Would you love to know how to grow hydrangeas to make them thrive? These stunning blooms are a favourite choice for many gardeners. With their fabulous flowers and foliage, these versatile, hardy plants are a great addition to any garden.

 

How to Grow Hydrangeas

“Flowers are the beautiful hieroglyphics of nature with which she indicates how much she loves us.” – Goethe

 

How to Grow Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas flower in spring and summer and can be cut back in winter or grown from cuttings. Hydrangea colour is an indication of the pH value of your soil. Pink flowers indicate it is alkaline (pH of between 8 and 12). Blue flowers mean the soil is more acidic (pH of between 1 and 6 with 7 being neutral). White hydrangea flowers may change colour as they mature. Don’t worry though – you can adjust the pH and the colour! Keep reading to learn how.

 

Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as canvas - working with nature provides the technique.

Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as canvas – working with nature provides the technique.

 

As a little bit of trivia, the name ‘hydrangea’ comes from two Greek words: ‘hydor’ which means water and ‘angeion’ meaning vessel. This is because the seedpods resemble drinking cups!  So let’s look at where, when and how to plant out a hydrangea, as well as their ongoing needs.

Where to Plant Hydrangeas

Location: Although hydrangeas are pretty hardy flowers, they can suffer in full summer sun or windy conditions. These both dry them out quickly. Hydrangeas prefer a partially shaded area or one that receives morning sun only.  So, the best location is partially shaded or ‘dappled’ shade. All varieties should bloom and grow well in a morning sun/afternoon shade location but not in heavy shade.  Try the southern side of your garden (southern hemisphere) or the northern side (northern hemisphere).

 

How to Grow Hydrangeas: Avoid heavy shade under a tree with a large canopy - choose a partially shaded area with dappled light.

Avoid heavy shade under a tree with a large canopy – choose a partially shaded area with dappled light.

 

Avoid planting under a tree.  Tree roots will compete for the rich moist soil around your hydrangea. There may also be insufficient light if the tree canopy is large.

Space: If you only have limited space, you might consider growing them in pots or containers. Choose your pot wisely for the mature size of the plant and consider the plant’s needs. Hydrangeas need consistent moisture so avoid porous pots.

 

How to Grow Hydrangeas: Hydrangeas can be grown in pots with the right soil and care.

Hydrangeas can be grown in pots with the right soil and care.

Depending on the cultivar, most hydrangeas need at least 1m2 of personal space to feel comfy and do their best. Make sure you check the label first to determine the mature size of the plant.

Drainage: You will also need to consider your hydrangea’s drainage requirements. Whilst hydrangeas like moist, compost-rich and well-drained soil, they hate ‘wet feet’!  Raised beds are a good option if these are available or even a mounded position.

When to Plant Hydrangeas

 

Hydrangeas in pots | The Micro Gardener

If your potted hydrangea has been grown and raised in a garden nursery, it will be used to being outdoors all year so you can plant anytime.

 

However, if you decide to plant during a hot summer, it would be wise to time your planting for early morning or late afternoon during the coolest part of the day.  This will avoid heat stress.  Also, bear in mind that during the hotter months of the year, your hydrangea will need to be kept well watered to establish in its new location.

 

Hydrangea blooms make beautiful cut flowers.

Hydrangea blooms make beautiful cut flowers.

 

How to Grow Hydrangeas – Likes & Dislikes

Just like you have your preferences for the home you live in, so do your plants! Hydrangeas are no exception. Knowing what they prefer will help you make a wise choice. Give them what they want and your hydrangeas will not just survive, but thrive!

Likes Good drainage; dappled shade; sufficient water; moist rich composted soil; mulch and a regular feed.

Dislikes:  Hot sun and a windy location; heavy clay soils; too much shade; competing for nutrients and drying out.


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How to Prepare your Soil and Plant Hydrangeas

 

STEP 1.   Pre-soak your potted hydrangea

Anytime I transplant a plant or seedling from a pot to its new home, I give it a little TLC (tender loving care)! I find I never have any stressed plants as a result. Plants seem to settle into their new position more quickly. Many people just pop a plant straight into a hole and cover it back up with the soil they just dug out. Then wonder why their plant doesn’t look healthy!

 

It's especially important to put extra attention into your soil for container grown hydrangeas. These 'babies' are totally dependent on you, their gardener 'parent'!

It’s especially important to put extra attention into your soil for container grown hydrangeas. These ‘babies’ are totally dependent on you, their gardener ‘parent’!

 

From experience, I believe you will get better results with a little extra effort and it takes only a minute anyway. If you’ve invested in your beautiful hydrangea, why not give it the best chance right?

  • First, to a bucket of water, add some liquid seaweed fertiliser. Check the directions on the brand you are using and make up a ‘strong’ solution. Why give your hydrangea a seaweed ‘bath’ prior to planting in its permanent home? Seaweed products are made from kelp, which is full of trace elements that build soil and plant health. Seaweed also prevents transplant shock. Plant stress is a common problem when ‘moving house’ from a pot to a new location.
  • I think of seaweed or kelp as ‘Nature’s Rescue Remedy’ and a pick-me-up tonic for plants.  It provides a rich source of nutrients needed for healthy plants and helps build resistance to pest and disease.  All good reasons to invest in it!
  • Slowly lower the pot into the bucket. Allow the plant to soak until all air bubbles have stopped coming to the surface.  This may take a few minutes or longer. While your pot is soaking, prepare the hole or new larger pot.

STEP 2.   Preparing your soil or pot

Dig a hole that is twice as wide as the hydrangea’s root bulb on all sides.  So if you have a 200mm pot, dig a 600mm hole, so the plant has 200mm extra space all the way around for the roots to grow into.  Only dig the hole as deep as the pot itself.

 

Make sure the hole is only as deep as the pot but leaves space around for the roots to grow

Make sure the hole is only as deep as the pot but leaves space around for the roots to grow

 

Likewise, if you are transplanting your hydrangea into a larger pot, leave sufficient room for the roots to grow. You can always move it to a larger pot again later as it grows.

STEP 3. Supercharge your Soil

Hydrangeas love compost. Why? It is full of nutrients, helps retain moisture and builds the organic matter in your soil.  This in turn, attracts worms who aerate the soil with their tunnels. These helpful earthworm ‘bulldozers’ leave you a trail of rich humus for free. Their worm castings build soil health and an instantly available food source for your hydrangea’s plant roots. Worms are wonderful garden helpers!  If you have your own homemade compost, then use that as a preference.  If not, then choose a certified organic compost as this is probably the next best available alternative.

Additional soil improvers such as rock dust minerals, Epsom Salts (magnesium sulphate), mulch, worm castings, chopped banana peel or slow release plant food can all add valuable minerals and nutrients to the soil. These will boost your hydrangea’s growth.  You can add any of these to the hole before planting and adding the compost or potting mix.

 

“A healthy garden is a reflection of a healthy soul.”

“A healthy garden is a reflection of a healthy soul.”

 

If you live in an area that doesn’t get much rainfall or you have water restrictions, your soil may need a little helping hand to retain moisture.  I recommend adding some coir peat or coconut husk fibre.  Coir peat comes in compressed blocks you can rehydrate and significantly improves moisture holding capacity. Available online or at garden centres, hardware and produce stores and even some garden sections in department stores.

It is sold as a solid dry ‘brick’ that you can soak in water and will fluff up. You can add to your soil, potting mix or mix with compost. Coir peat (coconut fibre) is a sustainable by-product of the coconut industry. The husk fibre is recycled and is an economical way of adding organic matter to your garden.


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Coir peat  retains up to 70% of its own weight in moisture. This is a cheap addition to any garden or pot. Simply follow the directions for the amount of water to add. Tip: Always use warm water to speed up hydration or you’ll be waiting until the next day for it to absorb it all! Try adding some liquid seaweed and about a tablespoon of Epsom salts to the water at the same time. These will be absorbed into the coir peat and act as a slow release fertiliser.  Epsom salts contain a water soluble form of magnesium sulphate which assists with root development.

STEP 4.  Planting your Hydrangea     

Remove the pot from the soaking bucket. Tap gently on all sides to loosen the roots. Or run a knife around the edge if it appears to have been in the pot a long time.  If there are roots growing out the bottom, it may be a bit pot-bound. Just snip these off.  Place your hydrangea in the middle of the hole and back fill firmly with the compost.

 

Adding compost and nutrients to your potting mix or soil will boost plant health and minimise problems.

Adding compost and nutrients to your potting mix or soil will boost plant health and minimise problems.

STEP 5.   Feed your Soil for Beautiful Blooms

Add a slow release organic fertiliser to the soil or potting mix. This will slowly feed your hydrangea with a balanced diet of nutrients it needs for healthy growth. If the fertiliser you select doesn’t include rock minerals or soft rock phosphate, try adding some.  Natural (non-chemical) mineral fertilisers are a blend of crushed volcanic rocks which give vitality to soils and build correct soil structure.  Rock minerals should be applied to every garden to restore mineral balance and improve plant health.  It is a bit like humans taking mineral supplements because we always have minerals missing in our diet.

 

Hydrangeas thrive in healthy soil | The Micro Gardener

Your hydrangeas will thrive in healthy soil

 

STEP 6.  Add Mulch

Hydrangeas have a fibrous root system that is close to the soil surface. So it is important to mulch well.  I prefer to use a ‘feeding’ mulch which breaks down to add more organic matter to the soil. Mulches such as sugarcane, hay, lucerne, pea straw, grassy mulch hay, even grass clippings (no seed heads) will all add valuable nutrients to the soil. Mulch also protects your hydrangea from losing too much moisture from the soil.  You can always apply a decorative mulch on top of this if you wish.

How to Water, Fertilise and Care for Hydrangeas

  • To establish your hydrangea and encourage new root growth, water in well.
  • On hot summer days, water in the morning so the plant won’t wilt during the heat of the day.

 

How to Grow Hydrangeas Tip: When in flower, water deeply twice a week.

How to Grow Hydrangeas Tip: When in flower, water deeply twice a week.

 

  • Water deeply every 3 days rather than a shallow water daily. Or water when it is noticeably dry. This encourages deep root development.  You can water add Epsom salts (1 tablespoon to a 9L watering can) monthly.
  • As a rule of thumb, it is better to underwater rather than over water!  Hydrangeas will ‘tell’ you they need a drink by wilting a little.
  • In winter, cut off all the flower heads that have finished blooming, six joints from the flower head.  This will help them bloom beautifully the next year.

 

Hydrangeas can be pruned into a compact shape and look great in containers with texture like wicker baskets.

Hydrangeas can be pruned into a compact shape and look great in containers with texture like wicker baskets.

 


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Learn more about How to Grow Hydrangeas

How to Prune Hydrangeas 

  • Watch this practical video on How to Trim Hydrangeas for some great tips on pruning your hydrangeas.

How to Change the Colour of Hydrangeas

  • Watch this video on what to add to your soil to Change the Colour of your Hydrangeas from pink to blue or vice versa!

How to Make Your Cut Hydrangea Flowers Last Longer

  • Want to make your woody stemmed hydrangeas last a week longer in your vase?  Find out how to treat the stem so you can enjoy your favourite cut flower longer.

 

Hope you’ve enjoyed my tips about how to grow hydrangeas. Connect with Nurseries Online (Australia)Royal New Zealand Institute of  HorticultureThe American Hydrangea Society and The Lakeland Horticultural Society UK for more information, galleries, links and varieties in your region. There are also some useful global links on Queensland Gardening Pages.

For more ideas on growing flowers and fragrance in small spaces, check out Micro Gardening and Inspirational Small Garden Ideas for lots of pictures too.

Do you have hydrangeas growing in your garden or have a tip to share? If you like this post, please share it!

 

Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. I only recommend products or services I use personally or believe will add value to my readers. Please read my Disclosure Statement for more details.

 

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© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2016. https://themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.