Root Cuttings – Sea Buckthorn

One of the uncommon edible berries that we grow is sea buckthorn – Hippophae rhamnoides which should not be confused with the common buckthorn – Rhamnus cathartica which is quite invasive.  As with many of the uncommon fruits and berries that we grow, we discovered this one in a Charles Nardozzi column, Unusual Edible Berries. We liked that it was extremely hardy, was a nitrogen fixer and was very high in vitamin  C.  It is also lethally thorny so when we discovered a thornless variety, Harvest Moon, we decided to buy some bushes.  That’s when we found out that there are male and female plants and you don’t know what you’ve got for a number of years.  We bought our plants from DNAGardens who, at the time, were propagating using a technique known as tissue culturing so we knew that we had male and female plants.   What I didn’t know at the time was that it is very difficult to propagate sea buckthorn by either softwood or hardwood cuttings.

But a single line in Michael Dirr’s The Reference Manual of Wood Plant Propagation suggested a possible propagation technique: This species suckers profusely; a good indication that it will regenerate from root pieces.  I’ve not seen any suckering on our plants but I figured it was worth a try. So I carefully uncovered roots on both the male and female plants and cut off two of the small roots from each, potted them up in Pro-Mix BX and waited. Eleven days later one of the male roots had a tiny bit of green.

By April 30, this little nub of a shoot was 1 ½” tall.

And that second male cutting was showing a trace of green.

Neither of the female cuttings are showing any green but they may yet surprise given the performance of the second male root.  And it’s not that important since we have 5 female plants and 2 male plants.  We now have 4 male plants which greatly reduces the impact of one of the male plants dying.  And we now have another propagation tool at our disposal.

Hmmm, what other of our trees and shrubs have I seen suckers on?   Hazelnut, mulberry, red maple, wild apples.  Perhaps any tree or shrub that can be stooled can also be propagated from root cuttings?  Stay tuned.

More pictures

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15 Responses to Root Cuttings – Sea Buckthorn

    • MikeH says:

      Thank you. I’ve just started poking around looking for info. There’s not much although Dirr has a couple of quite detailed pages in which he mentions a publication called The Propagator. A bit of digging led me to the International Plant Propagators’ Society. Searching their Pubhort proceedings archive for root cuttings gave me 10 pages of hits with 10 articles to a page. Membership is steep at US155 for a year. Sigh!!!!!!!!! But there are abstracts.

  1. Eve says:

    I am going to try it – my 10year old tree just got blown over by the gales we had and looks very sorry for itself, half in and half out of the ground. No idea whether its male or female. My little birds now will have to find somewhere else to feed. I will try root and softwood cuttings, wish me luck

    • MikeH says:


      It’s definitely worth a try. Look for small roots in close to the main trunk rather than root tips. Use a sterile potting mix such as ProMix BX. I didn’t put the pot in a plastic bag so I don’t know if that would help or hinder. You have to be patient. My male cuttings showed green shoots on April 13 while the female cuttings taken at the same time did not show shoots until May 12. I suspect that the best time to try this technique is in the spring just as plants are breaking their winter dormancy. All of the re-growth energy stored up in the roots through the winter is directed into pushing out new shoots. In your case, you don’t have any choice but to proceed with what you have. Good luck. Let us know how you make out.


  2. Nicollas says:

    Great thinking, thanks

    i found this pagr search for buckthorn grafting

  3. You might consider using your male plants for TEA. The leaves make a delicious and nutritious tea, now showing up in natural foods markets (and costing a pretty penny too).

  4. Romulan Chris says:

    Hi, Harvest Moon sounds promising. Where can I get this thornless variety? Would appreciate a cut

  5. Jim says:

    There’s a difference between a plant regenerating from stems underground and from roots. Many plants which are stooled have been grown from cuttints or stools therefor have stem below ground. To prevent suckering from these plants all the buds that are to be below ground should be cut off.

    • MikeH says:

      Hi Jim,

      The cuttings that I took were actual roots. I have a male plant from a root cutting that is in a pot. I was planning to plant it out this year but I think that layering it might be a better idea. I’d have more plants without disturbing a fruiting plant to get root cuttings. Thanks for planting that idea seed.


  6. Jim says:

    You’re welcome, a stool bed would give you a good head start for future propagation.

  7. Alain Jetté says:

    Hi Mike!
    I read that dormant hardwood cuttings can be propagated by putting 6-10 inches cuttings mostly immersed in water and that after more less 2 weeks, they should begin to root. I will give them a try, from cuttings from my sister’s plants. Will let you know if I have any success.

  8. Claudia says:

    Hi Mike, and all sea buckthorn enthusiasts,

    I was researching what to do with their suckers, and found your blog. Thank you for your blog. I do appreciate whatever info I can find especially about suckering, and what to do with them besides throwing them away. At least till they take over their area of the world, and then I can throw them away, lol.

    I planted one unknown male, and two females (Russian Orange, and Frugana) in early spring 2016. They were all about 2 1/2 ft tall. The male, and Russian Orange are taking their time as of the middle of October 2016. I just went out with the tape measure, and the boy is 5 1/2 ft tall, and the Russian Orange girl is just 4 1/2 ft tall, and hasn’t fruited yet. But the Frugana really took off like crazy, and it is almost 10 ft tall. It did fruit this summer. All three are covered with flower buds so should have lots of fruit in 2017. Unless that Russian Orange is really another male, lol. Anything is possible I guess. But one article said they can take several years to bear fruit. Still having a hard time telling male from female flowers. They look the same to me no matter how many times I compare them to photos ;oD.

    Anyway, the Frugana is the only one suckering so far as well as growing tall very quickly. That sucker is about 4 ft tall already, up to my waist. The web says that Frugana is a vigorous German variety. And I can vouch for that, at least the vigorous part. Since they will be a screen to hide the street a little, and a wind break i think I will just leave the suckers in place for now to fill out Or maybe not. I can’t decide yet if it will be a tree, or a shrub. It wants to be both. But our front yard isn’t all that big, so eventually I will have to dig up the excess suckers. Will digging so close to the parent plant hurt it? If I want to pot up the sucker, or transplant it how deep should I dig around it?

    We live in the Olympic Peninsula in the rain shadow, and get milder winters in general, 8A I think. So maybe I can get away with transplanting them now since many things don’t mind being put in the ground in the fall. Since the ground doesn’t freeze solid they can work on their roots during the winter a little. Learning as I go along. Also have a Seascape olive from Ukraine, and an Olympian Fig.both planted summer 2016. Also a goji berry that could be happier, 4 grevilleas, and a eucalyptus rubida among more mundane things . I plan on coppicing the euc to keep it a manageable size in case it dies to the ground in a bad winter. Otherwise they like to break off, and fall on your house, lol. Didn’t know that when I bought it. Sorry for straying off topic, and thank you. ~ Claudia

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