Preparing katsura cuttings – a quick way to propagate your Caramel tree!

Growing katsura, the caramel tree, in your garden is a pleasure for every season. At the end of spring, gift this amazing tree to your family, friends and neighbors with a few cuttings!

Katsura cuttings, quick facts

What to use – softwood
Season – late spring
Difficulty – easy

Cutting type – basal best, then stem
Rooting time – 6 weeks for first roots
Time to transplant – 1 year (spring)

Success rate – around 10% for stem cuttings
Success rate –around 60% for basal cuttings

Removing cuttings, if done properly, won’t damage the mother plant. And they’ll definitely be enjoyed by those you gift this plant to!

There are two type of cuttings you can take from katsura: stem cuttings and basal cuttings.

Katsura stem cuttings

Preparing katsura cuttings

  • Collect cuttings from softwood or semi-hardened wood. This is new growth that is still flexible.
  • Cut the cuttings into portions that are 6 to 8 inches long (10 to 15 cm).  Try to make each stem count 4 to 8 leaf nodes. These nodes are where leaves come out.
  • For each one, remove leaves except for the two topmost pairs. Normally there should be at least two nodes from which you’ve pulled the leaves out.

Planting the cuttings

  • Fill nursery pots filled with a mix of garden soil and potting soil mix.
  • In each pot, stick a pencil or chopstick through the middle to make a hole.
  • Dip each cutting (leaves at top) in rooting hormones, honey or aloe vera gel to stimulate rooting (optional).
  • Place the cutting in the hole, burying at least two nodes. Press around the stem lightly to ensure contact.

Watering and protecting the cuttings

  • Water abundantly, drip-dry (let excess water drain out) and then place on a bed of wet clay pebbles on a tray.
  • To lock moisture in, seal each pot with a clear plastic pouch, or place all the cuttings in a mini-greenhouse. See which of these tips to create air moisture works best for you.
  • Don’t put the cuttings in direct sun, only indirect light.

To avoid mold and strange growth due to constant moisture, grate pure wood charcoal over the soil, before putting the cuttings in. Charcoal has antifungal properties that will keep the soil clear.

Basal cuttings from Katsura

Follow the exact same steps above, except for how you collect the cuttings themselves.

Preparing katsura basal cuttings

  • Instead of simply chopping up stems into adequate pieces, pull portions or branches off from a larger one.
  • You might need to sacrifice a larger branch from the mother plant.
  • Then, simply pull all side branches off one by one, delicately breaking them backwards and pulling a strip of the main branch’s bark along with it.
  • This portion where the stem branches out from the larger branch is called the “base”, hence the term “basal cutting”.
  • After that, count 4 to six nodes from the base and cut the stem.
  • Retain two or four leaves at the tip and remove those closer to the base.

You can also pull out suckers that are growing out from the base of the tree. These will be the most vigorous.

  • Slice a notch about 1 inch (2.5 cm) below the sucker. This will help make sure you get some bark with the basal cutting, without excessively damaging the tree. Use a sharp blade so the notch heals cleanly.
  • If you don’t notch the trunk, the bark may peel on a long distance. The mother tree will need a very long time to heal.

Remaining steps for basal cuttings

  • Proceed as above (pots, hormones, watering…) for the remaining steps.
  • Make regular cuttings as well with left over portions of each stem

Success rate of basal cuttings

Basal cuttings are far more successful than regular stem cuttings. Nearly all basal cuttings should produce a new plant if conditions are right.

  • This is due to the particular nature of cells at the base of each branch.
  • Since this is a place where stress from winds and weight of the branch apply, there often are microcracks that form in that place.
  • To fill them in, that area constantly has a stock of non-specialized cells at hand.
  • These can easily convert into whatever the tree needs, for example bark to fill in cracks or sap-carrying vessel linings.
  • In our case, we maximize these cells to create new roots.

Smart tip about Katsura cuttings

Constant moisture is critical for this drought-fearing plant. Equip your cutting trays with moisture meters if you want to guarantee high rooting success.


Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Young growth by Krzysztof Golik under © CC BY-SA 4.0