America’s Favorite Flower: How to Plant, Grow & Care for Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas are unrivaled in the garden, often the focal point in beds, or at least they should be. They are loved for their color, shape and use in flower arrangements. They come in many different colors, flower shapes and sizes. While they are easy to grow, here are a few tricks we have up our sleeve to make them bloom their best for you, year after year. Welcome to Hydrangeas 101 – your one-stop shop to all the tips you need for growing these beautiful blooms.

The Best Time for Planting 

Hydrangeas thrive when planted in the fall or during early spring. They need plenty of time to establish a healthy root system before blooming, so don’t rush them. The best time to plant is early morning or late afternoon, during the cooler parts of the day, to avoid heat stress.

How to Plant

  1. Location, location, location. The best place to plant hydrangeas is in a sheltered location with sunny mornings and shady afternoons. Hydrangeas do best in moist, well-drained soil and dappled shade – not too sunny and not too shady. Too much shade can reduce flower output. Avoid south-facing positions, especially if the soil is very dry. Avoid planting directly underneath trees – this can cause a competition for water and nutrients.
  2. Soil is key. Hydrangeas grow well in soil that contains lots of organic materials and is well-draining. While they like moist soil, they can easily become waterlogged if soil is slow to drain.
  3. Getting them in the ground. Planting hydrangeas is not a difficult process. Simply dig the planting holes 2 feet wider than the root ball and keep the depth of the hole consistent with the size of the root ball so the plant sits level with the surrounding soil.
  4. If planting multiples, make sure to account for mature size of the shrub. Space hydrangeas anywhere from 3 to 10 feet apart, depending on type.

Care for Newly Planted Hydrangeas

  1. Hydrangeas, especially newly planted ones, need consistent water. It’s best to water deeply 3 times per week to encourage root growth. Consistent moisture is important, but be careful not to overwater, causing root rot and bad bacteria growth. If the plant’s leaves are wilting, the soil is too dry.
  2. Most hydrangeas prefer acidic soil, but if you have healthy, rich soil, you may not need to fertilize hydrangeas. An excess of plant food could actually create leafy growth – and fewer flowers. Feed hydrangeas with a slow-release, organic plant food for acid-loving plants when they start to show growth in spring, and again about a month later.
  3. Add mulch under hydrangeas to help keep the soil moist and cool. Organic mulch breaks down over time, adding additional nutrients and improving the soil texture.

Pruning Hydrangeas

There are two types of hydrangeas – those that bloom on old growth and those that bloom on new growth – and we suppose there is a third type – those that do both. It’s important to know which hydrangea you have, to know when to prune.

The two most common hydrangeas are mophead and panicle. One is shaped like, well, a mop – or ball – and the other is more football-shaped.

Both should be pruned in early spring. However, if you prune very late in spring, it can remove the buds that were developing, so be sure to start early. First, cut out a few old, weak stems at the base of the plant to encourage new growth. Then, snip off the old flower just above a set of buds.

Bigleaf, Oakleaf and Mountain hydrangeas, however, are pruned AFTER the flowers fade in the summer. These varieties bloom on the previous season’s stems (“old wood”), so if you prune later than that, you will be cutting off the following season’s blooms.

It may be hard to know which hydrangeas to choose or what will grow best in your yard. We’re here to help. Email us at [email protected], or visit our stores.

And please follow us on social media and share photos of your hydrangeas! Because we love plants as much as you do!