Hydrangea are a hardy, deciduous shrub that makes a cheery addition to any backyard space! These fast-growing beauties produce flowers in a variety of shades which bloom from mid-summer right through the fall. There are many species and countless varieties to choose from, depending on your taste in foliage and bloom color.
Hydrangeas are a versatile plant, able to thrive in many growing conditions so long as you adhere to their planting requirements. Set your hydrangea plants up for success by using these 7 tips on hydrangea care!
Amend Soil Prior to Planting
Hydrangeas thrive in moist, well-draining soil containing plenty of organic matter. That being said, the first step before planting hydrangeas is to ensure your soil is properly amended.
The best way to determine the composition of your soil is by doing a soil test. The results of a soil test alert you to any nutrient deficiencies in your soil, as well as the percentage of organic matter found within.
Amend and improve the quality of your soil by adding organic matter. This is not only a safe way to enrich your soil with nutrients, it is also important for aeration and water drainage throughout the soil. Plant hydrangea straight into your no-dig garden, or till a layer of compost into your soil prior to planting!
After amending your soil, get your hydrangeas into the ground early to enable your plant for form a healthy, deep root system. Plant hydrangeas in early spring right after the last frost. Alternatively, you can plant in early fall, giving your roots a head start for the next season. If you live in a warmer region, you may plant your hydrangea any time between the fall and early spring.
Depending on the variety, hydrangeas prefer full sun to partially shady environments. If you live in a hot or dry climate, ensure your plants get some full morning sun before becoming partially shaded in the heat of the afternoon.
Keep Winter in Mind
Hydrangeas grow as perennials in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 7. As these plants can overwinter, it is important to choose a location that promotes this process.
As winter temperatures tend to fluctuate along with snow and ice, choose a north or east-facing location where the cold is more consistent. Direct winter sun found in south or west-facing locations causes buds to swell, leaving your hydrangea plant vulnerable to the frost.
Many gardeners who live in cold climates choose to wrap their hydrangea plants for the winter. You can use burlap to keep out the cold and protect your hydrangea buds from cold snaps.
Control Bloom Color
Perform some hydrangea magic by manipulating the PH level of your soil! A hydrangea’s bloom color is determined by your soil’s acidity. Blooms turn a beautiful blue in acidic soil with a PH level 6.0 or lower. In neutral or alkaline soil with a PH level of 7.0 or higher, hydrangea flowers bloom in soft shades of pink.
Add hydrated lime to lower the acidity of your soil, turning flowers from blue to pink. For the opposite effect, add aluminum sulfate to boost the acidity and turn your flowers blue.
Colour change does not happen overnight, so give your plant time to adjust to the new PH level of its growing medium!
Hydrangea soil must be kept consistently moist, especially in hot and dry regions. While a fully matured plant may find rainwater sufficient, starting your plant off with a consistent watering schedule is key.
Typically hydrangeas need a deep drink of water 1 to 2 times per week. It is important to ensure the soil is deeply saturated, without being water-logged. Water deeply to soak the root ball and surrounding soil.
Continue to keep your soil moist, checking about 4 inches down for dryness before giving roots a good soaking. In hotter climates, hydrangea foliage may curl and wilt in the afternoon heat. Check your plants at dusk to see if they’ve recuperated before assuming you have a water problem.
Keep your location in mind when determining how frequently to water. Hydrangeas that receive full sunlight require more water than those in partial shade. Remember that mother nature will aid you with rain, so check your soil before you water!
Fertilize or Mulch?
Hydrangeas love fertile, humus-rich soil. That being said, if your soil is already nutrient-rich you likely do not need any additional fertilizer for a hydrangea plant. Adding too much fertilizer can be bad news for bloom growth.
If your soil does require fertilizer, use one in the spring that is specific to flowering shrubs. Otherwise, amending your soil with nutrient-rich organic matter prior to planting does wonders for soil fertility!
Use another 2 to 3-inch layer of organic matter as mulch around the base of your plant. Mulching keeps the soil moist, enriching it with nutrients while suppressing weed growth.
Prune Depending on Variety
In order to properly prune a hydrangea plant, determine whether it blooms on old or new wood.
Old wood means that buds are produced on last year’s stems at the end of the current growing season. Prune old wood varieties of hydrangeas after flowering to promote new bud growth for the next season. A common example of an old wood blooming variety are hydrangea macrophylla. Commonly referred to as big leaf hydrangea, this species is pruned mid-summer to fall.
New wood means that buds are produced on a new stem from the current growing season. Prune spent blooms on new wood varieties, or trim the stems back in the late winter to early spring. Hydrangea paniculata are a variety of hydrangea that blooms on new wood. Spent blooms on this particular species may be pruned throughout the season.
There are many species and varieties of hydrangeas that make a beautiful accent in any backyard space. Each type requires slightly different care depending on the climate in which they are grown. Determine which USDA hardiness zone you live in to choose the hydrangea variety that’s right for you.
Plant your hydrangeas in protected, full sun to partial shade environments. Ensure your soil is rich and well-draining and give it a boost with some compost or another form of organic matter. Change the color of your hydrangea’s blooms by manipulating the PH level of your soil!
Using these tips and tricks, add charm and color to your backyard space by successfully growing your own hydrangea shrubs at home!