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Hydrangeas 101: A Complete Guide to Growing and Caring

Hydrangeas 101: A Complete Guide to Growing and Caring


Hydrangeas are stunning flowering shrubs that can elevate the beauty and allure of any garden or landscape. To successfully grow hydrangeas, it is crucial to understand the different types of hydrangeas, their soil and climate requirements, and the proper methods of planting and maintenance.

This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of how to grow hydrangeas. It includes tips for planting and care, an overview of the different types, common problems, and creative uses for these stunning flowers.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced gardener, this guide will equip you with the knowledge to grow healthy and vibrant hydrangeas that will thrive for years.

Overview of How Do Hydrangeas Grow

Hydrangeas are a highly prized flowering shrub known for their large, showy blooms and versatility. If you're wondering how to grow hydrangeas, it's important to understand their growing requirements and unique characteristics. Here's an overview of the best way to grow hydrangeas:

Types of Hydrangeas

There are five main types of hydrangeas: mophead, lace cap, oakleaf, panicle, and climbing. Mophead and lace cap hydrangeas are the most popular and known for their large, ball-shaped blooms. Oakleaf hydrangeas are named for their distinctive leaf shape and produce cone-shaped flower clusters. Known for their hardiness and disease resistance, panicle hydrangeas have elongated flower clusters. Climbing hydrangeas are vines that can climb up walls, fences, and other structures and produce fragrant white blooms.

Climate & Soil Requirements

Moisture and organic matter are essential for hydrangeas. Alkaline soil is best for growing them, as they prefer a slightly acidic pH. During the hot summer months, hydrangeas also need ample water. They are best suited to mild temperatures and moderate humidity climates, as extreme heat or cold can damage the plants. Hydrangeas grow best in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 9, although specific varieties may have different growing requirements.

Sun Exposure

Hydrangeas require varying degrees of sunlight depending on the variety. Mophead and lace cap hydrangeas prefer partial shade, as too much direct sunlight can damage their delicate blooms. Oakleaf and panicle hydrangeas can tolerate more sun and can be grown in full sun or partial shade. Climbing hydrangeas prefer partial shade and will not grow well in full sun. It is essential to provide hydrangeas with shade during the hottest part of the day to prevent wilting and sun damage.

How to Plant Hydrangeas

Planting hydrangeas is a straightforward process, but some key factors must be considered to ensure the plants grow and thrive. The best way to grow hydrangeas is as follows:

Where to Plant

When selecting a planting site for hydrangeas, it is vital to consider the plant's growing requirements. As mentioned earlier, hydrangeas prefer moist, well-draining soil rich in organic matter. The planting site should be in an area with partial shade, especially during the hottest day. Strong winds can damage plants, so the site should be protected.

How to Plant

Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball when planting hydrangeas. Add organic matter to the soil, such as compost or peat moss, to improve its quality. Plants should be gently removed from their containers, and their roots should be loosened. Plant the plant in the hole, ensuring its level with the soil. Backfill the hole thoroughly with soil and water to settle the soil around the roots.

Proper Care and Maintenance

The health and longevity of hydrangeas depend on proper care and maintenance. You can help your plants thrive by following these tips:
  • Water regularly: Hydrangeas require ample water, especially during the hot summer. If the soil is dry, water deeply at least once a week.
  • Fertilize regularly: Hydrangeas benefit from regular applications of fertilizer. Fertilize flowering plants according to package directions using a balanced fertilizer.
  • Prune as needed: Pruning promotes healthy growth and helps keep the plant in shape. Early in the spring or late in the winter is the best time to prune.
  • Mulch around the base: Mulching helps retain moisture around the base of the plant and suppresses weeds. Cover the plant's stem with organic mulch, such as shredded bark or leaves.
  • Monitor for pests and diseases: Aphids and powdery mildew are common pests and diseases of hydrangeas. To prevent damage to your plants, monitor them regularly and take action as soon as any issues arise.

Fertilizing Hydrangeas

Fertilizing is integral to caring for hydrangeas, as it helps promote healthy growth and encourages the production of large, showy blooms.

When to Fertilize

Hydrangeas should be fertilized regularly throughout the growing season. Fertilizing hydrangeas depends on their type. In early spring and early summer, fertilize mophead and lace cap hydrangeas. In early spring and late summer, fertilize oak leaf and panicle hydrangeas. Climbing hydrangeas only need to be fertilized once a year in early spring.

Choosing the Right Fertilizer

When selecting a fertilizer for hydrangeas, choosing a product explicitly formulated for flowering plants is essential. A nitrogen-rich fertilizer can promote leaf growth at the expense of flowers. Look for a fertilizer with a balanced nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium ratio, such as a 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 blend.

In addition, some hydrangeas benefit from a fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants. These fertilizers contain additional nutrients, such as sulfur or iron, that help lower soil pH and promote the production of blue flowers.

Proper Fertilizing Techniques

When fertilizing hydrangeas, ensure not to get fertilizer on the leaves or flowers. Following fertilizer application, water the plant thoroughly to help nutrients penetrate the soil. Applying fertilizer when the soil is dry is not advisable since it can burn the roots.

It is also essential to avoid over-fertilizing hydrangeas, as this can damage the plant and reduce flower production. Stay within the recommended fertilizer amount, and follow the package instructions carefully. In general, a light application of fertilizer every four to six weeks during the growing season should be sufficient to keep your hydrangeas healthy and blooming.

Pruning Hydrangeas

Pruning is essential to caring for hydrangeas, as it helps maintain the plant's shape, promote healthy growth, and encourage the production of large, showy blooms.

When to Prune

The best time to prune hydrangeas depends on the type of hydrangea you have. Early spring is the best time to prune mophead and lace cap hydrangeas. Oakleaf and panicle hydrangeas thrive in late winter and early spring. Late summer is the best time to prune climbing hydrangeas.

Pruning Techniques

To avoid damaging hydrangeas, it is important to prune the plants correctly. Here are some tips for pruning hydrangeas:

  • Remove dead or damaged branches: Remove them and cut them back to healthy wood.
  • Remove old wood: For mophead and lace cap hydrangeas, remove any old wood over three years old, as this wood is less likely to produce blooms. Cut the old wood back to the base of the plant.
  • Remove weak or crossing branches: Remove any weak branches competing for space and light. Cut them back to a healthy branch or the base of the plant.
  • Shape the plant: Remove the remaining branches and shape them to your liking. Cut back to a healthy bud or node, leaving at least two pairs of buds on each stem.

Proper Care and Maintenance After Pruning

After pruning, it is important to care for your hydrangeas properly to ensure they recover and continue to grow and bloom. Here are some tips for caring for hydrangeas after pruning:

  • Water thoroughly: Water the plant thoroughly after pruning to help it recover and reduce stress.
  • Fertilize lightly: Apply a light fertilizer after pruning to provide nutrients for new growth. Over-fertilizing can damage plants, so avoid it.
  • Monitor for pests and diseases: Pruning can open the plant up to pests and diseases. Monitor your hydrangeas regularly and treat any issues promptly to prevent damage.
  • Mulch around the base: To prevent weeds and retain moisture, use organic mulch around the plant's base.

Bringing Beauty to Your Garden with Hydrangeas

In conclusion, growing and caring for hydrangeas can be a rewarding experience for any gardener.

Understanding the different types of hydrangeas, their soil and climate requirements, sun exposure needs, and proper care and maintenance techniques can help ensure your hydrangeas thrive and produce beautiful blooms year after year.

The best way to keep your hydrangeas healthy and beautiful is to ensure they are planted, fertilized, and pruned properly. Anyone with patience and attention to detail can enjoy the beauty of hydrangeas.


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