Propagating Arborvitae

Propagating Arborvitae

Fall is officially here but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop propagating. In fact it means that many of the best plants are in their ideal state for hardwood and semi-ripe cuttings. Arborvitae is one plant that does well from cuttings taken from autumn to mid-winter.
A couple things to think about:
  • Take Semi-ripe to ripe cuttings.  Semi-ripe cuttings have put on nearly a full season of growth and are beginning to develop thicker tissues.  Semi-ripe arborvitae cuttings work well for propagation since they have had a longer time to develop and store energy for rooting. They also don’t lose water as quickly as greenwood cutting would. Semi-ripe and hardwood cuttings root slower but more reliably than greenwood cuttings.
  • The cuttings need to be kept moist. Just a little damp and not soaked. Anytime a cutting dries out it is a death sentence for the hopeful plant to be.

And here is how I took my arborvitae cuttings:

First I selected the right type of cutting. I took about 5 different semi-ripe cuttings looking for wood that was mostly brown in color on the outside. Each cutting has several branching leaves extending from the main stem.
Then I peeled back any lower leaves and branches. This removed some of the material the cuttings would need to maintain from the plant for more efficient water use. I peeled back the leaves rather than cut them to actually create wounds for the cutting to get more water through. It also increases the areas for calluses to form which are where the roots will grow.
Next I added the rooting hormone treatment. I use a powder rooting hormone from Greenlight but there are many products out there that are effective. Just make sure you place the hormone in a separate cup or container before dipping the cutting in otherwise you may contaminate the original container of hormone powder.
Then I stuck the cuttings into my moist sand medium and placed the whole container into a clear plastic bag. I set the container on a windowsill where it will receive filtered light over the next six-eight weeks. If there is too much moisture in the bag all I need to do is open it for a little while.
Will the arborvitae root? They should but we’ll have to wait and see!

More on plant propagation through cuttings.
10 Easy Plants to Propagate
5 More Easy Plants to Propagate


Dave has written since 2007. He gardens on an acre and a half where he raises his 4 children. He enjoys growing vegetables, herbs, and propagating plants. Dave has a side business growing and selling heirloom vegetables and herb plants through Blue Shed Gardens and works as a real estate agent in Spring Hill, TN.

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. I didn't know you could root arborvitae. That is good to know.They are good looking evergreen shrubs. Many things can be made from them during the holidays.

  2. Good luck!

  3. Now this is news I can use, Dave! We have several expensive evergreens that I would like to propagate but never knew how to choose the right branch to cut. Semi ripe? Can do. Thanks so much. And the sand works best? Check. 🙂

  4. I too, enjoy making free plants! You always post the best tips!!

  5. Dave, I never even thought about propagating the conifers. This is exciting, gail

  6. Once you get them started, do you plant them outside, or keep them in a pot in the house for winter,? I started some red twig bush like this and wasnt shure if I should put them outside for the winter.

  7. Jenny,

    I'll keep them in a sheltered location like my garage. I have a small plastic greenhouse inside there next to a window to keep them a little warmer. Red Twig dogwood should be fine outside with minimal protection!

  8. Thank you for posting this info. So, did the arborvitae root?

  9. Mr. Froogle,

    Unfortunately most of the cuttings in this batch have been unproductive. It's my own fault since I have a bad habit of checking the cuttings too often and not just letting nature take its course. Bottom heat would help them along as well. I'm still waiting to see if any will root but I'm about to give it another go.

  10. Hi Dave,

    Were you able to get any starts on the arborvitae? I was at a nursery yesterday asking questions about this very topic. I was told I could do this process right now. It is now spring. Everything else I have read about this says to do this in the fall. I'm confused, what are your thoughts?

    Thanks – Rhonda

  11. Rhonda,

    I still have some in the garden shed working on growing roots from fall cuttings. You could probably do cuttings of arborvitae in spring also. It's definitely worth trying since it's only a few minutes of effort for a nice payoff!

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