Can You Root Pine Branches – Conifer Cutting Propagation Guide

Can You Root Pine Branches – Conifer Cutting Propagation Guide

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By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Can you root pine branches? Growing conifers from cuttings isn’t as easy as rooting most shrubs and flowers, but it can definitely be done. Plant several pine tree cuttings to increase your chances of success. Read on and learn about conifer cutting propagation and how to root pine cuttings.

When to Start a Pine Tree from Cuttings

You can take cuttings from pine trees anytime between summer and before new growth appears in spring, but the ideal time for rooting pine tree cuttings is from early to mid-autumn, or in midwinter.

How to Root Pine Cuttings

Growing a pine tree from cuttings successfully isn’t too complicated. Start by taking several 4- to 6-inch (10-15 cm.) cuttings from the current year’s growth. The cuttings should be healthy and disease free, preferably with new growth at the tips.

Fill a celled planting tray with a loose, well-aerated rooting medium such as pine bark, peat or perlite mixed with an equal part of coarse sand. Water the rooting medium until it is evenly moist but not soggy.

Remove the needles from the lower one-third to half of the cuttings. Then dip the bottom 1 inch (2.5 cm.) of each cutting in rooting hormone.

Plant the cuttings in the moist cutting medium. Be sure no needles touch the soil. Cover the tray with clear plastic to create a greenhouse atmosphere. Cuttings will root faster if you place the tray on a heating mat set to 68 F. (20 C.). Also, place the tray in bright, indirect light.

Water as needed to keep the rooting medium moist. Be careful not to overwater, which may rot the cuttings. Poke a few holes in the covering if you see water dripping down the inside of the plastic. Remove the plastic as soon as new growth appears.

Be patient. The cuttings may take up to a year to root. Once the cuttings are well-rooted, transplant each one into a pot with a soil-based potting mix. This is a good time to add a little slow-release fertilizer.

Put the pots in partial shade for a few days to allow the cuttings to adjust to their new surroundings before moving them into bright light. Allow the young pine trees to mature until they’re large enough to be transplanted into the ground.

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How to grow plants from cuttings

Growing your own plants for free is a great feeling. You can fill your garden for a fraction of the cost, replenish tired plants and share special ones with friends.

• Take cuttings if you want loads of plants – such as a new buxus hedge – or if you've spied a particularly choice perennial or shrub in a friend's garden. Unlike seed sowing, when taking cuttings you always get an identical plant to the parent.

• There are several types of cuttings: semi-ripe, hardwood, heel, leaf and root.

• For semi-ripe cuttings, use 10-15cm shoots that are neither too weak nor too vigorous – aim for somewhere in the middle of the plant. They should have just a few leaves – cut off anything liable to wilt.

Avoid shoots that have flowered or are in bud. When planting, use a pencil to create a hole, then poke in the cutting – this avoids damaging the exposed cells at the base. Semi-ripe cuttings take 8-12 weeks to root.

• Hardwood cuttings are best for woody plants like hebes, viburnum and buxus. Take cuttings in late autumn/early winter and poke the dormant stems into soil.

• Conifers and evergreen shrubs root better if the wound at the base has a large surface area – such cuttings are known as heel cuttings. Find a short, semi-ripe shoot near a main branch or stem, and gently tear the shoot down and away from the parent, leaving an exposed triangular sliver of older wood on the bottom.

• Leaf cuttings are an easy way to grow many house plants, such as begonias and streptocarpus. Pin flat into a tray

of peat-based mix. Use a knife to cut through every main vein on the underside as new plantlets form only at wounds.

• Root cuttings are a no-fuss option for perennials with fleshy roots, such as acanthus, lilacs, Japanese anemones and verbascums. Cut pieces of root into 4-8cm


• Raising roses from cuttings is much easier than grafting – and with new rose bushes costing up to $25 each, you'll save a bundle doing it yourself.

• In autumn, select strong, pencil-thick canes that have already flowered. Cut off any buds or hips and any soft, sappy growth at the top.

Take cuttings that are at least three leaf nodes long and trim just above the node at the top and just below the node at the base.

To speed up root formation, dip the base of your cuttings into hormone gel.

• Mix compost and coarse sand to make a gritty cutting mix, and poke the cuttings in. Keep moist.

• Leave rose cuttings undisturbed for 4-6 months, or until you can see roots coming through the base of the tray, then repot and grow on for a year.


• No. You can buy commercial rooting gels and powders, which contain plant hormones to promote root growth, but they're not essential. For tricky subjects, rooting gels do improve your chances of success, but there are still no guarantees.

• Why not make your own rooting stimulants? Willow water is a time-honoured DIY option, as willows contain high levels of two natural rooting hormones: indolebutyric acid and salicylic acid. Willow water is made from young green or yellow twigs and stems soaked in either boiling water overnight, or cold water for a few days. It can also be used to water your cuttings once potted up.

• Active manuka honey works wonders on difficult cuttings. Make sure it has a UMF of at least 15+.

• Suckers are rooted shoots that can pop up some distance from the parent plants. Suckers can be a nuisance if you don't want them, but when they're free raspberries, they're a sweet bonus! Just dig them up and transplant elsewhere.

• Layering involves pegging down

a branch or shoot horizontally so that it sits in constant contact with the soil. (At its most basic, this is how strawberries reproduce from runners.)

• Take a nick out of the stem to create a small wound before burying it – this encourages root development. All things going well, in a year it will grow roots and the rooted plantlet can be cut off the parent. This is a useful method for many plants that do not root easily from cuttings, such as camellias and rhododendrons.

• Air layering involves partially cutting

a stem below a leaf axis, wrapping it in damp sphagnum moss or peat, and sealing it in plastic. When (or if) roots form, the new plant can be separated, carefully trimmed of excess leaves and potted up until a decent-sized root ball has formed.

• Some plants do all the work for you. After flowering, many bromeliads die – but not before they produce free pups around the base. Just prise these off by hand and replant.

• Epidendrum orchids sprout babies, complete with roots, on their stems.

• Hen and chickens ferns (Asplenium bulbiferum) are child's play to propagate: just pluck off the tiny ferns that spawn along older leaves and nestle into moist potting mix.

• Many perennials can be readily dug up, chopped or sliced into smaller pieces and replanted in fresh soil. This process is known as division.

• The best times to divide perennials are autumn and early spring. Cut the top growth back by at least half and use a sharp spade to slice through the rootball. Replant in a hole enriched with compost and keep well-watered until you see fresh new growth. Lengths during their dormant season and nestle into moist potting mix.

Make sure you plant them the right way up and be patient – this method can take a few months.

How to Grow Conifer Seeds Before Planting

ABORVITAE: Stratify for 2 months at 40°.

CEDAR: No treatment is needed, but soaking in water for several hours speeds germination.

CHAMAECYPARIS: Dry at 90°- 110°F after fall collection. Stratify at 40°F for 2-3 months.

FIRS Use fresh seeds (they lose vitality after one year). Stratify for 1-3 months at 40° F.

HEMLOCK: Stratify for 2.4 months at 40°F.

DAWN (CHINESE) REDWOOD: No treatment needed.

PINE: No treatment is needed for fresh seeds from bristlecone, jack, Canary Island, shore, lodgepole, pina, Aleppo, Jeffrey, Swiss mountain, Austrian black, longleaf, chir, Scotch Japanese black, Himalayan white, maritime, ponderosa, table-mountain, Monterey, red, and Norway. For old seed and other species, stratify 1-3 months at 40°F.

SEQUOIA: Stratify giant and California Coast redwood for 2 months at 40°F.

SPRUCE: No treatment is needed for Norway, Engelman, and dwarf Alberta. For other types, stratify 1-3 months.

If you’re new to propagating new plants from hardwood cuttings, don’t worry – it’s not nearly as complicated as it sounds. To get started, you will need to choose healthy stems, vine sections, or small branches from your climbers, trees, or shrubs. Slice straight across the stems, using a clean sharp implement to cut the plant just above a bud.

After that, you can remove any soft growth that appears at the growing tip-end of the cutting. When you cut, do so at a slope so that water can run off the top of the cutting. This will also help you easily see which end is up. Section out the cutting into pieces (the length of the pieces will vary, but for most large plants, it will be around 12 inches).

You’ll get the best results if you dip your cutting into hormone rooting powder. Place your hardwood cutting into the soil, leaving about a third of the cutting visible. If you’re planting multiple cuttings, leave four to six inches between each one. New roots will form beneath the surface and green growth will be produced from the buds come spring.

Before you finish up, pat the soil down around the cutting and water deeply. That’s all there is to it!

As you can see, taking hardwood cuttings is simple – plus, what do you have to lose? Consider making an attempt to propagate one of these plants from hardwood cuttings. You won’t regret it!

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