Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Propagating hydrangea: an experiment

For a while now, I've wanted to change the planting bed along the front of our house. At present, there are two small camellias and two old rose bushes. These plants have seen better days. I want to dig them out, fix the soil, and plant something new along the wall.

Five of eight new hydrangeas. I sure hope they survive.

I thought that hydrangeas would be nice. We have one on the north side of the house that does pretty well and I figure that putting a row of them along the front (which faces east) would be good. Instead of going to a nursery to buy plants, I wondered if I could make my own by propagating from the plant we have. Sounds like a job for the internet!

My research revealed that it is, indeed, possible to propagate hydrangeas from cuttings. I followed the instructions to cut short stems from new growth, to trim the leaves back a bit, and to plant the cuttings in a sterile medium (I used sterile potting soil). I didn't have any growth hormone to dip the stems in, so I skipped that step. Then the seed-pots with the cuttings went into a mini-greenhouse (actually a plastic box with a lid that some produce came in) and I set it in a well-lit location (but not in direct sunlight). I did this about three months ago and I watered the pots maybe twice since then.

You can see all eight plants here; three are on the floor to the right.

Last week I checked the cuttings by gently tugging on one. The internet said that, if roots had grown, the cutting would resist being pulled out of the soil. Success! So I gathered up some larger pots and transplanted each cutting into new soil. There were lots of roots visible on each cutting. So now they have room to grow more roots. I can even see new leaves budding out in the center of each cutting. If I'm lucky, I'll have eight new healthy hydrangeas to plant outdoors next spring.


  1. Nice one, Walt...
    I love propagating plants... there is a great reward, mentally, from thinking "I grew these!"
    I am trying to over-winter some of our more tender plants this way... some have certainly rooted...
    others look like they have [viz: THEY ARE STILL GREEN!!]...
    but you never really know until you get to the potting on stage and can see those little, white roots.

  2. Congratulations! I never have the patience for this kind of thing. I admire people who do.

  3. Well done! I rarely have success with this sort of thing and have pretty much given up.

  4. Good for you! Those hydrangeas look great. Don't give up on the camellias if they have some life in them - dig a big hole and fill it with compost for acid-loving plants, then replant them in there. They might love you for it, but if they don't survive, maybe get a couple of blueberry bushes to replace them. P.

  5. I love hortensia. Bravo on your success!

  6. Congratulations Walt! Hydrangea, as well as camellias (I second Pauline's comment on saving them), and rhododendrons are some of my favorites.

  7. They're alive I tell you ! They're alive ! Brouhahaha (and you didn't even need lightning).

  8. i have rooted several hydrangeas a few seasons back & it does take a while to actually bloom, but they r now regular bushes & blooming nicely

  9. cactus and aloe too! you have a green thumb; mine are brown.

  10. Sensible of you to have several going, as some will thrive and some will not.
    I miss gardening; I am always glad to see you and others doing some; it's like virtual gardening for me.

  11. tim, it's always a gamble, but it's nice when it works out.

    ellen, it's just proof that I have a lot of time on my hands... ;)

    susan, well, we'll see if they actually grow into large plants. Baby steps...

    pauline, yes, that's a good idea. The camellias are ok, they're just not happy where they are.

    judy, doesn't the color depend on the soil acidity? These are normally pink, but I think they were blue when we first moved here.

    evelyn, let's hope it's not premature!

    christine, we had a beautiful camellia in our yard in SF. It was truly amazing, and it just grew. I didn't do anything except prune it now and then.

    stuart, maybe some lightning would be good!

    melinda, cool. I hope mine make it!

    anne marie, Ken is the master of the house plants. He pots, repots, does cuttings and all. Those are all plants he's nursed along from cuttings.

    michael, true, I only need four or maybe six, but I thought I'd better make more just in case. Don't you have some plants chez vous? Even succulent gardening can be fun (when it's not 110º outside).


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