How to Grow Hydrangeas From Cuttings

Field of hydrangeas

Takahiro Miyamoto/amana images/Getty Images

Overview
  • Total Time: 60 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $15

An explosion of new cultivars reflects the popularity of hydrangeas. And it's no surprise, as the plant is resistant to pests, grows in sun or shade, and bounces back from cold temperatures. Plus, this beloved shrub produces masses of large, ball-shaped blossoms that provide a showy centerpiece to your garden. But there's a downside to the hydrangea plant: its price. Most premium hydrangeas start at around $25 for a quart-size container plant. Luckily, hydrangeas are an easy plant to start from cuttings. And a mature plant can yield dozens of new hydrangeas to fill your garden.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Sharp gardening shears
  • Gardening gloves
  • Garden hose
  • Rain wand

Materials

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton ball
  • Rooting powder
  • 8- to 10-inch terra cotta pot
  • Sterile seed-starting soil

Instructions

  1. Sanitize Your Pruners

    Sanitize your sharpest pruners by dabbing a cotton ball into rubbing alcohol and wiping down the blades and handles. Taking this precaution will help to prevent fungal diseases in your new plant. 

  2. Make a Cut

    Make a cut about 2 inches below a leaf node on a green, healthy branch that has not yet formed a bud. In all, the stem should be about 3 to 5 inches long.

  3. Remove Leaves

    Remove all but the two highest leaves with your pruners, being careful not to damage the stem in the process. Cut the leaves at their stem, leaving some room between the main stem and the cut. This allows the integrity of the main stem to remain undamaged.

  4. Cut Remaining Leaves

    Cut the remaining two leaves in half.

  5. Dip Stem into Rooting Powder

    Dip the cut end of the stem into rooting powder.

  6. Select a Pot

    Choose a pot that meets your space needs and the number of hydrangea cuttings you are starting. An 8- to 10-inch terra cotta pot should hold several cuttings for at least a month.

  7. Fill Pot With Seed-Starting Medium

    Moisten the soil thoroughly. Then, place each cutting into the soil all the way up to the base of the remaining leaves.

  8. Keep Cuttings Moist but Not Soggy

    A daily pass with a rain wand is sufficient for most situations. If your cuttings are in very small pots, in full sun, or in a windy area, you might need additional watering to prevent them from drying out.

  9. Watch Roots Form

    Within a month, your hydrangea cuttings will form new roots. Once they do, back off on daily watering and start treating them more like a full-size plant.

When to Grow Hydrangeas From Cuttings

It's best to take your hydrangea cuttings in the spring when the plant's metabolism and growth are peaking. Propagating hydrangeas in the spring also allows the cutting a whole growing season to mature into a full-size plant. Set aside time in the early morning or evening to take and plant your cutting. This way, heat stress won't affect the vulnerable stem once it's off the parent plant.

Tips for Growing Hydrangeas From Cuttings

Choose a tender, green stem to take as a cutting. Stems that are woody and gray are less metabolically active and will take twice as long to root. If your stem is nicked or damaged, discard the cutting and try again. It's not worth the disappointment of waiting weeks for the cutting to take root, only to experience root rot or another failure-to-thrive issue. If you are planning on propagating multiple cuttings, make full use of any branch you cut. Each branch often can yield two or three cuttings.

Furthermore, if you don't have rooting powder on hand but have a willow tree nearby, you can make a quick home remedy by using willow water. Chop young willow tree stems, and brew them into a tea. Let the mixture stand overnight, and then dip your hydrangea cuttings into it the next day. The willow tree is a rich source of the indole-3-acetic acid hormone that spurs plant growth.

Some gardeners like to start cuttings in water, but this is not advised for hydrangeas. Cuttings started in water develop weak root systems that falter when the need to transplant finally arrives.

Transplanting Hydrangeas

Hydrangea cuttings will reward you with a healthy root system within a month. After this, you can transplant your new hydrangea plant from its pot into the ground. Follow proper spacing guidelines for hydrangeas by allowing a 4- to 6-foot space between plants. In time, the new plants will grow into flowering bushes.

Article Sources
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  1. Thurn, Mary; Lamb, Elizabeth; Eshenaur, Brian. Disease and Insect Resistant Ornamental Plants: Hydrangea (Hydrangea). New York State Integrated Pest Management Program

  2. Rooting Hydrangea Cuttings in Five Easy Steps. University of Illinois Extension Website

  3. Fu, Shih-Feng, et al. Indole-3-Acetic Acid: A Widespread Physiological Code in Interactions of Fungi with Other Organisms. Plant Signaling & Behavior, vol. 10, no. 8, 2015, doi:10.1080/15592324.2015.1048052