Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hydrangeas hate me

They do. They really, really do. I’ve mentioned this a few times over the years and this year I am determined to do something about it.

Oh yes.

Hydrangeas, of course, are one of my very favorite flowers. And of course, I can’t grow them to save my life.

Of. course.

This is the primary reason I love Trader Joes. Cheap, fluffy hydrangeas. And their salads. I like their salads too.

But I digress. I can grow some things. Cukes and tomatoes like mad. Lilies love me. Azaleas and I are likethis.

SEE?:

pink azaleas 

I actually need to replant or split the lilies because they are being eaten alive by the azaleas. I don’t prune my azaleas – haven’t wanted to. The one on the end there is five feet wide and at least three feet tall.

I LOVE THEM. And they love me, which is funny because I’ve heard they can be very hard to grow.  So look at me, not touching them and they are awesome. Of course.

So I can grow plants, it’s just the hydrangea bush that hates me. I’ve now tried three versions and only one has done fairly (and fairly is subjective) well. I dream of bushes like this:

blue and purple hydrangeas

Or holy cats, pick me up off the floor, these:

hydrangea garden

I have six hydrangea bushes planted around our house. I’ve tried them in all different areas over the years because I can’t find the right mix of sun/shade to make them thrive.

I have three Endless Summer varieties and most should look like this by now:

blue hydrangea bush

(source)

But instead they look like this:

 sad sad hydrangeas  

SEE? Pathetic I tell you!!

(And sorry about the weeds, we’re addressing this soon. I prefer to call them ground cover.)

The first one has been there for YEARS. Yes. Years people. It’s about five inches wide. It’s in afternoon and late afternoon sun which obviously is the worst for them.

The second one is in morning sun and I got it last year. It never bloomed but was a bit bigger than this.

The third one is doing the best, actually all the sudden. It’s been there for years as well, and has never bloomed. It’s in afternoon sun.

Do I need to mention that every. single. one. of these was a beautiful, full plant when I put it in the ground???

So I’ve tried everything but shade, and nothing has worked well for this variety.

Next up are the PeeGee trees that I got at the end of the season last year. They should look like this:

(source)

Well. Eventually.

They were blooming when I put them in the ground and did OK last fall.

Now?:

Sad sad SAD. One is doing OK, I guess. One barely has any leaves on it.

They look like they need to be pruned? Do I prune them?

Help.

The only version that has done OK is the only one I’m not as excited about.

Of course.

I got a Limelight variety late last summer on HUGE clearance and it did better than the others. I got a few cuttings off of it, but it wasn’t anything to write home about:

Now this one is coming back really well, and although there are no signs of blooms yet, I’m OK with it because that just means it will get bigger:

That big plant behind it is a sunflower that came up last year (I’m assuming from our bird seed) and it’s coming back. I LOVE it so it’s staying there. :)

The Limelights are beautiful for sure, just not my favorite hydrangea:

limelight hydrangea

(source)

I prefer the blue or purpley blooms and I’ve heard the color will depend on the soil ph. I can’t even determine that because I’ve yet to get ONE bloom from my Endless Summer bushes. After at least five years of trying.

Sooo…you know I need your help. :) We are in Indiana and yes, hydrangea can grow like MAD here. I see them do well all over the place, just not at my house. I swear, last summer I went through the Arby’s drive through near us and about lost it cause they had a bajillion gorgeous fluffy hydrangea bushes that were amazing.

Argh.

I see them in front of businesses, in all day sun, and they are fantastic. I see them at friend’s houses in complete shade and they are FANTASTIC.

What gives? Any suggestions? Hydrangea tricks I don’t know about? I’m trying the shady areas next. Should I prune them, cut down the old stalks? Do I prune the PeeGee trees as well?

What am I doing to make them hate me so? I am determined to make them work this summer. I will conquer the hydrangea and make them like me. Even if they hate me for it. 

105 comments:

  1. I am in the same boat! I love, love, LOVE hydrangeas! But they hate my guts. I love gardening and take great pride in both my flower and veggies gardens, but hydrangeas and I can't get along. Mine wither up and die. :( I finally broke down and bought a hydrangea TREE from the Arbor Day Foundation, and I LOVE it!! Little to no maintenance and beautiful blooms! The only bad thing about it is the blooms are only in the spring. I'm going to try a hydrangea bush again sometime when I can talk myself into it.

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  2. Wow - what lucky timing for me. I just planted my first hydrangea this Saturday. I bought it from the big sale at the National Arboretum (DC) on Friday, and took it out for planting at our farmhouse in West Virginia. I went with one with the light blue blossoms. It's about 1.5 feet by 1.5 feet.

    This thread should be a nice source of advice for my new plant.

    PS- our peonies are in full bloom right now. Just clipped a pair of beautiful pink blossoms for the kitchen - so fragrant!

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  3. I live in socal so this may be diff for Indiana, BTW my sister lives in Lafayette...anyway when I lived in an apartment the backyard was beautiful and had a wall of hydrangea...total shade all the time. I'm trying one right now and he hasn't made any progress but he hasn't died either which I'm really happt about but he gets some sun mostly shade...so maybe shade is the way to go.

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  4. I recommend testing your soil...now! It doesn't matter if you have flowers or not! You won't if you don't.

    So, test your soil. Then, call your local agricultural extension office (there is usually one in every county), and ask them. They are the experts for your area of the country, and those folks always love to help out!!!

    Good luck!!

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  5. Lots of info here: http://www.ehow.com/how_4488603_grow-hydrangeas.html

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  6. Sarah they are my fav too and they do ok for me but not near what I would like. My sister can grow them like crazy. I am wondering if it's actually your soil, my sisters soil is really sandy. I always thought that azaleas and hydrangeas grow pretty much under the same conditions. I bought a new variety last year and it did beautifully but I can't recall the name, the look like lace blue and pink variegated. Good luck!

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  7. Acidic soil....add pine needles as a mulch. Check your ph level.

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  8. Gah! Now I'm nervous! I've always wanted hydrangeas and just planted 4 small bushes, thinking they'd not be hard to grow.

    I didn't test the soil, but I did add organic acidifier.

    I'll be watching this thread!

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  9. Most likely it's a combination of things - soil, water, and light. I live near Washington, DC and my hydrangeas do best with some morning sun but after noon they are totally shaded. They need a lot of water - like A LOT of water especially for the first few years. As soon as you see any bit of droop, water the heck out of it. Finally you need to add acid to your soil. You can do this with specialized fertilizer or just dump your coffee grounds on them! Both work well. It's taken years but mine are finally thriving! Reminds me that I need to check on some that I recently transplanted. Good luck!!

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  10. I have never had problems growing hydrangeas, but I do know that soil type is a concern. I can't remember what type of soil is best, but I am wondering if that is your problem. Also the bloom color will be based on soil condition too.

    Anyway, I don't do anything special to my hydrangeas. They are planted on the side/corner of my garage where they get morning and some afternoon sun. I don't fertilize or cut them until late fall and then I cut the bush almost to the ground. Comes back every year and is beautiful.

    Definitely check with your local extension office or ask at your local greenhouse. These people will definitely be able to tell you where to plant so they will thrive. Good luck!

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  11. Hydras are not really fast growing. Mine is still small after 2 years in a pot, then 2 in the ground. It takes years to get those big ones you showed, they are very mature. So unfortunately, you have to wait :( Sorry! You can miracle grow them, and google them up. You can change color by adding things to the soil too! It's cool. Much luck. They are worth it. So fabulous. We lived at a place that had 2 huge bushes flanking the front porch and people were always knocking to see if they could snip a few ;)

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  12. I just want to add my 2 cents. I work at the greenhouse, have for 12 years. Your Hydrangeas need acid. Pine Needles will change the PH, but they take a long time to break down. So it will take a while for the needles to work. You do need a PH level check. Also they need to be on a drip system. Not watered with an over head sprinkler. Hope that helps.

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  13. Are you watering them a lot"? with that much sun, they need A LOT of water. Th best thing for them would probably be a soaker hose placed around their base (you can bury it under mulch) that is set on a timer to go off for 10-15 minutes twice a day. I say all this assuming your soil is average and neither too heavy (clay) or sandy.

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  14. I live in Indiana and have never tried growing them. I seen very few in my neighborhood. I know the soil has a lot to do with it. We have lots of clay in our soil. We have added sand to our soil, mixed it in with the clay soil and it seems to help the garden and plants. It may be worth a try. Good Luck! Looking forward to future posts to see how they are doing.Good Luck!

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  15. First thing to remember is that Hydro is in the name so they need a fair amount of water. They prefer morning sun and shade in the heat of the day. Do not prune them as they bloom of old and new wood. I have several Limelites and they aren't blooming yet and I live in NC where we had a very mild winter. You should be able to get the ones in your photos in about 5 to 6 years. Adding iron and or mitro to the soil will change the colors. Good luck.

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  16. I'm West Lafayette. Having the same trouble with Endless Summer that get part sun. Planted 3 in full shade in back yard but our recent week of frost killed them : /. Call the Purdue Extension office, I'm sure they can help you. My Limelight tree get full sun in the front landscaping and is gigantic. It gets beautiful fall blooms but yes, I want those huge blue/purple blooms as well.

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  17. Ditto to the advice you've gotten. Get a soil sample kit from your extension service. They won't test only pH, they will also tell you what micronutrients your soil might need. As mentioned, acidic soil is best for bringing out the blue blooms but it won't happen from pine needles (they break down REALLY slow - I use them as mulch and they don't radically affect soil pH.) Coffee grounds are okay, but honestly your best bet is to make sure your soil has plenty of organic matter (compost) worked into it regularly and then fertilize. Keep them weeded - they don't like to compete for nutrients and water with grass and weeds. And then water, water, water. And wait. Pruning depends on the type of hydrangea. If you bloom them at the wrong time you'll cut off the stalks they would produce blooms on next year.

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  18. I have a hydrangea planted in a very large pot. I keep it in my patio, in the shade, and it loves it there. As long as I keep it moist, it's happy. My mom has a few and the ones in the shade do much better than the ones in the sun.

    sylvialovespink.com

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  19. It really depends on the variety of hydrangea, whether it will bloom in your area. Hydrangeas set buds on last year's stems, and if the variety isn't one that can withstand deep cold like here in the midwest, the buds will be killed. I would guess that the plants you have bought with big beautiful blooms, were forced in a greenhouse.
    Some will grow in full sun, but I think most prefer shade or dappled shade.
    I suggest that you go to a reputable nursery and ask questions. (not a big box store)
    (I learned all this the hard way)

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  20. I understand your pain! I planted a hydrangea two years ago and the rabbits ate it to the ground the first winter. It's slowly coming back but I think I'm going to have to buy another one! To help you with your hydrangea's I would highly suggest contacting the Purdue Extension Office in your county and inquire about a soil test. You may want to do more than one test because the soil types, where you have your plants at, could all be different and require certain amendments. The Extension staff will help you find a soil testing lab and should assist you in analyzing the results and what sort of amendments you need in your soil, i.e. nitrogen, phosphorus, etc. They may even have Master Gardeners that are volunteer 'experts' with gardening that you can talk with as well!

    Oh, and if you're home is on relatively new construction, you may have very little topsoil and compacted soil too! When homes are constructed most companies haul off rich topsoil and sell it, leaving lots with as little as 2 inches.

    Good luck!

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  21. Have some hydrangeas ordered and am constantly staring at the ones at lowes when i am there. Didn't expect to have trouble growing them now I am fretting a wee bit. Posting to keep an eye on this thread and see what I can learn from it.

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  22. I too love hydrangeas and I too am having trouble growing them. I am wondering if here in Colorado it might be a tad too dry for them. We have friends in Penn that has gorgeous hydrangeas in abundance. If you find out the secret I would love to know!!

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  23. Hope this isn't weird, haha, but I was wondering which part of Indiana you live in? We are moving there next week and I need to scout out some good thrift stores and such! I though if you were near where we are headed you might have some good suggestions!

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  24. SHADE, SHADE, SHADE. I have two that were in our house when we bought it nine years ago...one is in the North East corner of the house and get a bit of sun in the morning and then shade the remainder of the day..the other one is in the south east corner and gets sun..and is smaller than the ones you showed..I just have not taken the time to dig it out and move it...SHADE, SHADE SHADE with a wee bit of sun in the morning...only. I do nothing to my soil and everything else grows..replant them now and see what happens.

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  25. I know I should feel sorry for you and your hydrangeas. But I can't b/c you mentioned Trader Joe's and each time I read ANYTHING about TJ's, it stabs me, like a little heartbreak. We don't have one. And I've never even been inside one. Boo!!

    To make things worse, I broke my toe today.

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  26. How much are you watering them?? They are called HYDRANGeas after all! They drink.it.up. If you think you have watered enough I gurantee you need to water alot more. That is how I have been successful with them, and I have them in mostly shade. So since they have been in those spots for so long and havent bloomed I would move them to a shady spot for sure!

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  27. Since I now have a yard that is perfect for vegetables (lots and lots of sun) I don't have hydrangeas. I did have them at my house in Virginia and they got morning sun and we always mulched with pine needles. They were beautiful and mostly blue. Lots of water and mulching to retain moisture are necessary. Hydrangeas are not drought or dry condition plants. Good luck!

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  28. very awesome blog. I really enjoyed reading it.

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  29. I can't believe I'm going to offer advice on hydrangeas because I pretty much kill everything I touch, but... :)
    My church had a big beautiful hydrangea bush *until* the ladies cleaning up started dumping the left over coffee on the ground next to it. They did this for several months before realizing the hydrangea was looking sick. The coffee apparently changed the ph balance of the soil and for years they tried to get it back to it's original state. They never did. Eventually they pulled it up and planted something else.
    All that to say it seems hydrangeas are sensitive to ph balance. It might be worth it to test your soil.
    Love love love your blog. Thank you so much for sharing!

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  30. Do you cut them back in the fall? They bloom on last year's growth so if you trim them you will get less blooms. Some of your pics looked like you might have, on some i could see the old wood. I only cut the dead flowers off in the fall and they do pretty well each summer. Mine got hit with frost this spring so i'm a little nervous i won't get as many blooms this year!
    Good luck!

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  31. First of all, you sure are brave asking for advice on a public blog. I vent about something on FB and get 3 responses with advice and I'm overwhelmed :)

    For what it's worth, we live in Central KY and ours are growing beautifully (morning sun, afternoon shade) We added some topsoil and sand to our clay soil a couple years ago, and mulched the top, and they are doing great this year. I just realized you're not supposed to cut them back every year, so they're even getting bigger (finally)!! Only thing I would like is a different color bloom...ours always end up pale pink which is not my fave, but it seems I'd have to really do a lot of work to change soil composition to get a different color. Good luck!

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  32. Hydrangeas need SHADE and lots and lots of water. They take about 3 years to really 'mature' and then you're golden.

    I think your problem is too much sun!

    S
    xo

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  33. Well you have lots of advice here but I planted hydrangeas all the way around my pool four years ago. They were only babies because planting giant ones would have cost a fortune. Last year was the first year I got blooms. I was so happy I made my husband come out and see that my babies had finally given me flowers. And mine look just like yours! They are not very fast growing plants so give them time. Go to the store and get hydrangea fertilizer, I did last year and coincidentally it was the year I got flowers. Good luck!

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  34. I have to agree with the less sun more shade comments. And the soil ph. I have 2 hydrangeas planted next to each other, have had them for the last 3 years or so. I planted a red dogwood to the left of them both (which would be to the south of them) 2 years ago, it was a clearance bush that I just planted there "temporarily" until I figured out where I wanted it...well, I never moved it and now it is huge. So it is now sheltering the one hydrangea and that one looks the best it has since I planted them! The other hydrangea which is literally 3 feet away is much smaller and less leafy. We get a LOT of wind here and it takes a huge toll on many of my plants. So that combined with the sun (just morning) on my hydrangeas was just not allowing them to thrive. So they definitely need shelter and shade from my experience! And water, mine always get droopy when the sun is on them.

    I also read somewhere that if you have them planted near concrete (foundation, sidewalk, etc.) that they will tend to be on the alkaline (pink) side because of the calcium from the concrete leaching into the soil. Mine tend to be pink and they are planted next to our concrete based porch. The last 2 years I have been adding garden sulphur to the soil around them and they have been getting more purple. Will probably never be really blue though, ah well. ;-)

    Good luck!!

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  35. I love Hydrangeas as well, really who doesn't? Im no expert, but the one thing I've learned is that you have to trim them (even harvest the blooms for drying) at a certain time, ofcourse I cant remember when that is, I have it written down somewhere-obviously my plants aren't doing so well either- but it's very important when you cut them back- research it! good luck!

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  36. I planted one for the first time this year. Yours look way better than mine. It had big, gorgeous pink blooms when I planted it. Those are almost all gone & the leaves are turning crunchy brown. I've been watering it more & we got a monsoon yesterday evening so I'm hopint that will help. My azaleas are completely out of control!

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  37. I had a similar issue! Previously my Endless Summer plant would not bloom and did not seem to be growing. I love hydrangeas as well and after three or so years with no blooms and the desire to add a Limelight hydrangea I decided it was time to call in reinforcements. I went to Allisonville Nursery and asked the experts. They told me to put Holly-tone around them in the spring and the fall. To my delight my Endless Summer bloomed for the first time following the first aplication. Holy-tone can be purchased at a nursery or your local hardware store. My Limelight is doing great and blooms as well! Goodluck and do not give up. Holly- tone applied now may not produce results until the following spring, but it will work!!!

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  38. Like you, Hydrangeas have to be one of my favorite shrubs. I have really never had any problems with them. Mine are planted in a moist area that gets partial sun in the afternoon. I use Miracle Grow (liquid one that attaches to your hose) at least once a week. I find this really helps. But the # 1 thing to know about Hydrangeas is that the flower blooms off of last year’s growth. So if you prune it you will not have a flower next season. You will have to wait a whole other year.
    Good Luck

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  39. Hi Sarah,
    I've been your reader and now your newest follower. I love your home tour. I love Hydrangeas too, good luck with them!

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  40. I'm in ND and I grew an Annabelle with great success. It got lots of morning sun and midday sun, afternoon shade. The flowers were literally bigger than my head!We moved and I couldn't bear to take it up...so it lives with the new owners {sniff}

    It was nothing but an almost dead stick-like twig when I convinced the store to sell at 50% off with no guarantee. I literally said to it "You gotta grow or you're out of here!" It did :-)

    I talk to my plants, touch their leaves, dig in their soil bare-handed (no gloves so they can really feel my touch). They grow! Of course the soil we had was fabulous! Composted cow manure, sheep manure and compost from the city.

    Have patience with your hydrangeas! Try moving them one more time and pruning back a little. Good luck!

    Thanks for posting the pics! They're lovely!

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  41. Hi--I've been lurking forever and finally got up the nerve to comment. :) I'm not sure where you live, but does it get fairly cold in the winter? The dead canes I see on most of your varieties look like you have winter die back--the plant is dying back to the ground each winter, and it slows down the growth. The limelight (proven winner) hydrangea you have is the most cold/cane hardy of all the hydrangeas you have planted, and it would explain why it's doing better, and why there are no dead canes. It's a thought.

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  42. I had two huge Endless Summer Hydrangeas at our old house. They did wonderful in mostly shade on the North side of our house. They actually rarely got sun. I also would cut back the dead in the spring.

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  43. I hear you! I'm the same way every year for the last 4years I've planted a hydrangea and I've never got any blooms from them! I see them everywhere but never in my yard! Can't wait to read what you learn about them!

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  44. i was THISCLOSE to buying another hydrangea recently and thought "why bother?" and put it back. when we moved into this house, there were 2 hydrangea TREES in the yard. every year one of them gets sadder and sadder looking. it needs so much water i can't keep up with it.

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  45. My sisterinlaw is a hydrangea queen. She says plant them on the east side of your house ( morning sun). Water regularly if it's really hot. I have some too, they are doing well in sandy soil. They cannot take afternoon sun, you will see the leaves wilt and droop in the afternoon. They take awhile to get big (years). They bloom on growth from the previous year so only prune the dead stalks in the spring. I had a problem with deer eating the buds in spring (deer don't like the leaves), so then I had no flowers. Once they're planted in the right spot just give them time (years :)

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  46. I have 3 hydrangeas in front of my house that get ALOT of sun...more then they should! I planted them 3 years ago and just bought cheaper ones at Lowes. I have had blooms every summer all summer long. I let them die off at the end of fall and then in the spring I wait until I see green again and that's when I cut back the old dead wood. Not sure if this is the right thing to do but it has worked for me. I don't want them to get huge because they are in front of my porch and don't want them to grow taller then the porch wall. My neighbor planted hers at the same time and same place ( probably only about 5 feet from mine ) and hers are about half the size as mine. She prunes hers all the way to the ground at the end of fall. We do the opposite and have totally different results. I get lots of blloms and she gets some, but we have both had blooms every year.

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  47. I forgot to mention I also use Miracle grow liquid that attatches to my hose. I probably use it every other day. I also water in the early morning and then in the evening when the sun has gone down. Happy hydrangea's!!

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  48. They need a lot of water. Tons and tons. I'd recommend that you also use miracle grow to help them get better established- and pull those weeds out around them, especially that sunflower- they will compete with the bush for water. Mine gets tons of afternoon sun and droops but if I water it frequently it is fine. Mine are huge and about as old as yours. :)

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  49. Have you tried getting your soil tested? We live in Illinois and couldn't for the life of us get grass to grow in our backyard. My husband's uncle came and tested our soil and recommended some nutralime mix ish stuff. After a year our backyard grass and landscaping finally held on for us.

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  50. I am going to have to read all of the comments because i have the exact same issue with hydrangeas!

    In fact last week a friend gave me some hydrangea specific fertilizer to try to help. We'll see. Right now they are simply lush green plants. And that's all they have been since year 1.

    Sigh.

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  51. For me, I have found that Hydrangeas need a lot of patience. They take a good 2-3 years to establish and then they become unstoppable! I have a couple that are about 6 years old and they are now 6 feet tall! (water & part chade here in So Cal). PATIENCE is the key! Happy gardening....

    ciao!

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  52. I agree with getting your soil tested and talking to your county extension office/master gardener club about specific varieties that will meet your need. Soil type and water will have a huge impact on how your hydrangea will perform. Also, do you have any walnut or chestnut trees in the area? Other trees/plants will kill or sicken hydrangeas with their sap

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  53. I have about 6 hydrangea also. I love them. I bought two of the Proven Winners also, both died. Bought 2 more, both died. Then I bought some other brand half off from a local garden center, planted them in the same area where the PW's were, and they have tripled in size. So maybe it's just those PW's that are finicky?

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  54. I don't know about hydrangeas, but I need azalea help! Ours just DO not grow! We put Hollytone in and everything but they just stay small. They get afternoon sun (a good bit of it) and we have a sprinkler system so they get water when needed.

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  55. I love them too. And, here is my unofficial gardener take. It depends a lot on the soil/conditions. And, I've always had better luck when they are located in the northeast or southeast area of my yard with some full sun for part of the day and dappled light. Plus, the Preen weed control with fertilizer seems to help mine along. Hope that helps. It's frustrating yet sometimes you have to experiment and always go to a reputable garden center to ask them for other things you haven't tried. I have learned so much by doing that.

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  56. Can you mulch with any type of pine needles or should us use a specific type?

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  57. I worked at a nursery in MI for several years, and we always recommended Espoma's Holly-Tone for hydrangeas. The acid in the Holly-Tone is what turns the flowers blue! Without acidic enough soil, blue hydrangeas will just have pink flowers. Anyway, I'm pretty sure Lowes carries some of the Espoma products, but I'm sure a local nursery would carry it. Bonus, it's organic! Hope that helps!

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  58. I read your blog daily and love it! I own a garden center/nursery in Arkansas so here goes...hydrangeas like morning sun/afternoon shade (think north or east side of house), lots of water, fertile soil and a fertilizer especially made for them (yes, they make one). After reading several of your posts and comments regarding plants, it seems that you and alot of your readers shop mostly at "big box" garden centers. My number one suggestion for you (this will help with all of your plant woes) would be to find a local, independent garden center that has a knowledgable staff---they could have helped you when you first planted your hydrangeas and you would be well on your way to beautiful blooms. I'm all for "thrifty" (that's why I love your blog!), but the extra $1 or $2you might pay at your local nursery is well worth it for the wealth of knowledge, caring, and help they will give you. Many times their plants are less expensive and usually much healthier. Hope this helps!

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  59. Hydrangeas hate me, too. I have no idea why. I've planted them in all kinds of locations and have tried many varieties. So sad. :(

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  60. Want BLUE hydrangeas? Those who have flowering lovelies already, add aluminum sulphate (available at your garden centre) to your soil prior to them blooming each spring. Voila! BLUE for YOU!

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  61. lol this made me laugh at so many times! I suck at growing things as well :( I was going to say, maybe you got the wrong plant? But then you said they were beautiful when you planted them lol! nevermind!

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  62. I do love my hydrangeas! One I have on the north side of our home so it is basically in the shade. I have three more under a pine tree and although they are only a few years old, I have had blooms on them every summer. I DO NOT cut them back because the buds grow on the old stems. If I do cut ... I will only cut back until the first bud. I had hundreds of blooms on it last year. All the best!!

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  63. Here's some ideas that work for me..my Hydrangeas are awesome. Patience..yes. They take time to establish. You don't need to prune them (except dead wood) until they are much older. Then, you prune them after they flower. I tend to cut them down radically at that point, and get great blooms the next year.
    They need water! Lots! They do so well here as we live on the coast of BC...wet, wet, wet. Lots of organic mulch works so great. Coffee grounds are good, but better in the compost first. Morning sun, afternoon shade for sure. They do not like to overheat. Hope this helps..as so much of the good advice here will...happy gardening! :)

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  64. I love blue hydrangeas! Good luck with the beauties this year.

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  65. I planted two hydrangea bushes this weekend after wanting to do it for five years. Within days they were withering and sad. We watered them - a lot - and they sprung back to life. Today it's raining and they look better than they did when I brought them home from the store. By my excellent deductive reasoning skillz, I'm going to say these babies love water. Sad because I live in a dry area that sometimes has water rationing. Maybe I'll have to save bath water because I refuse to let these lovelies die!

    Oh, and I'm totally envious of your azalea. I want.

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  66. You probably won't see this because of all the comments already posted, but we had to move ours to full shade with soil that stays damp for ours to grow, and once we did that, boy did the they grow! The color of the blooms changed, but we didn't care too much because they got so big and had tons of blooms.

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  67. I love hydrangeas too and grow several different varieties. They tell you that some require shade, some part shade and some can tolerate full sun...etc. I have them all. I can tell you this, plant them according to what your variety requires for sunlight, but no matter which variety you have, they absolutely and I mean absolutely need ALOT of water!!!! I can't stress that enough. I DROWN mine and they do very well. I hope this helps! Good luck!

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  68. Have you seen this on pinterest? Apparently pennies can help hydrangeas!

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  69. Same here. Hydrangeas have always been my favorite, over the years I have purchased several plants. My first few did NOTHING year after year. NOw, the first one I planted is Huge and has tons of flowers. It has been in the ground for 8 years now. The trick I have learned is not to cut back the stems that look so dead at the end of the season. They will gown back green next season. I just bought another plant the other day at my local greenhouse. Good luck!

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  70. I have the Endless Summer variety and planted four in front of my bay window in 2006. They've gotten bigger every year. They are in a north-facing plot and only get late afternoon sun. Also, we don't have gutters, so when it rains, the angles of the house direct a lot of water into this area. I noticed that the hydrangea in the corner directly under the eaves is the largest. I don't mess with the soil, just fertalize a couple times a year and mine bloom in a range of colors from pink to purple and blue.

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  71. Hydrangeas offers the best of natural floral decoration. It perfect for garden and indoor decor.

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  72. I have had a giant hydrangea bush for several years and they just don't bloom. I also got a smaller one last year as a gift and it died too. I've put hollytone on it as a suggestion from several people and nothing. It's frustrating, I too love them and year after year I am disappointed

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  73. Am I the only one that was cracking up reading about your dilemma? (Sorry...but it just strikes me as funny.) I can't add anything to the great advice you've been given, but I have to agree with the reader who said that usually where azaleas thrive, so do hydrangeas. I know, not helpful, but true nonetheless. I only have one hydrangea bush that does very well. It faces northeast and gets watered from an automatic sprinkler system (not drip), but other than that we don't do anything. Our soil started out as very clayish, but has evolved from years of mulching into a pretty good consistency...probably between sandy and clay. Good luck!

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  74. Well, I see you have alot of advice here. I feel BAD cause I have 10 hydrangea bushes that I got out of the TRASH at the florist's where I used to work!!!!!!!!!!!! They bloom so prolifically we used them for our daughters wedding centerpieces 2 years ago. They only get about 3 hours of morning sun, NO afternoon sun but they need ALOT of water!!!! HYDRA means water, hence their name. I hope you will have more success in the future. Oh, and I do cut mine back to about 3-4 feet when the blooms are turning green (from blue), usually that is late August. XO, Pinky

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  75. I pruned ours this spring (before they budded out) and realized (after of course) that they come back through those old dead shoots...so maybe don't cut them back. I've also read that you can change the bloom color through pH; I didn't get an A in Chem. in College so I wouldn't take my word for that. :)

    I have one that has only made 3 leaves this year...so I'm glad you made this post so I could learn from the comments.

    Best of luck on your plants.

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  76. My hydreangea was planted in the shade and is now huge. So I think you are right about them liking shade. I think I've heard that they are picky about their soil too, so you may have to mess with the ph, in the soil. I've also heard that there is a way and best time to prune them. Honestly, I have not had any problems with mine so I haven't paid attention to any of that. Guess you just have to do some research...and find a shady spot! Good luck!

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  77. Your hydrangeas look fine for newly planted ones. They will grow - just give them time. I'm in Mid Michigan and mine are just about 3 inches off the ground now and they've been there for about 8 years. They get big by summer and have LOTS of blooms on them. They are the endless summer ones along with 1 Nikko blue. I put coffee grounds and pine needles around the bases if I want them blue. Otherwise the alkalinity will make them pinkish.

    Once your stems start growing more clip off the old stems with pruners. Don't pull them or snap them off. Hope this helps. I'm a gardener & love it...

    Liz VanKirk

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  78. Hydrangeas need TONS of water - you can't water them enough!! I've had a lot of luck with this in the past! Good Luck!

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  79. I just planted my very first hydrangea last week-end. I planted it so that it will get morning light but by noon and all afternoon it will be shaded by the tree next to it. Crossing my fingers that it grows. We are in Roanoke, VA. Lots of people here have hydrangeas and do well with them so maybe mine will too. I've read that their well being has a lot to do with the soil. Time will tell.

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  80. A few days ago I posted about my new Trader Joe's hydrangea, and people gave me suggestions--not that I've had time to follow through.
    http://doraquilts.blogspot.com/2012/04/piecing-progress-impulse-purchase.html

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  81. I am dying from your post!! Too funny! Hydrangeas are my favorite too! I planted an "English garden" hears ago on the side of our house and of course it came out meh'. My plan is to transplant them and plant hydrangeas all along the side of our yellow colonial. Hydrangeas make me warm and fuzzy inside and I pray they turn out like your source photos, or else... I'll weep. Fingers crossed on yours, I hope they thrive :) good lunch girl!

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  82. The good ol' iPad did it again. Many autocorrect's
    Going on up in here. I'll skip to the last but not least good luck* although, I always enjoy a good lunch :)

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  83. I live in Oklahoma and I really think you came and took a picture of my hydrangea!!! Mine look exactly like yours! Good luck!

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  84. Try not to be jealous, but we have 36 hydrangeas. The key to being successful is right here on the internet. One of your earlier respondents gave you a link. You need to know which kind you have before you know the best way to care for it. Our favorites are the Annabelles that have huge white billowing blossoms. That variety needs to be pruned to about 1 foot high in Feb, and fed with a light application of iron each spring. Some of the other varieties aren't to be pruned other than when you clip the blooms in the summer. If you prune those in the spring, all is lost because the blooms form only on old growth. Study up and you'll do just fine.

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  85. I live outside of Bloomington, Il, in the middle of the woods. Hydrangeas absolutely love the clay soil and all the shade! Unfortunately, I can't get azaleas or rhododendrons to live. I think maybe they like opposite types of soil. Good luck!

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  86. Hydrangeas provides the best of natural flowered design. It ideal for lawn and inside furnishings.

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  87. I love Hydrangeas too. I am not an avid gardener but I can tell you of my experience with hydrangeas: I have planted them all over my garden. Most are just barely hanging in there but the ones that are doing AMAZING! are the white (they never change color no matter what) that are planted right at the down spout of the rain gutters. When I asked my horticulture-teacher friend why they are thriving in spite of my neglect, he answered "they are in a happy place" - has to be the water - they get no other attention! Oh, and morning sun, no afternoon sun. Hope this helps.

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  88. Don't prune them back and they will be huge and fabulous in no time!

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  89. Hi,
    I adore Hydrangeas and mine thrive very well. My tips for growing them is morning or evening sun only, shade throughout the day, when in hot climate generous water but make sure your soil drains well. I always mix a little sand with my Hydrangeas and Lavender so that the earth does not "cake" to them.

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  90. Soil, Soil Soil. And they take a few years to flower. Deer and rabbits will eat them also.

    Best of luck

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  91. I feel your pain. I planted 2 in front of my house thinking "these will be great bushed under the window"...not. Sorry I don't have tips. I have one that's in mostly shade and only gets late afternoon sun...it sometimes gets one bloom...but the plant never gets bigger than 12" tall.

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  92. Girl, I haven't read all of your comments yet, (but I will, since I have the same problem!). We are on our second year in this house and I was SO excited to have hydrangeas. When we bought it, it was later in the fall, but there were dried blooms, so I was pretty stoked that I would have awesome hydrangeas the following spring.

    Well, Mother Nature has a sense of humor. I got all excited when I found a HUGE pink bloom on one of my plants. But that was ALL I GOT the entire summer! What gives?? They grow and are green and leafy, but alas, no blooms!!

    I have them all around my house, in all sorts of sun/shade combos, so I don't know what the deal is. I read somewhere that you shouldn't cut them back in the fall (which happened last year when we had someone come out to clean up the yard). I don't know if/why this is, but I'm desperate. We didn't cut them back this year, so I'm hoping for a better outcome!! I heart hydrangeas too, and would love to have an endless supply of beautiful blooms in my home and office!

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  93. Sarah- Azaleas, Lillies and Hydrangea all grow equally well here in Southern VA and all of mine seem to need no help thriving. I'm not an awesome gardner by any means but I think I understand the basics...I've cut my hydrangeas all the way back for the winter, I've transplanted them after cutting back, etc. I've done all kinds of things to them and they still come out with that lucious green foliage every year and grow in size quickly. They seem to be hearty here. Despite cutting all the way back last fall for a transplant, one of mine (though not large yet) has at least 10-15 buds on it right now. One caveat, I always plant mine near a gutter drain. I think they like to be saturated with water. Mine do equally well in part sun and shady areas so I have always thought that's why...the water. But after seeing your pictures I agree with other comments...there might be something going on with your soil. Also, your first picture...there are holes in your leaves. Is that a sign of some kind of pest? And one last thought: do you guys have deer? Hydrangeas aren't the most resistant plants to deer I don't think, they might be chowing down. I have plants in my front yard (unfenced) that appear small despite how long I've had them in the ground...and I finally realized some kind of critter is eating them. Could you possibly have a mole or vole problem? Eating the roots or something? Just a thought! Hope you find some answers!!

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  94. I have lots of hydrangeas in my yard, some are old, some I planted in the last 5 years. The old plants are huge and doing well. The newer plants, not so well. I have had a lot of luck creating volunteers from the old hydrangeas and moving them. Just put a little dirt on a low stem & they will create their own plant pretty quick.

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  95. Grab a bag or two of Azalea Soil at your Garden Center and carefully work it in around your plants. Then water well. Hydrangeas need an acidic soil and this soil will provide that. Each hydrangea variety is different in their need for sun/shade although most need a lot of water & mostly shade. The variety will also tell you how & when to prune. Good luck!

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  96. looks like you already got a whole lot of good advice from the pros and folks who know what they are talking about.

    I've got a lot of hydrangea twigs (bought them that way because I bought two big box clearance almost dead hydrangeas that BURST forward the next spring/summer...so I figured my brown thumb must have something in it that I could take twigs to blooms).

    I hardly follow the rules (re, sun and shade) BUT, I also live in the PNW (rain heaven) and have acidic soil. So I'm certain I have just about -100% impact on their success. They are not huge. Yet. I have a neighbor with a set of bushes that I would hide in for days. One day...patience, love and perseverance.

    Good luck!
    Bernadette

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  97. These guys are the experts! http://www.provenwinners.com/learn/hydrangea-how-prune-care-and-grow and their varieties - http://www.provenwinners.com/plants/search/shrubs?keys=hydrangea&hardiness_zone=All&light_level=All&available_online=All
    I have Proven Winner hydrangeas all over my yard and while some are bigger then others, they all bloom in the summer. I do not fertilize or do anything to my soil (I am a lazy gardener!) but they do get watered alot. I have no idea how they will bloom this year with the hard frost we had a week or so ago (MI).

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  98. Sarah, usually we hate the plants, not the reverse, by planting them incorrectly. Hydrangeas love morning sun and afternoon shade. They will not thrive in full sun. I suggest you investigate plants on the Inet and talk to personnel at your local nursery--their job is to help you grow plants. It's really not difficult to grow stuff. Honest, it's not!

    Gail D.

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  99. I love hydrangeas, too, but have only tried planting one one time and that was over 20 years ago. I know what I did wrong (planting in the middle of summer, in the middle of the yard, no shade, etc.) Even though I know what I did wrong, I've still been timid about trying them again. (Didn't help that I moved on the edge of the desert for awhile, where I had sense enough not to try them there.) This year, I would really would like to try again but keep waiting for the prices to come down as in go on clearance. I'm sure by the time they do, it will be another hotter than hot summer, which is definitely not the ideal time to plant them.

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  100. You need to test your soil. Blue hydrangeas thrive in slightly acid soil with a low pH. I remember reading that if you add a piece of copper to the ground when you plant it enhances the color. Also because your plants are under the eve of your house they may not be getting enough sun or water. I would move them out a couple of feet, add a bag of manuer to each one, use 6" of mulch and fertilize heavily. Pink hydrangeas like a pH more alkaline 6.0-6.2. Add lime to increase alkalinity. Trim off that dead growth, your plants will do much better. Good luck!

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  101. more shade little sun, and dont cut them back. They need the dead limbs to sprout from, also there are fertilizer especially for them, I have a beautiful bush in my back yard, I get cuttings from every spring to bring inside, I really dont do much to them, the one time I cut them back the next year they didnt bloom, so I learned that from trial and error. good luck hope it helps some, Im no expert. glenda

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  102. I empathize. I live in South Georgia and hydrangeas grow like weeds down here...see them all the time (the size of a grown man) even at derelict houses no one has lived in for years. However, I can't get more than a stubby knee high bush to grow. Maybe we're taking too much care of them? Perhaps they're a plant which responds best to neglect. 'Course that could just be the frustration and wishful thinking talking.

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  103. My Grandfather once told me that they love iron. He attached a rusty can to the end of his hose to water them. Or put a rusty nail in the soil near the plant. Try it! Also shade!

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  104. Better late than never since I just found your blog today - I live in IL and have 4 Endless Summers that are doing well. Apart from piling on the shade and pH advice, one thing I do that I think helps is to heavily mulch/protect the base of the plant during frosty times of the year, especially for younger plants. I use mulch and/or leaves to do this. I did have to cut mine back a little this year because the drought scorched them, but I think next year they'll be back and better than ever. Good luck!

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