By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
One of the most rewarding things about gardening is propagating new plants from cuttings you take from a healthy parent plant. For home gardeners, there are three primary types of cuttings: softwood, semi-hardwood, and hardwood depending on the growth stage of the plant. Exactly what is a semi-hardwood cutting? Read on to learn the basics of semi-hardwood propagation.
About Semi-Hardwood Cuttings
Semi-hardwood propagation is suitable for an amazing variety of plants, including evergreens and deciduous plants and trees such as:
- Butterfly bush
- English ivy
Semi-hardwood cuttings generally root easily and don’t require a lot of special knowledge.
When to Take Semi-Hardwood Cuttings
Semi-hardwood cuttings are propagated when the stems are partly, but not fully mature. At this point, the wood is relatively firm but still flexible enough to bend easily and break with a snap. Semi-hardwood cuttings are usually taken between late summer and early fall.
How to Take a Semi-Hardwood Cutting
Take semi-hardwood cuttings from the growing tips of a plant using clean, sharp pruners or a sharp knife. The plant should be healthy with no signs of pests or disease, and should have no flowers or buds.
Cut the stem just below a node, which is the small protrusion where leaves, buds, or branches will grow. Cuttings should be unbranched and as straight as possible. Ideal length is about 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm.).
Strip the leaves from the lower half of the stem, but leave at least two upper leaves intact.
Semi-Hardwood Propagation Tips
Plant semi-hardwood cuttings in a container filled with sterile, unfertilized potting mix or clean, coarse sand. You may want to dip the stem in rooting hormone just prior to inserting the cuttings in the potting mix.
Water enough to settle the potting mix around the stem. Cover the pot with a plastic bag to create a greenhouse-like environment. Place the pot in indirect sunlight. Avoid direct light, which is too harsh and may scorch the cutting.
Water as needed to keep the potting mix lightly moist but not soggy. This is infrequent as long as the pot is covered with plastic. Poke a hole or open the top of the plastic bag if you notice moisture dripping down the inside. Too much moisture will rot the cutting.
Cuttings may root in a few weeks or several months, depending on the plant. Remove the plastic and move the cuttings to individual containers when the roots are ½ inch to 1 inch long (1-2.5 cm.). At this point, you can feed the young plant using a diluted water-soluble fertilizer.
Move the plant outdoors when it is mature enough to tolerate outdoor heat and cold– usually after a couple of growing seasons.
This article was last updated on
Taking hardwood cuttings is easy and often the only way to propagate many trees and shrubs. Follow our guide to turning a hardwood stem into a vigorous new plant.
On this page .
Take hardwood cuttings from deciduous shrubs and vines (see the suggested plant list) in the fall, after 'leaf drop', and before the ground is frozen.
First, always clean your pruners or knife with rubbing alcohol, or, 1-part bleach and 9-parts water to prevent the spread of disease.
Hardwood Cutting: A cutting taken from mature wood.
Hardy: A plant that can withstand the extremes of climatic conditions in the area it is grown.
Heel: A small piece of bark at the bottom of a cutting when it is removed from the main stem. This often makes rooting the cutting easier.
s are taken very late in the fall and throughout the winter months. Cut a pencil size stem from the plant, at a slight angle, just above the point where the current years growth meets the previous years growth.
s are Privet, Willow, Dogwood, Blackcurrant, Redcurrant and Gooseberry.
s are usually taken in Spring-Summer (all year round if you're lucky to have a hot-house).
You can also get more from your plants by saving seeds click here to learn how.
Supplies for Cuttings .
Have you ever tried your own plant propagation? It's actually quite easy.
Successful Seed Raising .
- a mature, woody piece of a woody plant that is removed to asexually propagate a new individual plant.
Heeling in - covering the roots of dormant plants with soil or mulch for short periods.
Herbaceous - a non-woody plant.
Willow, dogwood, privet and many hardy shrubs, gooseberries, white and black currants.
s may be taken from deciduous plants and narrow-leaved evergreens. Cuttings from these plants are taken during the late fall or early winter after a hard frost when the plants have become dormant.
s. These include dogwoods (Cornus), mock orange (Philadelphus), flowering currant (Ribes) and Forsythia.
Related products .
A cutting taken once the growth has ceased and become woody. Hardy An outdoor plant capable of surviving frost anywhere in Great Britain. Heeling-in Temporarily covering the roots of new trees and shrubs with soil.
Rooting viburnum cuttings from hardwood can be a bit more difficult. Here a rooting hormone is definitely recommended.
- A cutting taken from the mature wood of both deciduous and evergreen plants at the end of the growing season.
- Heel Cutting - A cutting taken with a portion of the bark or mature wood at the base.
- Internodal Cutting - A cutting in which the basal cut is made between two nodes or growth buds.
s are taken in the late fall or early winter after a hard frost. By this time plants have become dormant.
Sow sweet peas for an early display the following year.
Plant wallflowers for spring color.
Bring houseplants back indoors, checking for pests and diseases first.
Protect slightly tender exotics from frost by wrapping in fleece.
is taken from dormant, mature stems in winter or early spring.
s taken in late winter or from softwood cuttings in early summer. They are also grown easily from seed but it may take several years for seed-grown plants to blossom.
Cloning or air layering can be done but is difficult and requires a lot of labor due to the difficulty in working with
For the home gardener it is probably best to start with a transplant from a local nursery and this will also help to insure you get a regionally hardy variety.
Gardening activities: Level 1: Watering
Gardening activities: Level 2: Taking
Gardening activities: Level 3: Composting
7 ways to make your garden easier to manage .
I also remove any shoots that have grown from the main trunk of the vine, along with anything that's dead, diseased or poorly placed on the main growing arms. Don't waste the prunings. They can be cut into 20cm long pieces and propagated as
s, and if you have a wood heater or wood fired oven, .
Propagation from cuttings ensures the new plant will be the same as the parent plant. Currants can be propagated from hardwood (fully mature, dormant wood taken in late winter) and semi-
s (partially mature wood of current season's growth, taken mid- July to first freeze).
Often people are struggling to identify a mystery plant or can't get rid of pests, but lengthy conversations on planting
s and blackened hibiscus leaves take place, too. If in doubt, hashtag the plant you're struggling with and add in #gardeningadvice for good measure.
Tender perennials like geraniums (perlargoniums) and impatiens can easily be grown indoors from cuttings taken in the fall, and they will be ready to set out next spring.
s taken from shrubs and hardy perennials are started from cuttings taken in fall as well.
Once they are established, quince need little care except for the removal of dead or poor growth and occasional branch thinning to produce a vase shape, as for apples. They can be propagated by chip-budding in summer or
clematis need well drained soil, and should not be kept overly wet, especially in the winter, as this will encourage disease. Most evergreen clematis are native to New Zealand, but there are also some native to Europe, India, and China. Evergreen clematis can be propagated by softwood or semi-
What You’ll Learn
Pears are members of the Pyrus genus and there are typically two species grown in home orchards: P. communis, the European pear, and P. pyrifolia, the Asian variety. Both of these can be propagated via stem cuttings.
You’ll have to take a few steps to ensure that the branches you take will be suitable for rooting. The first step, of course, is to find an existing pear tree to take a cutting from. Maybe your neighbor is growing a few admirable cultivars and would be willing to give you a branch or two from each.
When you’ve found your source, it’s time to figure out which type of cutting you want to take. There are two types that work well for rooting: softwood and semi-hardwood.
A softwood branch section is taken from late spring to early summer when the tree is putting on new growth. As the name suggests, the wood is soft and grows roots more quickly than semi-hardwood.
If you look closely at a branch, you can see where the new growth occurs. The wood is lighter than older growth, and it just looks soft and green and new.
A semi-hardwood branch can be taken from mid- to late summer or early- to mid fall, depending on where you live. At this point, the early summer’s new growth is beginning to turn brownish-gray, woody, and hard.
Softwood branches grow roots more quickly, but they have a tendency to dry out more easily, too, which can slow or stop any chance of root growth. Semi-hardwood grows roots more slowly but dries out less easily.
Once you’ve decided which type of young branch to take and where to get them, you can move on to the step of collecting your supplies.
SERIES 32 | Episode 07
Josh explains the difference between soft, semi-hardwood and hardwood cuttings, and the best sort to use - which depends on the type of plant and time of year.
An example is the fresh new growth of Rosemary - the tips are flexible, sappy and green in spring. These usually ‘take’ (start growing new roots) very quickly. They are also easy to stress and die so it’s a good idea to dip the freshly cut ends into rooting hormone first, trim off the lower leaves, use a dibber to make a hole in a pot of good-quality seed-raising mix and pop it in. You will need to keep the cutting moist and humid, so create a mini greenhouse by covering the pot with a plastic bag or plastic bottle with the end cut off.
An example is Bay leaf taken in late summer or early autumn - the tips are still flexible but the lower section of a 30cm cutting is starting to darken from green to brown. These are hardier but don’t strike as quickly. Remove the tips and some side leaves (or cut larger leaves in half), use some rooting hormone and place in seed-raising mix as before. These still need to be kept moist and humid but are less likely to ‘fall over’ and die.
Josh has a large 60cm cutting from a mulberry - the tip is soft and fleshy, there is wood firming up below, but at the base the one-year-old wood bark is now fully brown and much sturdier and thicker this is the hardwood. These cuttings are often taken in winter when deciduous trees have lost their leaves they will reshoot new leaves in spring. At other times of the year, trim the leaves off and plant out in seed raising mix. These can be slower to take but are fairly hardy. It’s a great way to take cuttings of plants such as grapevines, figs and pomegranates.
Alan Postill Biography
Having joined Hillier at the tender age of 15, Alan has worked with a long list of notable propagators and plantsmen and, after 58 years is recognised as one of the world’s number one experts in his field.
Position at Hillier
Propagator and Plant Hunter at Hillier Nurseries in Hampshire
Key Areas of Specialism
All forms of propagation – grafting, root cuttings, growing from seed
Plants Raised by Alan
Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ (named after his wife, Jacqui)