How to grow evergreen trees from cuttings

How to Clone Evergreens | Home Guides

By Teo Spengler

In a fast-changing, fickle world, towering evergreens stand as symbols of consistency and fidelity. Pine, spruce, fir and redwood present the same face to the world regardless of temperature or season, green and majestic in winter amid the skeletons of their deciduous colleagues. Most gardens contain at least a few shrubs or small trees that do not pass into winter dormancy. Like deciduous plants, evergreens often propagate both sexually via seeds and asexually by rooting stem cuttings. While seeds do not always grow true to tree type, cuttings are detached plant sections that essentially clone the parent evergreen tree as they develop into separate plants by reproducing missing parts.

  1. Take cuttings from narrow-leaved evergreens during winter after the parent plant has been exposed to cool temperatures, as this stimulates rooting. Take cuttings of broad-leaved evergreens just after a flush of growth during the growing season. Select healthy, vigorous plants to clone, free of pest infestation or disease.

  2. Grasp the tip end of the new side shoots of an evergreen's main stem. Pull the stem tip sharply in the direction heading away from the main stem's tip so that the cutting terminates with a "heel" of older stem tissue. Many evergreens root better from "heel" cuttings than simple stem-tip cuttings.

  3. Remove the lower side shoots from the bottom 2 inches of each cutting with a sharp knife. Making several 1- to 2-inch cuts from the lower end of each cutting to its base. Expose the cambium layer just beneath the bark but do not cut any deeper into the wood.

  4. Pour some rooting hormone containing auxin compound in a clean saucer. Dip the basal end of each cutting in turn into the powder to coat the wounded areas.

  5. Fill clean potting containers that have drainage holes with about 4 inches of moist perlite. Poke a hole into the medium about the size of the cuttings with a pencil or screwdriver. Slip the basal end of a cutting into the medium at least 2 inches and as much more as necessary so that it can stand on its own. Space the cuttings so that the foliage of one cutting does not touch any other cutting. Water the medium around each cutting to settle it against the wood. Mist the cuttings well with water when you are done planting.

  6. Slip a plastic bag over the cutting container and tie the end loosely to create a humid environment for the cuttings, and place in a sunny spot out of direct sunlight. Open the plastic bag every day to keep the medium moist, providing several tablespoons of water to each cutting. Spray the cuttings with water-mist every second day.

  7. Tug lightly on a cutting about a month after planting; if cuttings resist, they are rooting. Two to three months after planting, transfer each cutting to its own pot filled with potting soil. Choose pots at least 4 inches in diameter with drainage holes. Cover the new pots with perforated plastic film and maintain them in a sunny location without direct exposure to sun. Leave the plastic film on for seven days after transplanting to harden off the young plants. Transfer to a permanent outdoor location the following autumn.


  • North Dakota State University: Home Propagation Techniques
  • Fine Gardening: Propagate Your Shrubs from Softwood Cuttings


  • California Rare Fruit Growers: Collecting and Grafting Evergreen Scionwood in the San Francisco Bay Area
  • University of Minnesota Extension: Choosing Landscape Evergreens


  • Large cuttings produce usable plants in a shorter time than small cuttings but may require more care while rooting.
  • As with deciduous plant stem cuttings, the cuttings of evergreens range from quite easy to quite difficult to root. False cypress, arborvitae and shrub juniper generally root easily while firs and pines can prove very difficult.


  • Do not heavily fertilize evergreens that you wish to clone with stem cuttings. This can impede rooting of stem cuttings.

Writer Bio

From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. World traveler, professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.

Propagating evergreen shrubs from cuttings – The Propagator

Date: Feb 5, 2017Author: cavershamjj 10 Comments

Evergreens provide some much needed structure, interest and colour in the garden in the winter. Who wouldn’t want more of them, for free!?

I have a Ceanothus and so does my neighbour, different variety I think, so I’ve been cheeky and whipped off a couple of stems from hers as well. The branching habit of Ceanothus means there is plenty of cuttings material in just a few sprigs.

Branching habit, lots of material

I have taken some nodal cuttings and also some lateral heel cuttings.
For the nodal cuttings I have snipped off the top of the sprig just below a leaf joint (a node, hence the name) and stripped off the lower leaves leaving a bare stem and a few leaves at the top.  I have dunked the end in root hormone powder, shaken off the excess and used a suitable implement (screw-driver in my case) to pop it in the cuttings compost mix.

Only the cut or wounded part needs the powder, excess to be shaken or flicked off.

For the lateral shoots, I have tried to gently but firmly pull the side shoot away from the main stem so that it comes away with a “heel” – just a piece of the outer layer of the main stem.

Lateral shoot with heel attached (bottom right)

This is desirable because that material is full of cells that are capable of producing roots once tucked up in cuttings compost. That said, the heel needs trimming a little so it doesn’t rot in the compost.

After that, it’s the same process as for the nodal cuttings – dunk, shake, dib and firm in.

As you can see from the photo, I have jammed in quite a number of cuttings into one 11cm pot.

Jam packed

If I had a 9cm pot I would have used that, I think. There is plenty of room, and keeping the cuttings close together like this has a few benefits

  • they help physically support each other
  • the closeness helps to retain moisture and a humid environment around the leaves
  • economical with space, pots and cuttings compost.
  • lots of cuttings allows for even a high failure rate and gives a decent chance of some new plants at the end of the process

A note on cuttings compost mix. I’ll probably do a full post on this at some point later in the year, possibly even a trial, but the advice I am following is to use horticultural grit or sharp sand, mixed with vermiculite or perlite in approximately 3:2 proportions, although half and half would be fine too.

Ready to mixAll mixed and ready to use

Note the total lack of actual compost (brown stuff you buy in bags at the garden centre). That always confuses me, dunno why the pros insist on calling it cuttings compost.  Anyhoo, the point is that this is a free-draining, open mix that will allow roots to form without working too hard and avoids them sitting in too much wet (or indeed too much dry) which is all too easy with a peat-based compost mix.

February is a good time to strike cuttings like these because the shrub is about to start putting on spring growth and is thus chock full of growth hormones.  The main thing is it is no longer in a dormant or less active winter state. Once tucked away in the pot, these evergreen shrub cuttings can be treated like hardwood cuttings – ie watered and left to get on with it for a few months.  The only real difference is that evergreens, by definition, still have leaves on the go so are a little more vulnerable than the bare sticks that are the material for deciduous hardwood cuttings. For this reason they need to be kept in a humid environment and kept moist.  If only I had a heated propagation bench.  Oh wait, I do!
Here they are, both varieties, in the muggy warmth.

Nice and snug

I’ll be back with an update on these cuttings when I crack open these pots in a few months.

[update 11-Apr-17.  Check out this link to find out what happened.  If you are of a nervous disposition, fair warning, it doesn’t end well…]

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Propagation of conifers by cuttings

  1. .All about the advantages and disadvantages of cuttings of conifers
  2. .The best time for cuttings
  3. . How to properly prepare cuttings
  4. .Rooting conifers
  5. .Further actions

Today, coniferous plants are considered to be one of the most popular for landscape design of adjoining and administrative territories. They look spectacular, and do not need complex care measures. Most experts consider the propagation of conifers by cuttings the most convenient and effective way to grow healthy and strong seedlings. We will talk about how to do this correctly in this article.

All about the advantages and disadvantages of conifer cuttings

Coniferous trees and shrubs can be propagated by seeds and cuttings. However, the second method is considered the most convenient, simple and effective. The advantages of cuttings are as follows:

• using this method, you can get an absolute copy of the mother plant;
• the procedure is extremely simple, so even a beginner can properly cut any coniferous plant;
• it will be easy for you to observe how the stalk grows and develops.

The only drawback of this method is that it is not 100% suitable for every type of conifer. For example:

• arborvitae root perfectly after cuttings and repeat the external exterior, varietal and physical characteristics of the mother plant;
• junipers are undemanding to climatic conditions, they grow almost everywhere, however, grafting is possible only in tall representatives of the species;
• cypress trees are propagated by cuttings and layering, which take root well in the soil and develop a good root system;
• fir, high-quality pines, sequoias are almost impossible to cut and root on their own; experienced specialists use the layering method for propagation.

For cuttings, it is desirable to choose plants older than 5 years, but younger than 10 years. In other cases, cuttings have low germination.

Best time for cuttings

Cuttings of coniferous plants can be at any time of the year. Their germination does not depend on the timing, however, experts believe that winter is considered the best time for this, in the first half of which sap flow begins in conifers. It is at this time that cuttings are carried out, and then planting. By mid-summer, already well-lignified seedlings are planted in open ground.

Cuttings are made only from the tops of plants or the tips of lateral shoots. The length of the cutting should not be more than 20 cm. After harvesting, the shoots at the base are freed from the needles and cleaned a little. If the bark separates from the trunk, it is cleaned.

Root cuttings in three ways:

• in water;
• in sand;
• under cellophane.

The first method is considered the most reliable, simple and effective, however, cuttings of pines, firs, cypresses take root so poorly.

In autumn and early spring, cuttings of conifers are similar to winter procedures, but cuttings can be stored on a veranda, balcony, terrace. If soil is used for rooting, the sprouts are brought home for the winter. Summer shoots are often watered, in the fall they are planted in a bed under a film or brought into a warm room.

How to prepare cuttings correctly

Harvesting conifer cuttings depends on the choice of mother material. When examining plants, it is worth paying attention to the following nuances:

• the shoot from which the cutting is taken must be at least 1 year old, ideally 3 years;
• it is recommended to take cuttings only from healthy plants that do not have external defects;
• length of shoots: thuja - 15 cm, fir - 10 cm.
It is best to choose a bad day, make cuts early in the morning or late in the evening.

Conifer rooting

The preparation of cuttings is a multi-stage process, the success of the entire operation directly depends on the correct sequence of actions. So you need:

• correctly cut or break off the cutting, while leaving a piece of wood with bark;
• it is desirable to powder the cut with root-type biostimulants, Kornevin, familiar to everyone, is perfect;
• a deep container for seedlings is filled with wet sand, previously washed with a non-cooling solution of potassium permanganate;
• a notch is made in the sand with a finger or a stick;
• shoots are inserted into the holes, keeping a distance of at least 3 cm from each other;
• the substrate is well compacted around the cutting;
• cover each sprout with a polypropylene cup or film.

Place the planted material in a cool place. The optimum temperature is 22ºС.

Rooting in water occurs as follows:

• cuttings are dipped into a container with a solution of water and a biostimulator for 12 hours;
• pre-prepared sphagnum moss is well saturated with water, allowed to stand for an hour, excess liquid is squeezed out;
• moss is laid on a polyethylene film with a layer of 10 cm;
• cuttings are laid out on top so that their tip protrudes above the moss ribbon;
• the film is rolled up into a tight roll and tied with a rope;
• the resulting snail is put into a bag with a small amount of clean water.

This design is best stored hanging. After the cuttings take root, they can be planted in the prepared soil substrate.

Next steps

After planting in open ground, the cuttings need regular care:

• 1-2 times a week they are sprayed with warm water;
• the earth is watered in such a way that it is not dry or waterlogged;
• shoots should be well ventilated;
• standard temperature for coniferous seedlings - 22ºС, frost-resistant varieties - 16ºС;
• it is desirable to feed the cuttings with preparations for conifers 2 times during the winter;
• the soil in the trunk circle is regularly loosened.

As an excellent tool for rooting and increasing the resistance of young plants to weather and climatic conditions, you can use the specialized preparation Purshat-O. It protects plants from the negative effects of sunlight, retains moisture in tissue cells, significantly reducing water consumption. This tool is used for spraying the crown as soon as planted conifers, as well as for adult bushes and trees.

How to propagate coniferous plants

I will not be mistaken if I say that evergreen conifers are rightfully the soloists among ornamental crops today. It is unlikely that you will be able to buy all the plants you like (prices still bite), but if you want to propagate, please. And the most affordable way to obtain high-quality varietal planting material is cuttings.

This is the opinion of the head of the botanical garden of the Belarusian State Agricultural Academy, Candidate of Agricultural Sciences Anna Gordeeva.

“The success of cuttings depends on many factors,” says Anna Petrovna. - This is the choice of a mother liquor (an adult plant from which cuttings are taken), the time and technology of cuttings, as well as the conditions in which the root system will form. Moreover, a violation at one of the stages can nullify the entire work.

Of the coniferous crops traditionally used for landscaping, representatives of the cypress family - thuja, microbiota, cypress, juniper, thuja and yew are the easiest to cut. It is very difficult - they ate, hemlock and pseudo-hemlock. And practically do not lend themselves to cuttings of pine, fir and larch. The beginning of spring is the best time for cuttings. Plants are just waking up from their winter sleep, sap flow begins and buds awaken.

Thuja, juniper, cypress and yew can be tried to be cut in summer (late May - early June), when spring growth ends and young growths begin to lignify. But since the processes of respiration and transpiration (evaporation of water) are more intense in actively growing shoots, their rooting is possible only with the use of fogging installations. And then it will be stretched in time: callus is formed in the first year, and roots - in the next season.

It is also possible to take cuttings in August, when the shoots are just beginning to lignify, or already in September-November with completely lignified shoots. But they will take root, at best, only next year. With spring cuttings, most of the planting material will give roots already in the first.

For cuttings, it is better to choose young, actively growing trees. The ability to root formation in plants decreases with age. Good results are obtained by the use of mother liquors, whose age is 4-8 years. For some conifers, the location on the crown of the shoots intended for grafting matters. In creeping and bush forms, the place where the cutting is taken does not play a significant role. It is enough just to choose the most developed and well-lit part of the sun (especially in variegated varieties). In pyramidal species, in order for the seedlings to grow straight and retain the shape characteristic of the "parents", the cuttings are cut from the central branches of the first or third order. It has been noted that plagiotropic (lateral, horizontally growing) branches of columnar plants, as well as spruce and yew, when rooted for a long time (up to 5-7 years) retain an inclined, sometimes even creeping shape.

Shoots are best cut early in the morning or on a cloudy day. This will minimize the evaporation of moisture. For successful root formation, the length and thickness of the cutting are also important. Annual side shoots of most coniferous crops are usually 5-15 cm long. Accordingly, the cuttings taken from them will be of the same length. The apical annual shoots of some junipers, thujas and cypresses reach 25 cm. They can also be used for cuttings without being cut into pieces. The vigorous apical shoots of the thuja take root somewhat worse, but the plants obtained from them always have an ideal shape.

It is important to select cuttings with an intact and normally developing apex. Otherwise, in the future, the seedling will strongly bush, especially in golden forms. Very thin shoots should not be harvested: they will be exhausted before they take root. And it is desirable to take cuttings with a "heel" - part of the wood of the previous year. Therefore, they are not cut off with a pruner, but are torn off with a sharp downward movement. The place of separation is not cleaned, and if the “tail” of the bark turned out to be very long, it is cut off.

If the shoot is separated with a knife or a sharp pruner from a large shoot, then the cut is made 0.5 - 1 cm below the beginning of the lignification site (transition of green to brown). From the bottom of the cutting (2.5 - 4 cm from the base), all needles and small side branches are removed. The wounds formed when they are cut off also stimulate root formation.

Sometimes, for rooting of creeping varieties of junipers, two- or three-year-old shoots are laid horizontally in grooves 2-3 cm deep and sprinkled with sand for 2/3 of the length. In 1.5 - 2 months, thanks to the rudiments of adventitious roots, the plant will take root.

Freshly cut cuttings of pine, spruce, larch, in order to remove the resin released on the cut surface, which interferes with the absorption of nutrients, must be kept in water for 2-3 hours. Before planting, the cut must be updated again. To protect the shoots from decay, they can be lowered 1/3 of the length into a light pink solution of potassium permanganate.

Shoots will root better if longitudinal cuts are made at the lower ends with a sharp knife or their base is split to a depth of 1 cm. Due to this technique, a large surface of the cambium is exposed, and its cells will more easily form roots.

Place the prepared cuttings for 12-24 hours in a solution of any root-forming agent (Heteroauxin, Kornevin, succinic acid salts) or, before planting in a greenhouse, dust their sections with the preparation. According to the observations of scientists, with prolonged soaking, the bark begins to exfoliate from the shoots. Therefore, the use of powders for dusting is preferable.

Processed and prepared cuttings are planted in the substrate. But since the rooting of some coniferous crops can take a year or more, it is very important to get it right. If there are many cuttings, they are usually planted in greenhouses or greenhouses. One or more can be planted in a flower pot. At the bottom we pour a 15-centimeter layer of fertile steamed (for disinfection) loose earth (turf or leaf with coniferous bedding), mixed (1: 1) with calcined sand. Above - 3 - 5 cm of washed coarse sand. Cuttings also root perfectly in a mixture of peat and sand (1:1 or 2:1), peat and vermiculite (1:1), peat and perlite (1:1).

But you can't just stick the shoot into the substrate. First you need to make a hole with a wooden peg, and then insert the cutting vertically or at an angle of 45 - 50 degrees into it, tightly squeezing the ground around. The depth of planting depends on the size of the cutting and the breed. Usually planted to a depth of 1–5 cm. The distance between the cuttings in the rows is 4–7 cm, and between the rows is 5–10 cm. Then cover with a frame and shade.

In coniferous crops, roots are intensively formed at an air and substrate temperature of at least plus 21-24 degrees and a relative humidity of 95-100 percent. It is good if the soil temperature for hard-rooted rocks is 3-5 degrees higher than the air temperature. To accelerate growth and avoid diseases, plantings are periodically watered with solutions of Fundazol, potassium permanganate and Epin.

In the garden, a small rooting rack can be arranged in the greenhouse. It is installed against the northern wall so as not to obscure other greenhouse crops, and is tightly covered with film or glass. The bottom of the rack should be with slots or holes for draining excess water: coniferous cuttings cannot stand waterlogging. Under conditions of artificial fog, rooting is much better.

If there are few cuttings, you can try rooting them in mini-greenhouses, under glass jars, plastic wrap or plastic containers.

Since the cuttings have been in a greenhouse or pot for at least a year, they must be kept perfectly clean all this time. The light should be diffused, but intense enough. The fact is that in the needles it is in the light that a phytohormone is produced, which is so necessary for root formation.

Some time after planting, callus begins to form in the lower part of the cutting (from Latin callus - corn). This tissue neoplasm accelerates the healing of wounds on the plant. After a whitish influx of callus appears, it will not be long to wait for the appearance of roots. Although sometimes even cuttings with a powerful callus do not develop roots and die. Usually active rooting begins 3-4 months after planting. But different breeds have different timings. In addition, in the summer, root formation may completely stop for some time, and resume again in September.

After rooting and growth, young plants should be gradually hardened off. As early as next year, they can be planted in pots or in a permanent place. They can winter without shelter. But in the first year, it is still better to leave them under the frames of the greenhouse, covering them with burlap or dry leaves.

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