Care and Maintenance of Hydrangeas

A deep blue hydrangeaHydrangeas entice the home gardener with big, beautiful blossoms that come in a rainbow of colors: white, blue, red, and varying shades of pink and even purple. Some people see this fabulous plant and its show-stopping blooms, and because of its spectacular characteristics, may feel a little intimidated. The truth is, however, that if planted in the right conditions, the care and maintenance of hydrangeas makes it one of the easiest plants to have in your landscape.

A pH for Every Plant

The most crucial factor in the care and maintenance of hydrangeas is to start off on the right foot, or rather, in the right pH. If your soil is naturally alkaline, hydrangeas that produce the pink or purple shades of blossom will do fine. For blue blooms, hydrangeas prefer acidic soils, and if your soil is neutral, hydrangeas producing blossoms of white or cream do best.

To find out what the pH of your soil is, almost all larger nurseries sell kits with which you can test it yourself, or you can have your soil tested by sending a sample (and a small fee) to your county extension agent. Soil pH is based on a scale ranging from 0 to 14. Neutral soil rates as a 7 on the scale with numbers to the left and right (0-6 and 8-14) being considered acid and alkaline, respectively.

For the care and maintenance of hydrangeas, you can raise or lower the pH with additives to some extent. For instance, adding sulfur, aluminum phosphate, or iron sulfate lowers the pH of alkaline soils, making it more acidic, and the addition of agricultural lime and gypsum make soil more alkaline.

One of the most appealing traits of hydrangeas is that there is a hydrangea for every soil condition. So if you live in rocky limestone country, grow those hydrangea varieties that do well there. The same goes for gardeners living in areas noted for pine trees (a sign of acidic soils) and those in neutral-soil regions.

About Pruning

Another useful bit of information to know about the care and maintenance of hydrangeas entails pruning. Hydrangeas only produce flowers on old wood, so its important for those who put a high regard on their plants profusely blooming to know when and where to cut them back.

It won't harm the plant to shear it all the way to the ground; it will come back the following spring as vigorous as ever, just without blooms. But to maintain those gorgeous flower buds, cut only when the plant is blooming or immediately after, so you know which wood to cut. One caveat: If you do choose to cut hydrangeas to the ground, it can take up to two years for them to begin flowering again.

Do not let the care and maintenance of hydrangeas scare you off from enjoying the rewards of this well-loved plant! With just a little bit of knowledge, you can have this wonderfully blooming plant just about anywhere you live. You are probably growing plants in your yard right now more difficult to care for than the hydrangea, and chances are, you are not getting the reward the tried-and-true hydrangea offers. So give it a shot! And it wont be long before you will be showing off with hydrangea blossoms to rival the best and marveling at how fast hydrangeas grow.

Photo by tanakawho, Creative Commons Attribution License