How To Propagate a Christmas Thuja Tree from Cuttings

Learn how to grow and propagate Thuja tree or Christmas tree from branch cuttings. Growing a Christmas Thuja tree (Thuja occidentalis, Arborvitae, Morepankhi, Cypress, Jhau) from stem cuttings is an exciting and rewarding way to propagate new trees. This propagation method allows you to replicate or clone the existing Christmas, Thuja tree or even replant a Christmas tree without roots, while saving time compared to growing from seeds.

Many wonder whether you can take cuttings from a Christmas tree and start to grow a Christmas bush from this cutting. In this article, I will provide you with a detailed guide on how to successfully grow a Christmas Thuja tree from branch cuttings.

Christmas Tree or Thuja Tree
Christmas Tree or Thuja Tree or Morepankhi Tree

Growing Christmas Tree From Cuttings

When To Propagate Christmas Thuja Tree

The best time to start and propagate Christmas tree is from late Summer to early Autumn.

Selecting the Christmas Thuja Cuttings

  1. The Thuja plant can be grown from hardwood, semi-hardwood and softwood cuttings. The propagation success rate can be as high as  85%,  86%, and 96% respectively under controlled conditions for  softwood, semi-hardwood and hardwood cuttings [1] with IBA treatment (rooting hormone) of cuttings. 
  2. The softwood cuttings may rot in the propagation procedure, while hardwood cuttings may take quite long tom root, so it is safe to grow Thuja by semi-hardwood cuttings.
  3. Choose healthy and vigorous branches for taking cuttings. Look fo semi-hardwood thin branches and take cuttings that are 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) 3 with firm, green growth.
  4. Ensure the selected branch is free from diseases, pests, or any signs of damage.

Rooting Medium

The propagation mix for growing morepankhi from cuttings should be well-draining, such as a combination of peat moss and perlite or vermiculite. You can use simply the washed river sand. Take a small pot having drainage holes and fill it with the propagation soil mix. Water it and keep in shade for some time to drain excess water.

Preparing the Christmas Tree Cuttings

Following are the steps to prepare the cuttings for Thuja propagation:
  1. Disinfect sharp pruning shears or a knife with bleach solution or alcohol and make a clean cut just below a node on the stem. The node is the point where the leaves are attached to the stem. 
  2. Remove all the lower leaves, leaving only a few at the top of the cutting.

Rooting Hormone

You can plant the cuttings without rooting hormone, but you can apply hormone to the cuttings to increase success rate. The rooting can occur rapidly in 3 to 4 weeks following IBA treatment of cutting [1].

You can use a chemical rooting hormone powder (IBM) or gel at the cut end of the cutting. I use Aloe Vera gel which works great (natural rooting hormone).

Planting the Cuttings

To ensure successful rooting, follow these planting steps:
  1. Make a hole in the planting medium using a pencil or stick.
  2. Apply rooting hormone on the bottom end of the cutting and into the hole, gently pressing the soil around it for stability.
  3. You can plant more cuttings in the same pot, leaving enough space between them to allow air circulation.

Caring for the Cuttings

To promote healthy root development, provide the following care for your Christmas Thuja cuttings:
  1. Place the potted cuttings in a warm location away from direct sunlight.
  2. Maintain high humidity around the cuttings. You can ensure high humidity by enclosing the pot in a clear plastic bag.
  3. Check the moisture level of the soil regularly and water lightly to keep it evenly moist. Avoid overwatering, as excess moisture can lead to rotting.
  4. Ventilate the cuttings periodically by opening the plastic covering.
Planted Tuja Cuttings
Thuja Cuttings Planted in a Pot

Rooting and Transplanting

  1. With proper care, rooting should begin to develop within 4 to 12 weeks, but it can vary depending on temperature and other conditions.
  2. Gently tug on the base of the cutting to check for resistance, indicating root growth.
  3. You can take out the pot from the bag, once new growth has started, but keep the pot in shade.
  4. Once the cuttings have established roots (you may see roots coming out from the bottom holes of the pot, follow these steps to transplant them:
    1. Prepare individual pots with a well-draining potting mix. Fill, the pot with a mixture of potting soil, some manure and river sand or perlite.
    2. Carefully remove the rooted cuttings from the propagation pot, taking care not to damage the delicate roots.
    3. Plant the rooted cutting in the pot, ensuring the soil level is the same as it was in the propagation pot.
    4. Water the newly transplanted cuttings and place them in a bright location with indirect sunlight.

Christmas tree cutting propagated
Roots Grown on Christmas tree cutting

    Post-Transplant Care of Thuja Cuttings

    1. After transplanting, continue providing appropriate care to help your Christmas Thuja cuttings thrive.
    2. Maintain regular watering, keeping the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged.
    3. Gradually expose the young plants to direct morning sunlight to acclimate them to outdoor conditions.
    4. Fertilize the transplanted cuttings with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer. I feed Powerfeed liquid fertilizer.
    5. Monitor the plants for any signs of pests or diseases and take prompt action if necessary. periodically spray a dilute solution of neem oil to keep insects and pests away.
    6. Gradual Acclimation to the Outdoors: As your Christmas Thuja cuttings grow stronger, it's important to gradually acclimate them to outdoor conditions before planting them permanently in the ground. Follow these steps:
      1. Begin by placing the pots outdoors in a sheltered location, protected from direct sunlight and harsh weather conditions.
      2. Gradually increase their exposure to direct sunlight and wind over a period of a few weeks.
      3. After the cuttings have adjusted to the outdoor environment, you can proceed with planting them in their final location.
Growing a Christmas Thuja tree from cuttings is a rewarding and cost-effective method to propagate this beautiful tree. With careful stem cutting selection, cutting preparation, and care, you can successfully root and transplant the Thuja cuttings to establish healthy and beautiful new Thuja trees. Enjoy the process of nurturing your cuttings into mature Christmas Thuja trees, and soon enough, you'll have a charming addition to your garden.

Video of how to propagate Thuja tree from cuttings

Video on how to grow christmas, thuja tree from cuttings YouTube Video
Jason J. Griffin, Frank A. Blazich, Thomas Ranney, Propagation of Thuja Green Giant by Stem Cuttings: Effects of Growth Stage, Type of Cutting, and IBA Treatment, HortScience: a publication of the American Society for Horticultural Science 16(4):212-214 (June 1998)