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Horticulture 1000
H1092 - Plant propogation 2 - Semi-hardwood and hardwood cuttings
Softwood cuttings Leaf cuttings

Semi-hardwood and hardwood cuttings


As practice for part of the achievement standard 90157 ‘Demonstrate practical knowledge and skills in horticulture’, you will prepare and send to your teacher one of each of these cuttings types for checking:

Any remaining cuttings you will plant in a container.

Get your teacher's feedback on the quality of your practice cuttings before you attempt HT1022Y1.

Overseas students – DO NOT SEND PLANT MATERIAL INTO NEW ZEALAND. Take photos of your cuttings and send these to your teacher.

Watch the video clip below or HT1021DV on preparing semi-hardwood cuttings.



Semi-hardwood cuttings

A similar method to that used to take softwood cuttings is used for semi-hardwood cuttings. However, semi-hardwood cuttings take longer to form roots. The plant material is between the softwood and woody stage. Wood is called semi-hardwood when it is not soft and new, but is not quite old enough to be hard and woody. When you bend it between your fingers it will snap. The majority of shrubs are grown from cuttings like this.

Preparing semi-hardwood cuttings

You will need:

  • secateurs, scissors or a knife
  • basic growing mix of peat and pumice or similar
  • a clean container for example, plant pots, yoghurt or margarine containers (punch drainage holes in the base of the container)
  • root hormone gel or powder number two
  • a plastic bag
  • try to choose one of these plants: camellia, azalea, leucodendron, Coprosma (taupata), New Zealand broadleaf (Griselinia), hebe, fuschia
  • choose healthy disease-free plant material.

Follow these steps:

  1. Take your cuttings
    • Choose a healthy plant that has no pest or disease damage, and no flowers or flower buds. Unhealthy plant material is less likely to produce roots and/or the disease could be passed onto the new plant. If the plant material has flowers and buds then the plant will put energy into sexual reproduction rather than into root production.
    • Cut side shoots from the parent plant.
    • The cuttings need to be straight and unbranched.
  2. Prepare your cuttings
A prepared cutting from a Hebe plant
  • Cut off the semi-hardwood stem squarely below a node. The length of the cutting is between 7–15 cm long with two or more nodes.
  • Remove the lower leaves and any buds growing at the tip.
  • Trim  the leaves in half if they are large. This stops the cutting from losing water and wilting.
    1. Send a labelled cutting wrapped in newspaper to your teacher for checking.

Overseas students – prepare your cuttings. Take a photo of each type of cutting. Place a ruler beside the cutting to indicate its size. Either send your photos with your workbook HT1092 or email the photo to your teacher.

  1. Plant the remainder of your cuttings
    • Dip the cuttings in rooting gel or hormone powder.
    • Knock off any excess powder or gel.
    • Fill your clean container with potting media and firm it.
    • Make a hole in the media for each cutting.
    • Plant a cutting in each hole and firm the media around the stems.
    • Label each pot with the plant's name and the date.
    • Water the pot gently.
    • Put the container in a plastic bag, and loosely close the top of the bag with a rubber band.
    • Put the container in a warm, well-lit place (not full sun).
    • Keep it watered but not soaking wet.
Hebe cuttings planted in a container

Hebe cuttings planted in a container.

Deciduous hardwood cuttings

Watch the section on deciduous hardwood cuttings on HT1021DV or the video clip below.

When a stem matures it may get covered with bark and become hard and woody. Stems  like this are called hardwood. Deciduous hardwood cuttings are taken during  winter when the plant has lost its leaves and is dormant.

Preparing deciduous hardwood cuttings

You will need:

  • secateurs, or scissors
  • a sharp knife.

Choose a suitable plant. Try to find one of these:

  • poplar
  • willow
  • fruit canes or vines like  gooseberry, currants, grapes.

If you are working on this task in winter you should be able to find a tree or shrub that has lost its leaves and has bare twigs. If you are working at a different time of year, find a suitable plant and remove the leaves from your cutting before sending it in.

Follow these steps:

  1. Take two cuttings
Parts of a deciduous cutting
  • Find a stem about the thickness of a pencil with several buds. If taken in winter this would be last season's growth.
  • Discard the tips.
  • Cut the stem into a length about 15–20 cm.
  • Make the top cut above a node. Make the bottom horizontal cut below a node.
  1. Wound the cuttings
Wounded deciduous cutting
  • Use a sharp knife to make a shallow cut 2 cm long and remove a slice of bark. Don't cut the wood. These cuttings have a tough stem. By wounding the bottom of the stem you can expose the cambium. New roots grow easily without having to break through the bark.
Prepared deciduous hardwood cutting Grape cuttings Prepared deciduous hardwood cuttings Grape cuttings

Send a labelled deciduous cutting to your teacher for checking wrapped in newspaper.

Overseas students: prepare your cuttings. Take a photo of each type of cutting. Place a ruler beside the cutting to indicate its size. Either send your photos with your workbook HT105, or email the photo to your teacher.

Planting deciduous hardwood cuttings

You can:

  • dip the end of the cutting into hardwood rooting hormone powder number 3 (this is optional)
  • make a slit trench with a spade in your garden plot
  • plant the cutting in the soil, with half of it below the soil surface OR plant them in a deep container in a media of half peat/half sand or pumice. Make sure half of the cutting is in the media.

If you can't cultivate the soil in winter, bundle your cuttings and bury them in sandy soil or sawdust. This will help roots form. In the spring they can be planted outside.

Evergreen hardwood cuttings (conifer)

Parts of a conifer stem Parts of a conifer stem.

Watch the section on evergreen conifer cuttings on HT1021DV or the video clip below.


A conifer plant produces cones not flowers and often has needle-like leaves.

Preparing evergreen conifer cuttings

You will need:

  • secateurs, scissors or a sharp knife
  • one of these plants: conifer, with needle-like leaves such as juniper, cypress or thuja.

Your cutting should not have a cone as it takes away energy needed for root development.

Follow these steps:

  1. Take two cuttings
    • Cut two side branches from the plant (lateral shoots not feather shoots).
  2. Prepare your two cuttings
Tearing away the side shoot
  • Tear side shoots from the main stem of the parent plant. The torn piece on the cutting is called a heel. On the torn side of the heel, cambium cells will be exposed.
The side shoot
  • If your cutting doesn't have a large heel, it could be too old. Try to find younger hardwood.
  • Trim the heel to half its size.
  • Remove leaves from the lower half of the cutting, and trim any large leaves.
  • Conifer cuttings should be up to 10 cm long.

Send an evergreen hardwood cutting to your teacher for checking. Wrap it in newspaper.

Overseas students: prepare your cuttings. Take a photo of each type of cutting. Place a ruler beside the cutting to indicate its size. Either send your photos with your workbook HT1092 or email the photo to your teacher.

A prepared evergreen cutting
A prepared evergreen cutting.

Planting conifer cuttings

Take some more cuttings and try planting them out. The method is the same as for semi-hardwood cuttings but use hormone rooting powder number 3 if it is available. Conifer cuttings do not root easily and need high humidity and a warm atmosphere. A mist unit and bottom heat will help.

Complete Activity 5A in your workbook


Complete HT1022Y1 after your teacher has returned your workbook with comments on your practice stem cuttings.

Key points   Key points

Different types of cuttings require special care and treatment.

Method of propagationAny special care requiredReason this method is suitable
Semi-hardwood cutting Remove growing tip.
      Cut squarely below a node.
      Remove lower leaves and trim large leaves.
      Place in a warm and humid environment.
The parent plant has sufficient stored food and is actively growing.
Deciduous hardwood cutting Wound the stem to expose the cambium. The plant is dormant and can be planted outdoors.
Evergreen hardwood cutting Pull the cutting from the parent plant.
      Trim the heel in half.
      Place in high humidity and warm atmosphere.
The plant is growing slowly and has good food reserves.

What's next?

Go to: 6 Leaf cuttings.

Softwood cuttings Leaf cuttings