How to propagate hydrangea shrubs through layering

Rooted stem of hydrangea shrub.
It is amazingly easy to propagate hydrangea using the “layering” method. Through layering, a stem of new growth of the hydrangea shrub is gently pulled down to the ground where it will root. Sure, there are many steps listed below under "The layering process" and you may question me using the word easy to describe the process. However, you can take an endless number of new starts from one hydrangea shrub, and all are free! Imagine creating a hyndrangea hedge or giving the shrubs to friends.


Gather rooting hormone powder, sterilized knife or hand pruners and a weight to hold the stem to the ground. Sterilize the knife or hand pruners with a 50/50 mixture of bleach and water, and wipe dry. For the weight, a rock or brick will do. I use garden hose guides.

The layering process
Start the layering process in the morning when the hydrangea stem holds the most moisture. Select a flexible low stem at least 1 foot long. A flexible stem indicates new growth and the ability to withstand bending. Pull the stem down to see where the stem will touch the ground closest to the base of the shrub. Note the location where the stem touches the ground and then release the stem.

Make a shallow dip in the soil at the location where the stem touched the soil. Use a hand trowel (or your hand) to scrap away the soil to about 2 inches deep and 6 inches wide.

Remove leaves from about a 6-inch length on the stem where it touched the soil. Do not remove leaves closer to the shrub or on the opposite end of the stem. Those provide indication that the stem is still healthy.
Use a sharp knife or the blade of hand pruners to roughen the underside of the stem at a leaf node where it will touch the soil. The roughened area, about 1 inch long, will expose the white-green center of the stem (shown above). Roots will sprout from this location. Dip one finger into rooting hormone and wipe the powder onto the exposed area of the stem.

Bend the stem down into the shallow dip and cover the stem with about 1 inch of soil. Only cover the area of the stem over the dip created in the soil. The end of the stem, with leaves still attached, is exposed.

Weigh down the stem by placing a rock or brick over the buried portion of the stem. I use a water hose guide to hold the stem in the soil. Water the area to moisten the soil. Keep the soil moist, which may mean watering every one to two days if there is no rainfall.

Harvesting the rooted hydrangea stem

It takes about three months for the buried stem to root. If layering the hydrangea stem in the spring (March or April), harvest the stem before August. If layering the hydrangea stem in the summer, harvest the stem the following spring when new growth appears on the end of the layered stem.

Push a hand trowel beneath the rooted portion of the hydrangea stem. Start the spade 3 to 4 inches from the stem and push down and below the stem about 6 inches. The soil is unlikely to cling to the roots.

Use the hand pruners to snip the stem from the shrub. Make the cut about 3 inches away from the rooting section of the stem. Plant the hydrangea in a pot or the ground
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