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How to Choose the Right Hydrangea for Your Garden

Posted on May 29, 2020 in Garden, Garden Tips, Spring Gardening

Written by West Coast Gardens

A hydrangea is a great idea in any garden, as the big showy flowers add pizzazz all summer, and the foliage creates a beautiful shrub during the fall. As a perennial, it’s a year-after-year experience you’ll love, and will ring in the Spring with great anticipation. Choosing which hydrangea to plant in your garden, or deciding on the best location within your garden for your new addition, can be tough. You want it to be happy, but you also want to be able to enjoy its spectacular blooms! Take a look at the different varieties of hydrangeas below, and find out which is a perfect match for you:

hydrangeas in your garden
hydrangeas in your garden

Bigleaf Hydrangeas

Hydrangea macrophylla

The most popular and plentiful type of hydrangea, these are well known for their large heads and colouring of pink, blue and white. These hydrangeas are great for a garden spot with soil that is a bit humousy (with some mulch mixed in), so that it retains moisture without getting too soggy. They also love full to part sun, especially if there’s a bit of afternoon shade. 

These Bigleaf hydrangeas are easy to care for, requiring a dose of balanced 20-20-20 fertilizer in the spring, and another once they have finished blooming. One of the biggest things to remember is to keep the soil evenly moist, rather than letting it dry out, to avoid dropped leaves.

Unhappy with the colour of your hydrangea? It is possible to get your Bigleaf hydrangea to change colour by altering the soil pH level. If your hydrangea is blue, that means the soil is acidic or neutral pH (pH 5.0-5.5). For a pink hydrangea, the soil needs to be alkaline (pH 6.5+) Changing the colour of the bloom is as simple as changing the pH balance. To make your soil more acidic and grow blue hydrangeas, add granular aluminum sulfate, sulfur iron or iron sulfate (available at garden centres). To create soil that is alkaline, and enjoy pink blooms, add compost or lime to the area. 

There are two varieties of Bigleaf Hydrangea:

Mophead Hydrangeas

With big, puffy heads of flowers, these are one of the most recognizable hydrangea (sometimes called Pom-Pom hydrangea or French hydrangea). These are large growing shrubs, that are usually at least as wide as they are tall, so they make great hedges, especially along fences. The weather on the west coast is perfect for these perennials! They also require very little pruning, unless they are getting too big for the space you’ve planted them in, in which case prune them after they finish flowering.

hydrangeas in your garden
hydrangeas in your garden

Lacecap Hydrangeas

These beautiful hydrangeas are known for their flat, lace-like, cluster of blooms. They flower for a shorter period than the Mophead hydrangeas, often with only a month of really showy blooms. The unique design and colouring of their flowers makes it worthwhile though! 

hydrangeas in your garden
hydrangeas in your garden
hydrangeas in your garden

Panicle hydrangeas

Hydrangea paniculata

Easy to spot in the garden, these hydrangeas have unique cone-shaped flower heads! The colours range from white to lime or pink and can last right into the winter. The petals on the Panicle hydrangea are often smaller and more delicate than the Mophead variety. One of the best qualities of this type of hydrangea is its cold-hardiness, so it’s perfect for the west coast. Many of the Panicle hydrangea varieties require just a few hours of direct sunlight, so they can be grown in semi-shady areas of your garden.

Smooth hydrangeas

Hydrangea arborescens

A showstopper, the Smooth hydrangea mainly comes in white and cream colours, with giant clusters of delicate petals. They bloom from early summer into fall, and require full to part sun. One of their attributes is that they are drought tolerant, unlike the Mophead hydrangeas, and can handle missing a watering or two. 

hydrangeas in your garden
hydrangeas in your garden

Oakleaf hydrangeas

Hydrangea quercifolia

Aptly named for its oak-leaf shaped foliage, this hydrangea grows elongated flower clusters that start out white and become pink closer to fall. But even more showy than the blooms, the foliage of the Oakleaf hydrangea becomes bronze or red in the fall weather and creates a gorgeous spot in your garden. Although they like part shade, they will grow in full sun if you have a garden in a cooler area.  

 

Climbing hydrangeas

Hydrangea petiolaris

Incredibly unique, the Climbing hydrangea will scale fences, trees and trellises as it grows, all while producing beautiful, flat clusters of white blooms. The foliage of this hydrangea because golden in the fall, adding more colour to your garden. They prefer part sun locations, especially in the summer months. It’s a good idea to mulch the ground you grow these hydrangeas in, as they prefer to stay moist rather than dry out. 

hydrangeas in your garden

Floral Hydrangeas

If you’ve ever received a foil-wrapped hydrangea as a gift, you may have noticed they don’t always last very long indoors. However, planting them outdoors can be tricky, as they are often grown in hot greenhouse conditions or are native to warmer locations.

hydrangeas in your garden

If you want to try putting your floral hydrangea outdoors, we suggest doing so in the summer, and using a large pot that is on wheels so that it can be moved around, depending on the temperature. Keeping your newly outdoor hydrangea close to the house, or on a protected patio, for the first few years is a good idea. Don’t expect it to re-bloom right away either, it may take a year or two for your plant to get used to the temperatures and establish itself in its new home before it starts flowering. Give it lots of 20-20-20 fertilizer and be patient. 

Whichever hydrangea you choose, we hope it will bring you years of beautiful blooms and become a cherished part of your garden.