Hydrangeas are some of the most beautiful flowering plants Mother Nature has to offer. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing one of these bad boys bloom in the early summer months (or fall months, depending on where you are from), then you know that these petal-filled, pinecone-shaped wonders truly are one of a kind.
But, beauty aside, hydrangeas are not the simplest plants to care for; although they are known for being robust, amateur mistakes could inhibit your plant from blossoming as it should.
Today, we are going to look at some of the best ways you can nurture–and even alter the color!–of your very own hydrangea plant or bush.
Best climates for hydrangeas
A good portion of your hydrangea’s health and well-being can be placed squarely on the environment in which is grown and/or placed. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac (no, not that one–the other one!), hydrangeas should only be grown in hardiness zones 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. If you are from the United States, that means they should thrive in much of the country, except for the very northern-most areas (parts of North Dakota, Northern Alaska, Maine, and Upper Michigan), as well as the very hottest areas (parts of Southern Florida and Hawai’i).
Take a look at the handy map above for more details. Basically, if your zone falls anywhere between mid-violet and light orange, hydrangeas are a good option for you!
Hydrangea plant and bush care
Now that we have climate out of the way, let’s talk care. If you do not have an existing plant, then you will have to plant one yourself. You can do this by first ensuring that you have the proper soil available. Generally, this colorful plant does best when living in moist, rich, porous soils, and to guarantee a good sowing process, it should be planted in the spring or fall. For the best results, plan for the hydrangea to be in a spot that sees full sunshine in the morning, with some shade in the afternoon.
When you have your soil and location squared away, dig a hole that’s about 2-3x the width of your bulb and just deep enough to fully cover it. Fill the hole half-way with soil and water it. Once the water has absorbed, fill the rest of the hole and water thoroughly. Please note that if you would like to add more hydrangea plants to the area, you should allow 3-10 feet between them.
Experts suggest giving your hydrangea plenty of water, especially within the first couple of years of being planted. Unfortunately, these plants are not drought-resistant, so if you happen to live in a dry area, you should focus on hydrating it. If your soil is ultra-rich, you may not need to feed it, but if you ever detect any sandiness, you should add a bit of fertilizer to it in the late winter or spring.
Once the temperature starts to drop in your area, (or in the fall, whatever comes first), be sure to put your plant “to bed” by covering at least 18 inches of the base with bark mulch. Live in a snowy area? Surround the plant with chicken wire or snow fencing and fill the empty area with leaves (just not maples or any others that mat when wet!).
In terms of pruning, experts suggest not doing so until after August as most hydrangeas do not fully bloom until the late summer. Pruning varies depending on the variety, but as a general rule of thumb, most simply need for the caretaker to cut one or two of its oldest stems down to the base for healthy plants, and any and all stems cut down to the base for damaged ones. This will encourage fullness and help ensure that the hydrangea stays robust into the future.
How to change the color of your hydrangeas
One thing that we love most about hydrangeas is that you can actually change their color! It’s a magical, albeit, tricky aspect of the plant that can only be performed successfully on bushes that are over two years old.
Most varieties can change colors based on the soil’s pH levels. For blue flowers, the soil levels must be acidic and have a pH of 5.5 or less. Pink flowers require a pH greater than 5.5 and white flowers aren’t affected by pH at all. When attempting to change the colors, always give the plant at least a few weeks of rest time before making another switch.
And there you have it, folks–the finer aspects of hydrangea care! We wish you the best of luck with this gorgeous plant.
While you’re here, we’d also love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Are you a fan of hydrangeas? What’s your favorite variety? Do you have any tips for those new to caring for the plant?