Glory's Garden

All the world's a garden, you know, and we are mere flowers within it. Come, I'll show you!

Don't get any funny ideas!

©2018 Glory Lennon All Rights Reserved

My Peeps!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

How to start your own hedge from cuttings

Shrubs for free...YAY!

Oh, the Horror!

I stood in horror as I watched my friend take the clippers to her Forsythia. It had been a nice, though admittedly, a way too big patch of brambles, for her taste anyway. I explained to her that the birds love nesting in that mess, as it provides great cover for them from neighborhood feline fiends, one of which was her own vicious pet. She continued to snip away, thoroughly ignoring my protests,  until the once lovely shrub was barely more than a ball of twigs. It looked horrible.

Sanity questioned.

When she stood back to admire her work I asked what she was going to do with the clippings. She stared at me as if I’d spouted tentacles from the top of my head. This wasn’t unusual. She always looks at me that way. She merely pointed to her compost pile as answer. I then asked if she didn’t mind my taking some. Again she stared probably wondering at my sanity.

“Have yourself a thrill,” she replied. Now it was her turn to watch me, though not in horror, as I stuffed the back of my Astro-van full of seemingly useless branches.

“What are you going to do with those?” she asked.

I explained I was going to make my own Forsythia hedge so the birds she was leaving homeless could find a new home in my yard. The expression of incredulity on her face was priceless...of course that was when she saw my free Forsythia hedge in full bloom some two years later.

French Pussywillow cuttings today will be shrubs tomorrow...or rather next year.

One success out-weighs 1,200 failures.

Assuming you are not as skeptical as my friend, you probably would like to know exactly how you start your own hedge from cuttings. Well, let's go then.

Though getting cuttings to root is relatively easy, it matters which plants you choose to try to clone (yes, making new plants from cuttings is cloning). Some plants are simply easier than others to coax into rooting. But you’ll never know unless you try and try again. Thomas Edison, after all, went through 1,200 experiments before he struck on the successful light bulb. Surely you can be as persistent if you truly want a hedge for free.

Forsythia is one of the easiest shrubs to root but there are many others including Euonymous and Pussy Willow. You just have to make sure you have relatively young branches, not hard wood. Once your branches are selected cut them into 1-2 feet long pieces and strip the bottom 5 or 6 inches of leaves starting at the cut edge. For some plants you will have better success if you take branches just before the leaves emerge.

To further enable the rooting process you should expose a good bit of the cambium layer. This is just beneath the outer “skin” on the branch. To do this lightly scrape it with a knife until you see green. This is the edge that goes into the soil and hopefully will root and take hold.

You can either “plant” your cuttings  in the exact place you want your hedge as I did or for better control you can place them in pots full of moist soil or sand. In the case of Willows they root magically in water and then can be planted out in the garden or again in pots until big enough to plant directly in the yard.
That ain't no shrub! No, that's my giant French Pussywillow that refuses to stay little.

Make certain the soil remains moist  but not so soggy that the cuttings rot. The waiting is the hardest part. Rooting can take as little as a few weeks and as much as several months depending on the plant. If you find your branches simply refuse to root try using a rooting hormone, readily available at most good garden centers.

I “planted” my sticks of Forsythia about six inches apart along a fence. That is entirely too close of course but I  had to account for a certain number of failures. Fortunately, I had extra plants for a mixed shrub border. My “hedge” was tiny at first but grew steadily and rather nicely. In spring the yard is now a bright yellow as all my free Forsythias burst into bloom. The birds are very pleased with their new home and my friend no longer thinks I’m nuts. 

©2017 Glory Lennon All Rights Reserved  


  1. Forsythia (Golden Bell) blooms on last year's new wood, so unless you want an eternal tangle for the cat which will get few blooms, it is best to prune the bushes, removing old branches which have bloomed, as soon as the blooms are finished. Nice tangle for the birds though, no doubt about that.
    Some selective pruning will improve the number of blooms exponentially ":)

    1. I have some bushes that I have NEVER trimmed...not even a little and they still bloom like crazy. I know they get bushier with trimming and I do prune some shrubs--the blasted grows too fast and too big French pussywillow for instance and the Tartarian Honeysuckle but I don't bother with my golden bells.


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