Following just a few simple growing tips for hydrangea will produce healthy plants with fluffy colorful blooms year after year. Hydrangea are small deciduous shrubs or climbers that usually have thick clumps of pink or blue flowers. Many newer varieties now offer more brightly colored or white flowers. The most popular questions that come up about hydrangeas usually relate to the general care, color-changing properties of the blooms, and hydrangea pruning techniques.
General Hydrangea Care
Planting your hydrangeas in early spring or in the fall is ideal. If you plant them in the summer, they need a lot more water in the beginning to establish the root system. Most varieties thrive in full sun to part shade, as long as they are planted in moist, rich soil. Water deeply once a week, and maybe more, if the weather is particularly hot or dry. Hydrangea fertilization needs vary greatly, depending on your intended bloom color. Certain elements of the fertilizer affect the soil pH, which is a major determinant of bloom color in the pink/blue hydrangea varieties.
How to Adjust Hydrangea Color
Odd as it sounds, a particular hydrangea may produce pink, blue, or lavender blooms, depending on where it’s planted and how it’s fed. The presence of aluminum in the plant ultimately determines the color, and pH affects the uptake of aluminum. Alkaline soils, pH of 6.0 or more, are more likely to produce pink blooms, and more acidic soils, pH 4.5 to 5.5, produce blue flowers. Pink hydrangeas can be turned blue by applying aluminum sulfate to lower the pH level and add aluminum to the soil. Applying lime to raise the pH level will help blue hydrangeas turn pink. If your soil naturally produces very blue or very pink hydrangea flowers, you may need to grow your hydrangeas in containers or raised beds to achieve the desired color without battling nature. If you do attempt to change the color of your blooms by adding these minerals, dilute them well, and add sparingly. It is very easy to scorch your plants by adding too much. By the way, white hydrangeas are not affected by efforts to change bloom color.
Some people never prune their hydrangeas, but this often leaves gangly plants with dead stalks hanging out all over. Most varieties of hydrangeas respond beautifully to well-timed pruning. It is always OK to remove dead or unhealthy stalks–this makes your plant look better and allows it to focus its energy on growing and flowering. Early spring is generally the best time for pruning–if your plant is out of control, it may be due for a severe pruning, allowing room for new, healthy growth.
Hydrangeas are beautiful, lush plants that add texture and color to gardens, and are excellent landscaping shrubs. With the proper care, they can improve the look of your property for years to come, becoming more beautiful each season. Enjoy the novelty of their color-changing properties or just appreciate the classic elegance and old homestead essence they bring to even the simplest garden designs.
Thomas Andrews is a garden writer for the Wayside Gardens
Source: Thomas Andrews