Make Free Plants This January!

If you are looking for something to try in the garden this winter, it’s a great time of year for hardwood cuttings.

The plants that do well as hardwoods makes a fairly short list, and success for most plants isn’t as high as doing softwoods in summer, but the process is about as easy as it gets and well worth experimenting with.

Here’s how I do it:

  1. Fill a large bin or old nursery pot with potting soil.  This could be almost anything, as long as it’s at least 6” deep and has holes for drainage.  Dish tubs work, storage bins, old milk jugs, you can get creative with this.  3 gallon nursery pots work very well, especially the stout version.
  2. Take 2 node cuttings (or more) from the current years growth on the plant.  Some plants like willows can do great with larger cuttings of 4 nodes or more, but you only need two.
  3. Dip the bottom node in rooting compound.  Some things don’t need this but it isn’t that big of a deal to do it, so why not increase the chances that you will get roots.  I use Dip N Grow at a 1:4 ratio to water but I don’t think the type matters that much.  Just follow the instructions on whatever product you buy.
  4. Stick the node that has been dipped into the potting mix a few inches or until it’s stable, spacing about 1” apart or a little more, just not much closer than that.
  5. Water well and place in a protected area such as a porch or unheated garage.  You want to protect from the wind and cold snaps, especially after it has started to leaf out.
  6. Cross your fingers and check once a month or so to make sure that the soil isn’t too dry.  If leaves appear in the spring, congratulations, you’re the big cheese!  Just make sure to protect those babies from late spring frosts.
  7. From there you can either leave them be for the season and let them develop roots before potting next spring, or pot them up, fertilize with some slow release fertilizer, and start your own backyard nursery.  Keep in mind that plants are most tender when they are small and start to leaf out in the spring, it’s best to leave them be at that point.

Here are some plants that do well as hardwood cuttings:




Twig Dogwood

Arborescens hydrangea

Paniculata hydrangea


Japanese magnolia

Rose of Sharon

Good luck!