How to Start Hydrangeas from Cuttings
Looking for a way to grow your garden without a lot of money? By sharing plants among friends or increasing the ones you already have, you can fill your landscape and save hundreds of dollars doing it. For instance, a three gallon hydrangea may cost twenty or thirty dollars but you can start your own from cuttings off a friend’s plant for almost nothing. And it’s easy…here’s how to do it.
To start hydrangeas from cuttings, prepare a starting mix of equal parts milled peat moss and coarse vermiculite. Make sure the ingredients are evenly mixed and moist throughout. This mix will retain enough moisture to keep the cuttings from drying out initially, and it will allow the young roots to expand through the mix as they grow. For hydrangeas, I like to use half-gallon or larger containers which will be large enough to grow the plants until they are ready to go into the garden. Also, you may wish to purchase a small package of rooting hormone. This is not absolutely necessary for hydrangeas, but a little goes a very long way and it will speed up the rate at which the cuttings will generate baby roots. No fertilizer is needed during the cutting/rooting process. Finally, you will need a pair of sharp, clean pruners.
Taking the Cuttings
The best branches to work with are relatively thick (one and a half times the thickness of a pencil), a little green (but not brand new shoots), with no flower buds. Use a pencil to make a three-inch-deep hole in the soil mix for each cutting. Cut the top six inches of the branch, making the cut two inches or so below the leaf node (this is the junction where leaf sprouts or sprouted from the branch). Remove all except the top two leaves. Cut the top two leaves in half to reduce the loss of water through transpiration. Dip the base of the cutting into the rooting hormone (if you are using it) then put the cutting into the pre-made hole. For a half gallon container, one cutting per pot should be sufficient. For a larger (three or five gallon) container, you may wish to use up to five cuttings, removing the two weakest cuttings as the others develop.
Let the cuttings grow undisturbed, in a shaded area, for about three weeks. Keep the soil mix moist but not wet. After this time, gently pull the cuttings to check for resistance…this indicates that roots have formed. Soon after rooting, new leaf buds will begin to form, indicating that normal plant maintenance can begin. Once new leaf growth has begun, a weekly application of half-strength liquid fish emulsion fertilizer will help the plants grow strong and healthy, otherwise, keep them watered as needed.
When to Plant
A rooted hydrangea should be babied for several weeks prior to planting in the landscape. Removing the plant from its container can damage young roots, so patience is advisable. Allow the top-growth to become one to one-and-a-half times the size of the container it’s planted in before planting out. It is also good to gradually get the plant accustomed to increased sunlight if it will be planted in a sunnier spot than where it was rooted. As it grows, gradually move it from shade to dappled sun than to morning sun, in one or two-week increments.