Ground Layering

This past weekend, the time was right to do something I’ve been meaning to try for the past couple of years, namely ground layering a native hydrangea in the woodland garden.

Hydrangea radiata

Hydrangea radiata

Commonly called silverleaf hydrangea, H. radiata is common in the Upstate and other parts of the southern Appalachians. Once considered a subspecies of the smooth hydrangea (H. arborescens), cross-pollination experiments yielded few if any viable seeds and thus most experts now consider it to be a separate species. Though very similar to the smooth hydrangea, the silverleaf is easy to distinguish by its foliage, which is typical on top but silvery white below.

Unfortunately, the silverleaf hydrangea is much more difficult to grow from cuttings than its kin. I hope ground layering, which promotes root growth along a branch without cutting it away from the mother plant, will prove effective. This propagation method has a higher rate of success because it prevents the water stress and carbohydrate shortage that can doom cuttings.

I selected a handful of low branches for my effort. Then, I dug a 3-inch deep trench directly beneath each branch and carefully pinched off four leaves (two pairs of the branch’s opposite facing foliage). Pinching creates small wounds that should stimulate the plant to produce roots at that spot.

Branch prepared, with four leaves removed, one upturned to show its silvery white underside.

Branch prepared, with four leaves removed, one upturned to show its silvery white underside.

To complete the process, I covered the wounded area of the branch with native soil topped with leaf mold, and anchored it in place with a heavy stone.

All done; fingers crossed.

All done; fingers crossed.

I plan to check the branches in about six weeks. If this batch doesn’t take, I’ll try again. Semi-hard branches could be more fruitful and, if necessary, I’ll use rooting hormone to increase my chance of success.

14 thoughts on “Ground Layering

  1. Marian St.Clair Post author

    Susie–We have about a half acre of woodland along the river which I’m clearing of invasives and replanting with natives. It would help if I didn’t have to purchase each and every one!

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Pauline–I have to admit I’m not much of a propagator when it comes to cuttings because I’m not a good nursery maid…can’t seem to remember to keep them watered properly and so on.

      Reply
  2. Marian St.Clair Post author

    Jessica–Have you ever tried ground layering? I’m wondering if I should take the flowers off? I can’t decide. Maybe I’ll try half w/o flowers and see if it makes any difference.

    Reply
  3. Barbara Wilder

    Marian-Was this hydrangea already in your woodland garden? I’ve looked for this plant and haven’t found a local/regional vendor.. Do you know who has plant available?

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Barbara–Yes, it was here. If you hike area woodlands, you will notice it everywhere now because it is just coming into bloom. If my efforts at ground layering work, I will be glad to give you one. Or, you might check with some of the native plant vendors. Let me know if you find it.

      Reply

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