Enrich Your Garden And See How To Take Hydrangea Cuttings

Hydrangeas are elegant, perennial shrubs that bloom into colourful, large flower heads. They can live for up to two years at a time. Did you know you can find hydrangea flowers in pink, purple, blue and white, sometimes on the same plant? The word hydrangea originates from “Hydor”, the Greek word for water. Perhaps, this is because hydrangea plants are known to intake a lot of water. However, this doesn’t mean they require more water than other plants. Instead, they are water-sensitive and can survive drought better. Therefore, they remain a popular choice amongst gardeners. 

Little girl hugging big hydrangea in garden

Hydrangea flowers do not require much maintenance, and with proper care, you can grow them yourself at home. Whether as part of group plantings, shrub borders or in individual containers, the options are endless. By taking cuttings and potting them correctly, you too can grow hydrangea plants without splurging on nursery starts.

When to take hydrangea stem cuttings

Hydrangea shrubs grow new flowers during warm months. Therefore, when new growth begins to harden and the plant has leafed, it’s an excellent time to take your cuttings. Usually, this happens during the early summer months. 

Alternatively, you can take hardwood ones during colder months. However, it’s crucial to ensure your source mother plant has foliage that is still green. If you live in an area prone to snowfall, take your cuttings before the soil begins to freeze. 

Also, it is essential to make sure the roots of the hydrangea plant have grown out sufficiently before you take cuttings. Keeping baby plants thriving indoors can be challenging, more so during overwinter

Hydrangea cuttings require six to eight weeks for roots to grow. Planning can make the transition from cutting to rooting and eventually transplanting easier. You can also take cuttings to store away and grow at a later time.

Since they root easily, the process of hydrangea propagation is simple enough for anyone to begin their own gardening journey, even if this is your first time rooting a plant. 

A step-by-step guide to taking a hydrangea cutting

Growing plants from cuttings is an excellent and low cost way to have more of your favourite plants. Before you can take your cuttings, check your desired shrubs for diseases and pests. Your plants will be identical clones of the mother plant; therefore, choose one with characteristics you like.  

How to take softwood cuttings:

The best time of the day to get your cuttings is during earlier hours. In the morning, plants retain more fluid and are more likely to produce roots

Bush hydrangea cutting with secateur in the garden

  1. After selecting your hydrangea plant, check for new branch growth with several leaves but no flowers. Look out for the colour of the branch, which should be lighter than old growth. The stem will also be less rigid as this is softwood
  2. Approximately 5 to 10cm down the tip of the branch, cut with a knife or pruner horizontally. Make sure this part of the branch has at least three sets of leaves
  3. Using shears, strip off the lower leaves, leaving only a pair or two at the tip of the cutting (If your garden shears aren’t sharp enough, you can sharpen them on your own or let the professionals deal with them). Remove everything down to the stem, leaving behind the circular leaf nodes. Roots grow quickly from these. 
  4. You can cut the remaining top leaves in half to remove the tip if they are too long

How to take hardwood cuttings

Hardwood cuttings have no leaves and have to be kept humid. If they are not cared for properly, the cuttings could dry out. This type of cutting is taken overwinter during a period of no new growth

  1. Select a branch with a little bit of soft growth around the tip from your parent plant.
  2. Cut the branch at a slight angle into smaller, 15 to 30 cm sections. Each cutting should end just under a node. In hardwood, this can look like a joint

Each of these sections can be planted and grown into hydrangea plants. However, it’s easier to root softwood cuttings, according to professionals. 

Rooting hydrangea cuttings in easy steps

At this point, you’ve got your very own cuttings ready to be rooted. Before you begin the process, dip the stem of your cutting into the rooting hormone. While this is optional, it helps stimulate stronger and faster new root growth. 

If you use a hormone powder, be sure to shake off the excess before proceeding.

Hydrangia cutting in the flower pot

  1. Select a small pot or container that can fit the cuttings you want to start. For example, a 25 cm wide pot could grow several cuttings for a month at a time. If you aren’t sure which pot to choose, check our guide Measure and find the ideal plant pots to get the right one for your plant.
  2. Fill the container with soil and moisten it. You can also use ericaceous soil in case you want to change the colour of your hydrangeas. What’s more, add coffee grounds in the soil, as they’re an excellent source of nitrogen. Make holes in the soil with a stick or your finger. 
  3. Place each cutting into a hole in the soil, with only the remaining leaves sticking out. Ensure the cuttings are snugly held. 
  4. Water lightly after adding your cutting to remove any air bubbles that may have formed. 
  5. You can create a make-shift humidity chamber by placing a plastic bag loosely around the pot. Ensure the bag is big enough to leave space between it and the cutting leaves to prevent rotting. You can use stakes to keep the bag in place. Alternatively, a milk container or plastic bottle can also be used. 
  6. Place your pot away from direct sunlight. Water your cuttings daily, but don’t overdo it and get them soggy. This will hinder the rooting process. If your pot is placed in full sun and wind or is small in size, you may have to water them more to prevent drying. 

If you are propagating cuttings indoors during winter, sink the pot into the ground or beside a foundation. Then, cover it with a large mulch or clay pot to help it get through the cold, as hydrangeas are best grown outdoors in sunlight.

Within a month or two, your new hydrangea roots should sprout. The success rate of growing hydrangeas from cuttings is very high if you follow the steps correctly. At this point, stop watering daily and remove the plastic bag. Then, it’s time to transplant or move them to a more permanent spot.

Ground layering hydrangeas

If you already have hydrangeas, you can use this method to grow new plants! Begin by finding a branch long and low enough to reach the ground.

Branch of hydrangea on a wooden table

  1. You can also use several branches at a time if you have more than one mother plant. Remove all the leaves from the end of the branch (which will touch the ground) down to approximately 12 to 15cm. Ensure you leave the nodes intact.
  2. Instead of cutting off the branch, dig a shallow hole into the soil where the parent plant is rooted. Next, place the branch inside, making sure at least one leaf node is buried within
  3. Cover up the branch generously with soil and water occasionally. To keep it in place, you can use a rock or brick over the spot. 
  4. When you see new roots growing within the soil, cut the branch off the plant. You can then pot the new plant in a container or transplant it to your garden bed. 

Pot layering hydrangeas

Sometimes, due to the shock of being cut, new hydrangea plants require more maintenance to thrive and bloom into flowers. This method reduces this shock by burying the branch in a pot rather than the ground.

  1. Prepare your branch just as you would for ground layering. However, add a small cut in the leaf node you plan on burying and dip it in the rooting hormone
  2. Next, place the stem into your selected pot horizontally with the cut node within the soil. When you see roots, you have a new hydrangea plant ready to be moved. Blue hydrangea in a pot

Rooting hydrangeas in a cup 

Water propagation is an incredibly easy process. Instead of potting your hydrangea cutting in potting soil, place it in a cup or glass. Fill it up till the stem is submerged in water; however, ensure the leaves are untouched.

If you add too much water, the hydrangea plant will rot before growing. Using a clear glass allows you to monitor the root growth progress easily.

Optionally you can add rooting hormone to the water. Ensure you change the water every few days and place your cup near sunlight. 

However, this method is not recommended. This is because rooting in a cup of water creates a weaker root system that tends to die when transplanted.

Transplanting Hydrangeas  

Autumn, or just after all the leaves have fallen off plant bushes, is the ideal time for transplanting. However, you can transplant hydrangeas all year round as long as it is not in direct sun. Selecting a location that is shaded during the day help as well.

Gardener planting pink hydrangea flower

After selecting the spot or pot, you want to transplant the hydrangea to add soil (optionally with compost). Next, dig a hole deep enough to fit your root system comfortably. 

It’s crucial to do this before moving your plant. Preparation can take up time, and you wouldn’t want your hydrangea rotting away during the wait. Next, trim your hydrangea bush if it is too big with a pruner

Now, it’s time to dig up the roots. Using a shovel, free the root system. This looks like a ball, deep within the soil and can take more than one person to remove. 

Move the root and bush to their new location. Cover the plant with soil and water it thoroughly, concentrating on the roots. If you use compost, add up to 8 cm on top of the soil. 

The best bit is, you don’t have to water your hydrangea till springtime. When it becomes warmer, water frequently through the growing season to help the plant bloom. 

Easy to grow and maintain, hydrangea are an exciting plant to add to your foliage or garden. The above guide lays out everything you need to know to get your own cuttings and get started.

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