Cuttings & How to Root Them

I’d recommend seeing Dirr / Heuser ‘The Reference Guide to Woody Plant Propagation’ or Google to learn whether something is rootable.

Since I’m rooting Arborvitaes, I’m going to show you how to do anything but we’ll be using them.

When I can, I find the bud scar situated directly between the semi-hardwood growth and hardwood growth. A scar: is an impression in the wood where buds form.

I’m rooting during winter and must use flats/cafeteria trays/etc- without drainage. You need a tall pot for prevention of rot to cuttings and roots. I use 5.5" x 2 7/8" Anderson Tree Band pots but any pot that tall or taller will work great. The reason to use flats/reservoirs without drainage is to water from beneath allowing the media in the containers to absorb water. To water from above is to disturb (a) cutting.

The pictures will show the process if you would like to skip ahead.

Doesn’t matter if an arborvitae or a kiwi, a grape or a clematis, fig, or conifer; they’re all hardwoods when it comes down to it. The methods are the same for all hardwood trees/shrubs & vines.

As is shown are the mixing proportions for ‘Dip n’ Grow’ rooting hormone on my plastic beaker. This is what determines what age of wood you are going to root; whether readily growing late-Spring/Summer’s green wood having slowed its growth & is now stiff enough to stand on its own as a cutting (June/July), or, semi-hardwood & hardwood cuttings.

If you’re rooting deciduous material that’s leafy, you need to cut the leaves back the same. Say you’re summer rooting under shade cloth & mist, or, using an indoor system the same as mine. Here’s these arborvitaes.


one side wounded. You scrape it with a knife using a fast motion.

flipped stick over and wounded other side:

time to dip and then insert into media whether flats or tall enough containers. A lot of the time we water from below when rooting because then the soil(s) aren’t being disturbed.

Too much water is what creates rot that’s what kills cuttings and is the #1 problem (a stem-cutting that isn’t high enough above any standing water as well as media that’s excessively wet) rotting either the stem trying to produce callous or roots.

Use a pencil/pen to poke a planting hole in the potting media, prior. Dip in hormone, gently place cutting in hole & pack soil tightly against it. Get all the soil in the pot packed down, too. You should have the cutting at the proper height in the pot where the wound stopped. Now forward, water your pots from below:

Bottom heat is a necessity when not using mist systems for the commercial grower. A heat mat has two applications in rooting: 1) humidity & 2) to aid in root formation.

Inside walls should have either fog or fine mist particles. Large water droplets means there is too much water in the air & will rot the tops of cuttings. You need to find your balance of how water precipitates up into your tenting chambers / humidity chambers.

I recommend for rooting: any of the Pro-Mix blend(s) available at big box centers such as Menards or Lowes or The Home Depot, Walmart.

‘Dip n’ Grow’ is all I use or need.



I’ve rooted most arborvitae and falsecypress and juniper in sand directly in ground in shade of a tree…by dipping in hormone powder and spraying once a day with a garden hose if it didnt’ rain that day.

Fairly good % rooted…but not many made it through the following winter outdoors.


A greenhouse would’ve helped immensely! I hear ya, that’s a great way to do a “family rooting plot” ya might say. Yep, a warmer climate, you’d be fine. That’s a great way to root, Blueberry.


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Here’s another good one I did showing figs to be-rooted. It’s very-detailed with photos, the same as above. Dax

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If only they were all like mulberries. Just stab a stick in the ground.


And people grew and planted more food than ornamentals. A big, sharing, world. Walking the streets would be awesome.


I have always wondered that myself. Fruit trees are actually cheaper than landscaping trees and everyone can enjoy them. All counties and cities should be planting them. At least low spray ones anyway.


Yeah this has been a problem for me with figs until I switched to using pure diatomaceous earth. My last batch of 14 cuttings I had 100% success. Usually it is about 90%.

DE holds about 120% of it’s weight in water. Any extra water the DE acts like perlite and the water runs out. You can rot them in DE if you use finer types. Which can be used in seed starting. I use Optisorb which has the largest particles I have seen. The pores in DE are big enough for roots to enter unlike Turface and other heat treated clays. Also the benefits of extra silicon are well documented.
I just leave the DE that sticks to the roots as I don’t want to damage them. Most have grown into the DE.

After use I add the DE to my soil mixes for potted plants.


So glad you posted. I wanted to include diatomaceous earth but didn’t know how to do it.


Thank you for taking the time to put this post together!

sure. it needed to be done.


I just ordered 6 bags of the DE @Drew51 recommended from Granger supply, but out of curiosity and for posterity, where do you source your soil Dax?

And on a related vein, where do you buy your dip n’ grow?


Farm & Fleet locally carries the potting mix. I buy from Amazon ‘Dip n’ Grow’. It’s always 2-years label fresh.

‘Dip n’ Grow’ is only good for a day. It’s about 8-hours I think between new batches.

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I too like using a good potting soil for seed starting. I usually use Pro-Mix any of the different types is fine. The general usage or whatever they call it is the cheapest. I have not been able to get any so I went with a seed starting mix this year and added some DE too. Hopefully soon they become available again. Most independent nurseries carry these premium mixes but at a premium price unfortunately

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Im lazy and generally just take cuttings and stick them in the ground…results are better than you’d think…love the guide/may have to up my game if i try harder to propagate species


Great instructional post, thank you! I will admit to having problems using humidity domes in the past as I’ve had trouble gradually acclimatizing new plants to the ambient humidity in my area, which is low. For dormant cuttings, I will not use a humidity dome, I’ll just wrap them in parafilm.

I haven’t had much luck with green cuttings, but a humidity dome greatly helps with success.

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I wish that worked for stone fruit and blueberries, oh well. What will work and has not been mentioned is layering. A little tricky with stone fruit, but works.


I’ve rooted Krymsk rootstock during the summer, but the take is very low. Timing seems to be key (when to harvest semi hardwood). I use sand/peatmoss and cover to keep everything moist and also keep everything shaded. Temps are warm. I use root hormone. Out of 50 or so maybe i get 10 or 15 to take. I actually brought one of the cuttings (that was munched some by a rabbit this winter) from outside to inside about 10 days ago and it is already push a leaf. This is one of the smaller cuttings, the rest are in 1 gallon pots.

I tried sweet cherry cuttings (nothing) and blueberry cuttings (nothing) using the same method. I’ll try again this summer.


FFOF is usually available at my local hardware store, but the price tag definitely hurts a bit ($22 per 1.5 cu ft bag).

I use it for seedlings but usually just use a coco coir/ sand/perlite mix for cuttings. I’ll try FFOF next time!

How easy are stone fruit to root?