Picture:dividing hydrangeas

hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)October 13, 2005

I'm always suggesting that you can actually divide hydrangeas and that it is an efficient, easy way to get more plants and/or cut down on the size of the plant.

I wish I knew which hydrangea this is, but it is a very nice Macrophylla that I've been using in a pot for a while. It's gotten to be too big for the pot, so I sharpen up my snips and went to work.

I used a hose to wash away the soil in the plane I wanted to cut the hydrangea. I basically cut from the bottom of the plant up and it took a little effort when I got to the very woody portion at the crown level. So I brought out the big guns and got my lopers to finish the job.

I ended up with a lot of roots that were cut off and those have been ripped off in this picture by the time you see it. I potted up the two halves and the plant never gave any sign of any sort of shock. Doesn't hurt that it hasn't stopped raining since I divided it.

three photographs stacked on top of each other, a large 142K file.

The first is the two halves.

The second is one half and I really wanted you to see all those fat buds at the crown level. I'm always saying that it's those buds ( " old wood") that could be the source of the flowers people will many times proclaim to be from new wood because they're coming from the crown level, not from last years canes. But I digress...

And a picture of one half of the plant about a week later to show you how happy it still is...

Unlike me who is tired of this rain!!!


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donna1952(8 W WA Puget So)

Dear Dr. Hay, Thanks so much for sharing this priceless information. I would never have thought about dividing the hydrangea. Outstanding pictures, and effort! Your plant overgrew its pot? How old was it? Would a division of a larger garden-growing hydrangea react as well? What a wonderful way to expand our favorites. I have some cuttings that I took about three weeks ago and I have a question. The leaves are turning yellow and reddish and I am concerned that maybe the stem is dying. What is your experience? The pots are sitting on my west facing deck, and I cover them with plastic at night to keep them warm and water after a few days. I don't think the rain pouring down on them is a good thing - but maybe it is! Thanks again, Dr. Hay

    Bookmark   October 13, 2005 at 7:59PM
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luvahydrangea(Albany, NY 5)

Cool! I wonder if I could try that with my Oakleaf 'Alice'? Thanks for sharing that, I definitely have one in mind that I'd love to clone.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2005 at 9:41PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

Dr. Hay, huh? I like the sound of it, but I respond to "Hey, you!!" just as quickly.

The plant was bought about three years ago in a three or four or five gallon pot. It was potted up into a seven or so gallon pot and used for the past two or three years on a terrace. This past summer I was having to water it constantly and it was obviously getting to be too big for the pot. So, out come the snips.

I think that you could do this to an established plant, but I really wouldn't want to do it. Established plants have extensive root systems unlike a potted one so that you're going to lose a lot just by digging it up. I've seen big plants sulk for a while if I try to just dig them up. You see all that woody growth in the core of the hydrangea picture? With a larger plant, you're going to have more of that woody core and it's the edges where you'll find the smaller fibrous roots which will be what the plant needs to get going again. If I had an established plant that I wanted to clone, then I would take a sharp spade or an axe and hack away some of the edge of it to break off a section, taking the fibrous roots on the edge, but leaving the woody core behind. In fact, if I really wanted to, I would dig up the plant and take pieces off the edge and discard the woody core all together.

I've had much more experience with the macrophyllas than with the oakleaf's but what the experiece that I've had suggests to me that the Oakleaf will have more of a woody core, and in general is not as easy to dig up and move around happily. But, I've been able to take pieces off the edge with no trouble and I find the Oakleaf is always sending out "runners" and on the edge it's very easy to find pieces that I can rip away from the plant.

Ideally your cuttings would have bottom heat, be in well draining but constantly moist "soil" (sand, perlite, vemiculite), with no fertilizer at all. You would have dipped it in a rooting hormone. Then place it in a well lit, but not sunny location, and keep it misted or in some other manner (little tent, maybe) keep the foliage damp enough that it doesn't dry out. I'd take yours inside and build a little tent, sit it on a warm place, and mist it everytime you pass by.

I don't really know about your red and yellow leaves. I've had the experience of having leaves fall off cuttings and they still will root. Keep in mind that there is a technique of taking cuttings of woody plants in the dormant season when there is no sign of any leaves at all. Bury the stems and they'll root for you. I haven't done it with hydrangeas, but I have taken some long cuttings of viburnums in the fall and did nothing more than jab them into some moist soil outside and come back in the spring to see a new little plant.

Good luck. Hay.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2005 at 9:25AM
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Excellent lesson as always!!! Without those great pictures, this procedure would seem a little too abstract for me to try, but actually seeing how it should look takes a lot of the scariness out of it. I know just the plant I would like to try this with. Am I right in assuming that my young (quickly growing too big for the pot) Fuji Waterfall (24x18) with lots of stems but without a lot of hardwood will comply even more easily?......yg

    Bookmark   October 14, 2005 at 12:23PM
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donna1952(8 W WA Puget So)

HEY YOU, DR. HAY ..........Thank you so much for taking the time to explain all of this. One more question for you and others: If layering a branch of a favorite hydrangea, and that branch has a flower at the end of it, should the dying flower be cut off now - or wait till next spring when the branch has rooted?

I am talking about a beautiful lace cap, pink that I just cannot afford to purchase more of. Thank you again. Donna

    Bookmark   October 14, 2005 at 7:27PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

Yg, I would think that the younger, the better. There were times that I would buy a young plant and the first thing I would do is rip it apart into three or four sections. No lopers needed.

Another thing I've done is to pot up a plant and bury the crown several inches deeper than it is so that the many stems are coming through soil. Burying a woody plant is generally a bad practice, but in this case, the stems will root in this new soil and you can go back in a year or so and pretty easily rip off some rooted stems or sections.

Donna, I don't think it will make much difference this time of year. Either way.

In your zone 8 I think it would be very interesting to find a somewhat wet spot and see if you could propagate a hydrangea just by going out and cutting a one and a half foot long stem and just jabbing it into the soil for about six or so inches. Next spring maybe you'd have a new plant started.

Good luck. Hay.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2005 at 12:01PM
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donna1952(8 W WA Puget So)

Dear Hay, I hope that you know that most often we, here in the "used to be ever-wet state" of Washington, usually have no problem finding many wet spots. But we have been in a drought situation for awhile, and all reports indicate our winter to be on the mild side. GOOD! But, I am going to take your advice and cut a stem and stick it in the soil somewhere and see what happens. I know when taking cuttings, we should find a branch that is non-blooming, but sometimes they are hard to find. Dr. Hay, you are a gem! I hope too that you will find this message. Thank you for all that you do to share. Donna

    Bookmark   October 19, 2005 at 7:25PM
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Dear Hay,
I planted a macrophylla this year and it grew really well .
I noticed at the end of August it had on very large bud down at the crown level coming out of the soil line.
This is what they mean by old wood growth ?
I was always thinking that the old wood growth would be the existing canes that are above the soil .
Can you please explain this to me ?
Thanks in advance

    Bookmark   October 22, 2005 at 6:57AM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

That's very nice of you to say, Donna. It's all lots of fun for me. Especially if others are enjoying it, too. We're all winners when we share our experieces.

Hi, Laura. On this hydrangea forum this notion of old wood, new wood comes up a lot. Here is my best thoughts on it. I keep working at trying to understand it as best as I can.

Keep in mind that there will be sporadic blooms all through the summer on many varieties. Keep in mind that with Endless Summer, this trait is very pronounced. Is this old or new? I think most would say that there seems to be some blooming on new wood, whatever that really means.

But, as a general rule, many of these hydrangeas will bloom mostly or entirely on "old wood". Usually, this is the espression used to describe this bloom habit. And typically, this is a very good description of what is going on. The plant will have some new growth over the summer and in the fall, some of the buds in the axils of the upper part of this new growth will swell up to the size of a small bean and if you should be lucky, then next spring a new stem will grow from this overwintered bud with a flower at the tip. I imagine that, in effect, the bud has all this new stem with a flower at the tip in some embryonic form wrapped up in this bud that is formed in the late summer or early fall.

And that is why you see all these warnings about not pruning in the spring or late fall. You'd be cutting off next years flowering potential.

Nice and simple, right? Well, no. Is anything ever so simple?

Dirr says that some growers will cut their plants back very hard in February in Georgia and still get a very nice flowering the next year. They cut them back in order to get a more compact plant. Some plants like Dooley are supposed to be able to get the tops zapped by a late spring frost and still produce flowers from lower down on the stem. Dirr has said words to suggest that maybe many of these lower buds have the potential to become flowers, but this potential is not realized and is held in check by the upper buds as long as the upper buds are around. Cut them off or zap them and the lower buds are free to express themselves as flowers. Or at least that is what he seems to say. He mentions that some gardeners in harsh climates will overwinter the plants by only covering the bottom portion of the shrub and still get flowers the next year.

Confused yet? Good, now you can join the club.

But, getting back to the crown. We had a long discussion last year when someone had an early flush of blooms from a plant that had been killed back to the crown but still produced a nice flowering EARLY in the season from wood that grew from the crown with a flower at the tip end. The gentleman who posted the picture wanted to show that indeed his Nikko was blooming on new wood.But, I argued that his flowering could have been from a bud that was in the crown just like the one you saw in August, and that perhaps we should say "new bud, old bud" as opposed to "new wood, old wood". I think people see that the flower comes at the end of new growth and decide that means if is blooming on "new wood", but was all this new growth and a flower on the tip locked up in a bud in the crown that overwintered... not really different than the bud up higher on a stem that overwintered?

There is indeed old wood in the crown. And if a bud forms there, then to my eye, it's not really a lot different than the buds formed up higher on the cane.

I'm confused, too. Hay.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2005 at 12:47PM
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The is a photo of a cutting that I took of Glowing Embers. The cutting was taken in early June. It definately flowered on new wood. This the first time for me to try a photo. We will see if it works.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2005 at 5:06PM
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donna1952(8 W WA Puget So)

Hello Gary. I am so impressed with your photo of a cutting you started in June ---- and it bloomed already? That is a record, it seems to me. Are you sure you took the cutting in June of 2005 and it bloomed this year? You must explain to all of us how you did that! Where are you located? Thanks, Donna

    Bookmark   October 24, 2005 at 9:38PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

Uh, oh, Deja Vu all over again!!!!This is how a conversation about "old wood, new wood" usually gets started.

Gary, that is a very nice cutting and a very pretty picture. Thank you.

I've been meaning to post that I had to do some thinning of some Blue Billow in early June and even though I've always been told that the best cuttings are after the new wood has hardened a bit, in July or August maybe, I tried it anyhow. They've turned out just great. They're now very well established little plants with a lot of new top growth. The cuttings I took in late July, early August are rooted,but they're still the same little cutting size. I'm going to be doing more of this next June.

But back to "new wood". I'd be very interested in more details about your cutting and what causes you to say that there is no doubt that this is new wood. Is this a picture of the plant now, middle of October, or did you take the picture earlier in the summer? Like in July, August?

Suppose I had a bud develop in the fall at the top of a stem, or whereever, likely to have the potential to become a flower next year. In the next year this bud would then open up and a stem will grow with leaves all up and down it, terminating with a flower. What would happen if I took a cutting of this new wood as it is emerging? Could I get the plant to root enough to support the flower that hasn't expressed itself yet, but is there, hidden in the folds of the emerging bud? Going to have to try that next year.

I mentioned somewhere around here that someone last year took cuttings of their Endless Summer going into fall and rooted them under lights and then brought out his flowering plants in the middle of winter. Little flowering hydrangea in a pot on the window sill in January!!! I want one.


    Bookmark   October 25, 2005 at 1:01PM
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Hay must have read my mind.....I was wondering the same thing......I am very sceptical of posters claiming "new wood". To the eye, many flowers bloom from apparent new wood ie; green stems, but it's where the original bud comes from that counts...yg

    Bookmark   October 25, 2005 at 3:24PM
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By the way Hay, I remember that marathon old/new wood debate thread very well!!!.....yg

    Bookmark   October 25, 2005 at 3:27PM
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