Take your cuttings from young, healthy plants
Cuttings taken from healthy plants root better than those from sick or stressed plants, so purchase only top-quality shrubs—those that have good foliage color and are free of disease. If you take cuttings from existing plants in the landscape, keep their soil consistently moist during the growing season, as drought will slow or stop plant growth, inhibiting the production of carbohydrates that the cuttings will need for energy while rooting. Fertilize in spring as new growth begins with a balanced, controlled-release fertilizer that also has trace minerals. Remove any damaged branches and take prompt steps to control pests and diseases when they are noticed.
As plants age they often lose the ability to regenerate themselves. These changes can be seen as a reduced annual growth rate, earlier leaf coloring and leaf drop in fall, or later leaf emergence in spring. Cuttings taken from older plants root more slowly or not at all and produce fewer roots than their younger counterparts. For best results, select cuttings from plants less than five years old. If cuttings must be taken from older shrubs or trees, prune some of the branches in winter to force vigorous new spring growth, and then take cuttings from this area.
The internal chemistry of many plants changes with the seasons, which can make it easier, or harder, for cuttings to root. So take cuttings at the time of year most conducive to rooting for that particular plant (see chart, below). As a general rule, conifer cuttings root best when taken after the first few hard frosts of fall and before the buds of trees such as maples and birches begin to swell in late winter. Avoid taking cuttings during winter thaws.