How to Propagate Hydrangeas

Use cuttings or an easy ground layering method to grow more gorgeous shrubs for your garden.

February 27, 2020
Hydrangea macrophylla-Rhapsody Blue

'Let's Dance Rhapsody Blue'

The florets of this new hydrangea have a distinctive geometric shape, and are closely packed into full, richly colored mophead flowers held up on sturdy stems. The tidy habit and good wilt-resistance add to its appeal. The real show, however, may be its easy shift from pink to rich amethyst blue. This beauty will reach 2-3 feet in height and is hardy to zone 5.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Proven Winners

Image courtesy of Proven Winners

How do you progagate hydrangeas? Follow the easy step-by-step instructions with photos below to progagate hydrangeas by rooting a cutting or ground layering.

Propagate Hydrangeas by Rooting a Cutting

Step 1: To root a cutting from an existing plant, start by taking 6-inch cuttings from soft hydrangea stems during summer. Soft stems are green and fleshy, as opposed to the hard, woody ones near the base of the plant. Step 2: Keep a couple of leaves near the top of each cutting and remove the rest. Step 3: If the two remaining leaves on the stem are large, cut them in half crosswise. This helps prevent loss of moisture.

Step 4: Dip or dust the cutting with rooting hormone for best results. Some gardeners skip this step, although roots may take longer to form. Step 5: Fill some small pots that have drainage holes with damp vermiculite, coarse sand or another sterile growing medium. Use your finger to poke a hole in the medium. (This helps prevent dislodging the rooting hormone, which can happen if you stick the cutting directly in the medium.) Put the cuttings in the holes and gently fill in around them. Water the pots, then cover with plastic bag or plastic wrap, using small sticks or stakes to keep the plastic off the leaves.

Step 6: Put the pots in a shady spot. Check the cuttings often and mist as needed — you want the cuttings to stay moist, not soggy. Roots should form in 1 to 4 weeks. To test, gently tug on the cuttings. If you feel some resistance, they’re rooting. Move them up to larger pots and apply a slow-release fertilizer. Your cuttings can be planted in the ground next spring. Keep them in a greenhouse, if you have one, when the temperatures drop. If you don’t have a greenhouse, bury the pots up to their rims in the ground, and cover them with lightweight mulch for the winter.

Propagating Hydrangeas

Rooting a Cutting: Step 6

Put the pots in a shady spot. Check the cuttings often and mist as needed—you want the cuttings to stay moist, not soggy. Roots should form in 1 to 4 weeks. To test, gently tug on the cuttings. If you feel some resistance, they’re rooting. Move them up to larger pots and apply a slow-release fertilizer. Your cuttings can be planted in the ground next spring. Keep them in a greenhouse, if you have one, when the temperatures drop. If you don’t have a greenhouse, bury the pots up to their rims in the ground, and cover them with lightweight mulch for the winter.

Photo by: Photo by Lynn Coulter

Photo by Lynn Coulter

Propagate Hydrangeas by Layering

Sometimes hydrangeas layer themselves. This can happen when a soft stem growing near the ground gets buried under fallen leaves or dirt washed from another part of the yard. Eventually, the stem forms roots and can be separated from the mother plant. Duplicating this process is easy.

Step 1: Begin by watering your hydrangea the night before so it's well hydrated. The next morning, find a soft, flexible stem growing close to the ground that's about a foot long — make sure it will actually touch the ground. Remove about 6 inches of leaves on the part of the stem that touched the ground, preserving the ones at the end of the stem. Step 2: Use a sharp knife or the blade of your pruners to scrape an area of 2-3 inches long on the underside of the soft stem. This is where the new roots will form. Step 3: Dip your finger into the rooting hormone and spread it over the scraped area.

Step 4: Make a short trench about 2 inches deep and bury the leafless part of the stem you coated with rooting hormone. Step 5: Use a rock or brick to help keep the leafless part of the stem under the soil. Water the ground and keep it moist, but not soggy. Step 6: If you can gently tug on the buried stem and feel resistance, roots have probably formed. If you’re layering in the spring, prune off the rooted stem and replant it by August. If you’re layering in the summer, wait to prune and replant until next spring.

Next Up

How to Plant, Grow and Care for Hydrangeas

No garden’s complete without this old-fashioned favorite, and new varieties make hydrangeas easier than ever to grow.

How to Prune Hydrangeas

Find out the best time to make the cut.

Propagate Roses Quickly

Follow these easy step-by-step instructions on taking care of roses.

Witch Hazel

With its fragrant and colorful blossoms (ranging from red to yellow), witch hazel is quickly gaining popularity in winter landscapes all across North America.

When is The Best Time to Plant Hydrangeas?

Bring home the beauty of hydrangeas by adding a bush—or three!—to your yard.

Silver Bush Lupine

Master gardener Maureen Gilmer gives a primer on growing bush lupine.

Growing Pussy Willows

Learn how to grow and prune these unique shrubs and their fuzzy catkins that signal spring.

'Limelight' Hydrangea Planting and Growing Tips

Bask in the late-summer limelight with these gorgeous blooms.

How to Grow Hydrangeas in Pots

Learn how to grow these ever-popular flowering shrubs in containers for mobile garden color.

How to Care for Butterfly Bush

The colorful flowering butterfly bush is easy to care for and a favorite of gardeners and butterflies alike.

Go Shopping

Spruce up your outdoor space with products handpicked by HGTV editors.

What's New in Outdoors

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.