When many people think of nuts, they think of trees. But some nuts, including hazelnuts, grow on low-growing shrubby plants. These plants grow into trees if you remove all side canes so that they will put their energy into a single dominant leader. But hazelnuts naturally produce side-shoot trees that make the plant look more like a bush than a tree. If these side shoots touch the ground, they will sprout roots where they touch. This process is known as layering. Layering a hazelnut is a good way to propagate the plant.
Cut back the stems of a hazelnut shrub in the fall, so that they are 1 inch tall. This process is known as coppicing. Coppicing causes a hazelnut shrub to produce new side-shoots. Each cut-back stem will produce up to four new side-shoots. By the next summer, a vigorous hazelnut shrub should produce between 20 and 30 new shoots. Each shoot should be up to 24 inches long.
Remove all weak and spindly shoots from the hazelnut plant. This includes shoots that are smaller than a pencil's thickness.
Strip the lower ends of each stem of its leaves. Each stem should have 6 inches of bare branch at its base.
Girdle these stems by tying a bread wrapper twist tie tightly around the base of each stem. The goal is to create a rooting system that is simple to divide and transplant.
Dilute a rooting hormone in water using a ratio of one part rooting hormone to 10 parts water. For example, if you use 1 tbsp. of rooting hormone, you must use 10 tbsp. of water. Apply the rooting hormone solution to the base of the stems beneath the twist ties with a paintbrush. The stems must be green and succulent. There should be no semi-hardwood or hardwood on these new stems.
Pile disease-free sawdust over these stems to keep them moist and provide a medium for the stems to root into. The sawdust must be deep enough to cover the stems and wide enough to keep the stems moist.
Wait for the upper leaves of the hazelnut to die and the plant to go dormant in fall. Separate the rooted plantlets from the mother plant by brushing away the sawdust to reveal roots on the stems below the twist ties. Cut the plants away below this rooted layer. Transplant them into containers or dig holes in the soil and bury the roots.