Cottonwood cuttings

eric_in_tn(6b TN)February 7, 2008

My forestry seedlings arrived yesterday and I'm taking off work tomorrow to plant them. Along with other species I've gotten cottonwood cuttings and have not tried them before.

I was wondering how deep to plant the cuttings, and if I'll need the dibble bar for them or if they can just be "stabbed" into the ground? It has rained a lot here in middle Tennessee recently, and the ground is pretty well saturated.

Also should I plant them all in "low ground" near the creek or would it be ok to put some on higher, drier ground? I know typically cottonwoods like creek banks and moist soil but I've heard they will do fine in drier soil as well. If they might survive I would like to plant a few of them in a reforest area on higher ground.



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treeguy123(AL 7b)

Typically the best time to take the cottonwood cuttings is in late winter around late February to mid March in the south before the buds open up but early February will probably be OK as long as you keep the cuttings good and moist so they won't dry out. Usually cuttings 1 to 2 feet long is good, but longer ones can be better to help anchor them better in the ground and so they will have more roots. Keep them in some water or very moist place and keep them cool until you can put them in the soil. The straighter the better but curved branches can be OK though. You can stab the cuttings all the way into the ground and only leave the top bud showing is best, but only if the soil is very soft, hard soil such as clay soil could easily damage the cuttings if you try to shove them in the ground. If you want help them better especially if the soil you have very hard clay soil, till the soil which can help with the establishment then plant the cutting and water and mulch well Or plant the stick in a pot in some good moist well draining potting mix and mist and or water every day until leaves start to bud open and enlarge then you can plant them outside in the ground with soil, roots, and all before the roots start circling inside the pot. When you see the leaves emerge from the buds on the cuttings the roots will grow right along with them. Make sure you keep rabbits and deer away and remove all grass in a 3 to 10 ft wide circle around the cutting. Mulch around the cottonwood 3 to 10 feet wide and 3 to 4 inches deep to make them grow good and healthy, this is very important if they are out in the open in a grassy area.

Later when the cottonwood leaves emerge on the parent tree, the the flowers will emerge at the same time also, so you can go back and find out if the Cottonwood you took cuttings from is a male or a female (if the tree is old enough to make flowers). If you don't want the 'cotton' for a yard planting do Not plant a female.

Cottonwoods grow and look the best and have a better form in a sunny area near a creek, but they will survive and grow on high ground as long as you follow good planting and caring instructions over the first years of establishment. And it can be expected on higher ground for them to shed many leaves much earlier on higher ground in a dry summer or fall to compensate for water, survive, and be healthy.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 4:56PM
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eric_in_tn(6b TN)

Thanks for all the advice. I'm planting the cottonwoods tomorrow, and a bunch of loblolly pines and paw paws as well. This is the "maintenance & addition" stage of a reforesting project I started on my land a little over 2 years ago. The cuttings were purchased from a state nursery, so I don't have access to the parent tree. I don't know of a single cottonwood tree on my entire property ... but there are going to be some tomorrow :)

    Bookmark   February 8, 2008 at 12:16AM
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What part of the cottonwood tree are cuttings taken from?
Are they just branch material or do they need to be "shoots"? I have a couple of mature cottonwoods on my property, but don't remember any shoot growth low enough to access, but will go back and look.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2008 at 8:47AM
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treeguy123(AL 7b)

Any branch part will root, but the longer straighter shoots at the top would be more preferred if possible because they are straighter and have much more younger wood than the slower growing lower branches, so the shoots would likely grow many more roots and can be planted better in the ground. But again any twig will root off a cottonwood.
Cuttings from old cottonwoods are usually somewhat harder to root, but cuttings from younger cottonwoods usually have a success rate of 70% to 90%.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2008 at 1:20PM
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Thanks for the info. Will take a try at it if I have any accessible shoots.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2008 at 2:44PM
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eric_in_tn(6b TN)

Well, they are all in the ground. I planted all the other species first while the cuttings soaked in a 5 gallon bucket. I planted the cuttings all over the place in various areas and soil types, and it will be interested to see how they do. The ground was moist, but still way too hard to stab the cuttings in, so I just used the dibble bar. It worked well, because there were were a few buds above ground with the cutting sunk all the way into the hole the dibble made.

On a side note ... gorgeous day today ... low 60s and sunny. Weather so perfect I didn't want the day to end. I had to stay outside and work on other projects after all the trees were planted.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2008 at 12:55AM
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This is a very interesting blog, i appreciate the information you provided


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    Bookmark   April 5, 2008 at 4:37AM
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rcnaylor(z7 Tex)

Recalls a little of my family lore.

My family came to the Texas panhandle back in the 1890's. They lived in a dug out first. The property they settled was on a little spring fed creek that ran into the Canadian River.

We often hold family reunions down on the "creek place" under the shade of some big old cottonwoods around the spring on our property that feeds in to the creek.

The family story goes that the huge old cottonwood tree closet to the spring was "planted" when grand dad rode up to the spring one hot day to get a drink and jabbed the switch (think horses) he had cut off a cottonwood tree into the ground by the spring before he got his drink. The rest is history as they say.

You know how family lore is, but, it makes for an interesting story.

So, Eric, jab'em in, keep'em wet and good luck. In about a hudred years your descendants might be sitting in the shade telling stories about you.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2008 at 1:29PM
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treeguy123(AL 7b)

I have some cuttings of Populus deltoides rooting this year, and was wondering what everybody thought. One of the cuttings bloomed, is this a male or a female flower? I feel pretty sure it's a male (about 90 to 99% sure) because of the structures on the ends, but it never did turn red (just yellow/green and then wilted), I guess because not enough water supply to the cutting? But I'm not sure.

Male or female in this picture? And does anybody have a picture of a newly emerging/blooming female flower so I can compare? Thanks.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2008 at 3:19PM
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salicaceae(z8b FL)

You got it - a male.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2008 at 7:47AM
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treeguy123(AL 7b)

Thanks, I found some pictures to confirm them also:

    Bookmark   April 7, 2008 at 10:53AM
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It worked! I cut 2 shoots off of a lower branch and stuck them in a pot and kept them moist. One did nothing, the other sprouted and has grown 2-3" and so I assume it has roots and has taken hold.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 9:18AM
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rcnaylor(z7 Tex)

Way to go Scot.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 10:45PM
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eric_in_tn(6b TN)

I also need to drop by my land and see how the cuttings are doing. I planted 25 cuttings as a "test" in February and they should have started doing something by now. We have gotten lots of rain lately and that will only help them.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 11:30PM
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