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How to Grow Hydrangea

Updated on June 2, 2015


Hydrangea are a perennial bush or shrub which produces gorgeous flower blooms during the middle of summer.

Being a deciduous bush, the leaves will fall off from the plant during the fall, leaving bare stems until the next growing season.

But that is more than made up for by the extraordinary color produced by the numerous and huge flower heads accompanying the shrub during the middle of summer and later. When they're in full bloom, few flowers can compare with how they look.

The color of the blooms are outstanding as well, including red, purple, blue, pink, white, and a variety of combinations of colors that can be stunning.

Once the weather warms up in the spring, the foliage of the plant emerges, and it's a very attractive bush even before the flowers appear. They grow anywhere from about 3' to 10' tall, with some varieties growing as high as 25' in some cases.

Beautiful Photo of Hydrangea


How to Buy Hydrangea Shrubs

Assuming you are planting the first hydrangeas in your yard, you'll almost assuredly be buying one that is potted and replanting it in your flower garden.

The exception would be if someone you know takes some cuttings and allows you to use them.

Contrary to many other plants, it's a good idea to acquire hydrangea when they're in bloom if you can. The reason is hydrangeas can often be mislabeled in garden centers, and if so, it's a big disappointment when a shrub with a totally different color emerges after all your care and work.

You want to know what it is you're buying and that it's accurately labeled if at all possible.

Be aware that when buying hydrangea they may not all be in bloom, so it's not always possible to know the color. Sometimes waiting a little later in the season to buy your shrub may help in that regard.

When to Plant Hydrangea

Don't get too excited in the spring to plant your hydrangea, as a number of gardeners have lost their plants to a frost.

The best times to plant hydrangea is when all chance of a frost is past; well into the early part of summer, or in the fall.

The hottest time of summer is also not the best of conditions to plant hydrangea. Avoid it if possible. If you can't, be sure to watch your hydrangea closely and keep it watered.

Where to Plant Hydrangea

The most important aspect of successfully growing hydrangeas is where you plant them, and it will be a little different depending upon the particular zone you live in.

In moderate and cooler climates, they will respond best when placed in the full sun to maybe a little shade, depending on where you live.

For warmer regions, planting hydrangea in a partially shaded area works better to keep them from wilting in the hot sun.

As for heavy shade, a hydrangea will suffer if placed there, as they need a minimum of about five hours of sun to perform well. That means not giving into the temptation of planting them under a tree, as the roots of the tree will also strongly compete for nutrients, making it almost the worst possible location for hydrangea.

If you have a yard which has full sun just about everywhere, there are varieties that do much better in the heat, so you will want to consider and look into that if those are the conditions you must operate under.

Varieties are especially important in warmer climates because if they don't get much or any shade, the blooms won't last as long. Some shade will help them last longer under those circumstances.

As for water, be sure you plant your hydrangea in a location that drains well.

Hydrangea Care Tips: Step-by-Step Gardening

How to Plant Hydrangea

Hydrangea don't need to be planted real deep. Plant them at the same depth they came in the potted plant you bought.

Unless you're planting a large and unusual hydrangea, choose a place where it has approximately four square feet to grow in. Plant it in the center of that location.

The reason for this is when choosing a regular-sized hydrangea, you want it to be able to grow in the range it's designed to before it is pruned.

Spring Hydrangea Care

Hydrangea Care

Moisture management is the most important part of successfully growing hydrangea.

To aid the shrub in producing fantastic color the soil must be kept moist but not soggy, throughout the season. That can be aided by using some rich compost when you first plant the bush.

Another helpful practice is to mulch the plant on an annual basis. This is especially important in warmer climates.

If you only have heavier soil to plant in, you can add rougher, organic material to help it drain better. In clay soil gardeners must be careful not to over water the shrub, as it could result in root rot.

Hydrangea will bloom in the middle of the summer. Once the blooms start to die off, remove them, as it'll result in the bush creating even more blooms. If you want really large flower heads, thin out some of the stems in order to direct the energy of the plant towards that end.

The time to prune hydrangea is in the winter or early part of spring. If you experience a cold winter which causes significant damage, or if the shrub grow too big, it can be cut back very close to the ground without causing the plant any harm.

For those of you that may have hydrangeas that aren't blooming, that is usually the result of placing the plant in a poor location, or in some cases, the results of warmer spring weather producing early buds and a later frost killing them.

That's why ensuring adequate sun and drainage is so important in successfully growing the flower.

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Not all hydrangea are equal, and that's true with the Oakleaf hydrangea, which is more susceptible to root rot than other hydrangea varieties.

Extra care must be taken to plant these popular shrubs in an area that drains extremely well. That's particularly true when the bush is first planted.

Once it establishes itself, it's not as important. The key of course is to be sure it has a chance to establish itself by proper placement.

Fertilizing Hydrangea

Fertilizing hydrangeas isn't as complex as some make it out to be, as they respond well to a relatively inexpensive fertilizer like a 10-10-10, which only would need to be applied a couple of times during the summer.

If you live in a northern area, fertilizing once will probably be enough; either in June or early July. A slow-release fertilizer does a good job. In warmer zones applying fertilizer in May and July will produce better results.

If you prefer using organic fertilizer methods, a number of people growing hydrangea say placing a commercial manure around on the soil near the bush base works very well.

Because hydrangea will go into dormancy, they shouldn't be fertilized after August. If the shrub is fertilized it may cause the plant to grow new foliage, which may not survive the winter months.

If you have plants of different sizes, take that into account and use less fertilizer on the smaller plants; not more than a 1/4 cup. Larger hydrangea may need up to three cups, which should be applied away from the base of the bush.

Don't bother fertilizing a plant that is under stress. If it appears to be diseased or is wilting, attempt to solve those problems before fertilization. Fertilizing under stressful circumstances will cause even more stress to the hydrangea.

Hydrangea Endless Summer - Tips for More Blooms

Insects and Disease

As for diseases with hydrangea, they're fairly resistant, and planting it in an area that drains well is the best step towards disease prevention.

But under difficult circumstances hydrangea can struggle with leaf spot, blights and powdery mildew. As soon as you discover it apply fungicide.

Once in a while hydrangea will come under attack from red spiders and aphids, or several other insects. If you find them before they multiply, you could use insecticidal soaps to manage the problem, or a more gentle insecticide if you prefer.

Propagating Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas can be propagated by cuttings or seeds, with most gardeners choosing cuttings because they're so easy to do.

All you have to do with cuttings is wait until new growth in the spring, and then cut about half a foot, or a little more, from the end of the stem. If there is any flowering beginning to happen, don't choose those ends for you cuttings.

When deciding on which cuttings to take, look for at least two to three pairs of leaves on the end of the stem. Pull the bottom set of leaves off and keep the others.

Place these in loose or sandy soil while placing a clear container over them until you see roots begin to take shape. Keep the soil moist.

Once roots emerge you can plant them wherever you want them in your garden or yard that is conducive to healthy hydrangeas, as mentioned earlier in the article.

Transplanting Hydrangea

If you decide you don't like the place a hydrangea is growing, you can take steps to transplant the shrub.

It's best to dig up and transplant a hydrangea when it is dormant. It can be done at other times if needed, but doing it when dormant is the easiest and produces the best results.

The first step is to be sure to dig up as much of the root ball as you can. That means you may need help in the process, as the bush, when including the root ball, can be heavy.

Assuming you're transplanting a dormant hydrangea, give it one deep watering when you initially place it in the ground. While you have to watch it, it's probable that it will not need to be watered again until the spring, although varieties and climate could alter those parameters in some zones.

Whether transplanting or initially planting a hydrangea, usually it requires more attention to watering in the first couple of years than it does afterwards.

If your soil is moist and the shrub still wilts, one tip would be to use water in a spray bottle to mist the leaves until they get healthy. You never want to over water hydrangea.

For the rest, follow the directions above as to placement and how to grow hydrangeas.

How to Make Cut Hydrangea Stay Fresh

Changing the Color of Hydrangea

If you've never attempted to change the color of a hydrangea, it's definitely worth the little effort it takes to do so, and it's a lot of fun to see the results, even though you have to wait to see them.

Changing hydrangea color is all about the soil and varieties. If you have the correct varieties, then all that's needed is to change the pH level of the soil to get the blooms of the hydrangea to change color.

Why this works is the micro-nutrient aluminum will more freely be available when the pH of the soil is altered, resulting in the transformed color of the blooms.

So if your soil is more acidic and higher in aluminum, the color of the flowers will be blue. The more acid and aluminum the more blue the blooms of the flowers will be.

Soils that have less aluminum and acid will result in hydrangeas with pink blooms.

If you want to change colors, and dependent on the desired color, you either add lime to the soil to lower the acidic levels, or add aluminum sulfate to increase the acidic level of the soil. It's as simple as that.

Lime keeps the hydrangea from being able to absorb too much aluminum, which produces the pink color.

How to Change the Color of Hydrangea Flowers


There is no question hydrangeas make a great impression in any yard or garden, as the large flower heads offer up some fantastic color from the middle of summer on into the fall.

They're easy to grow, as long as you plant them in a spot that favors the plant, and can easily be propagated to add to your landscaping design as wanted or needed.

While there is the downside of losing foliage during the winter, it bounces back quickly in the spring while providing nice green and ultimately fantastic color for the remainder of its growing season. What more can us gardeners ask for?


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