Hydrangea Care Basics

Love those big beautiful blossoms only a hydrangea can produce? If so, here is a hydrangea care guide primer for this popular plant that has been a favorite for years among those who know how to make it grow.

Once thought of as primarily a “Southern" plant, hybridization has now enabled hydrangeas to be successfully grown nearly anywhere in the United States. This hydrangea care guide must then be written with the thought in mind that the reader will further his or her research by determining care pertinent to the area in which the plant will be grown. That being said, here are some general guidelines pertaining to hydrangeas grown everywhere.

Planting and Fertilizing

Any hydrangea care guide should include instructions to plant hydrangeas in rich, loamy soil and in an area that provides morning sun and afternoon shade. Do not plant around trees; this robs them of moisture. Ensure your hydrangeas get plenty of water, but also make sure they have good drainage.

Fertilize hydrangeas with manure, compost, or you can use a balanced, slow-release commercial preparation. Any good hydrangea care guide will tell you to not fertilize if the plants seem stressed. If you live in the warmer areas of the South, apply two applications: one in May, and another in July.

For colder climates, fertilize once in June. Base the amount of fertilizer on the size of the plant. It is always better to fertilize too little than too much. For small plants, a general application of about ¼ cup of commercial fertilizer should do; larger plants can handle from 1-2 cups. Fertilizer should always be scratched into the soil around the drip line (outside perimeter) of the plant, not around its base.

Prune With Care

Pruning methods should also be a part of your hydrangea care guide. For mopheads, lacecaps, and oakleaf varieties, only old, dead wood should be pruned unless the plant has grown unmanageably large. In this case, prune only in the summer before the month of August to avoid cutting off branches with bloom buds already set for the next season.

For other varieties, such as Annabelle and PeeGee types of hydrangeas, prune them after they have finished blooming in the fall, removing only branches that have crossed one another or that detract from the overall beauty of the plant.

What About Those Colors

Almost any hydrangea care guide will include the most asked question about hydrangeas: How does one get the beautiful blue and vivid pink coloring in the blossoms? Aluminum sulfate added to hydrangea varieties of the mophead and lacecap types will help them turn blue. Lime worked into the soil will give a pink coloration to the blossoms.

These additions work only if the native soil surrounding the plant is conducive, that is, if the soil is acidic already, you will have much better luck growing blue hydrangeas. Conversely, if your soil is already fairly alkaline, your success in growing pink-blossomed hydrangeas will be much better.

Only a soil test kit can give you accurate measurements of ph levels. If your soil is not favorable to growing hydrangeas in the colors you desire, consider growing them in large pots where controlling soil conditions is much easier.

Hopefully, this hydrangea care guide will give you at least a good start toward growing this beautiful traditional plant. Of course, more information can be found online at numerous Internet Web sites and at your local bookstore and library. Good luck and may you have the most gorgeous hydrangeas in the neighborhood!