Hydrangeas thrive best outdoors, where they can absorb the sun in the morning and receive shade from the hot afternoon sun.
Alternatively, grow them in the house during spring and then move them outside when the weather is warmer.
- A suitable period to plant hydrangeas is during fall and early spring when temperatures are mild. Early morning or late afternoon is perfect for planting hydrangeas since the day is cooler.
- You can find blooming specimens in nurseries from early to mid-spring.
- Hydrangeas are not too picky when it comes to when to plant them, but planting them in summer can be problematic in inland areas due to the heat.
- If you bought potted Hydrangeas, they have probably been fed fertilizers to speed up flowering, which means they will flower months before their natural flowering time if grown outdoors.
- You can help the hydrangeas adjust to the outdoors by taking them out during the day and bringing them in at night.
- You can plant Hydrangea grown for the outdoors immediately after you obtain it.
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- Hydrangeas thrive well in a sheltered location with sunny mornings and shady afternoons, making them ideal choices for shady gardens.
- Pick a spot where they’ll receive five to six hours of sun every day. If you live in warmer areas,
- make that three to four hours. The north or south of your home is an ideal spot.
- Don’t plant them under trees because there will be a water and nutrients competition between them.
- Hydrangeas thrive in moist, well-drained soil, preferably loam soil. They can’t tolerate waterlogging because their roots will rot as a result. Mix your soil with compost to improve it if it is heavy.
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Growing Hydrangea does not just involve planting them and walking away. There are watering patterns to adopt, fertilizing, pruning, and more.
Here’s what’s involved when growing Hydrangea.
- Check for the sun requirements if your plant came with a tag when you purchased it.
- If instructions are unavailable, five to six hours of sun or three to four hours if you live in warmer areas is fine.
- Checking instructions is vital because hydrangea varieties have different sun requirements. For example, Limelight hydrangeas can take in more sun than the other varieties.
- Hydrangeas prefer loam soil (a mixture of sand, silt, and clay).
- Dig a hole twice the container’s width and twice deep. A wide hole enables you to spread the plant’s roots wide.
- Add a bit of high-phosphorus fertilizer to the hole.
- When plants are potted, their roots are usually tightened together. Soften the roots by watering them, then loosen them by massaging.
- Place the Hydrangea in the hole and spread its roots, then cover them with soil until their level is slightly higher than the surrounding ground level.
- The slight mound drains excess water from the plant.
- Pat the soil to remove air pockets. Air pockets cause uneven watering since water can’t travel down the air pockets to reach the roots.
- Add organic material like compost, which helps to:
- Retain moisture
- Improve drainage
- Add nutrients to the soil
- Prevent weeds
- Don’t pile the mulch too high. 3-4 inches thick is fine. Adding organic material is necessary for clay soil which doesn’t drain well.
- Finish off by giving the plant a deep watering.
- Water the plants frequently, especially during summer when temperatures rise. Watering them thrice a week during the first weeks is sufficient.
- When the plants are established, you can change to watering them twice a week. Drip feeders or soaker hoses are methods you can use to water Hydrangea.
- Out of the six Hydrangea varieties available in the US, Bigleaf and Smooth hydrangeas require more moisture than the other types.
- Don’t over-water or underwater your plants. They may grow without flowers.
- If unsure, stick your finger about an inch into the soil to see if it’s dry or wet, and judge from your finger whether to water them or not.
- Water the plant 4-6 hours before fertilizing to prevent fertilizer burn. Fertilizer burn occurs when fertilizer is applied to wet ground, and the plant absorbs too much of it.
- The first step is to identify the hydrangea variety because it determines how, when, or if it even needs pruning.
- Here are the Hydrangea varieties common in the US:
- Oakleaf hydrangea
- Bigleaf Hydrangea
- Panicle hydrangea
- Smooth Hydrangea
- Climbing hydrangea
- Mountain hydrangea
Hydrangeas are grouped in two when it comes to pruning.
Group 1 – They bloom on last year’s growth and should be pruned in late summer. These are:
- Oakleaf hydrangeas
- Bigleaf hydrangeas
- Mountain hydrangeas
- Climbing hydrangeas
They need only slight trimming to maintain their size and shape. Trim only dead, broken, or diseased branches.
Trim immediately flowering stops in summer but avoid doing it in fall, winter, or spring. You might cut off new buds.
Group 2 – They bloom on new growth and should be pruned in late winter to early spring. They include:
- Panicle hydrangeas
- Smooth hydrangeas
The table below is a guide on when to prune hydrangea varieties available in the US.
|Hydrangea Type||When to Prune||Where Flowers Appear|
|Bigleaf Hydrangea||During summer, after flowering||On old growth|
|Oakleaf hydrangea||During summer, after flowering||On old growth|
|Mountain hydrangea||During summer, after flowering||On old growth|
|Climbing hydrangea||During summer, after flowering||On old growth|
|Panicle hydrangea||Late winter, before spring growth||On new growth|
|Smooth Hydrangea||late winter, before spring||On new growth|
Prune in early spring as the leaves start to show. Cut branches by a half to a third above the node, then remove weak or broken branches.
Pruning also influences flower heads. Aggressive pruning causes few but larger heads, while soft pruning results in smaller but numerous flower heads.
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- Your hydrangea variety will determine its fertilizer application, and the best way to determine this is by using a soil test.
- Natural fertilizer made of compost, sulfur, and peat moss is effective.
- Bigleaf hydrangeas need fertilizer applications in March, May, and June, while oakleaf and panicled hydrangeas do well with April and June applications.
- Go easy on the fertilizer. Too much fertilizer burns the roots and scorches the leaves. Too much nitrogen in the fertilizer results in fewer flowers and much foliage.
- Sprinkle half a cup of slow-release 10-10-10 granular plant food around the plant’s base and reapply in summer. A 12-4-8 composition will also provide the nutrients a hydrangeas needs.
- A once-a-year slow-release fertilizer is the simplest solution. If you choose the slow-release fertilizer, cover it lightly with soil to activate it.
- Bored of the same pale blue color each summer? There’s a way to deepen it or change it to another color, like pink.
- The aluminum amount a plant can access in the soil, which depends on pH and phosphorus levels, determines the flower color.
- Acidic soils (pH 5.5 and lower) produce blue flowers. Less acidic soil produces purple flowers, while alkaline soils (pH 6.5 and higher produce pink flowers.
- Be prepared to alter the soil’s pH if you intend to change your Hydrangea’s flower color.
- To get pink flowers, mix a tablespoon of hydrated lime with a gallon of water and pour it under the shrub.
- To get blue flowers, dissolve a tablespoon of aluminum sulfate, sold as a “soil acidifier.” Pour this solution under the shrub and repeat in March, April, and May.
- Other methods have reportedly been successful for some gardeners, such as:
- Applying lawn clippings, fruit peels, ground coffee, pine needles, and peat moss to the soil.
- Using crushed eggshells. They will slowly break down and prevent the soil from absorbing aluminum.
- Adding vinegar to the watering can to change the flowers to blue.
You can also purchase and apply specific fertilizers to alter the flowers’ color.
NOTE:White hydrangeas don’t change color.
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If you’ve been waiting forever for your Hydrangea to bloom, but they won’t budge, take a look at the possible reasons why:
Hydrangeas may prefer protection from the hot sun, but too much shade will prevent them from blooming.
Hydrangeas will conserve energy when it is too hot by cutting out flower formation.
Too little water will cause stunted growth and lead to a lack of flower formation.
Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension explains that if you are guilty of drowning your plants while watering them, buds may fail to open, and blooms may be few.
Pruning Hydrangea too much may cut all the flower buds, which means no blooming until the following year.
Newly planted Hydrangea can take two to five years to bloom. If you don’t want to wait that long, purchase mature hydrangeas.
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Hydrangeas will thrive outside as long as the conditions are right. A site with sunny mornings and shady afternoons suits these flowering shrubs.
Hydrangeas need watering at least thrice a day and application of fertilizer. Mulching will help prevent moisture loss and help with drainage.
Pruning the Hydrangea will enhance its shape/size and eliminate broken or dead twigs. You can also switch the flower’s color between pink, blue, and purple using several methods.
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