Hydrangeas are beautiful shrubs with showy, captivating blooms, so it’s no surprise everyone wants one or several. Though fairly easy to care for, there are a few good tips to ensure success. Here’s help to care for your hydrangea from purchase to planting and beyond!
There are some important things to know when choosing which hydrangea will work for your space and lifestyle.
In general, hydrangeas do not love hot afternoon sun. The full sun varieties are the best bet for that kind of exposure, but part sun varieties will suffer if it’s too hot even if they only get a few hours. They are happiest in early day sun.
Shady area – If you have at least two hours of sunlight you can plant an Annabelle hydrangea. The blooms may not be as large as possible and may stay more of a chartreuse green with just a couple hours of sun each day, but the shrub will do well.
Part sun to sun – Panicle-type hydrangeas vary in light requirements, but all can be planted in either part or full sun. This is a large category, and includes large shrubs like PeeGee and Quickfire, dwarf versions such a Baby Lace and Little Lime, and hydrangea trees as well.
Blue or Pink? – The type of hydrangea that can bloom blue or pink does well only in part sun (and definitely not hot afternoon sun). Acidic soil will keep the blooms blue, while alkaline soil promotes pink blooms. If the site doesn’t have the appropriate pH it can be modified with granular or liquid products.
Another important consideration is how much time and work you have (or are willing to spend) on your shrubs. Generally, Annabelles and panicle types require less care, while the variety that can turn colors requires more fertilizer and soil modification as well as an occasional trimming throughout the summer to promote blooms. It’s a fun project if you have the time and inclination – it’s just dependent on your goals and available time.
Your hydrangea should be wet before planting. From the time you take it home until you plant it in the ground, be sure to keep the shrub well-watered. Water inside the pot to keep the soil evenly moist rather than just wetting the foliage.
Spring and fall are the best times to plant shrubs and trees. That said, it’s quite possible to plant in mid-summer with great success as long as the shrub is strong and healthy going in and watered well thereafter.
To prepare the hole, dig as deep as the pot and two to three times as wide. Remove the hydrangea from the pot and release the roots. This simply means to tug gently at the roots so they can grow out into the soil rather than remaining in a tight ball.
Place the root ball in the hole and water. Yup, go ahead and water even before the soil is added. Fill the hole half way with native soil (the soil just dug out) and also add some compost. You can amend with peat moss, as well, to keep the soil loose. Water again, fill the hole completely with the soil mixture, and water again. Hydrangeas love water (but not wet feet, they also like drainage) and need plenty to grow successfully. Starting them on their way to beautifying your yard successfully starts with proper planting.
Although these are not water plants, they definitely do not want to dry out completely. Be sure to keep them well-tended and watered, especially throughout their first season. Make sure they go into fall well-watered, too. Their leaves may droop in extreme heat, but check the soil for dampness. It’s possible they are just grumpy and do not need more water if the soil is already wet.
Feed your hydrangeas at least a couple times throughout the season, once in early spring and in mid-summer. Again, the pink/blue variety need more fertilizer than other types.
For greater success, mulch the shrubs in fall (not too early, preferably after the ground has frozen solid) with a chunky layer (8 inches at minimum) of marsh hay, straw, or leaves. This will protect the roots from a freeze/thaw cycle throughout the winter.
Most hydrangeas benefit from pruning and will reward you with more blooms. Please see our previous post on pruning for in-depth information about trimming the different varieties of hydrangea.
With a little know-how and a little work, your hydrangeas will reward you with years of beautiful blooms!