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How to Take Cuttings of Hydrangeas

Copyright 2011 Joan Harrison

Taking a cutting of a plant is an easy way to create a new plant that is a clone of the original, which means the baby plant will have essentially the same characteristics as the parent plant. If you have a favorite hydrangea variety you can take a cutting of it and within three years it will grow to be a substantial addition to your garden. If you take multiple cuttings at the same time you will have plants to swap with gardening friends. It's easy to take cuttings of hydrangeas. A bonus of learning this technique is that it can be applied to many other plants as well. The best time of year to take hydrangea cuttings is in the spring when growth is vigorous, but cuttings like these can be taken at any time during the growing season.

Materials needed:

Hand pruners

 4" plastic pot

 Potting soil

 Dibber or pencil with eraser


 Rooting hormone (optional)

 Plant labels

 Permanent marker

Fill a 4" plastic pot about ¾ full with a light, good quality potting soil. Do not use garden soil as it is usually too dense for the purpose. Water and drain before inserting cuttings.

Take cuttings from the parent plant. Look for plant tips without flowers. These can be found from the top or the sides of the plant. Fresh new growth is preferable to old growth. Six inches is a good length to work with. It's best to work during a cool part of the day and to take no more than 6 cuttings at a time as they lose moisture quickly.

Copyright 2011 Joan Harrison

Pinch out any growth between the top two leaves; this is where a flower bud would form. You want the energy to go to the roots and not to flower production.

Keep the top two leaves on the cutting and strip off all the other leaves. Most will snap off easily. With scissors cut the top two leaves in half. The reason for this is to reduce the cutting's need for water. With hand pruner, make an angle cut below the bottom node. (Nodes are the swellings where leaves emerge.)

Dip the end in rooting hormone if you have it. Rooting hormone will encourage faster rooting and more roots, but you can create new plants without it; it will just take longer. Tap off any excess rooting hormone; too much can be toxic. Aim for just a light dusting of rooting hormone.

Rooting hormone
Copyright 2011 Joan Harrison

Use a dibber or the eraser end of a pencil to make a hole in the soil, taking care not to go to the very bottom of the pot. You want the bottom of the cutting in soil, not resting against the pot. Insert cutting in hole and slightly firm the soil around it.

Several cuttings can fit into one 4" pot. Once all cuttings have been inserted, add more soil, firm it around the cuttings, water again and drain once more.

Label cuttings using labels and permanent marker.

Copyright 2011 Joan Harrison

Put pot(s) of labeled cuttings in a protected area in the shade. Protected just means in a place where they won't get knocked over by children, pets or wind. Keep soil lightly moist. Good roots can be established in just a few weeks. You should eventually transfer each cutting to its own pot with fresh potting soil. Let it grow in the pot for at least one season before planting it in the garden.

Copyright 2011 Joan Harrison

The photo above shows a new cutting (right) and one taken the previous year (left). The difference in size is obvious. Baby hydrangeas grow substantially every year and make a significant presence in the garden in just a few years.

NOTE: You should avoid dipping cuttings in large containers of rooting hormone, to prevent contamination should the cutting be diseased. Transfer a small amount of rooting hormone to a small shallow container, like a jar cover, and dispose of it after use. An old contact lens case is ideal as it can be closed quickly if conditions become windy suddenly.

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Copyright 2011 Joan Harrison