Acer palmatum maple trees are beautiful trees that are seen in many gardens around the UK. They are often grown through propagation by seeds, grafting, or softwood cuttings. The more popular and successful methods of propagation are through grafting and softwood cuttings. Read on for best tips how to take acer cuttings in the UK. 

Propagating Acer Trees from Cuttings

Propagating Acer Trees from Cuttings

Though Acers can be grown from seeds, not all cultivars will produce a true form of the parent tree when grown from seeds.

Many people report that propagation from cuttings is not successful and sometimes use the price of Acer trees to explain stating that:

“if it was that easy, they wouldn’t be so expensive”

Putting it in perspective, it takes a great level of skills to successfully propagate Acer trees from cuttings. But, when you take note of best practices for propagation and choose among the cultivars that root most easily your chances of success go up a notch.


What different ways can Acers be propagated?

If you want to learn how to propagate acers, keep reading to find the common methods, and suggestions how to propagate with better success.

Air Layering Acer Cuttings

Choose a flexible and young stem and use a sharp blade to cut a 2 inch slice along the inside of the stem / branch, and use something like a clean bit of wood or match stick to keep it open. Then this should be buried about 5-6 inches deep, ideally pinned down and the cover with compost. Give it some water and may luck be on your side – as this can take a year to root. 

Acer Grafting cuttings using a bag technique

Take clean cuttings with a sharp, clean and sterilised blade. Place the cuttings in a clear plastic bag, keeping the top slightly open. The cuttings need to be kept warm and moist. A few small canes or sticks can be used to support the bag, and then mist inside the bag with a hand mister. Use tip cuttings from plants in early growth, and root cuttings with regular misting and higher humidity at 15-25°c

Growing Acers from seed

The easiest way to propagate Acers is by seed, but they don’t always stay true to type. If you do get seeds from your Acers, you should over winter them or put them in the fridge. 

The seeds obviously need to be as fresh as possible, and do leave the seed wings on. Put a little coarse sand, grit or even vermiculite into a clear plastic bag and place on the cuttings on top. The mixture of seeds and grit need to be very slightly moist but certainly not wet. The bag needs to be then placed in a sheltered spot, outside is fine or a greenhouse that doesn’t bake in the sun. It can be placed in a container or something a little tougher if you have problems with pests and wildlife. Leave the bag until spring, and keep checking for roots. When you do see some roots appearing, grow on at 15-20°c

Acer Grafting from young stems / cuttings

A common way of propagating Acers as they stay true to type, but it is pretty hard to do. Branches that are less than a year old generally work the best for air grafting. 

How to take cuttings from an Acer tree for propagating

Take cuttings from an Acer tree for propagating

Take cuttings from an Acer tree for propagating

These are the tools and things you need to proceed with the propagation of your Acer softwood cuttings: 

  • Peat free compost
  • Perlite
  • Bypass shears
  • Rooting hormone
  • Watering hose with a misting nozzle
  • Propagation mat
  • Loamy soil

Now let’s get into the steps

  1. Fill a container with a properly moistened mixture of 50% peatfree compost and 50% perlite. Press the mixture down and make a hole of 4 inches in the centre.
  2. Next, get your cutting from the tree. Choose a young stem with a diameter around a quarter of an inch and several fresh leaves at the tip and severe it just below the set of leaves with sharp bypass shears. 
  3. Removes the leaves from the lower end of the cuttings and soak in the rooting hormone for 1 minute.
  4. Place the end of the Japanese maple cutting that was soaked in the rooting hormone into the planting hole and firm up the peat and perlite mixture around it. Finish up this step by watering the base of the planted stem cutting.
  5. Place the potted Acer plant outside in a spot where it can get dappled morning sun and be protected from the intense afternoon rays of the sun. Provide additional heating of 23 – 26 degrees Celsius using the propagation mat. So in the UK a poly tunnel with heated mat would be ideal. 
  6. Use a hose with a misting nozzle to mist the stem at least twice daily to prevent dehydration as young Acer plants require a healthy amount of water. Additionally, water the peat mixture regularly to avoid the topsoil getting dry.
  7. Continue this care regime for 5 to 6 weeks and then check back to see if it has rooted. To check gently tug on the planted stem, if it doesn’t budge then your softwood cutting propagation is successful.

    When Is The Best Time To Take Cuttings From An Acer Tree?

    The best time to take cuttings from an Acer tree is in spring during its growing period. They are called softwood cuttings and have a higher tendency to root. Taking cuttings in any other season will mean taking hardwood cuttings and these are less likely to root. 

    When is best to take acer cuttings in UK?

    A lot of people traditionally mention that spring time is best, but from research more recently it would seem the best time to take acer cuttings in the UK would be June or July

    There are lots of contradicting ways to take cuttings from an Acer tree, so we have tried to show a few different ways here!

Further Reading

We have lots of other helpful content for Acers, such as common questions we have been asked such as:



Last Modified: October 11, 2023