Brian’s Kidd’s top tips for taking hard wood cuttings

A glowing bed or cornus (dogwood).
A glowing bed or cornus (dogwood).
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When I was a student apprentice I worked with several experts who were very successful in rooting plants from cuttings.

One of these gems was Bill Hedges, the head gardener at Leigh Park Gardens now called Staunton Country Park. A lot of you will know what a wonderful place this is especially if there are children in your life.

Anyway, Bill Hedges would be able to root broom handles, he was just brilliant.

Do you like propagating plants? Lots of people like to do this and believe it or not, this is a very good time to take hard wood cuttings.

Have you a wonderful forsythia bush, a climbing rose, a camellia, daphne or a really good rhododendron? Would you love to get one of these to root so you can give it to your best friend?

If you follow this advice, you will have a good chance of getting the cuttings to root.

Autumn cuttings are called hard wood cuttings and hard wood cuttings can be taken right now.

The wood which is to be propagated needs to be about the thickness of a pencil and about 10 to 12in long. Examples are forsythia, rambler roses and cornus.

Here’s the secret... take off all the leaves except the top frill. Make a clean cut just below a node (leaf joint) and insert the cuttings into the soil after using a top dressing of about a quarter of an inch of sharp sand over the surface of the soil.

The cuttings need to be inserted very deeply, so deep that only two inches of the cutting is left above the surface. If you live in a flat, insert the cuttings into a 10in diameter pot.

Camellia cuttings need not be 10-12in long. They root better if the cuttings are about six to eight inches long.

Instead of cutting below a node as described for all the others, simply pull off a side shoot so it has a ‘heel’. You will see the heel has a slither of bark. Look at the back of the heel and you will see the central part has a heart-shaped woody part. Using a sharp knife, cut off the excess skin back to that woody heart.

Remove all the leaves apart from the top pair and the tip and insert the cuttings so the leaves are just above the surface of the compost. Soak the pot in rainwater.

Daphne cuttings should be five inches long but use the same rooting method as you would for camellias.

A polythene bag is then placed over the pot and cuttings ensuring the leaves don’t touch the polythene. Three short split canes can be used to form a kind of tent.

Camellia cuttings are best rooted in a cold greenhouse or if you have a plant propagator, this would be even better but is not essential.

What about hormone rooting powder? Use it if it makes you feel better.

Keep the cuttings moist and once they root (this will happen in early spring) pot each one in a three-inch diameter pot and plant them where you would like to see them grow – or perhaps you have a friend who would like one?


Before lighting the bonfire, please check there are no hedgehogs asleep in the base.

Even if you live in a densely-populated area, hedgehogs may have chosen your garden to hibernate for the winter.