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 container mix on the deck and had just finished cutting back a bunch of new growth on my shrubs (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

Items You’ll Need:

1. When should you take cuttings?

Some experts seem to recommend doing cuttings in 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 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.

propagating hydrangea cutting

It’s also recommended to make cuttings when the sun 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. That’s where you can see leaves branching off of the main stem. You’ll notice little nubs where the leaf meets the stem.

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.

cut stem of hydrangea

3. Trim down the leaves

On each stem, I nipped off most of the 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

The 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 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 cutting in soil

I didn’t replace the soil that was already in the planter before, but it already contained a 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 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 it this way with success, please let me know!

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

  1. Take a small plant 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

Similar Posts

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25 Comments

  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?

    Thanks!

    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.