Hydrangeas are one of the most popular perennial garden shrubs, mostly due to their mesmerizing big flowers in pink, white or blue color and nice foliage, even in autumn. They add a vintage charm to any garden. But they are not only beautiful but if you follow our Step-by-Step Hydrangea Care & Maintenance Guide, you’ll find that they are also very easy to care for. What makes them fascinating is the ability to change the color of the flowers.
Hydrangeas are easy to care for, easy to grow, hardy, and resistant to most pests and diseases; with so many varieties to choose from, Hydrangeas are a must-have in every garden. You can also grow them in containers. Their flowers make stunning floral arrangements, used both fresh and dried.
If you’d like to have these pretty ladies in your garden, all you need to do is follow our General Hydrangea Care & Maintenance Guide and learn how to plant them, grow them and take proper care of them.
photo via debsgarden.squarespace.com
The first thing you need to do before planting Hydrangeas in your garden is to choose the right varieties. There are two main groups: plants that bloom on new growth and plants that bloom on old growth. Hydrangeas’ first group form their buds in early summer on new growth and are pretty easy to care of. Panicle and Smooth Hydrangeas are the most popular varieties from this group.
The second group, or plants that bloom on old growth, are Hydrangeas that you should consider if you line in Zone 8 or warmer. Oakleaf, Bigleaf, and Climbing Hydrangeas are some of the best varieties from this group.
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Hydrangeas prefer moist, well-drain soil. Choose a location that is in a cool, semi-shady part of the garden. Some sun in the mornings is welcomed. Avoid an over-exposed location where winds can damage the young spring growth. Hydrangeas should be planted in spring or fall. It is important to plant them properly, which means digging a hole as deep as the root ball, but 2-3 times wider. When done, put the plant in, fill half of the hole with water, let it drain then fill in the rest of the hole. Water again. It is best to plant Hydrangeas 3 to 10 feet apart.
It is recommended to use some organic matter into the soil before planting and afterwards as well. Mulch is a great choice – choose leafmould, garden compost, composted bark, or farmyard manure. Use fertilizers in spring or early summer. It is best to use granular fertilizer that is slow-releasing. Don’t overdo it with the fertilizer; just follow the packing instructions as too much fertilizer can cause hydrangeas to grow big green leaves without many flowers.
Watering and Propagation
As we already mentioned, you should thoroughly water Hydrangeas right after planting. It is crucial to keep your Hydrangeas well watered, especially during the first couple of years. Dry soil will make the beautiful leaves wilt. They enjoy deep watering at least once a week, especially in dry weather. You can grow Hydrangeas from softwood, semi-ripe, or hardwood cuttings, but the climbing types are best layered as well as from seeds during seed. They are easily transported in fall or winter while they are dormant.
photo via endlesssummerblooms.com
To prune or not to prune? This is the everlasting question with Hydrangeas. They actually need very little pruning daily so you can enjoy their beautiful flowers all summer long. If you prune too much, you will be removing potential blooms. Make sure you don’t over prune, especially if you want to shape the plant or cut fresh flowers. Climbing Hydrangeas are pruned after flowering, while the shrubby ones in early spring.
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The good thing is that Hydrangeas are almost trouble-free. Most insects and diseases can attack in summer. Some of the common pests that affect Hydrangeas are gray mold, slugs, powdery mildew, rust, ringspot virus, and leaf spots. It is important to identify the problem and stop it on time. Take Cercospora leaf spot, for instance. They are brown spots that sometimes have purple halos, so if only a few leaves are affected, remove them and destroy them. Don’t put them in the compost pile, where this disease can spread.
photo via endlesssummerblooms.com
Protect your Hydrangeas from freezing winter temperatures with leaves, wood mulch, or straw. After a hard freeze in the fall, cut plants back to 12-15” tall and cover the crown and old wood with a thick helping of mulch. Don’t remove the mulch too fast when spring arrives, as there still might be some freezing nights. Wait until the danger of frost is totally over. If you have container Hydrangeas, bring them inside over the winter. Keep them in your basement or garage and water them lightly.
Hydrangeas are fascinating plants. They can change the color of their beautiful blooms. This stands for endless summer Hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla, H. involucrata, and H. serrata ) only. What makes the color change is the soil pH which affects aluminium availability. Blue or pink flowers tend to be blue in acid soil conditions, mauve in acid to neutral soil conditions, and pink in alkaline conditions. White and green flowered Hydrangeas will not change their color. Using rainwater can also affect the color change, turning blue flowers into pink. To encourage blue blooms in alkaline soils, add aluminum sulfate, composted oak leaves, pine needles, or coffee grounds. To encourage pink blooms in acidic soil, add wood ashes, lime, or fertilizers with high phosphorus levels.
Hydrangeas in Containers
The key to Hydrangeas’ successful growth in containers is not to keep them indoors for too long. If you make the right choices, you will have gorgeous Hydrangeas in pots. Choosing the right location (morning sun, afternoon shade) is the first thing to do. Also, make sure you choose large containers with holes for drainage. Choose a good quality potting soil with organic matter. Go with varieties suitable for your region. Control the size of your Hydrangea bush by pruning it. As for watering, you should simply check the topsoil layer – when it feels dry, it means you should water thoroughly. Fertilize your container Hydrangeas once or twice a year, and don’t forget to snip them off when flowering is over to encourage new growth.
photo via inmyownstyle.com
Hydrangeas flowers are perfect to use in flower arrangements and are quite popular as wedding flowers. You can use them both fresh and dried – they are beautiful either way. If you want to use them like fresh flowers, choose fully opened ones as those who are not may wilt. If you want to dry them, then use them for arrangements, wreaths, or similar; harvest the heads when the flowers matured and develop a papery consistency. Then you should remove the leaves from stems and hang them upside down in a warm, dry, dark, airy room. When dried, store in a dry location out of direct sunlight.