How to Propagate Hydrangeas From Cuttings
Here at DIY Gardening, we just love propagating and from experience, we’ve learnt that hydrangeas are one of the easiest plants to grow from cuttings.
A few years ago, we had a 100% success rate and last year a 75% success rate – we know of no other plant that can be propagated this easily, so if you’re new to growing plants from cuttings, start with hydrangeas.
My name is Daniel Woodley, and on this page, I’ll show you how to successfully grow hydrangeas from cuttings taken from a donor plant, it’s easy, cheap and fun for kids too.
What You’ll Need
To get started, you’ll need:
- A donor plant to take cuttings from.
- Secateurs like these.
- Grit (optional).
- Perlite (optional, only use if you’re worried about overwatering).
- Vermiculite (optional but helps with moisture retention).
- Rooting hormone (optional)
- An empty pot.
- Something to cover the cutting with, I prefer a cut plastic bottle.
The Best Time to Take Hydrangea Cuttings
Hydrangea cuttings can be taken at any time during the growing season, from spring through to autumn.
Most gardeners take their cuttings from the end of spring to the beginning of autumn.
You can take cuttings later in mid-autumn, provided the hydrangea is still growing, but as the temperature drops, you may find the cuttings struggle to put down roots without a heat mat.
For best results, we recommend taking cuttings from late late-spring to late summer.
To improve the success rate of hydrangea propagation, do this first:
- Water the hydrangea the night before and give it a good soaking, so the shrub absorbs plenty of moisture.
- Avoid scorching hot days as the hydrangea will be stressed and not at its best.
- Clean your secateurs with alcohol or something similar to kill off any pathogens or mould. Cuttings are grown in a warm moist environment that is perfect for the spread of mould and pathogens.
How to Choose the Stems
Here’s how to choose the best stems to improve the chances of successful propagation:
- Avoid hardwood; while these can be propagated, the success rate is lower.
- Avoid really soft stems that have only recently formed.
- Choose a semi-ripe stem; ideally, a softwood stem with a couple of months of growth, so it’s not overly soft and weak.
- Avoid stems that have flowers or buds on them.
- Choose a stem that has several leaves.
- Avoid thin, weak or sickly looking stems.
Step by Step Instructions on How to Take Hydrangea Cuttings and Propagate
Here’s how to take hydrangea cuttings and propagate them to create new plants:
1) Fill a 3-6inch wide pot with an even mixture of grit and moist compost (add perlite if you wish to help drainage or vermiculite if you’re worried about the growing medium drying out):
2) Select a stem that is at least 6inches (15cm) long. and has at least 2 sets of leaf nodes on it:
3) Cut the stem just below a healthy set of leaf nodes and trim off the leaves so roughly two half eaves remain:
4) Dip the leaf node and about an inch of the stem in rooting hormone (optional):
5) Insert about 2 inches of the stem into the potting mix, you can make a hole with a sterile instrument such as a small spoon handle if you wish:
6) Place the cut plastic bottle over the hydrangea cutting and leave the bottle top on:
7) Place the pot in a bright spot out of direct sunlight. A good place is under an outside table or behind a shed. Direct, mid-day sun can literally cook the cutting so avoid sunny locations. Make sure water can drain freely from the pot:
8) Check the compost periodically and top it up with water to keep it moist if required. You’ll need to do this more often during spells of hot weather or if the pot is placed on top of a heat mat.
Expected Results and Next Steps
The hydrangea cutting should start to grow roots within 3 weeks, and you’ll probably see some of these on the stem, just above the soil level.
After about 3 weeks, remove the bottle top and leave the pot for another week.
After 4 weeks in total, you should have a well-rooted hydrangea cutting, and you can remove the bottle entirely.
The new plant should be kept watered and, ideally, out of strong sunlight until it’s more established, at which point it can be potted on or planted in the garden.
Hydrangeas grown from cuttings won’t flower in the year they are created and may not flower much or at all in the second year, but by the third year, they should put on a good showing.
Should You Add Perlite or Vermiculite?
These additives are entirely optional.
I use perlite because I’m out in the garden every day, and I splash water onto the pot regularly; the perlite helps with drainage and with it, there’s no chance of the growing medium getting clogged with water.
On the other hand, if you can’t tend to your pots so frequently, consider adding a small handful of vermiculite, as it will help to retain moisture.
I’m currently using these products, go check them out (disclaimer: I may receive a commission from any purchases but I am genuinely using these):
Why You Should Use Vitax:
- Made from slow-release pellets.
- Hydrangeas only require 2-3 applications per year.
- Perfect NPK ratio of 8-4-12.
- Added magnesium to produce larger blooms.
- Perfect for cuttings once they’ve become established and need a boost.
- Assists drainage and creates tiny air pockets for roots to easily grow into.
- Perfect for cuttings and seedlings.
- Add to compost or mix in grit too.
- Bypass secateurs.
- Cuts stems up to 20mm.
- Super sharp and easy to sharpen 40mm blade.
- Teflon coated.
- One of the highest-rated secateurs on Amazon.
- Ergonomic handle for comfort.
Instead of using plastic bottles, the gardener can place the pots in a large plastic container to create a mini-greenhouse or inside an actual greenhouse or similar.
Heat mats can be used to speed up the process and are a great way to propagate late in the season when the temperature drops outside, but the pots will require more frequent watering, and there’s an increased risk of the plants growing leggy. Excess condensation and too much heat can also lead to mould and other unwanted organisms taking hold.
A Warning About Copyright
Some plants are subject to PBR – Plant Breeders Rights.
This is essentially a copyright protection system whereby the original creator of a plant is paid a commission for every plant sold.
As a private individual, you are free to grow these plants from cuttings and seeds for your own private use, but you’ll need permission from the rights holder if you wish to sell them.