Ask Elaine: Propagating Hydrangeas and Other Woody Plants

I have a lovely lacecap hydrangea that I would like to propagate. Do you have any suggestions?

Thank you,

Dear Lacey,

[su_row][su_column size=”1/2″]Plant propagation, or reproduction, is a pleasurable and low-cost way to get more plants.

Plants can reproduce sexually (from male and female plant parts that produce a seed) and amazingly, vegetatively or asexually from little bits of themselves. Some asexual plant propagation methods include divisions, cuttings and layering. For broadleaved evergreens and shrubs like hydrangea, barberry, cotoneaster, Scotch broom, daphne, forsythia, mock orange, firethorn, lilac, viburnum and weigelia, it is best to make “semiripe” cuttings from the current year’s growth taken in summer to autumn. Other types of cuttings are “hardwood” (for some deciduous trees and shrubs, narrow leaved evergreens and roses, taken in late winter) and “softwood” (for some deciduous shrubs, houseplants and herbaceous perennials taken from new spring growth).[/su_column][su_column size=”1/2″]

For your lovely lace cap hydrangea, cut a few ends of nonflowering shoots about six inches long above a leaf node. Strip off the leaves from the bottom half, and make a one-inch scrape along the stem near the base of the cutting with your fingernail. Remove the soft tip, just above a leaf node. Dip the bottom 1/3 of the cutting in rooting hormone and tap off the excess. Have a flower pot ready with a sterile soil-less mix or make you own mix of 50:50 peat moss and sand and/or vermiculite and/or perlite. Make a hole in the mix with a pencil. Insert the cuttings. A six-inch pot can hold three cuttings. Water well and allow to drain.  Put sticks or a bent coat hanger in the pot and slip a plastic bag over the pot. The stick/coat hanger keeps the plastic off the plant. Put the “propagation unit” in a window with light but NOT direct sunlight.  Check for soil dryness weekly. Harden off in autumn (let the plant get used to cold temperatures) and overwinter in a cold frame. Allow to grow in the pot spring and summer.  Plant out the following autumn.


—Elaine Fogerty,
Executive Director[/su_column][/su_row]

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