Once you know a few growing tips, you’ll enjoy these easy-to-grow beauties even more.
You don’t need heavy shade to grow hydrangeas. In the South, most will thrive in morning sun and afternoon shade. The further north you live, the more sun these plants can take.
Don’t plant hydrangeas directly under trees. They don’t like competing for moisture and nutrients, and aggressive tree roots will crowd them.
Buy a hydrangea (like this 'Peppermint Swirl') in bloom, if possible, so you can be sure you’re getting the variety you want. Sometimes plants are mislabeled.
The best time to transplant a hydrangea is when it’s dormant in early spring or late fall, after most of the leaves have dropped. Don’t wait until it’s so cold that the ground freezes.
Deadhead your hydrangeas to encourage more blooms. (Deadheading refers to cutting off dead or faded blooms.) But unless your plants have outgrown their location, it’s not necessary to prune at all, except to remove dead stems and branches.
If your hydrangea blooms wilt soon after you cut them, take a bucket of cool water along the next time you go into your garden. Drop the stems into the water right after you cut them. Back in the house, boil some water and let it cool for about a minute. Re-cut the hydrangea stems to the length you want, and pop them into the hot water for 30 seconds. Now put the stems in room temperature water and arrange as desired.
Hydrangeas are thirsty plants and like deep watering, especially in hot, dry weather. But don’t let them stand in puddles. Amend your soil with plenty of organic matter so it drains easily.
Lots of leaves, but no blooms? You probably over-fertilized your hydrangeas. Once in early spring and again in late summer/very early fall is enough (Northerners can usually fertilize just once, early in the growing season.) Use a time-release fertilizer or a balanced fertilizer like 10-10-10.
Hydrangeas make a beautiful backdrop. Combine them with camellias, sweet potato vines, azaleas, begonias, gingers, caladiums, ferns, impatiens, hostas and any other flowers or foliage plants that like the same growing conditions. If necessary, keep your hydrangeas in shade or part shade, behind plants that need more sun.
Try growing some evergreen shrubs and conifers near your hydrangeas. They’ll help provide winter interest when the plants drop their leaves. Dwarf Plum Yew is a great underused conifer for shady gardens in the south.
Hydrangeas will often be labelled as either blue or pink. They plants can be changed back and forth, however, with simple soil amendments. If you long to change the color of your hydrangea, try this simple trick. Adding sulfur to the soil will make it more acidic, and turn pink hydrangeas blue. Adding lime to the soil will make it alkaline, and will turn blooms pink. Have fun, and treat different plants with different amendments to have some of each color in your yard!