How to propagate trees from branches

How to Grow a New Tree From a Branch | Home Guides

By Kit Arbuckle Updated December 15, 2018

Rooting a branch to grow a new tree costs little time or money but does require patience. This simple method of propagation works for deciduous and evergreen varieties of trees. Branch cuttings become a complete, new plant identical to the parent plant. Branches less than one year old work the best for growing trees. Cuttings can have a greater rate of success than growing some species of trees from seed. The tree will mature much quicker than one grown from a seed and usually develops roots in a few months.

Preparing the Planter

Prepare a planter for growing the cuttings by filling it with a sterile, soil-less potting medium. Water the medium just until it feels moist all the way through and settles. Make holes approximately 1 inch in diameter through the top of the medium for each cutting.

Selecting a Branch

Select a 10-inch-long, healthy looking branch tip that includes leaves. Take softwood cuttings in spring, semi-hardwood in the fall and hardwood cuttings in winter. A softwood cutting comes from a new stem, semi-hardwood from current-season stems in the summer and hardwood from the previous year's growth. Cut it at a 45-degree angle with clean pruning shears.

Preparing the Cutting

Remove leaves or needles in the bottom 2 or 3 inches of the cutting. Wound hardwood cuttings on the bottom 1 to 2 inches by making vertical cuts on each side with a sharp knife. Stay in the surface wood. Wounding allows more rooting hormone and water to absorb into the cutting while increasing cell division.

Help from Hormones

Pour about 1 teaspoon of rooting hormone into a clean saucer. Dip the wounded end of the branch into the hormone. Roll the bottom 2 inches in the hormone, coating the branch. Gently shake off excess. Discard any hormone left on the saucer. Place the hormone-covered part of the branch in the hole in the potting medium. Build the mix around the branch to hold it in place. Mist the soil and the leaves.

Finishing the Project

Push two to four sticks into the potting mix around the edges of the planter. Cover the planter with plastic film or a lightweight greenhouse plastic to trap the humidity. Put the planter in a location that receives indirect light and temperatures around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a heat mat set to 70 degrees under the planter to keep the soil temperature consistent.

Check the cutting daily for soil moisture and root development. Mist the leaves with room-temperature water when you check on the cutting. Keep the soil moist all the way through. A slight tug on the branch indicates that roots have developed.

After Rooting

Transplant each rooted cutting into a 4-inch planter with a sterile potting soil. Continue to keep the soil moist and the plant in indirect sunlight. Slowly harden off to outdoor conditions after about one year of growth before transplanting into the ground.

Things You Will Need

Dip pruning shears in a solution of 10 percent bleach and 90 percent water to prevent the spread of disease.

Water the tree deeply the day before you take your cutting to ensure plenty of water reaches the branches.

Choose a healthy branch from a tree free of disease for the best results.

You can root several cuttings in a large pot, such as a 1 gallon.


Process the cutting as soon as you take it off of the tree for the best success, or it can dry out and die.

Sometimes branches don't develop roots. Take a cutting of several branches to increase the chances of successful root development.

Cuttings may take up to three months to develop roots.


  • University of California, Davis: Propagation
  • North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension: Plant Propagation by Stem Cuttings
  • Planet Natural Research Center: Plant Propagation 101


  • University of California Master Gardener Program: Landscape Trees, Shrubs, and Vines

Writer Bio

Kit Arbuckle is a freelance writer specializing in topics such as health, alternative medicine, beauty, senior care, pets and landscaping. She has training in landscaping and a certification in medicinal herbs from a botanical sanctuary.

How to Root a Tree Branch Without Cutting | Home Guides

By SF Gate Contributor Updated August 29, 2020

Air layering is an asexual or vegetative method of propagating trees without planting seeds or taking cuttings. Roots actually form while the potential cutting is still on the tree. By remaining attached to the tree during root formation, the air-layered branch receives sunlight and a natural environment. Another advantage of air layering over rooting cuttings is less frequent monitoring. Make air layers on last season's wood during spring or on new wood in late summer, recommends Texas A&M Agrilife Extension.

  1. 1. Prepare the peat moss

    Place a handful of sphagnum peat moss for each intended air layer in a sealable plastic bag, pour water into the bag and seal. Sphagnum peat moss used for air layers must be thoroughly moistened, which can take an hour or more.

  2. 2. Select the branch

    Select a branch approximately the diameter of a pencil and locate a node – a leaf bud – approximately 12 inches from the tip of the branch.

  3. 3. Girdle the branch

    Cut a ring around the circumference of the branch – a girdling cut – approximately 1/4 inch below the selected node, cutting through the cambium, or bark, but avoid cutting into the wood.

  4. 4. Girdle below the first cut

    Make a second girdling cut in the same manner 1 inch below the first cut.

  5. 5. Loosen the girdled band

    Slit the band of bark between the two girdling cuts with a vertical cut and loosen the band.

  6. 6. Remove the girdled bark

    Remove the band of bark and scrape any remaining cambium off of the exposed wood.

  7. 7.

    Apply rooting hormone

    Dip a cotton swab into the rooting hormone and apply the hormone to the exposed wood on the branch so that the rooting hormone clings to the surface of the exposed band

  8. 8. Wrap the branch in moss

    Open the sealed bag of sphagnum peat moss and take out a handful of moss. Hold the moss in place around the exposed band on the branch while covering the moss with polyethylene plastic wrap. Secure the plastic wrap with twine or electrical tape.

  9. 9. Monitor the air layer

    Check the air layer every few weeks to maintain adequate moisture in the peat moss and to monitor rooting progress.

  10. 10. Sever the branch

    Sever the branch below the rooted band after roots fill the peat moss. Tree-branch air layers generally take one season to form roots.

    Things You Will Need
    • Sphagnum peat moss

    • Sealable plastic bag

    • Sharp knife

    • Hormone rooting powder

    • Cotton swab

    • Polyethylene film (plastic wrap)

    • Twine or electrical tape


    Sterilizing equipment used for plant propagation is a common practice. However, Ventura County Cooperative Extension of the University of California refutes the value of equipment sterilization, indicating there is potential damage to equipment through caustic chemicals such as alcohol or household bleach and that benefits for disease reduction are not proven. Be on the safe side and wash your knife with soap and water and rinse well. Dry with a clean paper towel.


    Propagating grafted trees by air layering is not recommended. Trees grafted onto root stock take on certain characteristics of the roots, such as disease resistance or increased hardiness. A rooted branch from a grafted tree does not express all the characteristics of the parent tree.


  • University of California Cooperative Extension: Agriculture and Natural Resources Ventura County: Pruning Small Tres and Shrubs
  • Texas A&M Agrilife Extension: Air Layering For Difficult-To-Root Plants

Propagation of trees and shrubs

Propagation by cuttings

This is a very common method of vegetative propagation of plants. The easiest way to grow roots is to put the cuttings in a jar of water. This is exactly what they do with those plants whose cuttings hardly give roots. This seemingly simple matter has its subtleties. Often, when changing the water in the bank, the cuttings die. Therefore, when the water level decreases, you just need to add it to the jar, and not replace it completely. The number of cuttings in the bank matters. If you put several cuttings in a jar, then they do not give roots for a long time or die, and one by one they quickly take root. The level of water in the bank also matters.

It is known that the roots on the cuttings are formed at the border of water and air. This is due to the fact that oxygen, present in the air, is also needed for their formation. If there is a lot of water in the container, then the lower part of the cutting will be in an oxygen-free space and will rot. With a low water level, the cutting remains almost dry and very few roots grow.

Choosing the right branch is essential to getting good cuttings. Powerful branches growing vertically are not suitable for these purposes; it is better to choose a side branch. If several cuttings are cut from a long branch, then the one that was cut from its lower part will be the most suitable.

To obtain a cutting from a green shoot (unripe), the cut is made under a bud or a node. Then the probability of damage to the cuttings by a fungal infection is minimal. When cutting a cutting from a lignified shoot, a cut is made between the nodes. From any shoot, you can make a cutting that has a bud with a leaf. Their length is small - 2.5–4 cm. The upper cut is made above the kidney itself, one sheet is left in the sinus of the kidney, and all the rest are removed.

If the cuttings have leaves, or at least part of a leaf, then they need light to grow roots. In a cutting without leaves, roots grow better in the dark. This is due to the fact that in the presence of leaves in the cuttings, heteroauxin is produced, which stimulates the formation of roots. In the light, this substance decomposes, and in cuttings without leaves it is very small. Therefore, without light, their roots, under the influence of a small amount of heteroauxin, will grow in a shorter time. A lot of leaves should not be left either, otherwise the cuttings will dry out due to the large evaporation of moisture. It is sometimes even recommended to leave only part of the leaf on the bud. In daylight, roots form worse in ordinary glassware than in dark ones.

Many plants propagate well from cuttings during the dormant period. When planted in the ground in autumn, cuttings take root better than in spring. You can cut branches for cuttings even in winter, but the roots on them may grow too quickly. As a result, they will overgrow and break off when landing.

The quality of the cuttings depends on the plant from which they are taken. If the mother plant lacked nutrients, then the cuttings will root poorly. If he was fed with nitrogenous fertilizers, then the roots will grow poorly. To obtain good cuttings, it is useful to feed the mother plant with potassium-phosphorus fertilizers containing a small amount of nitrogen. It is necessary to take into account the age of the mother plant - cuttings from old plants take root with difficulty. For propagation by cuttings of easily rooted plants, age does not matter.

Tip. Transplant to a new place only annual seedlings of stone fruit trees. They have less developed roots, a strong short trunk and a small crown. Such seedlings easily adapt to a new place and will not get sick for a long time.

Propagation by division

Division is one of the simplest and most reliable methods of plant propagation. With its help, rhizomatous plants are propagated, the aerial part of which is a bush. Rhizomes are underground shoots formed from underground buds.

For propagation, the bush is dug up together with the rhizomes, having previously cut off the aerial part. Then the rhizome is divided into several parts with a knife. Each part should contain buds from which a new plant will then develop. The divided rhizomes are planted in the ground, watered, etc.

Tip. With vegetative propagation, all the signs of the mother plant are preserved, which means that new plants of the same variety can be obtained. When planting with seeds, varietal characteristics are lost, and new plants are not uniform in their qualities.

Propagation by root shoots

This simple propagation method can be used if the plants form root shoots. It is convenient to use for propagation of apple trees, plums, cherries.

Root shoots are above-ground shoots that grow from adventitious buds on the roots. In this case, the young shoot feeds on the mother plant. In the root system, there is a change in vascular connections and a redistribution of nutrients, so the growth interferes with the development and growth of the mother plant. However, when dug up along with the roots, it takes root very well in a new place. For reproduction, one-year-old shoots are used, the thickness of which is not more than 8-10 mm. After digging, it is necessary to carefully examine the roots, sort the shoots by quality and dig or plant in the same way as ordinary seedlings.

Propagation by layering

This is a simple and effective method of propagation. When layering is formed, roots are formed on the stem or branch of the mother plant, dug into the soil. In the future, the rooted part of the stem or branch is cut off from the mother plant and used for propagation. Layers are fed from the mother plant and therefore remain viable well until their own roots appear.

To obtain cuttings, it is necessary to choose the right mother plant, as well as create soil conditions for root growth. The quality of the layering will largely depend on the condition of the stem used to obtain it. If the stem is powerful, with good growth, then it will form better roots in the ground.

In order for cuttings to form roots more successfully, various stimulating techniques are used, including hilling vertical cuttings and preliminary pruning.

Root formation is better if light does not penetrate into the place of their growth, the plant is provided with heat, oxygen and moisture. To create such conditions, the stem of the mother plant is bent to the ground, sprinkled with soil. Then they periodically spud, since without this procedure, root formation may be delayed.

Land for cuttings should be loose and well drained. To do this, it is first dug up to a great depth. If the soils are heavy enough, peat and sand are added to them to improve the structure.

To provide the plant with heat, it is recommended to place cuttings in places where sunlight enters. This is especially necessary if the soil is damp. In dry weather, layering must be watered. If they are difficult to root, then cut off the aerial part to create conditions for better root growth.

When separated from the mother plant, the cutting stem is cut. The layer is dug with a pitchfork so as not to damage the root system. Roots must not be allowed to dry out.

When cuttings are taken, the mother plant is minimally damaged. The branch of an adult plant is bent to the ground, leaving only its top 15–20 cm long on the surface, covered with earth. Phytohormones and nutrients begin to intensively enter this part, and under their influence, the formation of roots occurs in it.

It is better to use young stems and branches for the formation of cuttings - they are more flexible and take root better. To stimulate their growth, a year before laying the layering, the plant is cut as much as possible, and new branches begin to grow intensively.

The part of the branch intended to be buried in the soil is freed from leaves and side branches.

To determine where to dig in the parent branch, tilt it to the ground and measure 15–20 cm from the top. A mark is made on the ground, then a groove 10–15 cm deep is dug in this place. As it approaches an adult plant, its depth decreases. Next, the branch is laid in a prepared place, and its top is bent at a right angle upwards. If necessary, the branch is pinned to the ground with wire. The groove is covered with earth, slightly trampled down and watered. Make sure that the soil in this place is always moist.

The cuttings are separated from the mother plant in autumn. Layers that have begun to take root are separated from the mother plant 3–4 weeks before transplantation. If the roots are very weak, then they are left in this place until next year.

Tip. Vertical and arc layers are suitable for reproduction. The former are obtained by hilling and watering the young shoots of the bush, and the latter - as horizontal ones, sprinkling a small section of a branch with soil in the groove, the end of which is vertically tied to a support.


Grafting is the transplantation of a part of one plant (cutting or eye) to another. As a rule, fruit and ornamental trees and shrubs are propagated by grafting. The transplanted part is called a scion, and the plant on which the transplant is carried out is called a rootstock. The scion is pressed with a cut to the incision on the rootstock. The tissues of the scion and rootstock grow together and a new plant is obtained. The graft is usually taken from a tree or bush, which is distinguished by high quality fruits or other above-ground parts. Plants with a well-developed root system are used for rootstock.

In the process of grafting, the internal tissues of the scion and rootstock are connected. This process is carried out in several ways. The most common are grafting into a split and a kidney (or eye).

When grafting into a split , a slot is cut in the hemp of the stock and the wedge-shaped pointed ends of two scions are inserted into it. In this case, the diameter of the rootstock should significantly exceed the diameter of the grafts. In order for the vaccination to be successful, certain conditions must be met. The best time for grafting is spring, as the scion should only come out of dormancy. After the vaccination, the area of ​​​​contact between the scion and the stock is protected from drying out and pathogens by coating it with garden pitch.

When grafting with eyelet , the bark of the rootstock is incised in a T-shape. Then a scion is inserted into the slot, it is tightly wound and everything is coated with garden pitch on top. This method of vaccination is recommended in late summer or early autumn. It must be done before the rootstock bark becomes very hard. Plums and cherries are successfully propagated in this way. From one branch, you can immediately get a large number of scions - buds.

There is another method of grafting, such as ablactation (rapprochement) . It is carried out if the sources of stock and scion grow side by side. An incision is made on each shoot, then the incised places are connected and fixed (by tying, by smearing). After the fusion of two shoots, the scion is cut off from the root, a part of the shoot is removed from the rootstock above the location of the scion. Sometimes the branches of two trees grow together in a similar way in nature.

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Propagation of trees and shrubs

Last Saturday my studio guest was a biologist Alexei Murashov. When the radio program ended, we decided to take a walk through the autumn courtyards of Zamoskvorechye. We walk along the asphalt path, talk peacefully, suddenly, we look - the whole earth is strewn with selected plums. The fruits are small, round, bright yellow, amber-transparent with delicate veins. They looked around, they seemed to have nowhere to fall from. Then right on my head (like Newton) another plum fell. We looked up, and there, at a height of three meters above the ground, the sprawling dark green crown was covered with fruits like sea buckthorn! I confess with shame that, knowing how harmful it is to eat city fruits (with a full range of non-ferrous metal salts and other filth), Alexei and I nevertheless ventured to taste. The amber lanterns of fruits shone painfully appetizingly in the autumn piercing blue sky! The content, as we expected, surpassed the form - I have not tasted such juicy honey plums with pulp that easily separates from the stone for a long time! What kind of variety this is, neither I nor Alexey know. Probably, under such plums, the heroes of Ostrovsky's plays drank tea from pot-bellied samovars, whose house-museum, by the way, could be seen nearby in the gap between modern high-rise buildings.

I really wanted to summon a genie from a magic lamp and bring this magnificent tree to my garden. I think that many of you have faced a similar temptation. So how do you get hold of a piece of what won your heart? The easiest way is seeds. Collect more fruits and plant seeds. Random travelers crushed hundreds of plums with their feet, and it was not difficult to collect what was left of them.

The second method is vaccination. The tree is easy to remember, cut into cuttings, dig in for the winter or bury it in the cellar until spring and graft it, sacrificing some "guilty" plum from your garden as a scion. The third is green cuttings (troublesome, but real). The fourth - root growth - fell away, for lack of it, however, there was also a fifth - air layering.

And now, let's look at all the ways to propagate fruit trees and shrubs. I knew one local historian who claimed that he had calculated the "Batu's path" from one of the types of willow. Say, as the horde walked, they lost the twigs from the baskets in which provisions were carried. The twigs sprouted... And so on. It sounds beautiful, but not for those who know what cuttings are. Willow is really easy to propagate in this way, but for this it would be good to bury the cuttings in the ground, and even better - water from time to time.

So, green cuttings can be used to propagate: plum (with which we started the story), cherry, peach, apricot, currant, viburnum, gooseberry, grapes, sea buckthorn, lemongrass, barberry, actinidia and other plants that fall into the zone of our gastronomic interest.

However, if some people reproduce easily and willingly in this vegetative way, others become capricious and careful observance of many factors is required in order to succeed. To root one cutting, back in ancient times, they resorted to a simple trick: one flower pot was turned upside down, after placing a cartridge with the weakest light bulb (15 W) in it, the other was placed on top of it, poured soil into it, stuck a cutting and covered it with a jar . Later, they began to use special temperature controllers, including those from aquarium equipment, and to adapt (most often borrowed from their own production) various factory devices and installations.

Means can be very diverse, the goal is the same - high humidity and constant wetting of the surface of the leaves of green cuttings. By the way, they can be covered directly from above with a gauze canopy, which you will constantly sprinkle with water. Just be vigilant so that it does not come to the waterlogging of the substrate and the mold does not bloom with a double color. If you root the cuttings in a garden greenhouse in the summer, then make sure that in the midst of the heat of the day it is shaded by a tall tree or some buildings, because if the temperature exceeds 30 degrees, then the cuttings will “hang their ears” (what will happen next - I hope I don't need to explain.)

The success of such propagation depends not only on what crop we are cutting, but also on what variety this crop is. So, cultivated apple trees, pears, apricots and cherries will make you suffer pretty much, but plums, cherries and cherry plums will be more accommodating.

A question often arises among beginners: when to harvest cuttings? A reliable sign is the end of the flowering of spirea and lilac, and if at the same time it is cloudy, rainy weather, then consider that you are lucky and you should not miss such a chance. In order not to ruin the fruits of your labors, do not let them out of the greenhouse into the open ground immediately, but accustom them to the will gradually. Open the greenhouse more often, ventilate it, and only then, when the youth is hardened, if the weather is suitable (of course, it’s not the sun in the blue sky), proceed with the transplant with the obligatory shade.

However, green cuttings are not for green beginners. For this, in addition to a fair amount of experience and intuition, a material and technical base (greenhouses, installations, etc.) is required. Therefore, there are other, more affordable ways to propagate fruit crops. True, in the case of the plum, it is worth explaining one delicate point.

First, it is very long. The germination of plum pits is excellent. In addition, you will immediately have a lot of seedlings, fuss with them, not only with cuttings - plant at least a thousand cream, just water and feed. From seeds you will get excellent stable material that can serve as an excellent stock.

But what's the matter, in 10-15 years, when these youngsters finally grow up and begin to bear fruit, not all fruits can stand comparison with their parents. While some might be even better, it doesn't happen more often than hitting the jackpot at a casino. Heredity and variability are the alpha and omega of selection. In fruit trees, when propagated by sowing seeds, there is a fairly high variability, although, undoubtedly, such offspring will come across that will inherit parental virtues.

The simplest thing is to let a tree or a shrub produce offspring on its own, in order to tear it from its mother when it is needed.

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