Propagating Hydrangeas

Propagating Hydrangeas

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My back deck, overlooking our pasture and vegetable garden, is gloriously shady throughout the summer.   About the only things that we can get to grow there are coleus and hydrangeas.

I love the hydrangeas especially, because they are huge and beautiful, with deep green or variegated leaves.  Unfortunately, the lack of light means they don’t bloom, but I forgive them for that.  They die back after the first hard frost in the Fall and come back, right as rain, the next Spring.  We do have to put a bit of invisible netting around the outside of the deck, to discourage the deer, but other than that, they are completely hassle-free.  If the slugs find them, I just sprinkle their dirt with Corry’s and all is good in paradise.

Our gardens, on the other hand, are anything but hassle-free.  During the dry, hot summers, I spend the majority of my time turning on one watering zone after another.  I have to be careful to alternate every 2nd or 3rd day so that our well doesn’t dry up.  This has happened to several of our neighbors in the recent years, and it is one of my worst fears.  No watering means dry, scary conditions that make the fire danger even worse.  In addition to oaks and maples, much of our neighborhood is filled with sappy firs that fire just loves.  Ugh!

How to Propagate HydrangeasIn addition, there are about 50 pots to keep up with.  So, I admit I have a soft spot for my hydrangeas, being so accommodating.

Well, the only thing I love more than a beautiful, carefree shrub is one that’s free!   Last year, I decided to try my hand at propagating them, so I cut about half a dozen stems and stuck them in water.  They rooted beautifully and survived the winter on the windowsill.  I can’t claim a “sunny windowsill,” because this is Oregon, afterall.  We seldom have sun in the wintertime.  Sadly.

This Fall I decided to try 3 times that number.  If you’ve ever thought of propagating a favorite shrub, you should consider this.  It’s pretty darned easy.  I use the exact same method for propagating coleus’, too.  They won’t overwinter at all and I can’t bring them indoors because the poor quality of light just causes them to become pale and leggy.  So I cut off a bunch of stems, trim them and stick them in water, and replant them once the weather has warmed up in the Spring.

Back to hydrangeas:

Try and get nice, long cuttings with several rows of leaves.  I make mine at least a foot long.

Propagating HydrangeasOne by one, grab a leaf and gently yank downward, toward the floor.  The leaf should break off easily and cleanly.  Do this the entire length of the stem, leaving only the top two leaves.  If there is a bud of new growth starting to emerge between those two leaves, nip it off with your micropruners.  In order to do this, you need tiny, long, narrow blades in order to cut off the new growth, while leaving those top two leaves alone.

Propagating HydrangeasNow cut the top two leaves in half.  You want all of the plant’s energy to go into forming roots and not into growing leaves.  It may look like you’ve just butchered the whole thing beyond repair, but they’ll be ok; trust me.

Everywhere you see a node (the little bumps of new growth near the leaves you removed), is a spot for roots to form.  It’s important that all of your stems in one particular vase or jar are all the same height.  You’ll be keeping the water not only clean and changed when it gets greenish.  You’ll be keeping the water level up high enough that it covers the topmost nodes.

Propagating HydrangeasIf you have two different lengths of leaves, use jars or vases of different heights.  In a few months, you’ll notice that some nice, healthy roots have formed.  I usually wait to plant them in potting soil until it’s safe to move them to the greenhouse or outside.  If the roots start taking over the jar, you may want to divide the cuttings into several jars, just so the roots don’t all get entangled with each other.  That’s pretty much it.  This planter on my front porch was from last summer, so you can see how much growth you can expect by next summer’s end.

Propagating HydrangeasI have recommended my micropruners in an earlier post, but I think it’s worth repeating:  Although you possible could use tiny craft scissors for this project, the truth is, those are just not meant to deal with fibrous plant material.  Another thing I love about these is the spring loaded blades that automatically re-open after you’ve made your cut.  There’s also a little lock that keeps them safe and closed when you’re done with them.  Check the out on Amazon and I’m pretty sure you’ll be glad you did:



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