Grow Hydrangeas from Stem Cuttings in 5 Simple Steps

Free plants, anyone?

Hydrangea flower
Photo: Getty Images

Everyone loves hydrangeas—especially Southerners. They're fluffy and vibrant, and for many, a symbol of nostalgia. The only downside? Their premium blooms can come at a premium price when bought at plant nurseries, especially if you want them to be foundational to your landscape (alongside other icons, of course). This downside comes with an easy solution: propagation. Instead of purchasing new shrubs, grow them with cuttings! It only takes five simple steps.

How to Propagate Hydrangeas from Clippings

1. Time it Perfectly

The best time of year to take cuttings is in the spring, when the plant is at its peak growth rate and leafing out. This allows the rooted cutting a full growing season to develop before becoming dormant in the winter. It's also important to take cuttings in the early morning, when the weather is cool and plants are most hydrated, to avoid any heat stress.

2. Choose the Stem

Look for a healthy stem from the current year's growth that hasn't formed any flower buds. Your cutting should be 6-8 inches long with a few sets of leaf nodes on them, snipped right below the last one. This is critical to remember, as the roots will form from the bottom nodes.

3. Get the Cutting Ready

First, remove all the leaves except for the top set. These two should be cut crosswise, which will help retain moisture and reduce stress on the cutting. After, wet the cutting and dip the end of it into a rooting hormone, which encourages strong, uniform root development. (While not technically necessary, it does improve your success rate and is recommended.)

4. Prepare the Pot

Embed the cutting into damp potting soil without disturbing the rooting powder, covering it all the way up to the base of the leaves. After packing the soil around the cutting, make a mini greenhouse to conserve humidity by covering the pot with a plastic bag, being careful the bag doesn't touch the leaves.

5. Help it Grow

Your pot should be placed out of direct sunlight as the cutting is at its most vulnerable to baking and rotting. Make sure the soil is continuously damp, and mist the cutting regularly to minimize dehydration and maximize humidity. While rooting time can be different depending on things like temperature, humidity, and plant health, the cutting should be rooted within 2-4 weeks. This can be tested by gently pulling on it. If you feel a slight resistance, you've successfully propagated and can now transplant the cutting to a larger pot or your garden.

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