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How to Plant Hydrangeas

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

Hydrangeas are beautiful flowers that can grow in many climates.

Hydrangeas are beautiful flowers that can grow in many climates.

Hydrangea Basics

Hydrangeas are a stand-out flower in any garden due to their tall stature, long, slender stem, their large pom-pom-like bloom cluster, and their large bush. However, another unique feature of the hydrangea is its ability to change petal color based upon the soil pH where it is planted. From whites to pinks, lavenders, and even blues, hydrangeas can make a big impact in your yard when planted in large clusters.

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


Things You'll Need

Before adding hydrangeas to your garden you'll need to gather a few basic supplies:

  • 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 soil where the soil can stay moist for most of the day. Hydrangeas are moisture-loving plants.
  2. Dig a hole deep enough to accommodate the depth of the root ball and about 2 to 3 times wider than the root ball.
  3. Set the plant inside the hole and back fill with soil; water-in the plant fully.
  4. Lightly pack remaining soil loosely 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. Although this may leave your plant looking a little naked and unkempt, cutting away the withered away plant encourages new growth in the next flowering season. Don't be afraid to get aggressive with the shearing.
  • Some 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.
  • If you aren't sure which type of hydrangea you have, consult planting directions to ensure you prune the hydrangea at the appropriate time of the year. You may need to consult an online plant encyclopedia to determine your specific type of variety.
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Helpful Hints

  • Change the color of your hydrangea by amending the soil. Acidic soils with a pH less than 5.5 tend to yield blueish blooms, whereas soils of a pH of 5.5 or higher yield pinkish blooms. Consider adding sulfur or peat moss to lower pH, or add limestone to increase the pH.
  • Since Hard water can also affect flower color, consider switching to rainwater if your flowers turn too pink, rainwater will help keep your blue hydrangeas a more true blue.
  • Select an ideal location based on where the sun travels in your yard. Hydrangeas prefer full sun in the morning with afternoon shade. Avoid extreme shade, suggests, as “hydrangeas planted in deep shade may not flower at all."
  • Southern gardeners often hydrangeas under pine trees where they can receive filtered light throughout the day and not be exposed to extreme heat. According to This Old House, hydrangeas can stand more sunlight the more northerly they lie.
  • Consider that 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.
  • When transplanting or dividing hydrangeas it’s best to divide or transplant hydrangea while in dormancy; plan to divide the plant in early spring or the fall for best results.

How to Customize the Color of Cut Hydrangea

Did you know that florists commonly spray paint hydrangeas to meet the color requirements of weddings and other special occasions?

Since hydrangeas are a fairly hardy flower, they can easily withstand some extra "beating" by being spray painted to match the colors of the wedding party or other decorations.

Work in a well-ventilated area, and hold the hydrangeas at arms distance and apply the spray paint sparingly. You can always add another layer of color if you desire a darker result, however consider mixing colors to get a more natural and pleasing color combination. Gently wipe off blooms that get too much spray paint, or gently spray water on the bloom to help dilute the color.

Although some florist and designers will recommend using specific paint, the florist I worked for used regular spray paint with great success.

Painting Hydrangeas

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

Question: How do I keep white hydrangeas white?

Answer: 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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