Back when we lived in Florida, we had two massive hydrangeas growing behind our house. These took up the entire flower bed and would bloom much of the year, filling the backyard with pretty blue and pink flowers. We would cut them to put in vases to add a pop of color around the house, and they just kept blooming, so we never ran out. This is when my oldest and I fell in love with these interesting color-changing flowers.
What are hydrangeas?
Hydrangeas area a stunning blooming perennial shrub. It’s easy for even the novice gardener to grow hydrangeas despite their ability to become pretty large showstoppers in your garden – these beautiful flowers grow like weeds. Hydrangeas grow quickly and often fill in space in just one season, reaching heights of up to 15 feet. Perennial hydrangeas are found in hardiness zones 3 through 7. Hydrangeas can make a stunning foundation plant for your landscape, thanks to their blooms that start in spring and last through summer and into early fall.
How to plant hydrangeas
Hydrogeneas, like many shrubs, are best planted in the fall, so that they have a few weeks to establish themselves before the cooler weather rolls in but have the whole winter to make sure their roots are strong prior to blooming in the spring.
Hydrangeas prefer the morning sun but do best when shaded later in the day, making them an excellent choice for up against your home on the east side, where the sun will cover them in the morning, while the shade will provide them with protection from the heat later in the day.
It is ideal for Hydrangeas to be planted in well-graining soil with lots of organic matter that allows moisture to be retained without being soggy. Consider mixing compost and wood chips into the soil before planting your hydrangeas to give them the best start possible. As mulch does not fall into the soil as fast as other organic matter, your hydrangea plants will be able to flourish for several years while the soil remains in its ideal condition.
Dig a hole that’s slightly shallower or flush with the base of your hydrangea’s root ball, but 2 feet wider than that. Soil mounds will help drain your rootball by providing a surface that is moist, but not wet. By digging two feet wider than your root ball, you allow the soil to be as well loosened as possible and to be mixed with compost and organic matter to allow the roots to extend out as much as possible.
How to grow hydrangeas in a pot
It is easy to plant hydrangeas in large wide pots. These look great gracing the entryway of your home. Not ordinary garden soil, but good quality potting soil with organic matter. You should place the hydrangea at the same level that it was originally planted at to avoid covering any of the stems leading to rot. Add mulch over the top of the soil to help keep moisture in during the summer heat, make sure you leave some room below the pot’s rim to make watering easy.
How to propagate hydrangeas.
The best way to grow hydrangeas through cuttings is to use the layering method. This method helps to keep the plant alive by allowing the mother plant to provide the needed nutrition while roots form. The trench method is easy and only requires a shove, knife, and something heavy to weigh the branch down. This is the same method you can use to clone tomatoes.
- A small trench should be dug near the hydrangea plant.
- An appropriate branch should touch the soil in the middle, extending up to 12 inches beyond the trench (the branch should extend six to 12 inches beyond the trench).
- Use a clean knife to cut lines on the bark of the branches where the soil in the trench comes into contact with them.
- After burying the branch, place pavers, bricks, or stones over the trench to prevent it from popping out of the soil by weighing it down.
- Roots will grow on a branch over time, allowing it to be transplanted to another location after it has developed a root system.
New shoots emerge from underground stems in some varieties, such as Smooth and oakleaf hydrangeas. Planting the young plants separately from the mother plant can be done by digging them up. For these varieties, you want to thin out the new shoots on a regular basis to avoid issues from overcrowding.
How to grow hydrangeas from cuttings
Using a cutting about 5-6 inches long, take a branch from the hydrangea shrub. Cuttings should be taken from branches that did not bloom this year since they will work more effectively. Cuttings should be dipped in rooting hormone for the best results and inserted into damp vermiculite, coarse sand, or another sterile growing medium until roots have been established.
How to care for hydrangeas
Hydrangeas require little care after they have been established and will grow like weeds with little or no attention. If your hydrangeas are new to the garden, you should give them extra care initially. Still, once it has established itself, it will care for itself except during prolonged droughts, fertilizer occasionally, and pH changes that affect the color of your hydrangeas you wish to achieve.
You can encourage deeper roots in your plants using deep watering, which will help them become drought-tolerant. Water at least 2 inches of water every 3 to 4 days. Generally, after the first season, you can stop watering your hydrangeas unless a heavy drought occurs.
Fresh mulch should be added to your hydrangeas once a year and when you plant them. Moisture is kept in the soil by the mulch, and the mulch breaks down to add nutrients to the soil as it decays. Those who live in cooler climates will benefit from this mulch; it will protect their roots and help them survive the winter. It will also help them grow strong roots in the late fall and early spring when the weather warms up again.
If you want your hydrangeas to flower more, it is important that you fertilize them. There will be a different level of fertilizing required for each variety. Depending on their growth habit, bigleaf hydrangeas require a light fertilizing every 4 to 6 weeks in the spring, while smooth hydrangeas can survive with just one fertilizing in the late winter. A soil test kit can help you determine whether your soil needs any nutritional boost to help your hydrangeas thrive.
When to prune hydrangeas
During the growing season, you should prune your hydrangeas to keep them looking their best. When maintaining a tidy appearance, gardeners should clip off spent blooms just below the flower head and remove any wayward or straggly canes at the soil line.
Whenever you prune old wood, you should do so immediately after the flowers fade. The flowers must not be left too long, or you will miss out on the spring blooms. New buds are set in the shrub’s new wood within the growing season, so it should be pruned early in the spring before new growth appears.
Typically, hydrangeas that become old and woody produce smaller blooms. When removed regularly at the soil line, a few older canes will enable the shrub to bloom prolifically, resulting in a larger number of flowers. The same method can be used to prevent shrubs from growing too tall by cutting off the tallest canes.
How to change the color of hydrangeas?
If you wish to change the color of your hydrangeas, you must adjust the PH level of your soil to get a blue, pink, or mixed color effect. The color of hydrangeas is determined by how much aluminum the plant is able to absorb from the soil. If the pH is between 6 and 7, you will get a range of blue, pink, and purple blooms. Adding sulfur or coffee grounds to the soil will result in blue flowers after the soil PH has dropped under 6. The PH level of your soil needs to be raised over 7 for your hydrangeas to turn pink. This can be accomplished by adding lime.
What types of hydrangeas are there?
Hydrangeas are part of the diverse family of Hydrangeaceae with many amazing verities with unique leaves and flowers. Some of the most popular verities include:
Bigleaf hydrangeas – This slightly rounded verity looks great in large pots. It only grows to 3 to 6 feet tall and can make a great addition to your home landscaping. This is the most popularly grown variety that changes colors so easily, making it a gardener’s favorite.
Panicle hydrangeas – This hydrangea makes cone-shaped clusters of flowers rather than the typical rounded. Unlike other verities, these hydrangeas will reach heights of up to 15 feet if left unpruned and can easily become wild and unruly, but the unique flower clusters make it a popular addition to gardens and landscapes.
Oakleaf hydrangeas – This hydrangeas flowers range from white to purplish pink. The play typically grows between 6 and 8 feet tall, and the large leaves resemble that of an oak leaf.
Smooth hydrangeas – Similar to the bigleaf verity, this plant has a smoother texture and only grows to about 5 feet, making it a great option for an easy-to-maintain option for along fence lines.
Climbing hydrangeas – Unlike other verities of hydrangeas climbing hydrangeas are a vining plant with delicate white, flat-topped flower clusters that appear in early summer. Plants of this species cling readily to structures or will sprawl over the ground as a ground cover plant. These vines can grow up to 50 feet.