‘Annabelle’ hydrangea aka “Snowball Bush” is a popular, old-fashioned flowering shrub that blooms reliably on new growth every year and does well in full shade to full sun. Did you know that it’s very easy to propagate from hardwood cuttings pruned in the dead of winter? If taken before spring growth emerges, you can actually have flowers by the end of the summer. It’s a fun and very inexpensive way to get lots of plants for your garden or to share with friends.
Here’s what you do:
1.) If you haven’t cut back last year’s growth, simply take cuttings, about 6” long, being sure to prune just under a node (the place on the stem where the buds are), and just above the next node higher up the stem. If you’ve already cut the stems back, as long as you can get a cutting with the two nodes, you’re good to go.
2.) If you have rooting hormone, dip each cutting in water, then the powder. It’s not necessary, but will increase the rooting percentage of your cuttings.
3.) “Stick” the cuttings in a pot of sand, vermiculite, perlite, or potting soil. All you need it the top inch or so of cutting with the upper node showing. Water well.
4.) Place the pot of cuttings in an unheated garage of porch and ignore for the next few weeks. Roots will develop at the buried node and usually along any part of the buried stem, but it will take most of the spring for this to happen, and not all the cuttings will root. It’s fine to have them crowded in the pot. Water only when dry, which won’t be often until it gets warm.
5.) When leaves start to grow on the cuttings by late April into May, it’s time to set the pot outdoors in the shade. Let them grow until you have at least four inches of new stems and leaves.
6.) Now you can knock the whole bunch of cuttings out of the pot. Discard the brown twigs that didn’t root, and carefully separate the rooted cuttings. Pot them up individually, water well, and lightly fertilize them with diluted liquid or granular fertilizer. (I like stinky fish emulsion.) Set in a shaded area until they resume growth.
7.) When they are about 12-18” tall, cut them back by half to encourage fuller branching. You can now expose them to more sun. Believe it or not, these new plants will be blooming by the end of the summer. Later that usual, but still nice.
8.) You can plant your new shrubs in the garden by the end of the summer to get them settled in by winter.
NOTE: ‘Annabelle’ is NOT a patented shrub, and can legally be propagated by anyone without restrictions. Newer varieties like ‘Invincibelle’ and ‘Incrediball” are licensed and patented, which prohibits propagation except by permission.