For unbelievable beauty anywhere you want it, pop a hydrangea in a pot and put it where you need it to go! Porch, driveway, balcony, sidewalk, deck: if you can dream it, chances are you can beautify it. No matter if your spot has full sun, dappled shade, or something in between, there’s a hydrangea you can display there.
Permanent? Or Just for This Season?
Think about if you want your hydrangea to be permanent or temporary. Temporary plantings are meant to perform for one season only. At the end of the season, you might plant your hydrangea out in the garden or give it to a friend who has space in their landscape. Permanent plantings stay in the same container for several seasons before either getting transplanted into a bigger pot or to a spot in the garden.
Temporary – Just This Season
Pretty much any container will work with a temporary planting! As long as it holds soil and has a big enough hole (or a few holes) in the bottom to release excess water, you are good to go. This means you can use troughs, vintage vessels from antique stores, or a favorite DIY container. If you’re more of a laid-back gardener, consider using AquaPots®. These high-quality, self-watering pots make hydrangea container gardening a breeze. Not only are the pots themselves gorgeous, but the constant supply of water also keeps hydrangeas looking fresh and fabulous too. It’s no secret that container gardening takes a little extra effort with the setup of drip irrigation or frequent hand watering, so this system could really save you some time! Note that AquaPots are only recommended for temporary plantings in cold climates because they could crack if you don’t empty them before the winter freeze arrives.
Permanent – you plan to leave your hydrangea in the pot
The container material is important if you live in an area that experiences frost. Choose a weatherproof pot; many will have a sticker that lets you know it’s frostproof. If you’re unsure whether or not your container will work, just avoid pots that are clay, terra cotta, or ceramic. Containers that aren’t frostproof often break or shatter when freezing temperatures strike, leaving the plants’ roots exposed to the harshness of winter.
The size of your container matters, since the plant’s roots will need room to grow. Pots measuring at least 16-24” wide and deep will often accommodate a good-sized hydrangea nicely for a few years.
If you have a heavy container, move it the location you’re eyeing before you plant the hydrangea. Also, if you plan to overwinter it in a more sheltered spot, plan to have a dolly on hand to move the container more easily.
Whenever you plant in containers, attention to watering is the key to success! Containers dry out quickly, especially in the height of summer when it’s especially hot and sunny. Be sure to check your container every day when you water, pour all around the entire base of your hydrangea (not just one spot), and do so until the water flows through the bottom of the pot. You’ll find that as your plant matures, it will need more frequent watering since the roots are starting to take up more of the soil space.
The fertilizer that comes in standard container potting mixes is often enough to support temporary plantings. However, for permanent plantings you’ll need to apply some fertilizer each year after the first season. Plan to use an all-purpose flowering shrub formula or a rose fertilizer, as these will have the correct ratio of nutrients for any hydrangea. In early spring, put the fertilizer around the base of the plant, but not touching any branches, and water thoroughly. Be sure that you don’t apply fertilizer after late July, as this can promote growth and prevent the plant from going into dormancy.
Ready to Plant?
Things to Consider:
For a temporary planting, if you plan to transplant the hydrangea into your landscape, you’ll want to make sure it is hardy in your zone. If the hydrangea will be used like an annual, there’s no need to worry about its zone range.
For a permanent planting, choose a hydrangea that is hardy in your zone. If you plan to keep it in an area that experiences freezing winter conditions, you will need to use a variety that is two zones hardier than yours. For example, if you live in zone 6, a hydrangea that’s hardy down to zone 4 would work well.
The place you choose for your hydrangea should receive at least some sun or all-day dappled light. In warm regions, your hydrangea would benefit from afternoon shade, as this will reduce water loss.
Plant recommendations for both light situations:
Full sun (6+ hours of direct sun) – Panicle hydrangeas are the most sun tolerant hydrangea. Try Proven Winners Limelight Prime®
Part sun (4-6 hours of direct sun) or dappled shade – Anything but oakleaf hydrangeas*. This includes mountain, smooth, panicle, and bigleaf hydrangeas. Try Proven Winners Invincibelle Garnetta®
*We don’t recommend oakleaf hydrangeas because they don’t often look their best when grown in a container. They flourish when planted in the ground. But if you enjoy the look, go for it!
For a temporary planting, pick a hydrangea that’s already the physical size that suits your needs. It will grow a bit throughout the season, but not very much. Quart-sized hydrangeas look nice planted as a thriller, accompanied by annuals or perennials. Gallon sizes are often large enough to fill in a pot by themselves.
For a permanent planting, consider the eventual size of the hydrangea since it will be living and growing in your space for a few years. Choose one that is well-suited for the space you’d like to display it.
Potting up your shrub is as easy as planting it in the landscape, but with a few important considerations.
- Prevent soil from escaping out of the bottom. Cover the hole with a coffee filter, paper towel, or fine mesh. This will hold the soil in for a while, but still lets the water flow through.
- Fill the container with soil, up to the level where the bottom of your hydrangea will sit.
- Place the hydrangea (pot and all) into your container and fill soil around it, firming it into place as you go. Once the soil level of the potted hydrangea and the soil level around the outside match, remove the potted hydrangea. Gently take the plastic nursery pot off of your hydrangea and place the unpotted hydrangea back into the hole. Firm the soil in around the rootball.
- Water your new planting thoroughly. Come back an hour or so later and check that the soil is still level around the entire surface, since potting soil will occasionally settle and slightly expose the rootball. Fill in any low spots and lightly water again.
- Place a 2” layer of mulch on the soil surface and your hydrangea is ready to show off!
You’ll know your hydrangea needs to be transplanted once it starts to slow down noticeably. It will either flower less or put on less height and width than normal. This can happen anywhere from three to five seasons after you’ve planted it. You can either transplant it into a bigger pot with new soil or find a spot for it in your landscape. Either way, you’ll plant it in the same way you would when planting a newly purchased shrub, but this time be sure to scratch those close growing roots vigorously with your fingers to loosen them up when repotting. With a nice spot that it will love, proper planting, and thorough watering, your hydrangea should thrive in its permanent home for many years.