Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Five tips for growing beautiful hydrangeas
{and not killing them}

Hydrangeas are one of my favorite flowers, but I didn't used to be so great at growing them.  They hated me because I didn't know what they needed. :) I’ve learned a ton about the beautiful hydrangea over the years and wanted to share my knowledge with you!

Overall hydrangeas are actually very easy to grow and take care of! They need very little care (see what they do need a lot of below) and will give you tons of beautiful blooms.

Tip one: Patience is needed

The sleep, creep, leap saying about plants is so true. The first year they don’t do much, the second the come along a little bit and the third they leap!

This limelight hydrangea is an example of one that absolutely took off after a few years. This is how it looked the first two seasons (it didn't even bloom):
how to grow hydrangea

And the third year it started to take off!:
limelight hydrangea


You can see how much it grew just a couple of years later:
Pergola on deck with lights
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You should see this one now! It covers that whole window.

Overall, with hydrangeas you just need to have patience. Hang in there...they will reward you with beautiful blooms eventually!

Tip two: Don't give them too much sun 

Many hydrangeas like a good mix of sun and shade. Preferably sun in the cooler mornings and shade in the hot afternoons. These were planted on the afternoon/evening sun side of our home and did NOT do well:
full sun hydrangeafull sun hydrangeahydrangea too much sun 

I’d had these for two or three years at this point. Not one had ever bloomed, they all barely grew, it was just sad.

I moved them to morning sun (afternoon shade) and look at the difference!:
how to grow hydrangeas

The one on the left grew a TON from where it was (it was the smallest one). They don’t have a ton of blooms in this photo because I cut so many. ;)

These are the mop head variety, and they have really strong, beautiful leaves too:
mophead hydrangeagrowing hydrangeas

The leaves on that pink plant are especially hardy, dark and pretty.

Some can handle sun more than others though. I found some PeeGee trees on clearance years ago and was so excited -- they are basically a hydrangea tree. These thrive in lots of sun!:
Pee Gee hydrangea blooming

The Pee Gee tree is a panicled hydrangea, like the limelight I first showed you. They have cone shaped flowers that get HUGE:
pee gee hydrangea bloom

Limelights like sun as well! If you are having problems getting yours to grow -- try moving them to a spot where they’ll get some rest from the heat in the afternoon.

**By the way...if your plants are not blooming, they probably need more sun. :)

Tip three: Water, water, water

Hydrangeas need MEGA water. I mean, it’s in their name. :)
pink white hydrangea

I just watch my plants -- if they start to wilt at all I know they need water. We are in Indiana and I find they will do fine without regular waterings until about mid July when things get dry and hot. After that I keep an eye on them.

And of course, water newly planted hydrangeas or those in pots often!

They need a lot of moisture, but watch how you water them too. If you can, water at the base of the plant (not with a sprinkler) so the water goes right to the roots and doesn’t sit on the leaves.

Tip four: Plant at the right time of year

Because hydrangeas need so much water, it's best to plant them in late spring or fall if at all possible. It’s a lot of upkeep to keep them healthy and hydrated if you plant in the heat of mid-summer.

Most of ours were planted in mid-October, when it can get chilly! But it's a great time because they can take root without fighting against the heat.

You won't believe how much our plants have grown at this house! Look how tiny they were exactly two years ago:
Best window box flowers

Look at them now!:
How to grow big hydrangeas

The window boxes got hit by a bad frost so they are very slow going this year. (I covered them all well but they still hated it.)

Another before and after -- you can see the difference on both sides of our sidewalk: 
gray house white trim

Tips for growing hydrangeas

Early summer planting would be a good bet so you can enjoy the blooms all season, but you can get some killer deals later in the fall too!

Tip five: Hydrangeas don't need pruning 

I don’t prune (or cut down) my hydrangeas -- although you should clean some up a bit. Some hydrangeas grow back from the ground (on new wood), and the stalks they bloomed on the year before can be removed.

This can be tricky because sometimes it’s hard to tell between the two. This is an example of the type that grows on new wood:
hydrangea grow on new wood

The blooms on new wood come from new growth at the base of the plant.

I always pull those old stalks out of the ground (or cut them down) in the spring or early summer. You can leave them, but I think the plants do better when those are removed.

You won't want to prune these at all during the bloom time in summer. If you'd like to clean them up after the blooms die away, you can do so late summer or winter before the buds start to grow and open.

Some grow right back on old wood -- meaning they bud on stalks from the year before. Lace caps and mop heads (big round blooms) are a one that grow on old wood:
lacecap hydrangea

Pee gee hydrangea trees

If you do want to prune old wood varieties, do so immediately after they flower (but don't do it much past mid-summer). But it's really not needed -- hydrangeas of all kinds do well without much work!

By the way, the endless summer variety bloom on new and old wood -- so if that confuses you, they are a great option! Bottom line, you don't have to touch hydrangeas much to have them do well!

Whew – I’ve learned a lot over the years! I hope these tips help you grow this pretty plant!

I was determined to figure out what made them tick because hydrangea are one of my all time favorites and I LOVE having them to cut and bring inside:
mophead hydrangea pink white purple

hydrangea in DIY long wood box
 DIY wood trough with flowers


The limelights and Pee Gee blooms turn the most beautiful pink/green in the early fall -- they are just gorgeous! I used them in this post years ago: 
pee gee hydrangea fall

fall limelight hydrangeas

Here are a couple more tips:
  • You can change the color of your blooms with additives from the nursery. There are DIY methods too. (I’ve heard nails, pennies, etc.) The color of your blooms depends on the acidity of your soil. (Other than the white ones -- those can’t be changed.)
  • You know those planted hydrangeas you find in the spring/early summer at grocery stores? They aren’t really meant to be planted. I had no idea! Go here to read more about that. 
I hope that helps any of you who have struggled with growing this beautiful plant! Again, I’m no expert but I’m getting there. ;) I think the change I made that made the biggest difference was where I planted them -- the amount of sun is key with some varieties.

Are you a hydrangea lover? Any great tips I’ve missed?

See my easy tip for plumping up wilting hydrangeas here!:

You can pin this image to save these tips for later!:

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35 comments:

  1. Hydrangeas are my favorite flowers too! I received one as a birthday present last year but I think it's too far gone to save at this point. It was a small plant, I never took it out of its plastic pot and I read that it needed a good freeze in the winter so I left it outside. (I live in ND, by the way) Now the branches are bare and light brown - not a leaf in sight. I think I killed it! :( I haven't bothered to water it so I'm not sure if I can bring it back to life. What would you do? Think it can be saved? Thanks for all the great tips - I've pinned it to my gardening pinterest board for later.

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  2. Thanks for the tips! I'd love to plant some hydrangea. I am thinking of planting some on the north side of my house. Hopefully, that will be a good spot to put them!Hydrangeas make great cut flowers.

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  3. Grat post! Your yard is beautiful! I hope to have mine looking this good one day!!!

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  4. You've inspired me! I have 2 hydrangeas that have done NOTHING for years. I'm moving them this fall to a afternoon shade location.

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  5. I have one of the climbing hydrangeas which I planted next to my oil tank so that it would cover it.... and for three years all it did was grow out the other way! This year it has decided it should behave itself and has started to climb over the tank, but with a really hot spell of around 3 weeks the flowers were out and over in days. Never mind, it looks healthy and is doing what it was meant to do! Some of them take years to flower, I have another which is white with a red edge t0 every petal, and now 7 (yes, s.e.v.e.n) years after planting, it is blooming - Yay!!

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  6. Here is what I've discovered over the last five years now of growing these guys. 1.)I don't prune them. 2.) They seem to prefer the north/east facing side of my house that only gets some morning sun. 3.)Hydrangeas whatever cultivar they are, seem to prefer drip irrigation. If I water them from above the sun scorches the leaves. Right now I have 'Wedding Bells' blooming, 'Sister Theresa' and several unidentified pink and blue ones. Love going to Lowe's and 'saving' the Hydrangea's on the clearance rack. I got two for $7 a few weeks ago. My husband says I'm not a plant missionary and obligated to 'rescue' every mistreated plant at big box stores...Ugh. Men.

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  7. I'm glad to see your hydrangeas are doing better. Um, I think I am the number 1 worst hydrangea parent, not you. lol. My girls gave me several Endless Summer hydrangeas for Mothers day at least 7 years ago and they look like your pic with the sticks sticking out of them. Last year I moved all but one of them and most of them (even the one I didn't move) has doubled in size and even had a few blooms. I live in Charlotte and everyone around me has huge, fabulous hydrangeas. Oh, and Azaleas too...but my Azaleas won't grow either. Your yard looks fabulous and I hope your hydrangeas continue to grow!

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  8. I had gorgeous hydrangeas when I lived in Virginia. They had full sun most of the day but late afternoon had some shade. The hydrangea I planted here in Pennsylvania is just pathetic. I am sure the sun is just too hot for it. I covered it early in the spring with a deck chair just to keep the leaves from burning. In the fall I am going to move it near a tree in the garden. It will still get sun but hopefully not enough to bake it! By the way, my niece got married Friday night. She and her maid of honor carried bouquets of hydrangeas from my sister's garden and I used all hydrangeas (3 different varieties and colors) on the tables at the reception. They were gorgeous...if I do say so myself!

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  9. Yours are looking great! My question - do you know if you can move an established hydrangea? We moved in april, and the house has this enormous GORGEOUS blue hydrangea right in the middle of the backyard. I mean...smack dab in the middle. So strange. That said - I love that plant, just not its placement. The plant is easily 5 feet across and just blooms like crazy, the last thing I want to do it kill it, I just wish we could somehow move it?!

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    Replies
    1. Bekah....early spring is usually the best time....right after your last frost...when night time temps are going to be in the 50's

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    2. I've read moving them in late fall or winter is best but I think any time when there is no danger of them budding is probably fine!

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  10. Hydrangeas are my jam. I want to propogate some from my neighbor's bushes in the Fall then put then along the side of our house next year. It's the perfect spot for them--a little sun in the morning and shade the rest of the day.

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  11. I love hydrangeas! The perfect flower. Fresh, in between or dry/drying they are perfect. Seeing your long boxy thing again under the TV filled with the hy's makes me want to make one. You always find the most fun filled things to use in it.

    My hy's had blooms on them when purchased, but it took two years for them to bloom again. The only thing I do is use a hydrangea fertilizer each spring and fall.

    Jake's a Girl

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  12. I love hydrangeas too. I tried, unsuccessfully, years ago to grow one. I am renting where I live now and didn't want to invest in plants we would be leaving behind until a neighbour (who owns a landscaping business) offered to get me a decent sized one for really cheap. It is doing great and I love it!!!!

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  13. Do you know how to dry them out for dried arrangements???

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  14. Beautiful! I love ours. Totally agree...they love water, most hate full afternoon sun, bloom on dead wood. Guess I got lucky, my limelights I planted in May are blooming nonstop!

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  15. I'm in southern IL near St. Louis, and the best thing I have found for my hydrangeas was Daconil fungicide. You can get it just about anywhere, and it has made a world of difference on my plants.
    Also, I have the endless summer variety and my husband accidentally cut one of my plants down to the ground when it was dormant early this spring. I thought it was done. Well, now it looks better than it ever has and bloomed like crazy! Guess all varieties are different!

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  16. Love seeing your full posts in my reader again! Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Sarah!!!

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  17. Your hydrangeas look amazing! I have about 12 and some of them are doing great and some are just creeping along. I try to water them deeply every chance I get. I am wondering if you have ever fertilized yours and what you've used for that if so.
    Also I have never heard of the hydrangea tree that you mentioned but I'm going to look for one this fall. So pretty. Thanks so much for sharing!
    Ashley Rane Sparks
    www.makeitrane.com

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  18. Ohhhh....water. Hmmm...maybe that's why mine has {one} bloom.

    mmmhmmm....

    -andi

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  19. Thanks for the tips. I just moved into a new house and am excited to plant some hydrangeas. After reading your post, I will probably wait for Fall.

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  20. I didn't know sleep creep and leap applied to anything but ivy. :/ Maybe that is why my one hydrangea looks better than last year but not leaping yet. Hopefully next year. :)If it does good I'll try a second one. My thumb doesn't seem to be very green. Question...where did you get the green lamps in the last photo?

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  21. Excellent post! Absolutely love hydrangeas and have a hard time growing them in deep Texas....it's just so dang hot but mine are in dabbled to full shade all day and I'm keeping them watered so we'll see! Thanks for the tips!!~~Angela

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  22. Gorgeous! I thought all the ones under the TV were fake? That is awesome!

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  23. I also live in Indiana and have two hydrangea bushes in my front yard. This is the 3rd summer that we have had them planted there. Of course like you said this summer has been wonderful weather, and I was really hoping that they would bloom. The bushes got huge!!!! However, they barely bloomed. Nothing like those big mopheads. My husband and I were thinking about taking them out this fall since they just get to be huge overgrown bushes and not much else. What are your thoughts? Should we stick it out another year?

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    1. Hey! Just saw your question, sorry! I would wait one more summer...after that you'll know if they are going to bloom for you! My limelights took years so hang in there one more year! :)

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  24. Thanks for the tips. Your Hydrangeas are beautiful.

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  25. I really like it that I can scroll through your posts again in my email. Yeah, I am too lazy to click over. This option went away for a while, but I am glad it's back again. Thanks.

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  26. Thanks for info. I am getting so discouraged with my plants....ordered from QVC and all 3 have not grown in first 6 months. I wrote the landscape company and they said that is normal for first year but should see a huge growing spurt in spring. They showed those babies on TV getting huge by end of first year. Here is hopping. It is strange to see something stay green and not grow at all. I love, love them so keep your fingers crossed for me:)

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  27. We moved into our new home at the end of May, and discovered that the back of the yard is lined with several HUGE hydrangea bushes. They are all blue. ha I love them! I got so many for our table vase, etc. while they were blooming. A lot of the reason we chose our current home was because of the beautifully landscaped yard and huge trees! We love plants. :-)

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  28. I love hydrangeas, but I always end up killing them in my Cali heat. This year has been my most successful year yet, and I think it's because they are in my completely shaded front porch. Next year, I'm going to try to plant them in the back yard!

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  29. Please DON'T move your petiolaris(climbing) hydrangea, or you will need to strt waiting for blooms all over again. They often don't bloom for at least the first 5 yrs after transplanting.
    Your macrophyllas (Endless Summer) varieties should not be cut back at the end of the growing season, as they bloom on 'old' & 'new' wood. Regularly cutting blooms for bouquets &/or deadheading promotes continual blooming.
    The arborescens (mop heads) can be cut back to 6-8" in late Fall and they will reward you with healthy new shoots each Spring that will support loads of big, fluffy, white to green blooms--they bloom on new wood.
    The paniculata tree varieties should be deadheaded in early Spring & prune out low-growing suckers as they emerge.
    I live in IL, so my climate in z5 is similar to yours in IN. In addition to plenty of water, I have found that macrophyllas reward me with tons of flowers when I mulch them with leaves after the first freeze.
    All hydrangeas require rich, humus-y soil full of organic matter. They definitely don't care for our heavy, clay in the Midwest, so soil prep is key to successful hydrangeas. Happy gardening!

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  30. Thanks for the tips. This is one plant I've never been able to grow & I absolutely love them. I have one in a pot on the patio that I've managed to keep alive since Easter. No new blooms since then but new growth.

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  31. I love your postings. We landscaped our front yard and we could plant any hydrangeas due to full sun, so I am hoping in spring I would be able to plant hydrangeas in our backyard and side of the house. I love these plants with passion. I really enjoyed your insights.

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  32. I got my 3 from a nursery that raises only hydrangeas. She had a variety of them! Some are more costly (over $100 each) and others around $30 each. I have even seen a yellow variety!

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