Hydrangeas are a truly unique flower. They can be identified by their globe-shaped blooms, which flourish in summer and spring. Hydrangeas symbolize heartfelt emotion, gratitude and sometimes boastfulness. These blooms are often given on fourth wedding anniversaries to symbolize appreciation.
Whether you are planning on planting hydrangeas in your garden to enjoy throughout the year or you’re growing them for a specific flower arrangement, our guide will help you nurture yours into big, bold and beautiful blooms.
Types of Hydrangeas
Before planting these flowers, it’s important to choose a variety that will be compatible with your environment. The amount of sunlight you get, soil type and size of the blooms you desire will all be key in finding the right variety of hydrangea for you.
There are four main species of hydrangeas that are commonly found in gardens:
French hydrangea (hydrangea macrophylla)
French hydrangeas are popular in the southern United States and are commonly a blue hue. They are also known as bigleaf hydrangeas. Two main types of French hydrangeas are lacecap hydrangeas and mophead hydrangeas.
Smooth hydrangea (hydrangea arborescens)
These hydrangeas are native to the southeastern United States. When in bloom, smooth hydrangeas are a cream color. They thrive in more acidic soil.
Oakleaf hydrangea (hydrangea quercifolia)
Oakleaf hydrangeas produce a white flower that is either a single bloom (one layer of petals) or double bloom (two layers of petals). They are able to withstand dryer climates than other varieties.
Panicle hydrangea (hydrangea paniculata)
Panicle hydrangeas have white blooms that change to pink or red in the fall. They can adapt to full sun and are at their prime in Autumn. This variety is also known for attracting butterflies.
When planting hydrangeas, be sure you choose a location that allows plenty of room for growth. The hydrangea plant should be able to reach its full size without pruning. It’s best to plant these flowers in early spring or fall.
Once you find the perfect location, dig a hole that is as deep as the roots. This hole should also be 2 to 3 times as wide as the plant. Place the plant in the hole and fill it half full with soil. Water the soil until it is moist and then fill the rest of the hole with soil. Water the topsoil thoroughly. If you are planting multiple hydrangeas, space them 3 to 10 feet apart.
Hydrangea Care Tips
Hydrangeas require specific care in order to grow their large and bountiful flowers. Be sure you choose a location that has the right sunlight and soil to facilitate their needs. Providing ample water will also be key to helping them grow.
Hydrangeas prefer a location that has full sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon. This preference can vary based on the variety, so be sure to research how much sunlight your variety requires.
The name hydrangea originates from the Greek words “hydro” which means “water” and “angeion” which means “vessel.” As the name states, these water vessels require plenty of water to thrive. Generally, watering them 3 times a week is a good rule to follow. The soil should be moist at all times, but not too wet.
Hydrangeas grow well in soil that is rich and somewhat moist. Adding mulch underneath your hydrangeas can keep the soil moist if you live in a warmer climate. Although they enjoy the water, the soil should still have good drainage to prevent waterlogging.
Hydrangeas will change color based on the soil’s pH level. Acidic soil that has a pH of 0 to 7 will cause flowers to be a deeper blue shade. Alkaline soil with a pH of 7 to 14 tends to be a pink shade.
Pests and Diseases
Hydrangeas are not prone to pests and diseases, but if they may appear if the plant is not cared for properly. Some of these include leaf spot, mildew, aphids, leaf tiers, and red spider mites.
Pruning hydrangeas promote regrowth of flowers and keep the plant under control. How you prune the plant will depend on the variety.
Pruning French and Oakleaf Hydrangeas
These common hydrangeas should be pruned after the flowers fade in the summer. When pruning, cut the oldest stems down to the base. If the plant is old, you may need to cut all the stems down to the base. This will prevent it from flowering that season, but it will return much healthier.
With the lacecap variety, feel free to remove faded blooms and cut down to the second pair of leaves below the bloom. The mophead variety blooms should be left through winter and then cut back to the first pair of healthy buds in early spring.
Pruning Smooth and Panicle Hydrangeas
The smooth and panicle hydrangeas should be pruned before the flower buds are formed, usually in late winter. This is when the plant is dormant. If the cold winter kills any buds, pruning will help them grow back in the spring. Any dead branches should be pruned as well.
Giving your hydrangeas the proper care will allow them to produce beautiful blooms every year. Display your flowers as decor in your home or give a hydrangea bouquet as a gift.