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How to Root Shrubs

By Melody Lee ; Updated September 21, 2017
Create new shrubs using stem cuttings.

Stem cuttings are the most common way to root shrubs. It is simple to collect the cuttings, and they usually root easily. They will be ready to plant as new shrub starts in just a season or two. The type of stem cuttings used and the season they are taken affects the rooting process. Take softwood cuttings in early summer from the current year’s growth that is tender and breaks easily when bent. Take semi-hardwood cuttings in late summer from the current season’s growth that is becoming woody. Take hardwood cuttings when the plant is dormant and not actively growing.

Cut 4- to 6-inch pieces of healthy stems without buds or flowers from the upper portion of your shrub with hand pruners or a sharp knife.

Wrap your cuttings in a wet paper towel, and put them in a plastic bag until you are ready to plant them.

Fill 4- to 6-inch-deep pots or trays with sterile rooting medium, such as coarse sand, vermiculite or a combination of perlite and vermiculite, perlite and peat moss, or fine sand and peat moss.

Pinch or cut the leaves from the bottom two-thirds of your cuttings.

Make a fresh cut at an angle on the bottom of each cutting, and dip the fresh-cut ends in rooting hormone. Shake off excess powder.

Insert the bottom part of the stem cuttings up to the remaining leaves in the pots or trays of rooting medium.

Tamp down the rooting medium around each cutting so that it remains upright, place your pots or trays in a shady location, and water thoroughly.

Cover your pots or trays with clear plastic, or slip them in a clear plastic bag to maintain the humidity around the cuttings. Water the cuttings when the condensation on the bags disappears.

Gently remove a cutting from the rooting medium to check for roots after a few weeks. The cuttings may take from several weeks to several months to form roots, based on the type of plant, the kind of cutting and the temperature.

Plant each cutting in a 4- to 6-inch pot full of potting soil when the roots are 1 inch long.

Leave your pots in a shady location and water regularly for one or two seasons--until the root systems are well established--before planting in the ground.


Things You Will Need

  • Hand pruners or sharp knife
  • Plastic bag
  • Wet paper towel
  • 4- to 6-inch-deep pots or trays
  • Rooting medium
  • Rooting hormone
  • Potting soil


  • Take cuttings in early morning, while the stems are firm with water. Work as quickly as possible so the cuttings do not dry out.
  • Do not overwater, but do not let the rooting medium dry out.

About the Author


Melody Lee holds a degree in landscape design, is a Florida Master Gardener, and has more than 30 years of gardening experience. She currently works as a writer and copy editor. Her previous jobs include reporter, photographer and editor for a weekly newspaper.