How to Make Sassafras Cuttings

by Brian Barth

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) is a small native tree known for its spicy aroma and use as an original ingredient in root beer. It is a tough, adaptable plant that can form extensive thickets in the wild and can be grown is U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9. Stem cuttings are occasionally used to propagate sassafras, but success rates are very low. However, sassafras produces long, fleshy lateral roots that allow it to colonize an area, and these are easily propagated by cuttings.

1 Loosen the soil in a small area of the root zone of an established sassafras tree, using a spade shovel. Do this gently. Wear gloves while doing this.

2 Continue loosening soil with a small hand trowel and look for fleshy roots that are between 1/2 and 1 1/2 inches in diameter to use for cuttings.

3 Clear away the soil from the selected roots with the trowel or by hand.

4 Take cuttings from the exposed roots using bypass pruners; the cuttings should be about 8 to 12 inches in length.

5 Plant the root cuttings immediately into 5-gallon pots at a depth of 1 to 2 inches. If unable to plant immediately, wrap them in moist paper towels and store in a cool, shaded place. Do not allow the cuttings to dry out.

6 Replace the excavated soil around the roots of the parent plant and water thoroughly to prevent stress to the tree.

7 Place the potted cuttings in a partially shaded location and keep moist. Shoots should begin to emerge within a few weeks.

Items you will need

  • Spade shovel
  • Garden gloves
  • Trowel
  • Bypass pruners
  • 5-gallon pots
  • Potting soil

Tip

  • Berries are only produced on female sassafras trees, which need a male tree for pollination. Be sure to propagate both male and female trees if fruit is desired for birds and wildlife.