Grow Free Hydrangeas Through Layering
We have five large Nikko Blue hydrangeas, and I’d love to create a long sweep of them in our yard. They’re planted just opposite my kitchen window and bloom from June through the first frost. Last fall, I layered them in the hopes of gaining loads of baby plants (layers) for free. I layered 20 branches and 16 of them have taken root.
The layering process is super simple and I hope you will give it a try. A note about timing: I do this at the end of summer, while the branches are flexible enough to bend to the ground without breaking. In Virginia, this means mid-late October. I’ve read that you can layer plants in the spring, but I haven’t tried it.
You will need:
- An established, healthy “mother” hydrangea – ask a friend if you can layer theirs if you don’t have one
- Rocks, bricks, small children or other heavy object(s) for weight
- Shovel or trowel
- Wintertime and patience
Find a healthy, lower branch of the plant. I select branches that are leafy, with no flowers. Without disturbing the leaves at the tip, break off the next lower set of leaves down to the branch. The place where you removed the leaves is the node.
Gently lower the node to the ground, loosen the soil under it and then pile at least an inch of soil on top of the node. Place a rock or brick on top to weight it down securely. Water the mother plant occasionally if needed.
Wait until Spring and check on your plants. New growth at the tip of the branch indicates that your baby plant has taken root.
Leaving the rock or brick in place, snip the branch between the weight and the mother plant as below and give the baby a few weeks of living on its own before transplanting. Be sure to water the layer baby daily until it is established, more often in hot weather. If the baby is very small, you might wish to delay transplanting for an entire growing season.
When transplanting small plants like these, I dig a hole about 12″ deep and 12″ across. Make sure the roots have plenty of loose soil to grow into. I like to mix in a little garden soil to lighten up our heavy clay soil. Once you’ve transplanted the babies, they will need some TLC. Water them each morning for a few weeks and then as needed until they are established.
I’ve only done this with hydrangeas, but I understand this works for other plants such as forsythia, rhododendron, azalea. I would love to know if you try it and how the process works for you.
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