Hydrangea Propagation (Hydrangea macrophylla)

Every gardener likes a hydrangea in the garden. Likewise every gardener likes having more hydrangeas in the garden! So why not propagate a few more hydrangeas for your garden? Of course you have to have a suitable spot for one but if you have a garden location with dappled morning sun and afternoon shade you have the perfect home to plant a hydrangea. But this post isn’t about planting a hydrangea, it’s about making more hydrangeas through cuttings – plant propagation! (AKA making FREE plants) Hydrangeas are one of the easiest shrubs you can propagate.

Thoughts before Taking Cuttings of Your Hydrangeas

Can you root hydrangeas in water? It is possible to root hydrangeas through water but I don’t recommend using the water method for hydrangeas. A lot of people pick the water method because it seems easy but it isn’t necessarily the best practice. I like using a propagation medium like sand or sand/peat for most of my cuttings. You can even root hydrangeas in clean potting soil. The reason for that is because the rooting medium shields the rooting area of the cutting from light. It creates the same conditions where the roots would normally form and we want to recreate those conditions as best as possible.

Whether you choose the water method or the soil medium method hydrangea can be rooted fairly easily.

hydrangea cutting
Hydrangea macrophylla cutting for propagating.

How to Propagate a Hydrangea from Cuttings

Before you Start – Propagation Tip

Whenever you try to root cuttings make sure that your cutting tools are clean. You don’t want to transfer diseases from another plant to your new hydrangea

Hydrangea cutting made in sand medium.
  • First I take a softwood cutting with a couple nodes on it. I don’t worry so much about the length of the cutting but if you keep at least two nodes you can be sure it will be long enough. I try to avoid flowering cuttings so I don’t cut off any potential blooms. Auxins (growth hormones) are in higher concentrations at the nodes so these areas should root faster but if you take less than two nodes you still have a very good chance of rooting the hydrangea.
  • Then I remove all but two leaves. Some people leave 4 leaves but trim back the leaves to avoid excessive moisture loss.
  • Then I dab a little rooting hormone over the cut ends and a little bit of the stem. Hydrangeas don’t need the rooting hormone but it does speed up the process a little.
  • After that I place it in a moist rooting medium (i.e. sand) and continue to keep it moist. In about 10 days it will begin rooting. It may help to add a plastic bag “tented” over the pot. This will keep the humidity level high enough to minimize water loss. Make sure you release the humidity every now and then to avoid potential fungal issues.

hydrangea rooting
Hydrangea rooting along the stem.

Propagating a hydrangea is really a simple process. Plan on at least 2 weeks for roots to form on your hydrangea cuttings but it could take up to 4 and you may want to leave them in their rooting medium for 6 weeks to make sure there are adequate roots.

Once you have a good root system pot it up and pinch back the stem tips every 6 weeks or so if you have enough growth. This encourages the hydrangea to branch out at the leaf nodes. Also fertilize with a good hydrangea fertilizer to get as much growth as possible before fall.

I could have left the cuttings to grow a few more roots before transplanting them but they should do fine with a little care.  The amount of nodes isn’t a hard and fast rule but the more nodes you have closer together the more natural growth hormones reside in that part of the stem, which – in theory – means faster rooting.

Lacecap hydrangea flower

I only take a couple stem tip cuttings at a time but if you are wanting a bunch of hydrangeas propagated you can cut one branch then divide it into multiple cuttings. Rooting forms along the stem and not just at the nodes (as you can see in the picture) so internodal cuttings should work out fine.

Always keep in mind that you want to use a clean medium for your cuttings, keep sterile equipment for making the cuts, and take cuttings from disease free plants. If any one of those factors isn’t present problems with rooting may occur.

This method works great for both lacecap and mophead hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla and Hydrangea serrata) but other types of hydrangeas, like oak leaf (Hydrangea quercifolia) may need a slightly different treatment. I’ve found that oak leaf hydrangea is a little tricky sometimes to get rooted but it definitely can be done!

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6 thoughts on “Hydrangea Propagation (Hydrangea macrophylla)”

  1. I have buds on the mophead that I rooted year before last, I did the water method though. I need to get some more cuttings this year. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Being a haphazard gardener, I just stick a cutting in the ground in a damp place. Once I broke a limb, so I just stuck it in a nearby container of potting soil. It bloomed pink, opposite the original plant.

    Oakleafs start throwing suckers after a few years and you'll have more plants than you have room.

  3. I just lay a stem over and top it with a heavy brick. In a few weeks I have new plant to cut away and re-plant elsewhere.

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