propagating hydrangeas through clippings

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Propagating hydrangeas is incredibly easy to do! If you’re looking to turn one hydrangea into multiple, I’ve got the steps and pics for 3 different methods, starting with how I turned cuttings into new shrubs for the garden.

3 ways to easily propagate hydrangeas

This year, Kyle and I have gone propagation crazy. Wait — let me rephrase that.

Earlier this year, I stuck a branch from my ZZ plant into a little water after it broke off the original plant (clumsy me while painting the master bedroom). I thought, at best, it might propagate like I’d seen on Instagram; if not, no biggie. Over a few weeks of changing out the water regularly, it grew roots!

zz plant water propagation

Since spotting that first root, Kyle has been sticking every branch he finds into water now.

propagating multiple plants on windowsill

I have created a monster. A very specific, uses-up-all-my-wine-glasses-for-magnolias-and-maples-and-who-knows-what-the-heck-that-one-is? windowsill monster. But, a monster that is eager to grow green things when I like green things isn’t really a problem, is it? Especially when I don’t have to pay for them… so, I’m choosing to enjoy it! I recently showed him this test tube project from Vintage Revivals, and he’s into it. Our own version may be in the works soon.

I’m telling you this merely to introduce why I decided to branch out (ba-dum-tss) by learning how to propagate my hydrangeas this year. Growing new plants has been a frequent topic of conversation, and it’s more or less a “I wonder if I can” type of experiment. I had a planter full of potting mix on the deck and had just finished cutting back a bunch of new growth on my hydrangea plants (they are blooming like crazy!!), so rather than using water for this one, I tried dirt and root hormone. And it worked!

hydrangea bloom

How to Grow New Hydrangeas from Cuttings

1. When should you take cuttings?

Some experts recommend that the best time to take cuttings is in early spring when hydrangeas are beginning to leaf out and growing a lot (which makes sense). Some gardeners swear by rooting them in winter, where they’ll grow more resilient roots versus summer (which also makes sense). So, as of now, I have no recommendation as to what time of year is best. I’m simply taking what I cut off from pruning my hydrangeas in spring and late summer and using those cutoffs for propagation. Keep in mind that this is a totally free, no-pressure-needed method, so there’s really only upside if they happen to root. Maybe my hydrangeas sense my “root or don’t root, I’ll just keep trying” attitude and use it as motivation!

propagating hydrangea cutting

It’s also recommended to make cuttings when direct sunlight isn’t beating down, such as in the morning/evening and to pot them as soon as possible. If you saw my guide on growing hydrangeas before, you may remember that the stem tends to form a waxy plug when it’s cut, so working quickly is best.

2. Where to cut

Most experts seem to recommend making a cutting that has a few leaf nodes on them. Look for a panicle (that’s a stem with several branching leaves) that does not have any flower buds. That’s where you can see leaves branching off of the main stem. You’ll notice little nubs where the leaf meets the stem, aka “nodes”.

hydrangea leaf nodes with little bumps or nubs that will form new stems

I’ve been cutting them both above a leaf node and below (or in some cases, cutting a long stem into two separate cuttings), and it really doesn’t seem to make much difference as long as enough of the stem is planted in the soil. I DO tend to cut off green stems rather than hardwood cuttings (where the stem has gone through a full season and looks more like a woody stem rather than these green ones, which are more recently grown).

cut stem of hydrangea

3. Trim down the leaves

On each stem, I nipped off most of the lower leaves, starting at the bottom and working my way up (close to the stem is good, with just a small nub).

trim hydrangea for propagation

Each set of leaves can be very taxing on a hydrangea stem that doesn’t have roots yet (there’s no system to get water to the leaves), so I left the last few leaves on top but cut them down to reduce the overall burden for each plant.

propagation of hydrangea

4. Dip in root hormone

I know I’ll get a little flak for indiscriminately dipping the cutting directly into the pot of root growth hormone, but meh — I’ve done it time and time again without issue, and with different plants, and the rooting powder gets everywhere, so I don’t like to dump it into a second container if I don’t have to.

dipping stem in root growth hormone

5. Plant the stem cuttings in soil

I didn’t replace the soil that was already in the planter before, but it already contained a soil mix that was supposed to be used for container gardening, which turned out to work very well for this. I simply dug a narrow hole and planted each powdered stem, compacting the soil tightly enough that they could stand upright.

propagating hydrangeas through clippings

6. Keep it watered

I put the pot directly on the concrete patio, next to my sliding glass door. It’s pretty much the same conditions as the other hydrangeas that run along the house (gets the same kind of shade and light at the same time of day as all the other hydrangeas, rain, protection from heat and wind, etc.). It’s been an extremely wet summer so far, so I actually haven’t had to worry too much about watering. The planter does an extremely good job of keeping moisture without getting soggy (part of the reason I’m using it).

7. Wait patiently, but check in

The last step can be a difficult one at first, but the waiting is probably the toughest part. When I have to wait on things like this, I tend to totally forget (thus why having a planter that did some of the work for me was ideal). After a couple of weeks, it was clear that at least two were taking root (a gentle tug showed resistance, indicating it had roots holding onto the soil). I’m now seeing the one I thought was the least promising grow new leaves, and I’ll be replanting them into fresh pots and giving them to family members very soon!

new growth on hydrangea stems

Not bad, IMO. For every new plant I manage to propagate, I save myself a good $15 apiece. Win!

Rooting Hydrangeas from a Bent-Over Branch

My dad prefers this method, so I’m going to include it here. I have a small gap between two of my largest hydrangeas, but the other ones I have along the house are more densely spaced. So, I want to close this gap by rooting a branch into the soil.

gap between hydrangeas

1. Bend a branch to touch the soil

bend a hydrangea branch to touch the soil

2. Trim off leaves that touch the ground

trim leaves off hydrangea stem that touch the ground

3. Weigh down the branch with something heavy

Stick the branch in the soil a little bit if you can, but stop if it will snap the branch. A brick, a rock, etc. works just fine.

weigh down branch to the dirt

4. Continue to water as normal, but check often

Lift up the weight occasionally to see whether the plant is rooting (give it a slight tug if you aren’t sure; if it resists, it’s got roots). If it hasn’t yet, weigh it down again.

5. Once rooted, clip the branch from the “mother” plant

The “mother” plant will still continue to supply the new branch with nutrients and water, so once it’s rooted, clip them apart so the new roots can become 100% of the source for sustaining the new plant. Wait a couple more weeks, and then you can uproot the new plant if you want (if you try to clip it and transplant it at the same time, there’s a risk the new roots won’t supply enough for the plant yet, so the multi-step process is recommended). I’m planning on keeping the plant in this spot, so I won’t do this step myself (unless both branches root, so I’ll probably give the second one away or transfer it to the front yard island area with other shrubs).

Hydrangea Water Propagation

Water propagation has been very popular online as of late, and I am kind of excited to try it out on the other plants (I’ll continue to share results from the things we propagate… just as soon as I figure out what they all are!). However, according to some of the info I’ve been reading, water propagation is not advised for hydrangeas in particular — something about creating a weaker root system, where they tend to fail once you transplant them to soil.

However, since I haven’t tried it myself yet, I’ll also mention that one reader has already commented a few posts back that she’s had no problem with it. So, if you try a soil-less method with success, please let me know!

As for the other plants, water propagation is incredibly simple:

  1. Take a small stem cutting
  2. Arrange it in a glass so the stem sits in the water, but the leaves & other parts don’t sit in the water (or they’ll rot)
  3. Use a clear glass so you can monitor the progress of the root easier
  4. Change out the water every few days
  5. Place in adequate sunlight (we’re using the bedroom windowsills that have nice, filtered light thanks to the window film)
  6. Optional: add some liquid/gel/powder rooting hormone
  7. Be patient!
light blue hydrangea

There you have it: 3 methods, but but the bottom line is that hydrangeas are incredibly easy to grow. Have you tried any of these yet? Check out the posts below for even more tips on hydrangeas!

More Hydrangea Guides

From helping them grow to changing color to making beautiful bouquets, we’ve got you covered in all things hydrangeas!

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  1. Ohh I’ve never heard of the bent branch method!! I need to clear out some more brush this year in our new yard, but hopefully next year I will be in propagation mode! Your plants are all looking so happy!

    1. I have managed to propagate my hydrangea cutting but when I take out of the container where it is living it appears to dehydrate I have managed to save it twice. Any tips on what I’am doing wrong.

      1. Lots of things could be happening, but these are merely guesses to check on: time of day you’re repotting (afternoons are super vulnerable), if the new spot has adequate drainage, if you immediately water after (replanting can quickly dehydrate a plant), if the new spot isn’t protected from wind/too much sunlight. I don’t know if you’re transferring to a new pot or in the ground from your comment. Replanting something is a little traumatic for a plant, so it needs time to recover. Sometimes plants temporarily wilt but bounce back when they acclimate. Good luck!

  2. I’ve tried the method with laying them down with a brick and letting them root. Works well!

  3. Great post — thanks for the reminder! My dad dipped cuttings into the same little jar of rooting hormone — for DECADES. As I recall, it always worked. As soon as I can get [past all my moving crap] to their garage shelves, I’ll be trying my hand at it… hoping to multiply their (huge!) Annabelle Hydrangeas.

    1. Yep. That powder gets everywhere, so I’m not going to bother putting it in another container! Good to know others have done it too!

  4. I’ve tried rooting hormone on cuttings and it seems to take a looong time to root and over half of them definitely aren’t making it. In general, what’s your success rate on number of cuttings? Curious if maybe I’m doing something wrong.

    1. Right now it’s still pretty hit or miss, so I’m still playing around. I’ve heard you can cover in plastic and create a mini greenhouse, but I haven’t tried that yet. I’m also trying to figure out if you need one of the leaf nodes to be in the soil, or if that sabotages it. I’ll add whatever my future findings are to the post as I go!

  5. I’ve used water method over several years. You mentioned placing the cutting in potting mix and clipping leaves, so I decided to try and compare. Worked great, and so easy! After planting cutting in potting mix, I placed in a 2″ high saucer and watered well. Placed in shady spot. Seems like it rooted faster than water method. I don’t have rooting compound and haven’t tried it, so that part I left out. It still worked great. My new favorite method.

    1. Thrilled to hear you had some success, Linda! I’ve definitely wondered about the water method, but I’ve been having good success with the soil version, so I’m happy with what I’ve been able to propagate this year. Getting close to the end of cutting season soon, so I’ll probably do more next year!

  6. It worked! It really worked! I’ve struggled with my hydrangeas growing and flowering for a few years now (a few reasons…. I transplanted some, some were in too-shady areas) and this year I nailed it! Growth and flowers galore. So I decided to try the water propagation method – set a cutting in a mason jar with some water on my kitchen window sill and waited. And waited some more…. And finally I know have roots sprouting!

  7. This reminded me of something to share: If you have enough sun (sadly I don’t) you can create a living edging/fence with forsythia! I only saw one of these once, but it was a sight to never forget! They created it from planted cuttings, taken from a very large mature bush early in the spring. These were spaced out so that when they got tall enough, they were bent from the tip back into the ground and anchored, until rooted at both ends. So this created a series of arcs, one after the other. I hope you can picture this from my description ? It was in full-bloom at that time, and it was breathtaking – a graceful chain of arches of brightest yellow fluffy flowers — so yummy I just wanted to take a bite! And for the rest of the summer, it would still be this amazing living leafy border. Alas I won’t get to pass by there again, but since forsythia is perennial, I do wonder how this might develop over subsequent seasons…?

    1. That sounds so beautiful! Thank you for sharing. I used to have a single forsythia growing by the side of my house, but it got so hot during the summer that once the bright flowers fell off (they unfortunately lasted less than two weeks), the shrub looked like a bundle of sticks for the rest of the year. To the point that I would think the plant died off before blooming again! I think maybe it needed a better climate than mine. But the picture you paint sounds absolutely GORGEOUS. It was my absolute favorite thing to see when they were in bloom!

  8. I have a new one. While still cold outside I pruned my hydra bush. No leaves just what I thought dead growth. I just stuck them in a pot with dirt. Still no leaves still looked the same and I decided to pull them up and throw them away. When I pulled them up they had roots. I just stuck them back in. I don’t know what they will do here on out. I’ll see.

    1. Some hydrangeas really do have zero desire to die and will grow roots under crazy conditions. They can be incredibly hardy (which is great for former brown-thumb folks like me). Enjoy your extra hydrangeas!

  9. Hi Sarah! Thanks for the articles. I really enjoy reading them. I planted my hydrangeas bare root 3 years ago. The leaves and plant in general looked very happy (except the first year when the young sprigs were all cut by some thrill-seeking heathen–suspect #1 robins), but they only just bloomed for the first time this year, which makes me super excited! I was wondering, when you propagate the hydrangeas, do they usually bloom the first year after, or do they need to adjust themselves before blooming?


    1. Your comments crack me up! Propagation is very much a wait-and-see method. Establishing a new root system and then replanting/repotting it when it’s ready can be a lot for a plant, and flowering is sort of the last thing on the to-do list when all that goes down. So, it could bloom right away if it’s healthy enough, or take a gap year :). I’ve had some that bloom quickly but many just chill for a while. If they go into a rich soil system that is ideal for them, they have a quicker time bouncing back. I’ve had some I’ve totally ignored after propagation remain in their containers the next spring and shoot out blooms. But, these are also really small stems, so it is usually a year before they form lots of new branches to bloom from.

  10. Do you have to do this in the beginning of spring or can you do it now in August and hope for the best?

    1. Hi Denise, I try propagation all year long whenever I trim off. I live in a very warm climate, so August is still a good time of year for me to have the new plants take root before winter. Spring is the best time as the plant is in a growth phase, but late summer, early fall have also been successful for me (I never expect them all to root, but some have!).

    1. You can do that with hydrangeas if the roots are well established! The best time to do it is in the fall when they are ready to go dormant. Dividing plants requires that you dig up your existing plants in order to divide them, which for many isn’t an option when they grow big and dense like mine. These methods are popular because they allow someone to propagate from clippings.

    1. It depends on a large number of factors — soil quality, fertilizer, weather, etc. For me, I get blooms the following year after they’re ready to plant in the ground (blooms for the next spring get established before the winter).

  11. I tried rooting hydrangeas with hormone powder and earth several times but no joy though as I have placed a few cuttings in water which stand in a dimly lit window and new growth is appearing at the top, I remain very hopeful. No roots to speak of at present though.

    1. New growth is good! I hope it works out for you this time! I’ve heard you have to be careful when transplanting water-rooted cuttings; I think the success rate of getting them to grow in soil is a little less successful but you need to make sure the conditions in the soil are just right! Fingers crossed you get some good growth!

  12. Thanks for the tips! Last summer I tried propagating several stems and a pot, and the all survived the winter and are coming back this spring! I’m read to transplant them into the ground, but I’m curious how many I can plant in a single hole, since they are still small. Also, since they are small, how far apart I should plant them…..any thoughts or suggestions? Thanks!!

    1. Fantastic question! I’ll be sure to add it to the post, but I’ll answer it here too: it depends on the variety that you have. Some hydrangeas can grow up to 10 feet wide, but the ones I originally bought are a compact variety which only grows about 3 to 4 feet wide. So, I planted all of mine with just a few feet in between so they all grow in densely with no space in between. The current tiny size of the new propagated plants shouldn’t be taken into consideration. You always want to plan landscaping for the eventual full size of your plants so nothing gets overcrowded or robs each other of the nutrients they need to stay healthy. I also wouldn’t plant two in a single hole; give each of them their own home (clearly you had some success — go Green Thumb! — so you can always propagate another if one doesn’t make it after transplanting). That’s so exciting that you had so much success with your first propagation experiment! By the way: I’ve successfully dug up and moved some of my hydrangeas before, either because I wanted to change the layout of my garden or because I wanted to space them differently. Give them some good watering and fertilizer if you have to move them. Hope that helps!

  13. Hi Sarah! I picked some huge hydrangea blooms in September for a vase. I left them in the vase because they were drying out beautifully. It is now October 13th and I went to toss them to make room for fall blooms only to see they rooted very nicely. What to do with them now that it is October? Transplant to a pot to overwinter or put them in the ground> I live in northern Connecticut!

    1. First: so cool that it rooted! With a colder climate, if it were me, I’d overwinter in a pot. Those roots are very young and will need help to establish themselves (I have read that footings from the water propagation method can be harder to transplant into the ground), so I would even go so far as to consider keeping them indoors for the winter in bright indirect light (or using an actual indoor growing light). Then, I’d transfer it to the ground in the spring. I hope your little hydrangea thrives!

      1. Thank you for replying so quickly! It was so serendipitous how they rooted as I was loving the dried blooms!!! I will overwinter them after I harden them with 1 tsp of soil in the water every week. Hopefully they will transition nicely!

  14. I used your in pot method of hydrangea propation and they have survived all summer and look great. I put two small pots inside a huge pretzel jar moistened and put lid on loosely. I am wondering what to do now in october in ny with them? They are sentimental and do not want to lose them.

    1. It’s possible to care for hydrangeas indoors, but they do require some attention. I haven’t really done it myself because I live in the South where it’s still warm enough to plant for a longer period, so I unfortunately don’t have a guide for that. But I do know that plenty of people have grown hydrangeas in the winter or moved their existing potted plants inside to then put them back outside in the spring. You may need to purchase a small greenhouse setup or indoor grow lights to keep them healthy. I hope they thrive!

  15. Once they the propagated hydrangea has rooted do you go ahead and plant in the ground (summertime) or wait until fall? OR should I transplant into a larger pot and wait until next spring?

    Thank you,

    1. This is such a good question that I’m going to add it to the post after this! The general rule of thumb is that cuttings are ready to be replanted when the roots are 1-2 inches in length. With water propagation, I double that, about 2-4 inches (the root systems are generally weaker). Since we’re also talking about seasons with outdoor plants, I’ve had mixed results. I’ve found that it’s easiest to pop them in the ground as long as my existing shrubs are still blooming (growing season is pretty long in Georgia but shorter in other places). In the fall, the plant sort of starts to go more into a hibernation mode of using less energy for growth, which could impact whether it takes hold. When I trim up my plants, I am able to make so many cuttings that whether or not they take root and whether or not they transfer is not really a super big risk for me (I can just plant another or try again if it starts to die). But, the rooting IS the hard part, and these plants are pretty good at thriving if given the right conditions. So I’d say spring and summertime are best. Given that the roots could take 4-6 weeks to establish from the cutting, it definitely can change seasons in that time (cutting in spring, replanting in summer, etc.).