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An arborist recently advised me that laurel (common/cherry/English) cuttings are very easily propagated, to the extent that shoots may be cut from an established plant and pushed directly into the ground in autumn or early winter in England.

This would save me substantial time even if the failure rate is quite high, but goes against the 'proper' technique (cut back to 2 leaves, pot, etc)

Does anyone know if this is a valid propagation method?

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I haven't tried it with laurel, but this technique works for many vigorously growing shrubs in the UK.

Cut stems that are about 8 to 12 inches long (20-30cm) and just push half their depth in the ground. You don't need to remove the leaves or do any other special preparation.

You have left it too late for this year. The ideal time to take cuttings this way is in about September, before the plants are dormant for the winter. The idea is that they start to produce roots while the soil temperature is still warm enough before they go dormant for the winter, and then restart growth in spring.

If you try now they may dry out and die before they produce any roots. But it's a quick and easy job, so you don't have much to lose by trying.

Another quick and easy method is to put a bunch of stems in a bottle of water (e.g. a 2 liter plastic bottle with the top cut off to make a wider opening.) Remove any leaves that will be below the water line. Put the bottle on a cool window sill. Top up the water level about once a week and change the water if you get a lot of green algae. When the roots are big enough not to be easily damaged, plant them outside. Some shrubs may take two or three months to produce roots this way, so don't be too quick to decide you have failed.

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  • As you imply, worth a try if I have a large plant available I guess. A very minimal investment of time. – Mr. Boy Dec 29 '20 at 1:22
  • I used to live in a place where it worked too well. Soil was a mixture of sand and silt, and the water table was about a foot below the surface so it never dried out. We used to use wood trimmed from treed and hedges for staking plants, etc. Most years, at least 50% of the "stakes" took root, even inch-diameter pieces cut from tree branches. There was a local joke about a guy who bought some bamboo canes from a garden center and ended up with a bamboo plantation taking over his garden. – alephzero Dec 29 '20 at 18:22
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According to Michael Dirr, a US expert in trees and shrubs, in his reference Manual of Woody Landscape Plants:

Cuttings taken in late summer rooted 90% in sand:peat in 7 weeks without treatment; have rooted this successfully many times...

The mix referenced in the quote was one part sand to one part peat. The quote itself is from Dirr's entry for Prunus laurocerasus: Common Cherrylaurel, English Laurel, so it does look as though your arborist is pretty much correct, as long as the soil you put the cuttings into is well-drained.

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