Hydrangea Growing Conditions
Hydrangeas come in several varieties, with different colors of blooms and different cold hardiness levels. These beautiful shrubs like rich, moist soil. They should be in well-drained locations where water will not puddle. They do best in shade or partial shade, as full sun locations can end up burning the delicate tops of the shrubs. If they are in a full-sun spot, be sure to water frequently to help them succeed; however, hydrangeas bloom better in shady areas. They like cool soil, and will do best with afternoon shade, especially in Southern climates. Climbing hydrangeas are excellent as container plants, but need supports such as stakes or trellises to succeed. The popular bigleaf hydrangea is not easily grown in zones colder than 5, since its flower buds don’t survive cold winters well, so oakleaf or smooth hydrangeas may be a better choice for Northern gardeners.
You can take cuttings from existing hydrangeas and re-root them easily. This can be done anytime from April to August. Choose cuttings that have a few pairs of leaves, but come from non-flowering shoots. These will provide the best stem growth. Root hydrangea cuttings in a partially shaded location with sandy soil. Bigleaf hydrangeas are the type that can have two different flower colors. Varieties that have naturally pink flowers sometimes will produce blue petals instead when planted in acidic soil. To turn blue flowers pink, amend the soil with lime or superphosphate at the base of the shrubs. To get blue flowers instead of pink, add aluminum sulfate around the bases. Do this several times when mulching in the fall, and once again in the early spring, before blooms appear.
Proper Hydrangea Care
Hydrangeas need regular pruning, not only to keep their shape and avoid them taking over your yard, but also to help them bloom properly the next year. For garden, bigleaf or oakleaf hydrangea, blossoms only appear on the branches from the previous year’s growth, so each year, prune back those that have bloomed already that season. The right time for pruning is in the summer, right after the flowering season is through. Prune off the old flowering shoots down to the point on the stem where new growth is forming. Smooth hydrangeas have a different pruning requirement: prune them back by half in the early spring to encourage growth. On all types, prune off any dead, broken, old, or crossing branches to keep the bushes from overgrowing themselves and weakening. In very harsh winters with severe cold temperatures, cover hydrangeas to prevent damage to their tender buds.
Want to learn more about hydrangea care?
Check out these Web sites chosen by us for more information on the subject.
Texas A&M University’s horticulture extension has hydrangea care tips.
Hydrangea Selection, Pruning and Care from Virginia Cooperative Extension