Gosh, I haven’t posted in a long, long time. I’ve been spending a lot of time with my genealogy software, updating family lines and fixing sources. I’m paying the price now for being lazy in my inputting in the past. And that’s way too boring to talk about on the blog.
So, what have I been up to otherwise? I decided to try to grow hydrangeas from cuttings. I’ve been researching the how-to of this online, finding that most articles and videos follow the same process but there isn’t just one I can point to that answered all my questions. So the procedure I followed is kind of a mashup of several of them.
Most of the how-tos I found advocate using a plastic bag to enclose your cuttings once planted, but they never say what kind of bag. Ziploc? grocery? produce? dry cleaners? The point is to create a greenhouse-like environment and I just couldn’t envision how any plastic bag I could come up with would be successful. Plus, I have a very curious cat. So when I found a video on the This Old House website that showed using a plastic container instead, I knew that would be my solution.
You can see in the photo above that I have two plastic containers. The smaller one is the first one I bought, thinking it would be deep enough for cuttings planted in a layer of potting soil. But once I actually cut the stems, I found that it wasn’t deep enough. Plus, I had saved a plastic multi-pot thingy from some plants I bought from the local nursery last year for this purpose and it was too big for the box. So I bought the other one which seemed too big but actually worked out quite well.
You’ll need some soil. I found many different ideas about what to use so I bought some organic potting soil. I think any basic soil would work or you could make your own with peat moss and perlite.
You’ll need rooting hormone powder, a pencil and pruning shears.
You’ll need a mister.
And don’t forget labeling sticks.
Ok, let’s go take some cuttings.
Select branches that didn’t have a flower this year. Not a problem at my house because none of my hydrangeas bloomed.
You’ll want a cutting that has a pair of leaves at the top. I don’t know how important it is, if at all, if they’re mature leaves because you’ll be cutting them in half anyway, but that’s what I looked for. Then count down two more leaf pairs and cut just above the leaf pair after that.
You don’t want to leave a stump on your stem. So here’s one cutting fresh off the shrub. Note that the topmost leaf pair is probably big enough that that I could have made the cutting shorter by one leaf node (in hind-sight).
In one of the how-to videos I found the lady just stripped off the lower leaves by hand but all the rest showed people using pruning shears or scissors. The leaf nodes are where the new roots are going to sprout from, hopefully. I didn’t cut the leaves off flush with the stem, I aimed for about a quarter inch from the stem. I don’t know how important this is.
You’re going to want to make a horizontal cut of the topmost leaves. This just leaves more room in your container. You don’t need the whole leaf. You can see that some of my cuttings are longer than others.
Next step not shown, is to fill your pots with the soil and poke a hole for the cutting with the pencil.
Now, dip your cutting in water
and then in the rooting powder. Shake off the excess. (Every how-to I found said not to dip directly into the powder container as it could spread disease. With the exception of one video where the lady just defied current wisdom and did it anyway. Or maybe she didn’t know any better. To be on the safe side, put some in a separate container where it won’t blow away if you’re doing this outside and discard the leftover powder, don’t put it back in the original container.)
Poke the cutting into the hole you made with the pencil and tamp down the soil around it.
Label the cuttings with the variety if you know it or at least the color of the flowers, if you know that. You could also put the date you planted if you think that’s necessary. I just marked the date on my calendar.
Here are my cuttings in the bottom of the container. Not shown here, I went to a friend’s house later in the day and took some cuttings from her plants (hey, I was on a roll) but I had to buy little plastic pots for those. They fit perfectly in this container with the others.
Before you put the top on, mist the soil generously around each cutting. Here is the finished greenhouse in my sun room. It’s got great light and the cat can’t get into it. My plan was to mist the cuttings every day, but after a few days there was still condensation on the container, so I decided I’d wait and only mist once a week, unless it dried out sooner.
In 6 weeks I’ll test for roots by gently tugging on the cutting. If there’s resistance, there are roots and I’ll cheer for success! I don’t expect every one of them to make it, which is why I took so many cuttings. Increases my odds.
After that, I’ll repot them in a larger container and move them outside. I have to come up with a strategy for that step because we have squirrels that would delight in digging them all up. I’m thinking I’ll either buy a cold frame or get my husband to make one for me. That should protect the baby hydrangeas and they may be big enough by next spring to plant in the ground.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I still have that smaller plastic container and I may try looting my friend’s plants again (she has different varieties than I have) for shorter cuttings that only have one leaf node which would fit in the box better and I’ll see if the cuttings have to have two leaf nodes in the dirt to be successful or if one will suffice.
Watch this space for periodic updates!