DIY: Ground Layering a Shrub

Do you have a favorite shrub that you would like to propagate but you’re unsure how to go about doing it? One of the easiest ways to reproduce a favorite shrub is through a process known as ground layering. This technique involves putting the stem of a woody plant in contact with the soil where the cool and moist environment induces root formation. The method is actually rather simple and has a high rate of success.

Ground layering produces a plant that is a genetic replica of the main plant. Since the new shrub remains attached to the original plant until its rooted there’s little chance that the new plant will dry out as can happen with cuttings. In addition, the actively growing plant releases hormones that help stimulate root formation. You are taking advantage of natural processes and by put­ting a stem in contact with the soil, a shrub will send out roots to support the new plant. Ground layering requires no specialized equipment and you can count on the plant to do most of the work.

Your job consists of creating the right environment for success by following these three easy steps:

Pick a Good Stem: Early spring is the best time to begin the ground layering process. This is the time of year when the shrub is most vigorous and it ensures there will be enough time in the growing season for the roots to form and then to successfully detach the new plant from the original one and finally to transplant the new shrub. The best candidates are young stems or branches which can be easily bent to the ground.

Wound the Stem, Set it and Secure it: Many stems will root if they are in contact with the soil but you will increase the potential for strong root growth by wounding the stem. The wounding process involves taking a pocketknife and slitting the stem without cutting through it completely. Once this is accomplished a small hole should be dug and the wounded part of the stem placed in the hole. The hole should then be refilled with the wounded part covered by soil. The branch is then secured in the hole so that it doesn’t get pulled out by wind, etc. A brick or a large stone placed over the filled in hole should be sufficient to accomplish this task.  

Check for Roots and Transplant: Leave the secured branch in place until the fall. Dig carefully around and under the brick or rock. If the process has worked properly you should see a significant amount of roots attached to the part of the stem that you wounded in the spring. You can take a pair of pruners to cut the new plant away from the original shrub and then transplant it.

There are a significant number of shrubs where this technique can be successfully used including Hydrangea, Forsythia and Holly to name a few. You can also ground layer perennials such as Catmint and Russian Sage. If you have any questions about ground layering shrubs please leave us a contact or post your question on Facebook

Leave a Comment:

  • Mar 17

    Works well on trees too, but it might take several seasons.

    Thanks for this information!

  • Mar 18

    In addition to wounding the stem, girdle it below the wound with wire or string, this will cause roots to grow quicker as the plant tries to make up for lost nutrients and water

    Thank you for this information. We appreciate it when people share their tips & experiences.

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