An explosion of new cultivars reflects the trending nature of hydrangeas. And it's no surprise, as the plant is resistant to insects and pests, grows in sun or shade, and bounces back from frigid Zone 4 winters. This beloved shrub produces masses of large ball-shaped blossoms that easily fill up a vase or provide a showy centerpiece to your garden. But there's a universal downside to the hydrangea plant—and that is its price. Most premium hydrangeas sold as container plants start at around 25 dollars for a quart-sized plant. This puts dreams of a hydrangea hedgerow on hold for most gardeners who can't afford to spend hundreds of dollars on plants. Luckily, the ease with which hydrangeas can be propagated makes it an easy plant to start from cuttings. And a mature plant could potentially yield dozens of new hydrangeas to fill up any sunny garden spot.
When to Grow Hydrangeas From Cuttings
Cultivating a cutting from a mother hydrangea plant is a little bit of art and a little bit of science. Time your project for the spring when both the plant's metabolism and its growth are peaking. Propagating hydrangeas in the spring also allows the plant a whole growing season to mature into a full-sized plant. Set aside time in the early morning or evening to take and prepare your cutting. This way, heat stress won't claim your vulnerable stem while it's off the plant.
- Working Time: 1 to 2 hours
- Total Time: Approximately 1 month
What You'll Need
- Sharp gardening shears
- Gardening gloves
- Garden hose
- Rain wand
- Rubbing alcohol
- Cotton ball
- Rooting powder
- An 8 to 10-inch terracotta pot
- Sterile seed starting soil
Sanitize your cleanest and sharpest shears by dabbing a cotton ball into rubbing alcohol and wiping down the blade and the handle surface. Taking this precaution will help prevent fungal disease in your new plant.
Make a cut about two inches below a leaf node on a green, healthy branch that has not yet formed a bud. In all, the stem should be about three to five inches long.
Remove the 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. Completely remove all but the highest two leaves.
Cut the remaining two leaves in half.
Dip the cut end into rooting powder. (Home gardeners can buy a good rooting powder for under ten dollars).
Choose a pot that meets your space needs and the number of hydrangea cuttings you are starting. An eight- to 10-inch terracotta pot will hold your cutting for a month or longer—or perhaps all season.
Fill the pot with a sterile seed starting medium. Moisten the soil thoroughly. Then, place the stem into the soil all the way up to the base of the remaining leaves.
Keep the new hydrangea cutting moist at all times, 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 an exposed, windy area, you may need additional watering visits to prevent them from drying out.
After about 10 days, your hydrangea cutting will form new roots, allowing you to back off on daily watering.
Tips for Propagating Hydrangeas
Choose a tender, green stem to take as a cutting. Stems that are woody and grey 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, as each branch may yield two or three cuttings.
If you don't have rooting powder on hand and have a willow tree nearby, make a quick home remedy by using willow water. To do so, chop young willow tree stems and brew them into a tea. Let the mixture stand overnight, and then use it the next day to help your hydrangea cuttings get a quick start. The willow tree is a rich source of the indole-3-acetic acid hormone needed for plant growth.
Gardening trendsetters like to start cuttings in water, but this is not advised for hydrangeas. Cuttings started in water develop very weak root systems that falter when the need to transplant finally arrives.
Hydrangea stems take well to propagating by cutting and will reward you with a healthy root system within a month. After this, you can transplant your new hydrangea shrub from its pot to the ground in a permanent location. Follow proper spacing guidelines when transplanting your deceptively small plants by allowing a 4 to 6-foot space between plants. In time, the healthy new plants will grow into flowering bushes.