Dividing Hydrangeas, Since One is Never Enough

Talk to a gardener and most will tell you about the one plant that is a must in their garden. My love affair with plants began with hydrangeas. I know I am not the only one, whether it is the big blousy blooms of an Annabelle, the forever changing colors of a panicle or the fall leaves of an oakleaf, there really is a hydrangea for everyone.

If you are like me, a garden can never have enough of them, but alas they can get quite expensive and I have occasionally purchased a rare variety that I can never seem to get my hands on again (I’m looking at you Hayes Starburst!). But the good new is, hydrangeas are incredibly easy to divide and propagate. Secondly, they are fast growers so you can enjoy the “blooms of your labor” come the next season. I’ll walk you through two easy methods that will have you walking through a garden full of hydrangeas in no time.

My favorite method, with the biggest results, is dividing.

We hear about dividing hostas and hellebores, among other plants but rarely do we hear about dividing hydrangeas. I came across this method the same way I come across many of my favorite tips, by accident. If you are planning on transplanting a hydrangea in the fall or spring this is an excellent time to divide them as well since you will already be digging them up. The steps are quite simple:

Step 1: In the fall or spring*, dig up the hydrangea you would like to divide, if you don’t get the whole root ball, that’s okay!

Step 2: Assess if you were able to get the whole root ball, if not, dig out the other portion. Congratulations you have a new hydrangea! If your root ball came out as a whole, look at the roots and see if there is a natural place that would make a good cut. A good cut would leave most of the root ball intact except for a few stems that have roots attached. Otherwise, you can essentially divide the whole root ball in half with a hori-hori, a shovel or an old kitchen knife.

Step 3: Replant your original hydrangea in your preferred spot. For your extra division or divisions you can find a spot in your garden or a planter. Make sure to water deeply and to give it occasional waterings just as you would any new plant.

An example of a Incrediball hydrangea in my garden that was a small division last fall and is now a full sized plant less than a year later.

Incrediball hydrangea

Don’t feel like digging up a whole hydrangea? I get it, which lucky for you comes the next method, the lazy-gardener way, propagating. This method is best done when the stems are still green. I prefer to do this is fall.

Step 1: Pick your specimen. Find a few branches that are lower to the ground and are somewhat flexible.

Step 2: Lower the branch to the ground, where you see it will be touching soil (preferables a couple of leaf nodes below the bloom), scratch the underside with a knife or scissors. This is where new roots will develop.

Step 3: Dig a small whole directly under your newly scratched stem. I know, I apologize I promised there would be no digging. But this hole only needs to be an inch or so deep, enough to submerge the newly scratched stem.

Step 4: Place the portion that was scratched into the hole, remove any leaves that will be in the hole. Cover the stem with dirt and place a rock on top if needed (to keep the stem submerged).

Step 5: Go inside, grab a cup of tea (or a hot toddy), read a book and hibernate through winter.

Step 6: Come spring, go out and dig around that submerged stem. If there are roots then you can safely cut between the rooted stem and the old plant and plant your new hydrangea into it’s home.

Fellow hydrangea lovers, I would love to hear any of your tried and true methods and also your favorite variety, because I do believe there is always room in the garden for at least one more.

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