Tips for Selecting, Planting, Growing, and Blooming
Hydrangeas brighten up the shadiest spots of the garden with their large, colorful blooms. You can find one that suits your garden style and needs with many different cultivars and types. Learn about the different flower types, where to plant, growing requirements, and how to change the bloom color below.
Types of Hydrangeas
Choose the right variety for your style and space. With hundreds of cultivars available on the market, it’s important first to learn the different forms.
Mophead Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)
Mophead Hydrangeas are the traditional species grown in gardens. They grow into a large symmetrical, round shrub (about 4-8′ tall and wide) and bloom large, showy flowers from late spring to fall.
There are now smaller varieties available on the market for smaller spaces. The Endless Summer series also blooms multiple times throughout the season. Our favorites include the ‘Original’, ‘Blushing Bride’, ‘Twist N Shout’, and ‘Bella Anna’.
Lacecap refers to the style of flowers with flat-headed blooms that are much lighter and airier than the Mopheads. Their wispy texture looks great in cottage gardens.
These are slightly different varieties with a different flower shape and growth habit. You can find many of these varieties such as ‘Angel’s Blush’ or ‘Bobo’ from Monrovia. These varieties are often pictured with pink flowers, but this is not the case in the Western United States. The climate in the eastern part of the country results in the pink flowers; out here they are just white. However, still worth consideration. These varieties are more upright and larger growing with a different leaf and large cone-shaped flower.
Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)
Lastly, and my favorite, is the Oakleaf Hydrangeas. I would say these are the most unique Hydrangeas. The leaves are very large and are reminiscent of an oak leaf. The flowers are very large, narrow, cone-shaped, and white. Oakleaf Hydrangeas bloom a little later than other types but last the longest. In the fall, the leaves turn brilliant colors ranging from yellow to deep purple and hold their color on the plant until spring when the new leaves push the old leaves off. In essence, this is almost a year-round plant even though it is categorized as a deciduous shrub.
How Much Sunlight Do Hydrangeas Need?
Hydrangeas are a partial shade plant. This means that the ideal location would be in morning sun and afternoon shade. They will stress and have burned leaves in too much hot sun, except for the Oakleaf! Be sure to select a location with decent draining soil, they will not do well in soggy parts of the garden. However, Hydrangeas need to be watered thoroughly and regularly too; more on watering below.
How to Grow
Watering is important in our climate and just as much so for hydrangeas. Since hydrangeas have large leaves, they will use a lot of water. It is important to water thoroughly during each watering. An established plant, in the ground, should be fine getting watered no more than 3 days per week through the warm months. An exception is the Oakleaf hydrangea, it can stand somewhat drier soil.
(For more information on watering for your specific situation, please come by and speak to us!)
Fertilizing is another important issue with Hydrangeas. Since they are very lush, they need plenty of nutrients on hand. Proper fertilizing will reduce the frequency of your fertilizing routine. I recommend Bumper Crop Rose & Flower fertilizer. Using the recommended amount, apply in spring as growth begins to emerge and once more 2-3 months later. That’s it! It is important not to fertilize in the summer’s heat; during the fall and winter, the plant is not doing too much so fertilizer is unnecessary.
Pruning is often done in the wrong season. The best time to prune hydrangeas is after the blooms are spent. Now, this may be mid-summer or late fall depending on your preference. Hydrangea blooms last a very long time and continue to color back to green as they age. You may or may not like how they look. I personally love how hydrangea blooms age!
It is important to prune by fall at the very latest and only prune to shape. There is no need to prune in winter or early spring before buds emerge and you might prune off bud wood. The only exceptions are the Endless Summer series. These should have the spent blooms removed as soon as they are discolored so the plant can put energy into new blooms.
You probably already know that you can enhance the color of hydrangeas but aren’t sure of the details so here we go. Hydrangea macrophylla (Mophead & Lacecape types) are bred for color, but the flower’s color is solely based on the pH or acidity of the soil.
Creating an acidic soil will result in blue or bluer blooms while creating a more alkaline soil will result in pink blooms. If our soil is left unaltered, a blue hydrangea will turn lavender to light pink depending on your particular soil. However, a white hydrangea will always be white and the Oakleaf, as well as the Paniculata hydrangeas, are not at all affected by soil pH.
You can use Master Nursery Hydra Blue or Soil Sulfur to create acidic soil. These may need to be reapplied every couple of weeks or months depending. To create a more alkaline soil you can use Dolomitic Lime. You want to apply Master Nursery Hydra Blue or Dolomitic Lime as the new growth begins in March and every couple of weeks until the blooms begin to color. For the Endless Summer series, you want to continue treating the soil until it no longer produces new bloom while monitoring the soil pH so make sure it doesn’t get too acidic or alkaline.
I know that is a lot to take in so if you have any questions please leave a comment or ask one of our knowledgeable staff!
Happy Hydrangea Season!