting hormone when you insert the cuttings.

Step 6

Dip the bottom of the cuttings into the powdered rooting hormone. Tap off the excess powder.

Step 7

Insert the cuttings into the holes in the rooting medium. Make sure that the bottom leaf node is below the surface of the perlite-peat moss mixture. Firm it around the stem of the cuttings so they remain upright.

Step 8

Cut off about one third of the leaf surface of the remaining leaves. This will ease the plant's burden and allow it to concentrate more energy on growing roots.

Step 9

Insert twigs, dowels, stiff wires or old pencils into the rooting medium, regularly spaced in the flat rooting container. They will hold the plastic cover of the small greenhouse up off the surface of the leaves.

Step 10

Place the flat of cuttings into a large, clear plastic bag to form a make-shift greenhouse and place it in the dappled shade of a tree. Keep the rooting medium moist but not overly wet while roots are forming.

Step 11

Check for the formation of roots after about six weeks. If a cutting resists coming out of the soil when you pull on it gently, it is a sign that roots have formed.

Step 12

Pot newly rooted cuttings into quart-size pots filled with a mixture of eight parts potting soil and two parts perlite. Water with a rich, water-soluble fertilizer and put the pots in a sunny, protected spot in the garden for the remainder of the growing season.

Step 13

Transplant the cuttings into a protected, sheltered nursery bed in early fall. Cover them well with a 12- to 18-inch layer of hay immediately after the surface of the soil freezes in late fall. The cuttings need to be exposed to cold winter temperatures in order to break into new growth next spring.

Step 14

Transplant the new trees to their final location the following spring.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden clippers
  • Small container lined with damp paper towels
  • Shallow, flat container about 2 to 3 inches deep
  • Pearlite
  • Peat moss
  • Dowel or unsharpened pencil
  • Powdered rooting hormone
  • Twigs, dowels, stiff wire or old pencils
  • Clear plastic bag
  • Quart pots
  • Indoor potting soil
  • Water soluble fertilizer


  • How to root a cutting from a tree.
  • Taking and rooting stem cuttings.

Who Can Help

  • Read more about propagating with stem cuttings.
Keywords: root cutting from tree, propagate stem cuttings, grow roots on stem cuttings