Propagating hydrangeas to get new plants for free can be done in several ways – hydrangea cuttings, tip rooting, air layering and division of the mother plant.
Who doesn’t love the look of a lush, green hydrangea bush in their yard, just full of those gorgeous and huge blooms?
Growing hydrangeas from seed is also possible, but not as widely done as other forms of propagation.
Hydrangea color change is always a surprise for gardeners and there are a few ways to get that color to change to one you prefer.
Plant propagation is the process whereby new plants are grown from a variety of sources. This can be done by growing seeds, taking cuttings of plant stems or leaves, and can also refer to the process of dividing the plant.
In today’s article, I will show how each of these forms of propagating hydrangeas takes place.
The most common method of hydrangea propagation is through cuttings. Stem cuttings, rooting the tips of stems, and air layering are all forms of growing hydrangeas from cuttings.
Overgrown hydrangeas that are now too large for their spot in the garden can also be divided. This allows you give a hydrangea plant to a friend or use it in another area of the garden.
These hydrangea plant propagation tips will show you how to do three cutting types of cuttings. I will also demonstrate how to divide hydrangeas and grow hydrangeas from seed.
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Leaf cuttings are a common type of plant propagation. If you love succulents, be sure to also check out my tutorial on propagating succulents from leaves.
Most gardeners think of growing plants from cuttings as pertaining to indoor plants, but there are many perennials and annuals that can be propagated this way, as well. In this article, I will discuss how to grow hydrangeas from cuttings 3 ways: stem cuttings, tip rooting and air layering.
How to take hydrangea cuttings
Propagating hydrangeas by cuttings is easy since they have thick, fleshy stems that root easily. When making cuttings, choose new growth which is somewhat soft and has not yet flowered so that you won’t sacrifice any flowers for this season on the mother plant.
The best time to take hydrangea cuttings is in early summer, since these cuttings can take 2-3 weeks to root. You will want to give the plant plenty of time to grow before the cold weather sets in.
Take a cutting about 5 or 6 inches long with three or four pairs of leaves on the cutting. Remove the oldest leaves, keeping 2 leaves at the top.
Roots will grow from leaf nodes, so removing the bottom leaves at these points will help to encourage roots to grow.
Cut the leaves in half across the leaf. Without roots, the stems will have a hard time delivering moisture to support large leaves. Making the surface area smaller is easier on the cutting.
This looks drastic but will make a healthier cutting.
Making this cutting means that the stem can use all it’s energy into developing roots instead of trying to keep alive a large set of leaves.
Dusting the cut tip and bottom leaf node points with rooting powder allows new roots to grow more easily.
Rooting powder is a synthetic compound that helps plant cuttings to take roots after they are treated with it.
It is not necessary to use it but if you do, it increases the chance of quick and successful rooting.
Use a pencil to make a hole in a moistened soil and insert the cutting. You can use a soil-less potting mix, seed starting soil, or a mixture of vermiculite and potting soil. Sand also works well.
Hydrangea cuttings, even when trimmed down, have a large leaf surface. It is important to make sure that the cutting has the right amount of humidity while rooting a hydrangea.
You can do this by misting the cutting daily, or using a water tray on pebbles. Be sure to add water to the tray as it evaporates.
Another way to add humidity which won’t need too much tending is to cut down plastic bottles and use them as mini terrariums. These will act as small greenhouses.
I’ve used the method often and it is my favorite way to ensure the plant gets humidity. Adding a plastic bag over the cutting also does this same thing.
The roots of the cutting will develop in about 2-3 weeks. When they do, transplant the rooted cutting to normal potting soil and water as usual.Hydrangeas are the star of many summer gardens. Find out how to get plants for free with these four types of propagation: cuttings, division, air layering and tip rooting. 🌸🌿🌸 Click To Tweet
Can you root hydrangea cuttings in water?
Propagating hydrangeas by rooting the cuttings in water is possible, but I don’t recommend this as my first choice. Water rooted hydrangeas make for weaker plants.
The reason for this is that cuttings started in water develop weak root systems. When it is time to transplant to soil, the cuttings do not grow as well as those started in soil.
If you do decide to root hydrangea cuttings in water, the roots will take about 3-4 weeks to develop.
How to root hydrangea cuttings
Make the water cuttings the same way as you would do for soil cuttings. For these cuttings, you do not have to cut the leaf tops in half.
Hydrangea cuttings in water are a bit slower to root. Be sure to change the water a few times a week to keep it fresh.
The advantage of water rooting hydrangeas is that you don’t need to be as concerned about humidity. This type of propagation is a good project to do with children, since they will be able to see the roots forming quickly.
Tip Rooting of hydrangeas
Nature is amazing in the way that it propagates plants almost as if by magic. Often times, the stems of hydrangeas will root on their own when they come into contact with the ground.
When we propagate hydrangeas by tip rooting, we mimic nature ourselves by using weights to pin down the tip of the plant, forcing roots to form.
I used this technique to root a big leaf hydrangea to give me a second plant for another shade border.
To force tip rooting, fold over a supple hydrangea stem that is long enough to allow it to touch the soil. Leave the tip of the stem with some leaves growing but cut away two pairs of leaves to expose the leaf node area.
It’s also a good idea to use a sharp knife to remove some of the outer stem covering so the roots will be able to grow more easily.
Pin down the exposed stem a with a long landscape pin to hold it securely in place on the soil.
You can purchase landscape pins, or make your own using pliers and heavy gauge wire. (I used wire from an old garden fence for mine and made them nice and long.)
I added a brick over the top of the pin for extra weight, to make sure the whole trimmed stem area was in contact with the soil. The stem stayed in place even when the soil got dry.
The stem will grow roots where it has contact with the soil in about two to three weeks.
Once the roots are growing well, you can cut the stem away from the mother plant below the root area. Then, dig up the rooted section and plant in another area of the garden. Easy peasy!
Tip rooting has the advantage of keeping the cutting attached to the mother plant while it roots. This means that it will receive nourishment and the rooting process will be fail safe, resulting in a very strong plant.
This is one of the best ways to get new plants from hydrangeas and is almost fool-proof.
Propagating hydrangeas by Air layering the stems
Air layering is a version of tip rooting that is not as well known. However, instead of rooting on the ground, it is done in the air. In essence, we root an aerial portion of the mother plant to make a new, smaller baby plant.
Surprisingly, even though this is one of the easiest forms of propagating hydrangeas, it is one of the least often used.
The air layered section of plant remains connected to the mother plant the entire time, so it receives nourishment as it grows.
Air layering is often done with houseplants that get leggy and lose their leaves on the bottom. By creating roots for a top portion of the plant, we can discard the long leggy bottom area.
Air layering is easy in this situation. It may seem dangerous to the plant, since you need to wound an area of the plant to allow roots to form, but is actually very safe.
Start by soaking some sphagnum moss in water until it is saturated. Sphagnum moss can take a while to get really wet, so you should do this earlier in the day before you start to air layer.
To air layer a hydrangea in mid summer, choose a thick, fleshy stem of new wood. (Use old wood if doing this in the fall.) I chose a piece that was as large as my middle finger.
Try to choose a section of stem about a foot long, so that the new plant will be quite large when rooted. You’ll be trimming the stem around the leaf modes.
Once you have found a section that you want to air layer, remove leaves and side branches from a large section of the stem so that it is exposed. This is the area where the roots will grow.
Use a sharp knife to remove a portion of the stem near a leaf node. Make two circular rings around the stem with a paring knife and then use a sharp knife to gently remove the tough outer skin between the two circular cuts.
This now gives you an inner stem section that has the tough outside removed and the fleshy part exposed so that the roots will develop. You can add some rooting hormone to the area that you have cleaned up but this is not necessary.
The next step is to wrap the wounded stem with wet sphagnum moss. This will provide moisture to area necessary for rooting. Be sure the sphagnum moss is soaked well before wrapping the stem.
Tie the moss with some string to hold it tightly in place. The moss will give a moist area near the fleshy stem an allow roots to develop easily.
Next wrap the whole ball of moss with Saran Wrap. Hold the plastic wrap in place at the top and bottom with twist ties.
Be sure that all of the sphagnum moss is inside the plastic wrap. If any sticks out, even a tiny piece, it will act as a wick and will dry out the moss and you don’t want this to happen.
In 4-6 weeks, you start to see roots developing along the stem area that you covered with sphagnum moss.
When the roots are plentiful, you can cut off the bottom of the hydrangea stem below the moss and rooted area. Finally, remove the covering and plant the rooted stem into garden soil.
The advantage of air layering is that you don’t have to worry about humidity or watering as the roots develop.
The procedure looks complicated but I managed to complete the air laying process in less than 10 minutes after the moss was soaked. And I had a new plant in just a few weeks!
Propagating Hydrangeas by division
However, it is still possible to propagate hydrangeas by dividing them into two plants. This is useful if the plant has overgrown its spot in your garden.
To divide a hydrangea, split the bush into two equal halves, by cutting the two sections apart with a spade or garden saw.
Just go right down through the center of the plant with your tool. Forcibly separate the sections using a shovel until you have two separate plants.
Then gently remove one of the sections, being sure to keep as much of the root system intact as possible. Trim some of the canes (stems) so that the divided root section won’t need to support as much growth.
Refill the hole around the parent plant with fresh soil and water. It will revive quickly since it is in the same soil area.
Move the other plant to a hole larger than the root ball in another area of the garden, and add fresh soil around it. Water well until you see new growth. The new division may need to take a while to become established.
When to divide hydrangeas?
You should divide the plant when it is not actively growing. That means either do it in the fall when the leaves have started to fall and the bush is ready to go dormant, or in the spring before the new growth starts.
This will give the roots of the plants a chance to really take hold easily and you’ll be rewarded with two very healthy plants the following year.
Can you grow hydrangea from seed?
Even though cuttings are the most commonly used ways to propagate hydrangeas, they will also grow from seed. You can purchase hydrangea seed from your local gardening center or collect your own.
If you have a mature hydrangea plant, you can collect the seeds from the flowers.
Do note that hydrangeas grown from seed will not be like the parent plant. You won’t really know how they will turn out until the seedlings grow.
Hydrangea blossoms are actually a combination of small showy flowers that are infertile and very tiny fertile flowers. The fertile flowers are the ones that contain the seeds.
The best time to save hydrangea seeds is in the late fall when the flowers are starting to fade. Allow the flowers to go dark and cut off the flower head when it has dried.
Place the whole flower pod in a bag for about a week, and then collect the seeds. They will be very small and black in color. They might even look a bit like dust.
Seeds can be sown as soon as you collect them, or stored in the fridge until spring. Sow the tiny seeds on a flat that is filled with moist seed starting soil. Mist the soil often to keep it moist.
The seeds will normally germinate in about 14 days. When the plant has two sets of true leaves, you can transplant it into a pot to grow until it is large enough to grow in the garden.
If you use these techniques for propagating hydrangeas, you’ll have lots of new plants before you know it to add to your garden or share with your gardening friends.
Pin this post on propagating hydrangeas
To remind yourself of these 4 methods of how to propagate hydrangeas, just pin this image to one of your gardening boards on Pinterest for easy access to it later.
You can also watch the tutorial in a video on YouTube.
- Hydrangea plant
- Plastic drink bottle
- Rooting powder
- Landscape pins
- Spaghnum moss
- Jute or string
- Plastic wrap
- Garden shears
- Sharp knife
- Garden spade
- Take a 6 inch cutting of hydrangeas. Remove the bottom leaves and trim the top leaves in half sideways.
- Dust the end of the cutting with rooting powder.
- Place in seed starting soil.
- Mist daily or cover the soil cutting with a halved plastic soda bottle to act as a terrarium.
- New growth will appear in a few weeks.
- Take 6 inch cuttings. There is no need to trim the leaves.
- Add water to a glass.
- Change the water several times a week.
- Roots will form in 3-4 weeks.
- Plant in soil.
- NOTE: Water cuttings can make weaker plants, so I prefer cuttings grown in soil.
- Trim a layer of coating off a stem of hydrangea. Remove nearby leaves.
- Pin down the stem near the trimmed area.
- Top with a brick to weigh down.
- Roots will develop in a few weeks.
- Cut the rooted tip and plant in the garden.
- Soak some sphagnum moss
- Trim a section of stem and remove leaves above and below this area of stem.
- Wrap the wounded stem with sphagnum moss and tie with jute rope.
- Surround by plastic wrap completely.
- Roots will develop in a few weeks.
- Remove the rooted section and plant.
- Best done in spring or fall.
- Take a shovel and dig right down halfway through a large hydrangea.
- Remove some of the canes, so the plants are not too large.
- Add soil around the mother plant.
- Dig a hole larger than the root ball of the division and plant with new soil in another area of the garden.
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