Hydrangea Care

Hydrangeas are growing in popularity and for good reason. So we’ve put together the ultimate guide for how to care for hydrangeas. This includes choosing the correct hydrangea for your space, planting, watering, fertilizing, pruning and more. This guide has the basic information needed to get started, but you can click on each topic for more in depth information.

Growing Hydrangeas

Before deciding on which hydrangea you would like to grow in your garden, it is important to pick a type of hydrangea that will do great in your area. Most all hydrangeas will do great with direct sunlight in the morning and some shaded cover in the hot afternoon sunlight. So if your location has those conditions, you should be OK no matter which hydrangea you pick. Typically this type of location is on the east side of a home or by some other sort of structure (tall building, trees, etc.) that provides shade in the afternoon.

No hydrangea will do well in full shade. It might grow leaves, but it won't bloom as well or at all.

Planting Hydrangeas

Second, we need to plant the hydrangea to ensure the plant stays healthy and thrives in the location you picked out. Choose a location so that the hydrangea can reach its full size without pruning. Plant the hydrangea in well-drained soil. Make sure to not plant the hydrangea too deep in the ground. Plant at the same depth as the pot it comes in.

The best time to plant hydrangeas is early summer or fall. If you want to transplant a hydrangea, do so once the plant is dormant and has lost all leaves in late fall or winter.

Watering Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas need moist but well-drained soil to thrive. Instead of trying to stick to a “rule” for watering hydrangeas, it is better to water so the soil is moist at all times, but not too wet. Each type of hydrangea requires different levels of water. The location of the plant will also determine how much water the plant needs.

Typically, you will be able to tell when the plant needs water by looking at the foliage. The leaves will start to wilt when the plant needs water. Hydrangea macrophylla and Hydrangea paniculata require more water than Hydrangea arborescens (smooth hydrangeas) and Hydrangea quercifolia (oakleaf).

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Fertilizing Hydrangeas

Specialty hydrangea fertilizer is available, however it is not necessary. Commonly found all-purpose 10-10-10 fertilizer is the easiest to use. It should be applied in spring or early summer, but not in the fall when the plants are preparing for dormancy, and the fertilizer could trigger new growth, which isn’t healthy for the plants. It is important to remember that adding fertilizer will not cause a hydrangea to bloom.

Pruning Hydrangeas

Mophead hydrangeas do not ever need to be pruned. You only need to remove dead branches. Different types of hydrangeas need to be pruned using different methods. To determine what method to use, read the more in-depth article. It is important to prune the correct way, so you do not cause the shrub to have less blooms.

Propagating Hydrangeas

Propagating hydrangeas is typically done from cuttings as the shrubs rarely produce seeds to use. Snip a piece of young stem about 6 inches long and plant it in moist soil. Cuttings take about 4 weeks to root. While propagating, keep the plants out of direct sunlight so the leaves don’t burn up.

Hydrangea Winter Care

Caring for hydrangeas in the winter is a topic that gets brought up frequently. The most important thing to remember, is to not prune the hydrangea during the winter months, or you could risk the plant not flowering the following year. If the plant is growing in a garden planter, you will want to make sure the planter is protected from harsh winds and freezing temperatures that might kill the roots. Also remember to water the hydrangea during the winter months, especially if it is in a planter. Sometimes it may be necessary to protect the hydrangea during the winter, so the flower buds don't die off. Read more on that in the article below.

Protecting hydrangeas in the winter

Indoor Hydrangea Care

The hydrangeas you can buy from a grocery store with tin foil around the pot are typically bred to be more of an annual or houseplant than a perennial hydrangea. Those plants will produce beautiful flowers for one season and quickly die off. If you would like to try and grow those in the ground, it is certainly possible. But the plant probably won't perform as well as the hydrangeas we sell on the website, which are designed to be hardy and withstand mother nature.

If you have a landscape hydrangea that you would like to grow indoors, it may be difficult. The hydrangea will need to be in a south-facing window, and it will require a lot of moisture. Also, hydrangeas need a time of dormancy during the winter months to build up energy. So if you are growing the hydrangea indoors, it will not get a chance to go dormant and re-energize itself.

Hydrangea Scientific Classifications

Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Cornales
Family: Hydrangeaceae
Genus: Hydrangea

 

Scientific Name Common Name
Hydrangea macrophylla Mophead Hydrangeas
Hydrangea macrophylla normalis Lacecap Hydrangeas
Hydrangea macrophylla ssp. serrata Mountain Hydrangeas
Hydrangea paniculata Panicle Hydrangeas
Hydrangea arborescens Smooth Hydrangeas
Hydrangea quercifolia Oakleaf Hydrangeas
Hydrangea anomala Climbing Hydrangeas

Caring For Specific Hydrangea Types

Each type of hydrangea has slightly different care instructions for optimal health. Mopheads & lacecap hydrangeas are both Hydrangea macrophylla and require the same care. Mountain hydrangeas are also H. macrophylla but are typically stronger and require less maintenance than mopheads and lacecaps.

Hydrangea Macrophylla Care

Mopheads, lacecaps and mountain hydrangeas are the most popular type of hydrangea. The flowers can be white, pink, red, green, purple or blue depending on the soil's pH in some cases. These plants require afternoon shade if possible because they will easily burn during hotter days. Hydrangea macrophylla also requires the most water out of all hydrangeas.

Hydrangea Paniculata Care

Panicle hydrangeas are quickly becoming more and more popular due to their dependable blooms each summer that typically arrive faster than other types of hydrangeas. These are also easy to care for compared to other types of hydrangeas, and can handle full sun better than macrophylla hydrangeas. 

Hydrangea Arborescens Care

Smooth hydrangeas are also easier to care for than macrophylla hydrangeas. These hydrangeas produce enormous flowers and bloom each year, which isn't the case for other types. That is because these hydrangeas bloom on new growth and will sometimes re-bloom throughout the year. The flowers are great for cut-flower arrangements due to their size and the amount of flowers the shrubs grow each summer.

Hydrangea Quercifolia Care

Oakleaf hydrangeas are native to North America and are very hardy plants. These are the most drought tolerant of all hydrangea types and can handle full sun locations well. We recommend these for gardeners who do not have a lot of time on their hands to be caring for their plants.

Added Bonus - their leaves turn a pretty red color in the fall!

Hydrangea Anomala Care

Climbing hydrangeas require a support for the vines. This can be a tree, trellis, arbor, fence or the side of a house or building. The vine will need to be pruned each year unless you want the plant to cover a lot of ground. Plant these in a location that gets some protection from the sun if possible for the best results.

Hydrangea Tree Care

The only type of hydrangea that can be pruned into a tree is a Hydrangea paniculata. Tree forms will generally require the same care instructions as the shrub types. A hydrangea tree will require regular pruning to maintain the tree shape. Hydrangea trees grow best in full sun for optimal flower production and growth. You may also have to provide support for the tree for the first few years as the tree gets established and gains strength. 

Cut Hydrangea Care

Once your plant is producing beautiful flowers in the summer, it will be a great time to cut a few stems to enjoy inside the house. Hydrangeas are known for their large blooms that come in several different colors, and they look fantastic in cut-flower arrangements. It is also possible to dry hydrangea flowers so they last longer. And you can also dye the flowers different colors before drying them.

 

Common Hydrangea Care Questions

Do Hydrangeas Like Sun Or Shade?

While there are a few varieties of hydrangeas that are shade lovers, most prefer at least 6 hours of sun, preferably during the morning hours, with some protection from the sun during the hottest hours of the afternoon. 

hydrangeas for full sun
Hydrangeas for Full Sun 
(6+ Hours)

hydrangeas for shade
Hydrangeas for Shade 
(2-5 Hours)

What Are Some Colors That Hydrangeas Can Bloom In?

The color of hydrangeas runs almost the full spectrum, from pinks to purples, blues, reds, whites, and greens! You can change the color of the flowers of some hydrangeas by adjusting the soil pH, while others you cannot change. And most hydrangea flowers will change color from when the flower first blooms to when it starts to fade. Some will go from green to white, while others will go from white to pink to red.

Fertilizer will not change the color of the blooms. It's possible that extra ingredients added to fertilizers might change the color, but the fertilizer itself doesn't have this power. It is much easier to change a hydrangea from pink to blue than it is from blue to pink. Changing a hydrangea from pink to blue entails adding aluminum to the soil. Changing from blue to pink means subtracting aluminum from the soil or taking it out of reach of the hydrangea. You cannot change the color of white hydrangeas.

Are Hydrangeas Deer Resistant?

Deer do not typically prefer to eat hydrangeas.

Are Hydrangeas Poisonous?

Although rarely lethal, hydrangeas can cause stomach aches if ingested. This can happen to small children, cats, dogs and other animals.

What Are The Best Hydrangea Books?

We've listed out our favorites in the article. However you should be able to find all of the information you need on our website. Plant Addicts is the number 1 hydrangea resource online!

Do Hydrangeas Spread?

The root systems of hydrangeas commonly reach out from 3 to 10 feet, depending on the variety of plants. This allows them to make use of any moisture in the area. These roots can also, in some species, send up stems. If they're undesirable, keep chopping them off at the ground. This will eventually weaken them to the point that they'll no longer have the energy to encroach.

Are Hydrangeas Invasive?

The vast majority of hydrangeas are not considered to be invasive.

What Is The Growth Rate For Hydrangea?

Most hydrangeas have a fast growth rate and can throw out up to 2 feet of new growth a year.

Should I Cut Off Dead Hydrangea Blooms?

Deadheading hydrangeas will help keep them neat and tidy looking and it also helps to encourage to plant to throw out more blooms, rather than directing its energy towards seed making.

Are Hydrangeas Perennials Or Annuals?

Hydrangeas are actually deciduous shrubs, meaning they drop their leaves for the winter months, and come back in the spring.

Have a question about Hydrangeas? Fill out the form below and we will try and get back to your question as soon as possible. We may even feature your question on this article to help other gardeners!

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Author Judith King - Published 10-17-2017