How to Start Shrubs From Cuttings


Woody shrubs are commonly propagated by rooting softwood stem cuttings. Softwood cuttings are current-year stem growth (soft and green in color). Take softwood cuttings from the plant in May through July before the woody stems begin to harden. Choose lateral shoots that are disease-free from the upper portion of the plant. Find stems that do not have flower or bud growth, or remove the buds manually to focus the plant's energy on rooting instead of flower production.

Step 1

Take 4- to 6-inch softwood cuttings from the shrub with a clean pruning clipper or sharp knife. A softwood cutting is a section of new growth that is tender and slightly flexible. Place the cuttings in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel to prevent drying.

Step 2

Remove the leaves from the lower one-third of the stem. Cut large leaves in half vertically on the upper portion of stem. This will conserve moisture and space in the rooting tray.

Step 3

Fill a rooting tray with well-draining and sterile rooting soil that has been lightly dampened with water.

Step 4

Dip the cut end of the stem in a powdered root-promoting hormone. Gently tap the end of the stem to remove excess hormone and stick the cutting into the rooting soil at a depth that is one-third the length of the stem. Space the stems so the leaves do not touch.

Step 5

Mist the tray with water and cover with a clear plastic bag that can be closed. Monitor the moisture level to keep the humidity high around the cuttings during the rooting process. Mist the tray with water if needed.

Step 6

Place the tray in a warm location that offers indirect sunlight. The top of a refrigerator is a good location if light is available.

Step 7

Check the stems for root growth at 4 to 6 weeks by gently pulling on them to see if there is resistance. The rooting time will vary based on the variety of shrub.

Step 8

Transplant rooted cuttings to individual 4-inch containers filled with sterile soil. Do not plant the cuttings in the ground for the first year of growth.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning clipper
  • Sharp knife
  • Plastic bag
  • Paper towel
  • Water
  • Rooting tray
  • Sterile rooting soil
  • Root promoting hormone
  • Water mister
  • Clear plastic bag
  • 4-inch potting containers
  • Sterile potting soil
  • Bleach


  • North Carolina University: Plant Propagation by Stem Cuttings
  • Washington State University: Propagation Deciduous and Evergreen Shrubs
  • Propagating Plants from Stem Cuttings
Keywords: shrub propagation, rooting shrubs, shrub stem cutting

About this Author

Jennifer Loucks has over 10 years of experience as a former technical writer for a software development company in Wisconsin. Her writing experience includes creating software documentation and help documents for clients and staff along with training curriculum. Loucks holds a Bachelor of Science major from the University of Wisconsin - River Falls specializing in animal science and business.