Growing hydrangeas is a wonderful task for flower gardening enthusiasts. These beautiful, large shrubs provide show-stopping blooms throughout the summer season. Hydrangeas are hearty in most zones in the United States and will come back every year if they are treated properly. Planting in the right location with plenty of drainage and extra care in temperatures under 0 degrees will help in keeping them strong.
Growing Hydrangeas as Perennials
Most Hydrangeas Will Come Back
In most cases, hydrangeas are woody perennials that will return every year if they are kept healthy and strong. There are some types of hydrangeas, often promoted and sold as gifts, that are less hearty than other kinds, so it is important to know what you are dealing with. If you are simply planting a hydrangea that someone gave you, you might run the risk of it not surviving the winter.
Climate and temperature do play a role in determining whether or not your hydrangeas will make it through the winter. If you live in an area where the temperature never goes below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, you are in Zone 7 or higher and do not need to worry about taking precautions with your hydrangeas in the winter. If you are in a lower zone, however, you will want to provide winter care.
You will want to plant your hydrangeas in the early fall or early spring in order to give them the best chance to thrive. This is because you want to be sure that the root system has plenty of time to get established before cold weather arrives in the winter and before blooming occurs in the summer.
Plant your hydrangeas early in the morning when the weather is still cool to avoid stressing them by the heat.
Hydrangeas prefer gentle morning sun but do not like the harsh, direct sunlight of the afternoon. Plant them on the north or south side of your home in an area where they will be in the sun during the morning hours and in the shade during the afternoon.
Also, consider planting your hydrangeas in a place where they will have shelter from the wind. This could be along a fence or along the side of a building. This will keep the wind from damaging the fragile leaves and flowers. Do not plant hydrangeas too close to trees because they may not get enough water if the tree roots are soaking it up instead. Hydrangeas like plenty of water in well-drained soil.
Mix your soil with lots of organic material for feeding your hydrangeas before you plant. Make sure that the soil will properly drain because sitting in water can rot the roots and kill your hydrangeas. Mixing compost in with the soil can help with this problem. Avoid soil that is dense or heavy like clay.
You can actually have some control over the color of your hydrangeas by controlling the ph balance of the soil where you plant them. For blue flowers, try to create soil that has a pH of about 5.2 to 5.5. For pink hydrangeas, use alkaline soil with a pH of about 6.0. Flowers grown between these acidity levels may be purple or a mixture of pink, purple, and blue.
To raise the acidity level of your soil, you can add ammonium sulfate. To lower the acidity level, add some lime to the soil.
To keep your hydrangeas healthy all winter, especially in colder areas, be sure to keep them hydrated until the ground freezes. If you let your hydrangeas go dry before the winter seasons, the roots may not have the strength to make it.
Be sure to give your hydrangeas plenty of fertilizer before winter. You can do this with a commercial hydrangea fertilizer mix, or you can simply add a thick layer of compost or even manure around the plant. This will soak into the ground and give your hydrangeas something to eat that will keep them strong in colder temperatures.
Protect your hydrangeas with a thick layer of mulch on top of the compost. Make your mulch six to eight inches deep using straw, leaves, or hay. This protects the roots from the cold and adds necessary insulation. If your part of the world gets plenty of snow, this is actually a good thing for your plants. A consistent layer of snow will provide even more insulation and will keep rodents away from your plants.
If you live in a climate that is below zone 7, you should consider covering your hydrangea plants to give them the best chance at life and to encourage the best blooms when summer rolls around. Cover your fully grown hydrangeas by wrapping them in burlap and securing it with string. Smaller hydrangea plants can be covered in mulch as long as it is light enough for air to come through. Again, snow covering will also help.
Hydrangeas love water as long as the soil is well-drained. Water your hydrangeas one inch each week throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Make sure you keep the water at the roots and avoid the leaves and flowers as much as possible. For best results, do your watering in the morning so the roots have time to drink before the heat of the afternoon comes into play.
An organically based mulch is excellent for keeping the soil moist during warm weather but also allowing drainage. Your hydrangeas will benefit from the organic material as it breaks down and becomes energy for blooming.
Different hydrangeas have varying fertilization needs, but in general, you should fertilize hydrangeas once at the beginning of the growing season and again a couple of months later April and June are typically good times. Then fertilize again just before winter comes.
Types of Hydrangeas
Oakleaf hydrangeas have wonderful flowers that come together in a cone shape. The shrubs can grow up to 8 feet tall and have tremendous leaves that are 6 to 12 inches in diameter. Oakleaf hydrangeas tend to thrive in warmer areas, and they may be harder to keep live in cold winters.
Bigleaf hydrangeas are commonly found in zones 5 through 9. They feature big, round clusters of beautiful flowers. These shrubs grow to about four or five feet tall and blooms can last for many weeks.
Panicle hydrangeas are hearty and strong, even in zones as low as 3. They can grow up to an enormous 15 feet high with proper fertilization. Their floral clusters tend to be oval or tube-shaped.
These are also called snowball hydrangeas because their flowers look like huge snowballs. These glorious hydrangeas grow well in colder temperatures and are gorgeous in floral arrangements.
Hydrangeas are amazing plants that are beautiful in almost any garden setting. Their large, lovely clusters of blooms are highly satisfying and well worth the effort of caring for the plant. For more information on growing hydrangeas and other wonderful plants, check out some of our other posts where you can read about gardening and other natural pursuits. Growing hydrangeas is a hobby you won’t regret, and you are sure to get excellent results as long you keep them happy.