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How To Grow Conifers From Cuttings – Step by step

Last updated on March 5th, 2022

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Conifers are great plants to have and one of the best ways to grow them is from a cutting. They do take a while to root, as long as 12 months so a little patience is needed, however, they are usually successful and it’s ideal for beginners. You can take cuttings and root those cuttings at the end of summer or autumn. We find that August is a pretty good time as you need to take a cutting from the current year’s growth, which is woody at the base but still soft towards the top.

Propagating is a bit intimidating for newcomers and yet you can effectively propagate a conifer in your own garden. You don’t need a special tool or space for it.

Healthy Cuttings

When you are taking your cuttings you want to take them from healthy plants. Any conifer that you have that is sick or in any way stressed will not root as quickly as cuttings taken from a perfectly healthy plant. So, when propagating from conifers in your garden only pick those that have vibrant foliage colour and are free from any diseases.

One thing you need to think about is moisture levels. If you plan to take cuttings from plants in your garden you want to make sure that you keep those plants consistently moist throughout the growing season. If you fail to do this your conifer will experience drought which will inhibit carbohydrate production necessary to provide energy for the rooting process. Plan ahead by fertilising in spring and removing any damaged branches when you see them. Make sure you keep your plant healthy throughout the growing season and this will allow you to take cuttings from a healthy plant and root them in preparation for the next season.

Additionally, as plants get older they lose their ability to regenerate as effectively, just like human cells. You might see leaves start to drop in the autumn or the colour of the leaves start to diminish. If you only have older plants in your garden it will take them a lot longer to propagate because they will produce fewer roots overall and may take longer to do it. Younger, healthier plants are able to propagate much more effectively so if you have the option, always propagate from young plants. Having said all this, you can take cuttings from large conifers and still be very successful so it’s still always worth trying.

When to Take a Conifer Cutting

You want to take cuttings at the end of summer or autumn, once the plant has had an opportunity to properly store enough carbohydrates and moisture from the rest of the growing season because this is what gives the cutting the energy needed to propagate effectively. It is important you take your cuttings early in the morning so that the needles are not already dehydrated from the sun. We find that August is generally a good time of year to take cuttings.

How to Take a Conifer Cutting

Mixing compost mix 2 parts compost to 1 part grit for drainage

When you are ready, prepare your trays or small pots approximately 10cm deep with a mixture of 2 parts potting compost and 1 part grit. Water the tray and allow it to drain so that everything is thoroughly moist but with no standing water. Create holes with a stick (or pencil etc) inside your tray of potting soil and keep them about 7cm apart from one another so that the cuttings do not touch, something that will help to mitigate diseases. If you have small pots you can either grow one cutting per pot or plant three cuttings spaced around the edge of the pot.

You can cut several 10-15cm length stems from your conifer below a leaf joint and make sure that the wood is pliable. For each of your cuttings, strip the needles or foliage away from the bottom third of the stems.

Dip each of the cuttings into rooting hormone, shake off any excess and then place the cuttings inside their respective holes. Fill in any areas between the hole and the cutting to eliminate air pockets and water the cuttings thoroughly.

Now all you need to do is place the cuttings in a sheltered position out of direct sunlight. They should be left outdoors and water occasionally to keep the soil moist. It usually takes around 12 months before they can be planted or potted into new pots so be patient, they should be ready around the end of the following summer.

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