With immense flower heads, hydrangeas flaunt an old-fashioned charm that is hard to resist. Colors also beguile with clear blues, vibrant pinks, frosty whites, lavender, and rose—sometimes all blooming on the same plant! Unrivaled in the shrub world, these elegant ladies are easy to cultivate, tolerate almost any soil, resistant to most pests and diseases, and produce flowers in mid-summer through fall. Hydrangeas are excellent for a range of garden sites from group plantings to shrub borders to containers. And with numerous varieties to choose from, you’re certain to find one that’s right for you.
Although there are many types of hydrangeas, they all require similar environments. They grow best in about 4 hours of morning sun or filtered shade throughout the day. Keep in mind that do not like extremely hot conditions, so try to locate them in an area where they can enjoy some afternoon shade. While they can be grown in a wide range of soils, hydrangeas typically prefer rich, moist soil that drains easily.
Hydrangeas require well drained soil with an adequate amount of organic matter and fertilizer. Prepare your soil with a mixture of 50% Back To Earth™ Composted Cotton Burrs and 50% existing soil. If you are planting in clay soil, add a 10% ratio of Soil Menders™ Expanded Shale to ensure better drainage
Dig the hole twice the width of the root ball or container. Plants should be planted with the top of their root system level or slightly higher than the surrounding soil. It is best to prepare the entire bed area before planting. Tamp the soil firmly around the root ball to eliminate air pockets.
Water is another major key to good growth of hydrangeas and must be supplied to the plants on a regular basis. Slowly water the plants immediately after planting until the soil is saturated. Later in the day, water a second time using Fertilome™ Root Stimulator to stimulate early root growth. Water as needed to keep the soil evenly damp but not wet. Do not rely on sprinkler systems alone to properly water new plantings. The best way to water is at the surface level, rather than by sprinkling. Set out a soaker hose, or bring a regular hose into the bed and let water soak the earth. Do this in the early morning to avoid excess evaporation. Establish a nice routine to check the soil for dampness and to water when the soil is dry when you poke a finger beneath the surface.
Adjusting Bloom Color
The color of a hydrangea flower depends on the chemical makeup of the soil it is planted in and how it is fed. If the soil is high in aluminum and has a low pH, the hydrangea flower will be blue. If the soil has either a high pH or is low on aluminum, the hydrangea flower color will be pink. In order to make a hydrangea change or keep its color, you have to change the chemical composition of the soil it grows in. This can be accomplished by adding the appropriate soil amendment listed below. This may take a few applications.
- Blue HiYield Aluminum Sulfate
- Pink HiYield Agricultural Limestone
- White HiYield Magnesium Sulfate
Hydrangeas also benefit from an occasional boost of TLC Tree, Shrub, and Landscape Food once or twice a year in spring or summer. Miracle-Gro™ fertilizer may also be used as a foliar spray for a quick feeding.
A 2 inch layer of mulch (TLC recommends Grade A Premium Cypress or Cedar) placed over the bed area will discourage grass and weed growth, conserve moisture, and keep hydrangeas cooler, resulting in better growth. If necessary, you may pull the mulch back to inspect the soil moisture of the bed to determine watering needs.
When to prune hydrangea bushes varies and is not an exact science. Keep in mind that pruning hydrangea is not always necessary, and unless the situation calls for it, they can simply be left alone. Removal of spent blooms and dead stems each year should be adequate for maintaining healthy hydrangea bushes. You can safely remove spent blooms (deadhead) anytime. However, there are a couple of deadheading tips to keep in mind for optimal results. Try to keep cuts above the first set of large leaves or only cut down to the last healthy buds. This ensures the safety of any developing blooms for the next season.
When pruning hydrangea bushes that have become overgrown, cut stems to the ground. Although this may delay blooming the following season, it helps revitalize the plants. All types of hydrangea respond well to occasional pruning, but it’s important to know what variety you have as hydrangea pruning care varies.
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