Shrubs: A Propagation Lesson


how to grow shrub cuttings

I have a love for native vegetation, which is plants, trees and shrubs that grow naturally in the wild in your part of the world. We’ve been lovingly planting and tending some special native shrubs in our current garden for 10 years. But now we are considering moving.

Sure leaving behind a renovated kitchen and bathroom is tough. Leaving behind my Redbud and Alternative-leaved Dogwood…well, it’s unthinkable.

Luckily I’ve got a solution. Grow new shrubs with cuttings! It’s fun and easy. A little messy but who doesn’t love a little dirt under their fingernails? Best of all it’s a cost effective way to plant a new garden.

The best time to propagate shrubs is before they leaf out in the spring. And where I live that’s right now. So let’s get busy.

Here’s what you need-

how to propagate shrubs


Rooting hormone, usually found at garden centres or seed supply shops, and a sharp pair of clippers, which, if we’re are being technical we should call secateurs.

how to propagate shrub cuttings


You’ll also need soil and some kind of pots. Fill pots will soil and water well. Do not leave a 4 year old watering with the hose while you go inside to wash your hands to take a picture. If you do, fill pots with more soil.

how to propagate shrub cuttings



Pots should be wet but not puddles. I emptied out a small lake. The white tray is impermeable. If you are keeping your pots outside it’s probably not needed but mine are inside and I’m not a fan of muddy water pooling on my window sill.

how to propagate shrub cuttings

Once your pots and soil are all set, you need some plant material. This method works best for woody shrubs and trees. It’s not a great choice for perennials or annuals. These pictures are of my Nannyberry shrub, which I grew from a cutting many years ago. I am very attached to it.

Cut a few branches.

how to propagate shrub cuttings


Then cut into 2 inch, or so, lengths with each length having a growing tip. That means a little bud that will become a leaf.

how to propagate shrub cuttings


Dip your cutting into the root hormone. This one is a gel but sometimes it’s a powder, both work well.

how to propagate shrub cuttings

Then plant it gently into the soil. Pat it in and wish it well on it’s new rooting adventure. I planted 4 to 5 per little pot.
how to propagate shrub cuttings

Along with the Nannyberry, Redbud and Dogwood I planted Ninebark, Climbing Hydrangea, Black Lace Elderberry and a Tinkerbell Lilac. Once planted put them in a sunny protected location and keep the soil moist. Best to use a spray bottle or a very gentle watering can. Do your best not to move the cutting around.

Then wait like an expectant parent, to see if your little cuttings will take root and flourish.

OK, you caught me. Lilacs and Hydrangeas aren’t native plants but I still didn’t want to leave them behind.

how to propagate raspberries


I also planted some raspberry cuttings. I used the same method but I am near certain that they would grow without the rooting hormone. These are black raspberries, kind of special and, again, I want to take them with me.

Once your cuttings are well tended it’s time to clean up. Hopefully your helpers didn’t make such a mess.


Disclosure: After I did all this cutting and propagating I said to my husband “I probably should of researched the best way to cut the branches” He responded “Well, we took a course and the textbook is upstairs.” Me again “We have a propagation textbook?” Him “Uh ya. Don’t you remember the plant propagation class we took?” I stare vacantly as he goes upstairs and produces said textbook. Turns out he was right, I’ve studied plant propagation and I have the textbook to prove it.

So I’m just going to go ahead and say- I knew exactly what I was doing the whole time, I’m practically an expert.





  1. Obviously what we learned in the class became second nature to you :)

  2. This is wonderful. You make it look so easy. We have propagated roses this way for years. You didn’t mention how long it takes for them to get to the planting stage. I have a couple bushes I’d like to try. Can you tell me it this will work with lilac bushes?

    • Good question. I will transplant them into bigger pots when the roots take and I probably won’t plant them until the fall. They need a big enough root system to survive without constant attention. Maybe we need a transplant post.
      I’ve not tried roses, they are often grafted to a hardier rootstock to withstand Canadian winters. But it’s worth a try, we have many in our garden.

  3. Oops, I guess you did cover lilacs and I missed that part. Sorry.

  4. Vale Clark says:


    You are a girl after my oewn heart! Friends call me ‘seedlady’ but cuttings are near and dear to my heart too. You, however, are an EXPERT. Myself, I am thus far limited to butterfly bushes and forsythias but you give me new hope. Ever tried wild blueberries? Think they’d work?

    • Butterfly bushes! Good idea. I bet wild blueberries would work, it’s worth a try. I’ve never had luck growing blueberries because of their need for acidic soil. Good luck, keep me posted.

  5. I’m so glad my house came pre-shrubbed. I had no idea what this process entailed!!

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