Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →

How Do I Take a Tree Cutting?

tree image by Bobi from

Tree cuttings can be more intimidating than taking cuttings from softer plants. As a general rule, softer plants tend to root more quickly and easily than trees or other hardwood plants and shrubs. You can make this process easier by using a rooting hormone to stimulate growth in your cutting. Above all, you must be patient when taking cuttings from trees, because they do take time to begin growing on their own. When they do, your patience and care will be rewarded.

Select the tree from which you would like to take cuttings. Ideal donor trees should be healthy and disease- and insect-free. Additionally, it is best to take cuttings when new growth has just begun and trees are shooting out buds.

Choose the branch you want to cut. Ideally, you are combining your taking of cuttings with your need to prune a tree. Let this philosophy guide your decision on where to cut. Choose a branch that is not too thick and not too thin. Although it is a hardwood cutting, if a branch is too woody it may not take as readily as one that is younger and greener. At the same time, very new growth may collapse, so you want something that is in between growth stages.

Cut the branch carefully, at an angle. Make sure your pruning shears are sharp so you do not damage your tree or the cutting. Cut close to the main branch so that you do not leave a little stub sticking out.

Prepare a pot for your cutting. To do this, mix equal parts sand, soil and vermiculite or perlite.

Poke your finger into the soil mixture in your pot, as deep as it will go. This will be the hole in which you will plant your cutting.

Trim the cutting of any leaves and buds that take up the lower 3/4 of the cutting. Cut the base of the cutting at an angle, just below where the lowest bud growth was. Coat the base of the cutting with rooting hormone in the concentration directed by the manufacturer. Place the cutting in the hole in the pot and mound the soil mixture around it to support it.

Mist the soil so that it is damp but not soggy. Tie a clear plastic bag around the top of the plant to help create a “greenhouse” for your cutting. Place it in an area with partial sun. Too much sun or shade will kill your cutting. Water often but do not over-water. The cuttings from most trees should develop roots and start to grow after about six weeks.


Do not take cuttings from trees to which you are not authorized to have access, such as those in your neighbor's yard or in forest preserves.

Garden Guides