How to Care for your Hydrangea
If you're looking for an easy plant, with a big payout in giant blooms, look no further than the hydrangea! One of my favourites, this blooming perennial never fails to impress with giant balls of flowers covering the foliage-rich shrub. Hydrangeas are easy to grow and not super demanding. There are a few things to know, in order to keep your plant happy, but they can often tolerate a degree of neglect if life gets busy!
Location, Location, Location!
Like so many other plants, the hydrangea's health and happiness can depend on where you plant it. Give your shrub a lot of space to grow, as they can reach sizes of 6'x6' in diameter. Hydrangeas are perfect for large landscaped areas, as their giant blooms can be seen throughout your yard and create a bold effect. These low-maintenance perennials are fantastic for pots as well, just make sure to choose a large pot size to give them room to really spread out!
When it comes to choosing between a sunny spot, or a shady spot, you can actually plant hydrangeas in both! You just have to choose the right type of plant for the right spot. Although most hydrangeas prefer partially shady spots (with sun in the evening or morning, but not during the hot time of the day) there are many varieties that enjoy a full sun location. Choose a paniculata hydrangea, (usually more of a cone shaped bloom) such as Limelight, Pinky Winky, or Little Lime for your full sun gardens.
You Are What You Eat
The more you fertilize your hydrangea, the bigger it will grow! Nutrients also help your beautiful perennial grow large, dark leaves that will look amazing next to their flowers. I use a slow release fertilizer, to keep them fed all of the time, as well as a compost mulch once a year.
I'm sure you're heard about hydrangeas changing colour, depending on where you plant them. You bring home a blue hydrangea, and the next year it blooms pink! What happened? While there is truth to this story, there are also many factors that can cause a hydrangea to change colour, and not all species have this problem, so don't panic yet!
If you have a macrophylla hydrangea (the most common variety, usually in pinks and blues) then the flower colour depends on the acidity of the soil as well as the aluminum ion concentration. If the soil has a low PH level (is acidic), then the aluminium ions will be absorbed by the plant, and change the colour of the blooms. Usually this means your flowers turn towards the blue spectrum. You can counter this by adding lime to your soil, changing the PH level to more neutral, which will give you blooms with pinks and reds. White hydrangeas don't generally have this problem, and will remain white regardless of the acidity of the soil. Other varieties of hydrangeas (arborescens, quercifolia etc) don't have this problem, and will generally stay the same colour through the years.
Just a Little Trim!
You can run into a lot of problems when pruning your hydrangeas, but a few easy rules will get you going! Many species of hydrangea don't need much pruning if they are planted in a spot with adequate room for growth. Your macrophylla hydrangeas can be pruned (slightly, don't cut off more than 1/3 of the plant) right after the blooms are finished. It's best to just prune when you need to shape the bush, or to cut out old brittle and dried stems. This type of hydrangea grows its blooms on the 'old wood', meaning it needs to keep almost all its growth every year because that is where the new stems and flowers emerge from.
If you have an arborescens (such as Annabelle or Invicibelle) then they need to be pruned right down to the ground every fall, leaving only a few inches of stems showing. This type of hydrangea is very large and grows vigorously, so it needs to be cut back every year to grow new stems. The blooms on arborescens grow on 'new wood', which is why it won't harm your plant to cut it right to the ground at the end of the season. This is also true of quercifolia hydrangeas, also known as Oakleaf hydrangea.
Hydrangeas are easy plants to have in your yard or on the patio! Decide on which hydrangea you need for you location, follow these tips for pruning, and give your shrub some fertilizer so it can grow up nice and big. Then sit back and enjoy months of gorgeous blooms!