How to Plant Hydrangeas

Updated on April 26, 2019
Diane Lockridge profile image

Lockridge is an avid reader who enjoys learning about beautiful garden plants. Among other things, she has worked with a florist.

One of the unusual things about hydrangeas is that their petal color can change based upon the soil pH. Even more unusual is the fact that one plant can have blooms of colors ranging from whites and pinks to lavenders, according to

Although it is possible to plant hydrangea plants from seeds, most gardeners have success sculpting their garden with mature hydrangea plants or with a root ball.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil pH kit
  • Soil amendments (such as limestone or peat moss)
  • Trowel
  • Hydrangea plant
  • Water
  • Shears

How to Plant Hydrangeas

  1. Choose a location with rich, porous soils where the soil can stay moist.
  2. Dig a hole deep enough to accommodate the root ball and about 2 to 3 times as wider than the root ball.
  3. Set the plant inside the hole and fill the hole half full with soil; water-in the plant fully.
  4. Lightly pack remaining loose soil around the plant. Water-in the plant again.
  5. Give hydrangeas a wide-birth and don’t overcrowd them. Space plants 3 to 10 feet apart to accommodate shrubby growth. Varieties commonly grow between 4 to 6 feet tall, while larger varieties may reach up to 9 feet.

How to Prune Hydrangeas

  • Big-leaf varieties of hydrangeas bloom on “old wood,” so you’ll need to prune the plant after the flower withers and fades away. Use sharp shears to cut old stems all the way down to the base of the plant. Cutting away the withered away plant encourages new growth in the next flowering season.
  • Hydrangeas such as the oak leaf and panicle bloom on “new wood,” so you’ll need to prune the plant in the dormant season before the plant starts to grow.
  • Consult planting directions to ensure you prune the hydrangea at the appropriate time of the year.

Helpful Hints

  • Acidic soils of pH less than 5.5 yield blue blooms, whereas soils of a pH of 5.5 or higher yield pink blooms. Add sulfur or peat moss to the soil to lower pH, add limestone to increase the pH.
  • Hard water can also affect flower color, which means that if you use tap water bluish flowers could turn pink. Use rainwater to keep your flower colors true.
  • Hydrangeas prefer full sun in the morning with afternoon shade. Select a location where your plant will get partial shade. Too much direct sunlight on the plant or on the soil can dehydrate the plant and kill it; but avoid extreme shade, suggests, as “hydrangeas planted in deep shade may not flower at all.
  • In the South, nurseries often plant hydrangeas under pine trees where they can receive filtered light. According to This Old House, hydrangeas can stand more sunlight the more northerly they lie.
  • Not all hydrangeas bloom at the same time of year. Depending upon your species and the weather in your location, your hydrangea may bloom as early as the spring or as late as mid-summer.
  • It’s best to divide or transplant hydrangea while in dormancy, so divide the plant in early spring or the fall.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

  • How do I keep white hydrangeas white?

    Some people say that the novelty of hydrangeas is connected to the fact that the bloom can vary in color, depending upon the acidity of the soil where it grows. For best results in keeping a white hydrangea white, try to keep the pH levels between 6.0 and 6.2. Also try to keep the plant in peak condition, as a healthy plant is more likely to retain its original bloom color.

© 2018 Diane Lockridge


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