How To Propagate Hydrangeas (4 Ways)

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Wondering how to propagate hydrangeas? You’re not alone! These vibrant showstoppers with their lush, summer blooms are every gardener’s dream. Beyond their visual charm, they’re a pure joy to cultivate. If you’re itching to have more of these beauties dancing around your garden, there’s good news – it’s entirely possible to grow more from the ones you already adore.

Whether you’re thinking about nurturing newbies from seeds, trying your hand at cuttings in soil or water, or even tempting those low-hanging branches to take root right in the garden, we’ve got you covered. Dive in and discover the four fun and simple ways to spread the hydrangea love!

Where Do Hydrangeas Grow?

Hydrangeas in a clay flower pot
Hydrangeas in a clay flower pot

These big bushes (that my family used to call snowball bushes) can grow across most of the United States. Depending on the variety and how cold hardy they are, hydrangeas can grow from Zone 3 all the way down to Zone 11.

Hydrangeas are plants that love partial shade, that’s one of the most important factors when deciding where to plant them. When they get a lot of hot, intense southern facing sunlight, they won’t bloom as much as if they get more morning sun and shade in the evening.

Wild hydrangeas can be found along streams or some rocky areas in partial shade. They grow from New York to Missouri, and as far south as Louisiana and Florida. They enjoy a wide variety of climates, but they need partial shade.

What Soil Is Best For Hydrangeas?

These semi-succulent plants prefer a moist, well draining, loamy soil. While clay soil can be accepted by hydrangeas, they tend to grow a little slower because of the density of the clay.

If these plants are soaked in water for too long, as can be the case with clay soil, root rot can set in. It’s pretty rare though because hydrangeas can handle more water than some other plants.

When planting hydrangeas in clay soil, it’s recommended to loosen the soil with amendments, compost, or some type of soil aeration. Use something like vermiculite, perlite, peat moss, or rice hulls.

Sand isn’t recommended to loosen clay soil. The fine clay particles can surround sand, and make the soil even harder, much like concrete.

Hydrangeas also do better in soil that is between 5.0 and 8.0 on the pH scale. Anything below or above these numbers will be too drastic for the plants to survive.

Pick The Right Time For Propagation

When you are doing propagation from hydrangea cuttings, picking the right time is very important. When planting seeds, you can start them indoors if the weather outside is rather frightful.

For cuttings though, you want to start them in spring or summer. Don’t wait until fall or winter as the plant’s cells will be tougher, and more woody. You want supple, green growth. The cells on green growth are more willing to grow roots and propagate much more easily.

How To Propogate Hydrangeas

Supplies You’ll Need

Whatever propagation method you choose, you’ll need some or all of the following supplies:

  • Clean, sharp pruning shears
  • Pots with drain holes
  • Seed starting mix
  • Rooting hormone (optional)
  • Perlite
  • Vase with water
  • Bricks or a few rocks

Depending on your propagation method you’ll only need a few of these supplies. We’ll go over what exactly you’ll need for each method. Keep reading as we go over 4 ways to propagate hydrangeas.

Propagating Hydrangeas In Water

This method is the easiest of them all, but there are reports of mixed results. Water propagation, especially when it comes to hydrangeas, results in softer, sometimes weaker roots.

Plants propagated in water produce a different type of root than plants that are placed in soil. These roots are less likely to get root rot, but they are softer and can break more easily. If you are very careful, these roots can harden and grow a woody coating around them.

Once you go this route, when you transplant them into the soil, you’ll have to take extra precautions to keep from breaking the roots off. When the roots get damaged, the plant can become weak, or die and not produce more roots.

Instructions For Water Propagation

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let’s get into it. You’ll need some clean, sharp pruning shears or scissors, and a container with water. Preferably a clear one so you can monitor the root growth.

The reason you want clean shears is to prevent infection. If you happen to prune off a section of another plant that has spores or a microscopic fungus on it, you could spread it to any other plant you trim.

Use alcohol, peroxide, or a 50-50 bleach and water mix to clean them before snipping off pieces of other plants.

Find a 6 to 8 inch, healthy, green stem that doesn’t have any flowers on it, and snip it off. Remove some of the leaves, while leaving 2 to 3 sets.

Next, place the stem in the vase or container with water. Don’t allow the leaves to sit in the water or they will rot.

Now place it in a sunny room, but not directly in the sunlight. Filtered, or indirect sunlight is best. Replace the water every couple of days to prevent algae and stagnation.

When you see two to three inches of roots in the water, it’s time to place it in the soil. Again, you’ll need to be very careful here and gently cover the roots with dirt to keep from breaking them off.

Once it’s outside, be sure to keep it well watered for the first several months to a year for the roots to get established.

Propagating Hydrangea Cuttings In Soil

This method is the most tested and true propagation method. There are a few more steps involved, but you should get better results compared to the water method.

The tools you’ll need here include cleaned, sharp pruning shears, seed starting mix, a small pot with drain holes, and rooting hormone, though this is optional.

Start off with the same kind of cutting as mentioned above. Trim off leaves so that 2 to 3 inches of the stem is free of leaves. If the leaves on the upper half of the stem are too big, they can be trimmed down.

Trimming overly large leaves will help the cutting focus on growing roots as opposed to keeping the leaves healthy. Before placing the stem in the soil, you may want to consider dipping it in rooting hormone, though this step isn’t absolutely necessary.

If you do use rooting hormone, stick your finger in the seed starting mix to make a hole first. Place the stem in the hole, and then gently move the soil around the stem end. By pushing it directly into the soil, the rooting hormone gets scraped off and won’t be able to work properly.

Once the cutting is in the soil, you’ll need to keep it moist for a few weeks until it starts to grow some roots. This can take up to 2 or 4 weeks. By covering the soil or the plant with plastic, you’ll help keep the dirt damp.

When you see buds growing you know you have roots and you can take the plastic off. Another way to check for roots is to very gently tug on the stem. When you feel very slight tension, you know you have roots.

This new cutting may take several months before it’s able to be planted outdoors, so you’ll likely want to wait until the next spring to put it in your outdoor garden.

Alternatives To Seed Starter

You don’t have to use a seed starter to root your cuttings. You only need some very loose, well draining soil. By mixing a 50-50 mix of sphagnum moss and perlite, you can make your own light, airy seed starter.

You can also use Coco Coir Bricks. Just soak these in warm water for a few minutes and you have a light, organic seed starting, or rooting soil.

Sometimes you may have leftover sphagnum moss from other landscaping chores. If that’s the case, simply mix that with Espoma Organic Perlite in a one to one ratio and place your cutting in the mix.

Growing Hydrangeas From Seed

For this method, you’ll need a good seed starting mix, your cleaned pruning shears, seed starting trays or small pots, and a paper bag. Lastly, you’ll need a flowering hydrangea bush.

Not all hydrangea plants will grow fertile seeds, and some may not even grow the same plants, but this can still be an exciting and rewarding way to grow more plants. Who knows, you may come up with a unique plant!

A lot of hydrangeas are cultivars, or hybrids, so the seeds could be infertile, or grow something different from the parent plant. If you have a lacecap, or oakleaf hydrangea, you’ll have a better chance of growing plants from seed.

Collect The Seeds

After the flowers start to drain of color and fade, usually around fall, you can begin the task of collecting the seeds. You can cut the flower heads off when the colors turn brown and place them in a paper bag to continue drying.

Store them in a cool, dry area for about a week to finish the drying process. Then shake the dried flower heads to release all the seeds. They are tiny and look like chunky pepper grinds.

Hydrangea seeds don’t need cold stratification and can be sown immediately, as long as they are completely dry. If you’re not ready to sprout them, store them in an airtight container or envelope. They can keep for up to a year.

It’s Time To Plant Hydrangea Seeds

Using a seed starting tray or pods, dampen the starter mix first. Place it in the containers, then press the seeds into the top of the soil. They don’t need to be buried because light is necessary for germination.

Keep the soil moist and place the tray or pods in a bright window or under a grow light. In about two weeks the seeds should begin germinating. Thin them out, and when they have 2 to 3 sets of true leaves, transplant them to a small pot with good quality potting mix.

Let the first inch of the soil dry out between waterings and keep them in an indirectly sunny location for a few months. Once they are established, you can plant them outside. Spring, after the threat of frost has passed, or early fall is a good time to plant them.

Keep the newly planted hydrangeas well watered for the first several months until they are established and growing well outdoors.

Ground Rooting Hydrangea Branches

You may have seen trees or other bushes do this on their own. If you have grown strawberries, you know they send out runners that can be rooted in the ground too.

This method is basically just like that. You take hydrangea branches that are close to the ground, force them to the soil, and leave them there long enough to root.

For this method, all you need is a brick or medium sized rock and some pruning shears or scissors.

Locate a branch or a few branches closest to the ground. Carefully bend the branches to the ground without breaking them.

Trim off any leaves that will touch the ground and then use the brick or rock to hold it on the ground. If you have a bed of mulch, scoop it out of the way so the branch touches the soil. You can even scratch the dirt away a little and place the branch in the pocket, slightly covered by dirt.

Keep watering the hydrangea plant as you typically would. Soon the branch should start to root. After a week or two, gently lift the weight and see if the branch has roots growing. If not, replace the weight and continue watering.

If you think the branches have started to root, you can give them a gentle tug to make sure. Resistance means they have roots in the soil.

When you are sure the branches have rooted, snip the stem away from the mother plant, but leave it in the soil. You want to make sure the plant has enough roots to sustain it.

Cutting the stem, and then digging up the newly started roots could cause too much shock to the new cutting. After another 2 to 3 weeks, if the new plant is still growing well, you can dig it up and move it if you want to.

This can also be a way to fill in more garden space with hydrangeas.

FAQs

Can you grow a hydrangea from a cutting?

You certainly can. Growing hydrangeas from cuttings is easier when you cut green, new growth, and cut a section that does not have a flower on it. You can propagate these cuttings in water or soil, though it’s often easier to grow them in a good starting soil mix.

Can you propagate hydrangea from flowers?

While you may be able to propagate a hydrangea that has a full flower head on it, for the best chances, choose a branch that does not have flowers on it. Plants use a lot of energy to keep flowers growing, so if you have a cutting with flowers, it could take more time to get roots to grow if they do at all.

What time of year do you propagate hydrangeas?

Hydrangeas can be propagated from spring to fall. Wait until the plant has leafed out, and take your cuttings before it goes dormant and the stems have turned woody. Softer green stems propagate much easier than harder, woody stems.

Final Thoughts On Hydrangea Propagation

Propagating your own hydrangeas can save you money and it’s not that hard to do. Just make sure you have the right tools, and take your cuttings between spring and fall.

You want to get green, soft growth, and you can start your cuttings in water or directly in seed starting soil. You can also try to grow new hydrangea plants from seed, though depending on the variety, you may not get viable seeds.

Another way to propagate hydrangeas is by bending branches to the ground and holding them there with a weight. What are you waiting for? Get out there and start propagating… Well, propagate some plants that is.

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