How to Propagate Quaking Aspen Trees

With their slim, white-barked trunks and beautiful bright green or yellow foliage, quaking aspens are some of the most eye-catching trees available. But as a gardener, you may wonder, aren’t these trees notoriously tricky to propagate? The answer is, sometimes, yes. The seeds of the tree, which are fluffy and easily blown away, can be difficult to harvest.

Because of this, how to propagate a quaking aspen tree successfully has become a common question among arborists, and the task of growing your own aspen trees can seem like a daunting challenge. However, you really only need to follow a few simple steps. If the proper care is taken, you’ll soon have your own grove of young, healthy aspen saplings.

What You’ll Need

  • One shovel
  • One pair of pruning clippers
  • Damp moss
  • A plastic bag or bucket
  • Compost
  • Rooting hormone

When it comes to how to plant quaking aspen trees, two different methods can be used. You can either take some root cuttings and care for them until they develop growth suckers, which can then be planted, or you can plant seeds and wait for germination.

Although either method is viable, the root cutting method is much more popular. It’s a more reliable method and is often quicker and simpler.

Steps to Propagate an Aspen Tree

1. Choose a Tree

Image by Cathy McIntosh

When selecting a tree from which to take root cuttings, it’s important to first choose a tree that you have permission to trim from. You should also pick a tree that is near the area where you’ll be planting your own aspens. Aspens often develop adaptations to certain areas, so cuttings from the same region will often be healthier and take more readily to the rooting process. You may want to take cuttings from several different trees to ensure that you’re getting a variety of healthy options.

2. Expose the Roots

Gently use a small shovel to move dirt out of the way and expose the tree’s roots.

3. Take the Cuttings


Choose a few sections of root that are about 1 inch in diameter. Use a pair of pruning clippers to snip away pieces that are about 12 inches long. As soon as you’ve taken a cutting, wrap it in damp moss and place it in a plastic bag or bucket to keep it safe and moist.

4. Place the Cuttings in Compost

Lay the cuttings down and cover them with compost. This will encourage the cuttings to begin sprouting suckers, which is what the new aspen trees will grow from.

5. Trim the Suckers from the Roots

When the suckers have grown to about 2 or 3 inches in length, carefully trim them away from the roots. Dip the trimmed end of the sucker in rooting hormone.

6. Plant the Root Suckers

After the root suckers have been dipped in the rooting hormone, they should be planted in a high-quality compost and soil mixture. The young trees will need to be kept in a warm environment and should stay moist until they begin to root. Rooting usually occurs after about a month.

Pro Tips for Successful Propagation

  • Use sharp, clean pruning clippers for neater cuts
  • Select a gritty compost to plant the suckers in
  • Use a mister to keep the rooting suckers moist
  • If you know where to buy quaking aspen trees, you can purchase one and grow more from its root cuttings.

Taking the proper steps helps to speed up the propagation process and also leads to healthier young trees. It can also make the task simpler and less stressful on both the adult trees and the new saplings.

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