Horticulture Magazine

How To Take Hydrangea Cuttings

a hydrangea cutting growing from a terracotta pot

Hydrangeas are popular garden plants, and the good news is that it is relatively easy and straightforward to make new plants from cuttings.

Hydrangeas can work well in many gardens. They are hardy and versatile shrubs that can look good and perform well in many different settings.

Taking cuttings from your existing hydrangea can be a great idea. And you might even be able to arrange to take cuttings from a hydrangea in someone else’s garden that you admire.

Why Take Hydrangea Cuttings?

woman cutting a bouquet of white hydrangea flowers from a live plant
Taking cuttings

Taking hydrangea cuttings is a great way to make new plants. And there are a number of reasons why you might wish to do so. Taking your own cuttings from a hydrangea in your garden (or someone else’s garden) that you like can allow you to create additional shrubs to fill garden beds or borders.

One of the benefits of taking your own cuttings rather than buying new plants is, of course, that it will save you money. But it is also worthwhile remembering that it can also be a far more eco-friendly choice. When you take your own cuttings from existing plants, you will not need to buy new plants in harmful peat based compost or in plastic pots. So it is a win-win for you, and the environment.

You might also wish to take hydrangea cuttings to give away as gifts, or even to sell. You don’t necessarily just have to propagate plants for your own garden. So that is something else to consider.

a large Panicled Hydrangea Shrub in summer with hills in the background
Mature plants can grow to quite some size!

When to Take Hydrangea Cuttings

It is possible to propagate hydrangeas by means of softwood cuttings, taken in around June, or semi-ripe cuttings taken in mid-late summer. Both of these strategies can yield excellent results. You can also take hardwood cuttings from hydrangea in the winter months, though softwood and semi-ripe cuttings generally have the best chance of rooting successfully.

Step By Step Instructions

Propagating Hydrangea cuttings in a white pot
Propagating Hydrangea cuttings

So, let’s look in a little more detail at exactly how to take hydrangea cuttings at different times of the year:

Taking Softwood Cuttings

  • Take a pair of clean, sharp secateurs.
  • Prepare a container with a suitable potting mix, as softwood cuttings must be potted up as quickly as possible to avoid wilting or moisture loss. Make sure that you use a free-draining potting mix, such as 50% peat-free potting compost and 50% sharp sand.
  • Collect a young, non-flowering shoot of around 10cm in length, cutting off the material just below a node on the existing hydrangea shrub. (It is best to collect this material early in the day when it contains plenty of water.)
  • Remove the lower leaves from the cutting, leaving just a couple, and cut the remaining leaves in half to reduce moisture loss if they are large.
  • While softwood cuttings may root successfully without this step, you will usually obtain the best results if you dip the bottom of the cutting into a rooting hormone. You can make your own rooting compound using willow water.
  • Place the cuttings you have taken into the potting mix, inserting them around the edge of the pot or container you have prepared.
  • Cover the container with your cuttings with a cloche or plastic bag to retain moisture, or place them in a greenhouse or polytunnel out of direct sun and keep them relatively cool and moist until they root successfully.
  • The cuttings should have rooted successfully within around a month. At this point they can be potted on into their own individual containers and placed out into the garden towards the end of the summer months.

Taking Semi-Ripe Cuttings

The process for semi-ripe cuttings is the same as the above. Cuttings are just taken a little later in the year, in mid or late summer. These should also root relatively successfully and rooting is generally quick for cuttings that are taken during the summer months. Semi-ripe cuttings are a little sturdier, and less prone to wilting than softwood hydrangea cuttings.

The only difference with semi-ripe cuttings is that once rooted, these should generally be overwintered in pots on an unheated greenhouse, cold frame or polytunnel before being planted out in late spring the following year.

You can also try placing semi-ripe cuttings from hydrangea directly in the soil. But these will not usually be rooted completely until late spring next year.

Taking Hardwood Cuttings

taking hardwood hydrangea cuttings using secateurs
Hardwood Hydrangea cutting

Hardwood cuttings are not the easiest way to propagate hydrangeas. But since these are taken during the dormant period when there is less to do in the garden, you may find it easier to find the time for this job later in the year.

  • As above, choose a sharp, clean pair of secateurs for the job. Prepare somewhere to place the hardwood cuttings that you take. With hardwood cuttings, you can prepare a site in the soil outside in well-drained, fertile soil with plenty of organic matter. However, with just a few cuttings, you can also place these in pots as above.
  • Choose a vigorous and healthy shoot of this year’s growth from your hydrangea shrub. Remove the soft growth at the tip.
  • Cut the material into sections around 15 to 30cm long. Cut with a slope across the top to shed water, just above a bud. And cut flat across the base just below a bud.
  • Dip the end in rooting hormone, which also contains a fungicide to protect against rotting. Cinnamon is one DIY fungicide option to consider.
  • Take the cuttings and place them in the soil of the area you have prepared. Two-thirds of the cutting should be below the soil surface. There should be at least 10-15cm between each hardwood cutting if they are in the ground.
  • The cuttings should remain in place in the soil or in their pots to form roots until the following autumn, and care should be taken not to allow them to dry out through the summer months.

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