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Five Tips For Beautiful Hydrangeas

Updated on July 5, 2012
Part of the landscape when we moved in, these hydrangeas are pink one year and blue the next
Part of the landscape when we moved in, these hydrangeas are pink one year and blue the next

Hydrangeas are one of my favorite flowering perennials. In shrub form, a mature plant can grow to be five feet tall and six to eight feet wide. The plants require little: regular watering, good soil, and a few hours of sunlight every day. Blooms on the most common hydrangea are typically blue or pink, but have also been bread to be pure white. Hydrangea are easy to care for, easy to grow, and with the right care, provide terrific blooms through the spring and summer. Follow these simple tips and you'll have healthy, happy plants that get better each year.

The Endless Summer variety promises bloom after bloom
The Endless Summer variety promises bloom after bloom

Pink or Blue?

What's your favorite color hydrangea?

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Five Simple Tips

  • Prune Lightly - Traditional hydrangea will bloom only on old wood, that is, shoots that have been growing on the plant for at least a season. When the plant is dormant, you only want to trim away shoots that are damaged, or may get damaged over winter. Do not cut the plants all the way back. While the shrub will return to size quickly, you'll have a season with no flowers. Our mature hydrangea top out at about 3 1/2 feet each season, and in the winter, we trim them back only where necessary and only by a few inches. Newer hybrids, like the Endless Summer variety, will bloom repeatedly and on both old and new wood.
  • Plant With Room To Grow - When planting multiple hydrangea in the same bed, give them plenty of space to spread out. I would recommend at least 3 feet between plants. Anything closer and they will crowd each other out.
  • Fertilize - All plants need food. Hydrangea take full advantage of what is given to them. Rich soil means rich healthy plants. If you have clay-heavy soil, as we do in Texas, you'll want to add amendments to the soil (especially when planting) and fertilize with an organic (like manure) or a slow release, balanced fertilizer, once in the early spring and once in mid-summer. If you find the leaf color on your plants fading, or yellowing, it is a good indication that they need an iron supplement.
  • Adjust Soil pH - Want blue instead of pink? Pink instead of blue? To do this you change the pH of the soil that is within reach of the plant. The change does not happen overnight, and is probably the most challenging thing about growing hydrangea. To change from pink to blue, add aluminum sulfate and use a fertilizer that is high in potassium. This will lower the pH of the soil. You can also add organic matter such as coffee grounds, grass clippings and other compost materials. To go from blue to pink, you need to raise the pH of the soil. Do this by adding lime and using a fertilizer that is high in phosphorus. Remember, color changes take time, and if your soil pH is too high or too low, it may be challenging to achieve the color change or make it last.
  • Water Smart - In Texas, during the long, hot, dry summer, I find that I need to water the hydrangeas more frequently than other plants in the landscape. Where our shrubs are planted, the soil drains fairly well and the plants get a good watering from the sprinklers, and the soaker hoses we have in place to keep the foundation damp. On super hot days, though, even after a good watering, the plants tend to wilt from the heat. While they get morning sun and afternoon shade, morning sun down here is only slightly less harmful than afternoon sun. A good spot watering early evening will bring the plants back quickly. Be aware of your soil conditions, too much water, on any plant, can lead to root rot and eventual death of the plant.

Nothing strenuous or earth shattering here. Good regular care and maintenance will bring gorgeous blooms year after year. I just planted to new shrubs last week. I was careful to amend the soil with peat moss and will be fertilizing next week, after they have had a chance to settle in. While this season I can expect them to stay about the size they are now, I know that next season, I will have two really good looking plants.

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    • Melis Ann profile image

      Melis Ann 5 years ago from Mom On A Health Hunt

      I love hydrangeas as well. I made the mistake of cutting the old wood all the way down the first winter. It took a couple of years for it to come back.

    • Jeff Gamble profile image
      Author

      Jeff Gamble 5 years ago from Denton, Texas

      I learned the hard too. We had planted hydrangeas when we lived in Massachusetts. Bloomed beautifully the first year, then we cut them back and mulched them for the winter. No blooms next year. We repeated the process for a couple of winters until we found out about blooming on old wood.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 5 years ago from Northern California, USA

      I love hydrangeas. The house we bought had a huge five foot high hydrangea with blue blooms. I think it sold the house; it was so beautiful. I use coffee grounds to keep it blue. I'm thinking of planting another one and helping it grow pink. Now, if I could just learn how to take clippings and plant them I will be all set. I enjoyed your hub. It was very helpful to me -- new to gardening.

    • katyzzz profile image

      katyzzz 5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      You obviously know a lot about hydrangeas, but there is a huge range of colour variations, generally within the pink/blue spectrum but the mauves and the mixed are just so delightful. They've been a favourite of mine for many years.

    • Jeff Gamble profile image
      Author

      Jeff Gamble 5 years ago from Denton, Texas

      katyzzz - I know enough to be dangerous! The new shrubs I planted are still adjusting to the soil and are about half and half right now, with the pinks being more on the mauve side.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Very beautiful flowers and I did not realize they are so easy to care for. This flowering shrub grows abundantly in NC. I did not know they changed color? Pink one year and blue the next? It seems the people who took your poll are in agreement-blue rocks! :) Voted up and useful/interesting. Thanks for sharing your knowledge here.

    • Jeff Gamble profile image
      Author

      Jeff Gamble 5 years ago from Denton, Texas

      Thanks very much Denise!

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      I have tried to grow hydrangeas before, and was not successful. I love hydrangeas! I am going to bookmark this hub and will try again next spring. Thank you for sharing your tips! Voted up, useful and sharing on my flower garden blog. Have a wonderful day!

    • Jeff Gamble profile image
      Author

      Jeff Gamble 5 years ago from Denton, Texas

      Thank you so much! You should have great success in S. OK, given that our soil and climate are very similar - though I think you get a little bit more rain - Good luck with your hydrangeas!

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