The propagation of hardwood cuttings of evergreens is usually
done after you have experienced two heavy frosts in the late fall, around mid
November or so. But I have obtained good results with some plants doing them as
early as mid September, taking advantage of the warmth of the fall sun. Keeping
them watered every day is important if you do them before mid November.
Try some cuttings early and if they do poorly, just do some more in November.
Propagating hardwood cuttings of many evergreens can be done at home in a simple frame filled with course sand. To make such a frame, just make a square or rectangular frame using 2" by 6" boards. Nail the four corners together as if to make a large picture frame. This frame should sit on top of the ground in an area that is well drained. An area of partial shade is preferred.
Once you have the frame constructed remove any weeds or grass inside the frame so this vegetation does not grow up through your propagation bed. Fill this frame with a very course grade of sand. This frame must be well drained. Standing water is sure to seriously hamper your propagation results.
Making the evergreen cuttings is easy. Just clip a cutting 4-5 inches in length from the parent plant. Make tip cuttings only. Strip the needles or leaves from the bottom one half to two thirds of the cutting. Wounding evergreen cuttings isnt usually necessary because removing the leaves or needles causes enough injury for callous build up and root development.
Dip the butt ends of the cuttings in a powder or liquid rooting compound and stick them in the sand about 3/4" to 1" apart. You can buy good quality rooting compounds on line at Home Harvest.com Keep them watered throughout the fall until cool temperatures set in. Start watering again in the spring and throughout the summer. They dont need a lot of water, but be careful not to let them dry out. And at the same time making sure they are not soaking wet.
Hardwood cuttings of many evergreens can be propagated this way, but it does take some time. You should leave them in the frame for a period of twelve months. You can leave them longer if you like. Leaving them until the following spring would be just fine. They should develop more roots over the winter.
A friend of mine who is a wholesale nurseryman uses this method to propagate all most all of his evergreens. He covers his frames with steel hoops and plastic to provide some extra protection over the winter. This can help, but you must be careful. Do not use clear plastic. It will get too hot on the nice days and the plants will start to come out of dormancy too early. Then they will freeze back when the temperature dips back down below freezing. If you are going to cover your frame for the winter use white plastic or clear plastic that has been white washed with white latex paint. You must also water during the winter if you are going to cover the plants with plastic. Dehydration occurs very easily during the winter, especially under plastic.
For the home gardener I recommend not covering the propagation frame for the winter. A covering of light fluffy snow actually protects plants from harsh winter winds. Let Mother Nature take care of your cuttings over the winter. Sometimes she does a fantastic job, and sometimes she reminds us that we are tinkering with nature.
This method of rooting hardwood cuttings can and will work for a variety of different evergreen plants, both needled and broadleaf evergreens. But there are some varieties that are more difficult and will not root unless special care is provided. For most of the more difficult to propagate evergreens, the addition of bottom heat will help to induce root development. For that reason I have devoted a special section of the use of bottom heat. You can find the link in the table of contents.
Keep in mind that any time we attempt to root a cutting of any kind, we are asking the plant to establish roots before the top of the plant starts growing. Once the plant begins to grow it will die if it has not established roots first. Softwood cuttings are very delicate and will collapse if not cared for carefully. However, softwood cuttings root very quickly and can be growing on their own roots in a matter of a few weeks. Hardwood cuttings on the other hand are much more durable and can survive for months with very little care or roots. However, hardwood cuttings are very slow to develop roots.
Its a matter of what works best for you. For the average home gardener propagating hardwood cuttings is more foolproof because they require less care.
by Michael J. McGroarty