Hydrangeas are beautiful and hardy plants suited for just about anywhere. They are the Queens of The Shrub World just like we discussed in the post Growing Beautiful Hydrangeas. What is even more wonderful about them is how easy they are to propagate. You can take cuttings just about any time of the year and they’ll reliably take root. This is important, as hydrangeas don’t produce seeds, so if you easily want more plants, propagating Hydrangeas is the way to go.
Why Propagate Hydrangeas
There can be any number of reason you’ll want more hydrangea plants. Maybe you want to fill in your own garden areas with these beautiful shrubs. Established cuttings can also make for great gifts for friends and family. Simply give a potted cutting to someone who has room for the plant to grow. Hydrangeas are also wildly popular, and despite how easy it is, many don’t want to propagate their own plants. Take cuttings each year and sell them each Spring when they bloom!
When to Take Cuttings
What’s neat is that you can take cuttings of hydrangeas just about any time of the year that they are not putting on new growth. This means Spring-time is usually out, but you can start as early as June 1st. Be aware that if you do take cutting in early summer, those cuttings are still most fragile and might need extra care. Cold weather cuttings, when the plant is dormant, are super tough and very easy to propagate. This is true for any variety of hydrangea.
How to Take Cuttings
You can take a cutting from the hardwood or softwood part of the plant. You might want to take your cutting from the back or side of your plant so any excess stem doesn’t mess up the current aesthetic of your existing plant. Find a stem that is at least 6” long, has at least two sets of leaves, and no flowers. The stem can have more leaves on it, but it’s best to take a stem with no more than three sets of leaves since you’ll be trimming those back anyway.
You’ll cut with sharp shears within a couple of inches of a leaf node base. This is where a set of leaves grow out from the stem at a common point. Cut just below that point. For now, leave the top set of leaves intact and trim off any others. The base of the stem can be dipped in a rooting hormone if you want, but it is not necessary. Rooting hormones come in powdered, liquid, and gel forms. If you take cutting at different times of the year, a liquid might be best as the strength of the solution can be adjusted. Early summer cuttings don’t need as strong of a solution.
Now you must get your cuttings to grow their own roots. There are a couple of ways to do this. Firstly, you need to cut any leaves left on the cutting to half size. This is easiest done by trimming the ends of the leaves. This will help the plants grow more roots, quicker.
You can place your cutting directly into a vase of clean water. Change the water frequently to avoid molding. Once roots have started to grow, they can be planted in soil. Another way is to place your cutting directly into a pot or garden plot designated for cuttings. If planting, you need a sterile loose soil like coarse sand. If in a pot, make sure to keep the sand well watered and moist, but not soggy. Once roots have formed, usually after two to three weeks, transfer to regular soil. If you have a garden bed you want to grow your hydrangea in, the first few inches should be a loose vermiculite like the sand. Once it roots, you can transplant to it’s growing area, or if it’s in a set location, just let the roots grow into the soil below the sand.
Even while taking root, plants should be kept outside. They are pretty hardy, especially hardwood clippings. However, if it’s a fairly green cutting, and it is getting colder, it will be beneficial to cover the plant with clear plastic to create its own greenhouse. Over the base of the plant with a thick covering of mulch to keep the new roots warmer.
Another easy way to grow new plants right next to your existing plants is to ground-lay them. This means taking a branch from your existing plant, preferably with the same characteristics as a cutting stem, trimming all but the top leaves, and bending it over. Bury the middle part of the cleared stem in the ground and place something over it to keep it down. Water your plant like normal and within a few weeks roots should be growing from the stem into the ground. Once you see roots, you can cut the base of the stem from the existing plant. The top of the cutting with the leaves should be sticking out of the ground, as well as the base end of the stem. This is your new plant!
Growing Up Big
Once your cuttings have taken root they will quickly grow when taken care of properly, which is pretty easy. (See our growing guide here link to other article?) By the next spring, it should have a bunch of new growth like any other plant, and it will often bloom that first year as well. Over the years the plant’s base will grow and expand to become larger overall. Some shrubs can reach ten to fifteen feet in height! Towards the end of each active growing season, more cuttings can be taken, and more plants grow. It’s a wonderful cycle of gorgeous flowering plants!
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