Hybrid Cuttings – grow a windbreak and screen in one season.

This article will show you how to grow a visual screen/wind break using hybrid cuttings (hybrid poplar and hybrid willow) in a single growing season.  The planting site is located in USDA Zone 4, if you live south of Zone 4 you can expect considerably more growth.

7′ wide strip roto-tilled into an existing yard.

Site preparation should include removing all vegetation and smoothing the area out for a weed barrier.  Good site preparation is critical in maximizing the growth of your cuttings.  Reducing competition will boost growth dramatically.  Competition for moisture and sunlight is the limiting factor in their growth.

Ben Meadows landscape staples – box of 1000

The fabric is held down with landscape staples.  The staples are wire formed into a “U” shape.  You may make your own from stiff wire if you prefer.  Place the staples around the perimeter as well as one at each cutting (and possibly many more).  If the wind gets under the membrane, it will be promptly removed.  Make sure you hold it down!  Logs, fence posts, rocks, cement blocks, etc. can also be used to help hold it down.

Woven fabric stapled in place.

A weed barrier/moisture retaining membrane will make maintaining the planting much simpler.  For hybrid willow and hybrid poplar you can use woven fabric or black plastic. Please see our blog post “Plastic or Fabric?“or additional information.

Continue rolling the fabric out and stapling it down along the edges.

After stapling, it should lay flat against the ground and be relatively tight.  You don’t want it flapping in the wind and rubbing on the cuttings.

Homemade planting bar with stainless tip.

Use a planting bar or similar tool to create a hole through the fabric and into the soil nearly as deep as the cutting is long.  You may need to slit the fabric first depending on the tool you use.

Cutting placed in the hole with a staple near it.

Place the cutting in the hole as deep as possible while leaving no more than 1/3 of the cutting above ground.  Any exposed buds on the cutting will grow leaves and branches, all buds below grade will grow roots.  The staple near the cutting will assist in holding the fabric down and direct water toward the cutting.

Fully planted rows of cuttings.

After planting the cuttings, the fabric should be tight between all staples.  If not, add more staples until it is tight and snug to the ground.

Buds have broken and started to grow.

In 1 to 2 weeks depending on conditions, the cuttings will come to life and begin putting on top growth.

At 6 weeks they are approximately 2 feet tall.

At 10 weeks they are 7′ – 9′ tall

At 16 weeks the tallest hybrid poplar is 10′ 1″, tallest hybrid willow is 8′ 3″.

Full Screen Picture 4

Full view of the screen at the end of it’s first growing season.

The trees will require minimal future care beyond the occasional weed to be pulled and adequate moisture (natural or supplemental).

Have any questions?  Let us know in the comments!

About ufi911

Owner/Operator BigRockTrees.com

3 responses to “Hybrid Cuttings – grow a windbreak and screen in one season.”

  1. Shakira says :

    Hi! I’m surprised I actually found a post on exactly what I am considering doing. My grandparents property shares a fence line with a hound club. My entire life the club has been heavily forested and created a nice backdrop and wind screen for two sides of their sq. acre property. The club recently forested the entire property and not only is it dreadful (and sad) to look at but there is now heavy winter and nighttime winds and little to cool the house in summer.

    I am actually planning to buy from a nursery that will provide 2′-3′ plants… My question is, should the poplars or willows be in the back row (which will grow taller?) and what would be a good spacing plan – how far should the back row be from the front row? and how much space between each tree in a line?


    • ufi911 says :


      I’m not sure which hybrid poplar you are considering buying, but generally they will get taller than Hybrid Willow.

      I like to plant them 6′ between trees and 3′ between rows (staggered). The more rows you plant the better the screen will be!


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