When to fertilize hydrangeas?

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Fertilizing Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas grow best if they are fertilized once or twice in the summer. Although some authorities recommend special fertilizer mixes to get the maximum results, hydrangeas do amazingly well with a more relaxed approach.

Either chemical fertilizers or organic matter can be used successfully. Since an organic method of applying manure and/or compost around the roots, produces excellent results and also improves the condition of the soil, this would be an excellent first line of attack. Organic additions to the soil can also be combined with a shot of chemical fertilizer for maximum effect.

If chemical fertilizers are used, applying a slow-release, balanced fertilizer once a year is probably the simplest solution. There are many slow-release fertilizers on the market. If you can find a fertilizer formulated for shrubs and trees, this fertilizer would work well on hydrangeas. If Osmocote is used, the granules MUST be covered with soil for the fertilizer to release properly.

However, slow-release is certainly not the only way to fertilizer hydrangeas. A less expensive fast release fertilizer such as a 10-10-10 will work just as well if applied twice during the summer. If you are looking for a fertilzing routine tailored to your specific conditions, a soil sample should be taken and the fertilizer and trace elements matched to the needs of your soil.

Don’t fertilize after August. Fall is the time for hydrangeas to begin preparing for dormancy. Fertilizing at this time may stimulate new growth that will be too tender to withstand the winter. In the South, a late May application and another in July would be about right. More northern areas may wish to fertilize only once in June or July.

The amount of chemical fertilizer used per plant will vary with the size of the plant and it’s root system. (Use less fertilizer for hydrangeas in a container.) Over-fertilization can be much more detrimental than under-fertilization. “Fertilizer burn” can occur when too much fertilizer is applied, resulting in a drying out of the roots and damage or even death of the hydrangea.It is much, much better to err on the side of too little fertilizer than too much. When roots are burned, the first sign is often scorched looking leaves. If overfertilization is severe, the plant may just wilt and die.

If you are a beginner at growing plants, it may be helpful to know that a very small plant which is planted in the ground will take about 1/8 – 1/4 cup of fertilizer. When fertilizing hydrangeas in pots, be careful to apply a fertilizer that will not burn the roots (such as a slow release or a liquid fertilizer). A very large shrub in the ground will take 2 – 3 cups spread around the drip line of the branches (not next to the trunk). This is a very loose estimate, so please read the directions on the fertilizer before applying it.

If a liquid fertilizer is used, it should be applied every month for both plants in pots and in the ground.

Never fertilize a plant with a chemical fertilizer if the plant looks sick or wilted. If a plant is struggling due to a disease or root problems, the fertilizer will only add stress to it’s life. Try to cure the problem before adding fertilizer.

Fertilizing Hydrangeas Organically

For an organic approach, many gardeners use commercial manure on the soil around hydrangeas. Excellent results have been reported by visitors to this site after using composted manure. Commercial manure or compost can be applied yearly around the base of the hydrangea. As with chemical fertilizers, do not apply it right next to the trunk or stems emerging from the ground.

Myths About Fertilizing Hydrangeas

Fertilizing a healthy hydrangea will not cause it to bloom. If a hydrangea will not bloom year after year, there is a problem unrelated to the fertilizer. There are several reasons why hydrangeas won’t bloom, but a lack of fertilizer is not one of them. This is unfortunate since we would all like a simple solution to the common problem of hydrangeas failing to bloom.

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.

Here is more information on how to change the color of hydrangeas.

When leaves on a plant turn yellow WITH green veins (as in the image on the right which is from the Texas A & M Aggie site), regular fertilizer will not improve the color. This condition usually means the plant needs iron. Yellow leaves and green veins are often the result of iron chlorosis. This is the result of either an iron deficiency or iron unavailable for plant uptake.

Liquid iron is inexpensive and can easily be poured or sprayed on the plant. (Any brand will do) The results is often quite dramatic.

This page contains affiliate links to products on Amazon. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

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Hydrangeas are a charming, resilient plant that are easy to grow. You can find a variety of textures, plant sizes, colors, and blossom shapes.

Many American gardeners like the bigleaf hydrangea because it has snow-ball style flowers.

As with many flowering plants, hydrangeas flourish when they have supplemental feeding during their growing season.

Therefore, it is important to choose the best fertilizer for hydrangeas. That way, they will grow larger and bloom bigger.

What is the Best Fertilizer for Hydrangeas?

All hydrangea varieties are going to benefit from having a prepared flowerbed. Hydrangeas like soil that is light and drains well. If you have clay-like soil, you might want to add some shredded leaves or compost to your soil.

You can find many organic fertilizers, such as bark, compost, and leaves. These items can boost the nutrient levels within the soil and help it retain moisture.

The fertilizer you choose is based on the type of soil you have. Some fertilizer manufacturers say you should fertilize multiple times a year. However, hydrangeas are easy-going plants and don’t require a lot of extra fertilizer.

Fertilizer is designed to do many things. It should keep the colors more vibrant, feed the plant what it needs to grow, and work instantly. However, fertilizer should also help to develop the roots and make them stronger.

The best fertilizer is the one that works well for your plants and your lifestyle. You may want to consider the size of the container and how long the fertilizer lasts.

Types of Fertilizer

You will find a variety of fertilizer options available. Organic, slow-release and fast-release fertilizer are all options.

Organic fertilizers can reduce the number of chemicals you put in the garden because everything is organic. You will find many options available. You can choose to add compost that you make yourself, but you can buy fertilizer with compost.

Slow-release fertilizers release the nutrients to the plant over a longer time frame. This can reduce fertilizer burn. Fertilizer burn causes the plant roots to dry out and can kill the hydrangeas.

Slow-release options are the most common commercial product. The ideal product is based on a variety of factors, such as where you live, what soil you have, and more. You can also find fast-release options, which instantly feeds the plant.

You will find granular and liquid forms of fertilizer. You can choose the one that is easiest for you to use. Most people like the granules because they shake it out and mix it with the soil.

The 8 Best Fertilizers for Hydrangeas

It is sometimes helpful to see a table or list of the best fertilizers for hydrangeas. You can get a better idea of how these products compare and what is available.

Pictures Hydrangea Fertilizers Fertilizer Analysis Links
Scotts Company 185001 Garden Pro Water Soluble Miracid Acid Loving Plant Food 30-10-10
Espoma HT18 Holly Tone 4-3-4
Espoma UL30 Organic Soil Acidifier Fertilizer S: 30%
Free S: 18%
Combined S: 12%
Dr. Earth 703P Organic 4 Azalea/Camellia/Rhododendron Acid Fertilizer 4-5-4
Miracle-Gro Plant Food Fertilizer for Acid Loving Plants 30-30-10
Jobe’s Azalea, Camellia & Rhododendron Fertilizer Spikes 9-8-7
BONIDE PRODUCTS INC Bonide 56429 Pink Fertilizer x-x-x
JR Peters Inc 59324 Jacks Classic Hydrangea Fertilizer 7-3-3

Best Hydrangea Fertilizer Reviews

Below, you will find the eight best hydrangea fertilizers. The review comes with important information about each fertilizer type. This can help you make the right decision about the fertilizer you choose for your garden and plants.

1. Scotts Company 185001 Garden Pro Water Soluble Miracid Acid Loving Plant Food

The Miracid Acid Loving Plant Food comes in a four-pound box. It is from the Miracle GRO brand. It is designed to instantly feed plants that like acid, which includes hydrangeas and Rhododendrons.

The fertilizer does double duty because it feeds the plant through the leaves and roots. The moment it is applied to the plant, it starts working.

People who use this product are going to notice beautiful blooms. The roots are also going to develop more fully and be stronger.

It will not harm plants or burn the plant if you use it as directed. You can use it with the Miracle-GRO garden feeder or use a watering can to apply the mixture.

This fertilizer has been known to make acid-loving plants grow like weeds. It is sure to bring you more blooms and help your plant look fuller.

2. Espoma HT18 Holly Tone

The Espoma Holy Tone fertilizer comes in an 18-pound bag. It is one of the organic fertilizers. It is specially formulated to work for many plants, including:

  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Rhodendrons
  • Hydrangeas
  • Azaleas
  • Evergreens
  • Plants that love acid

Many gardeners have raved about this fertilizer. Professionals in the landscaping business also use it. Therefore, you know that it will work well for you.

If you want to have an organic garden, you will find that this product is approved for such. It also has Bio-tone Beneficial Microbes, which are proprietary to the brand. This means that no other brand has these special Microbes.

It also comes in other sizes from 36 pounds up to 50-pound bags. It is a good idea to buy a larger bag if you have many hydrangea plants. It is also beneficial to buy a large bag if you have many acid-loving plants in your garden.

This fertilizer can help your plants look fuller and healthier. Acid-loving plants are different, so they require special fertilizer. Plus, organic fertilizer doesn’t have any extra chemicals, and everything in it is safe.

3. Espoma UL30 Organic Soil Acidifier Fertilizer

Espoma Acidifier Fertilizer is also organic. It comes in a 30-pound bag. That means you can fertilize a lot of plants with one bag.

The soil acidifier is designed to lower the soil’s pH to the best level for what you plant. It is approved for organic gardening, as well. Therefore, you can plant anything you desire, and it will look fuller and more beautiful.

The ingredients within the fertilizer are all-natural, so it is safer. Many fertilizers use aluminum sulfate, which can be damaging to the plant. However, this fertilizer does not include aluminum sulfate.

You can use this fertilizer for blueberries and hydrangeas. If you choose this fertilizer, it can turn your blooms blue. This is a popular color and style among gardeners, and you don’t have to use special dye or chemicals to get the color.

This fertilizer is slow-acting because it doesn’t contain sulfur ingredients. Therefore, you should follow manufacturer directions and not apply too much. You might also want to fertilize earlier in the year to give the product more time to work.

4. Dr. Earth 703P Organic 4 Azalea/Camellia/Rhododendron Acid Fertilizer

The Dr. Earth Organic Acid Fertilizer comes in a four-pound poly bag. If you use the product as the instructions say, it is safe for pets and people.

As it is organic, it only has natural ingredients. It’s a hand-crafted blend of probiotics, and it has seven strains of soil microbes in it. It also has endo and ectomycorrhizae, and it gives your plants continuous feed for many months.

It is designed to make the soil acidic. Acid-loving plants, like hydrangeas, will start to produce bigger and more beautiful blooms.

The nutrients are released fast, so you get better and faster results. However, one application feeds the plant for a longer time.

It is also designed to store water in case of a drought. You get more nutrients to the plant, and the plant will perform better as a result.

It is suitable for many acid-loving plants, including:

  • Camellia
  • Azaleas
  • Shade plants
  • Ferns
  • Hydrangeas
  • Blueberries
  • Evergreens
  • Maple
  • Hollies
  • Gardenias

The four-pound bag is designed to feed 80 small plants or 16 large plants.

5. Miracle-Gro Plant Food Fertilizer for Acid Loving Plants

This Miracle-Gro plant food is designed for acid-loving plants. It is fast-acting, so it instantly feeds your plants to give you bigger blooms and lush foliage. You should use the fertilizer every one or two weeks for the best results.

This product works well for many acid-loving plants, including:

  • Gardenias
  • Azaleas
  • Camellias
  • Holly
  • Hydrangeas
  • Hibiscus
  • Rhododendron
  • Orchid
  • Many others

You can use this fertilizer with the garden feeder made by Miracle-Gro. However, you do not have to buy a special feeder. You can use it with any watering can or fertilizer sprayer you have on hand.

This fertilizer has iron and other nutrients that your plant needs. It used to be called Miracid, but the name was recently changed.

It comes in a 1.5-pound bag, and it is a little confusing to order yours at first. You can find plant food for Azaleas and Roses, or you can purchase a bloom booster. If you want fuller, bigger blooms, the bloom booster works well, and you can also use the Azalea version for hydrangeas.

6. Jobe’s Azalea, Camellia, & Rhododendron Fertilizer Spikes

The Jobe’s Fertilizer Spikes are suitable for a variety of plants, including Azaleas, Rhododendron’s and Camellia’s. However, they are also great for any acid-loving plant, which includes hydrangeas.

The best thing about this product is that you get a spike that is full of all the fertilizer you need. It’s a time-released spike that slowly releases nutrients to the plant over time.

You don’t have to deal with runoff, so you know the plant is getting all the nutrients. They’re easy to use, and you don’t have any mess or smells. The spike is embedded into the ground, which helps to nourish the roots.

These spikes feed the plant for the entire season. Make sure you read the directions for use. It is best to apply them in spring or summer after the plants have bloomed.

The spike delivers nutrients up to eight weeks. They’re also specially formulated to meet the nutrient needs of your hydrangeas and other acid-loving plants.

The spikes release nutrients over time. Therefore, you may need to wait a few weeks to see results. However, you do not have to measure anything or change the spike, so it is convenient.

7. BONIDE PRODUCTS INC Bonide 56429 Pink Fertilizer

Bonide Pink Fertilizer is designed to turn your hydrangeas pink. If you already have pink hydrangeas, you can still use this product.

Hydrangeas are an excellent plant for people who want to change the bloom color each season. You can get pink blooms, and all you have to do is sprinkle on the fertilizer.

It comes in a 2.75-pound jar with a helpful scoop. You use the scoop to measure how much product you need and sprinkle it around the bush.

This product is designed to raise the pH of the soil. Soil range should be within 6.5-7.0. If your soil has a higher pH, your plants will suffer. However, this product gets the soil pH to that range.

If you don’t know your soil pH, you might want to purchase a soil tester first before using the product. This fertilizer is specifically created to sweeten the soil, which turns the flowers pink. It is not a fertilizer substitute; it is only designed to be an additive.

The active ingredient is pelletized lime. It is naturally alkaline, so it raises the soil’s pH. It is also easy to apply because you don’t have to mix anything.

8. JR Peters Inc 59324 Jacks Classic Hydrangea Fertilizer

Jack’s Classic Hydrangea Fertilizer comes in a 1.5-pound bucket. It is water-soluble and contains aluminum sulfate. It also has a variety of necessary micronutrients for the plant.

It is designed to enhance your blue hydrangeas. The mixture of aluminum sulfate and nutrients helps your plant grow lush leaves and maintain its blue color. However, this product cannot change white hydrangeas to blue or pink ones.

It can take a few weeks to notice the results. You will start noticing that the leaves look fuller and healthier. With time, it will bloom, and the flowers will also be bigger and more vibrant.

When to Fertilize Hydrangeas?

It is important to know when to fertilize your hydrangeas so that it works correctly. Fertilizer burn is a possibility, and it happens when you apply too much. If you use a fast-release fertilizer, you should lightly dress the hydrangeas with the fertilizer in July, March, and May.

Most people recommend fertilizing hydrangeas in late spring and/or early summer. You want to wait to fertilize the plant until it has already leafed out but hasn’t bloomed yet.

Most varieties leaf out during early spring and will bloom by mid-spring. They tend to last throughout the summer. However, there are many hydrangea varieties, and it depends on your type and where you live.

If you have a re-blooming hydrangea, you can expect it to bloom, the flowers to fall off, and bloom again throughout the summer. You should still fertilize your hydrangeas between late spring/early summer.

Depending on the type of fertilizer you have, you should fertilize every other month. Some fertilizers last a full eight weeks and some only last a week.

How often to Fertilize Hydrangeas?

Each product is probably going to be different. However, the rule of thumb is to fertilize your hydrangeas every other month, starting in March. It is important to know when your area has spring and summer.

If you live in a warmer climate, you may not have a spring or have a short one. You may live in a cooler climate, so it rarely feels like summer. If you don’t have specific seasons or don’t know when they change, consider the ‘every other month’ rule.

Some fertilizers are specific about when and how often to fertilize. You may need to fertilize every two weeks for a month and then once a month after. Extended-release (slow-release) formulas usually allow you to wait longer between fertilizing sessions.

Fast-acting fertilizers tend to require you to fertilize more often.

Some fertilizer products are designed to be applied monthly or bi-weekly. That means you are in the garden more often sprinkling or spraying the fertilizer. If you lead a busy lifestyle, you might want a fertilizer that lasts a few months or an entire season.

These products are available, but you have to read the description of the product carefully.

How to Fertilize Hydrangeas?

The way you fertilize your hydrangeas is based on the type of fertilizer you choose. Make sure you look to see if it is liquid, pellet/granule, or pre-measured form.

You may not need to fertilize your hydrangeas. If you used compost or other organic materials when you planted them, you aren’t going to need fertilizer. However, you can use slow-release organic plant food to boost bloom production.

Pre-measured Spikes

The pre-measured spikes are the easiest to use. All you do is remove a spike from the bag and drive the spikes into the soil using a hammer. You need to know the plant’s diameter and use the recommended number of spikes.

After the spike is embedded into the ground, you should water the soil. The spike should be about an inch into the ground.

Liquid Fertilizer

If you buy a liquid fertilizer, you will need a way to spray the fertilizer onto the plant. Some products, like Miracle-Gro, have specific sprayers. You purchase the sprayer and the fertilizer, and it attaches directly to the sprayer.

If you don’t have a sprayer and don’t want to buy one, you can use a watering can, too.

Some formulations do not require any mixing. Pour the liquid fertilizer into the sprayer/watering can and start pouring.

Other products do require you to mix the liquid fertilizer with a base. Usually, you can use plain tap water. Pour in the recommended amount of fertilizer and add water to the fill line.

Read through all the package directions before you start. It might tell you to spray the plant directly or to avoid spraying the plant. You may need to gently move the plant with one hand and spray the roots with the other.

Pellet/Solid Fertilizer

If you purchase pellet-style fertilizer, it can look like pellets or granules. Either way, you should follow the manufacturer’s directions.

Many times, the fertilizer container comes with a special scoop. Fill the scooper full and sprinkle the pellets around the plant. You may need to pour an inch of topsoil over the granules.

The topsoil will help to cover the fertilizer so it can do its job. It will also help retain moisture.

When you are finished sprinkling the fertilizer, you should water the plant as per the package instructions.

Conclusion

Choosing a good fertilizer for hydrangeas is easy if you have the right information. You now have eight different products available from which to choose.

It is important to consider the price of the fertilizer, especially if you have multiple hydrangeas or the product requires multiple feedings per season.

The Jobe’s Fertilizer Spikes are ideal for anyone who wants a no muss, no fuss fertilization method. If you have a hammer, you can fertilize your hydrangeas in a few minutes. You may need to purchase multiple bags, as you only get 10 spikes per bag.

Bonide Pink Fertilizer is excellent if you want to make your pink blooms more vibrant or want to change your purple/blue blooms to pink. Jack’s Classic Fertilizer is good if you want to change your hydrangeas to blue.

The endless supply of hydrangeas in our yard is one of my favorite things about summer – I love being able to walk out our back door one minute and have a beautiful bouquet of hydrangeas prettying up our home the next! Whenever I share pictures of my hydrangeas on Instagram and Facebook, I get lots of questions about things like pruning, changing hydrangea colors, and making cut hydrangea blooms last so I decided to take those commonly asked questions and answer them today! (affiliate links included in post – full disclosure statement available {here})

I’ll kick things off with a question that you should definitely read the answer to if you’re thinking about pruning your hydrangeas this fall…

Pruning Hydrangeas: When’s the Best Time & How Much Can I Prune Off?

The answer to this question isn’t as simple as you might think! How aggressive you can get with your pruning depends upon whether you have a variety of hydrangea that (1) flowers on old “wood” (stems from the previous year), (2) flowers on new wood, or (3) flowers on a combination of new and old wood (Endless Summer hydrangeas). For hydrangeas that flower on old wood like these pink and blue mophead hydrangeas in our backyard,

it’s ok to prune off dead stems or blooms at any time (prune close to the bloom) but if you want to do more significant pruning because your hydrangea bush is getting too large, it must be done in the summer (before August to be safe!). Starting in late summer/early fall, the buds for next year’s blooms start to form so if you prune at that time, you’ll be cutting off those precious buds and will have a big green, leafy but bloomless bush the following summer!

If you have hydrangeas that flower on new wood like Limelight hydrangeas or the Annabelle hydrangeas along the walkway in the front of our house, the entire bush can be cut close to the ground in late fall or early winter and they’ll still grow and bloom just fine the following summer. Can you believe that we cut these down to only about a foot above the ground the winter before this?

One of the negatives of Annabelle hydrangeas compared to some other types is that they have thinner stems and tend to be a lot more floppy. One little tip to pass on that we figured out by trial and error is to actually prune them to only about 2-3 feet from the ground instead of super close to it. While they grow back fine either way, we’ve found that leaving some of the old growth serves as a support for the new growth in the spring and summer so they’re not nearly so floppy. You can see the difference in how much more upright they are this year when we left a few feet of old growth when pruning the year before:

And if you’re looking for a pruning tool recommendation, my gardener (aka my husband) prunes our hydrangeas with {these pruners} that have longer blades to get the job done quickly and telescoping handles that are super helpful for pruning our taller hydrangea trees.

How Do I Get My Hydrangeas to Be Such Pretty Shades of Blue & Pink?

The color of a hydrangea’s blooms depends upon the pH of the soil they’re growing in (unless they’re white, in which case they’ll always be white!). When the pH level in the soil is higher, you’ll get pink blooms and when pH levels are lower, you’ll get blue blooms. And the pH can change from year to year depending upon things like the type of fertilizer or mulch that you’re using. Last year every single hydrangea in our backyard was a pale blue/purple but this year we got some gorgeous pinks:

along with some seriously stunning deep purples:

But did you know that there’s actually a way to tweak Mother Nature’s plan and get the color blooms that you prefer? If you want pink blooms you can raise the pH by sprinkling garden lime such as {this} at the base of the plant or using a product such as “Color Me Pink” available {here}. If you want blue or purple blooms, you can lower the pH by applying a soil acidifier such as {this}, aluminum sulfate (available {here}), or “Color Me Blue” available {here}. I’ve also heard that coffee grounds can do the trick! The key is to apply them early in the growing season and re-apply throughout the growing seasons but water them in well and don’t go overboard because too much can harm your plants.

If you want to monitor your soil’s pH during the growing season you can use a probe like {this one} I have that gives readings on both the pH of the soil and the moisture content:

How Do I Keep Deer from Eating My Hydrangeas?

We have lots of deer that wander through our yard and they LOVE to eat my hydrangeas, especially right after they’ve just started to bloom:

I’ve tried a few different things to keep them away but the one that works best for me is Bobbex in a ready-to-use pump sprayer (available {here}). It is truly the most disgusting smelling stuff ever but it does the job! I spray mine early on in the season before my hydrangeas start blooming and then once a month throughout the growing season. Between our front and backyard we have a ton of hydrangea bushes but it only takes me about 15-20 minutes to spray them all. You can read more about using Bobbex along with other tips for repelling deer in {this post}.

How Do You Make Cut Hydrangea Blooms Last?

It’s so disappointing to have a beautiful bouquet of hydrangeas that starts wilting just a few days after you put it together. Here’s what I do that helps keep my cut hydrangea blooms last (sometimes for two weeks or more!):

  1. Clip your blooms in the morning and cut the stems on the diagonal. A lot of gardeners recommend using a knife but I’ve always thought that was kind of difficult and awkward. Instead of using typical garden pruners, I like using {these kitchen scissors} – by cutting the stems near at the base of the scissors where there’s a semicircle, it acts like a guillotine and gives a clean cut without crimping the stem. And the two blades pull apart so you can throw them in the dishwasher for easy cleaning.
  2. Remove any leaves that will be below the water line of your vase – this helps keep away rot and bacteria.
  3. Use a vase that has been washed in warm, soapy water (not just quickly rinsed out from its last use).
  4. Add a packet of flower preservative to the water if you have it or, if you want to go all out, dip each stem in boiling water for 30 seconds and then in Alum powder (available in the spice aisle at grocery stores) before putting them in your vase.
  5. Change the vase water every other day.

How Do I Revive Wilting Hydrangeas?

While most of my hydrangeas do well using the tips I outlined above, I sometimes get an outlier or two that unexpectedly wilts just a few days after being cut. There are several different ways to revive wilted hydrangeas like dipping their tips in boiling water or submerging the whole bloom in cool water overnight but the trick that works just as well for me and is easier is to simply recut the stem (on the diagonal again) and put it in a glass or small vase of very warm water (I use the hottest water that I can get from the tap) for several hours. This will typically perk up your bloom by the end of the day at which time he can rejoin his friends in the bouquet!

And finally, I’m wrapping up this Q & A with one last question – probably the one that I hear most often because it’s the most frustrating…

Why Didn’t My Hydrangeas Bloom this Year?

It is SUCH a bummer when hydrangea season rolls around and your bushes start to grow and get big and leafy but…. there are no blooms. Here are a few of the reasons it can happen:

  1. Pruning at the wrong time. If you have hydrangeas like mopheads that grow on old wood and you pruned them too late in the season the year before, you probably inadvertently removed the buds that had started to develop for the following year.
  2. Using too much fertilizer. Some fertilizer is a good thing but too much is not! I tend to err on under-fertilizing vs. over fertilizing and only do it once a year (in spring) even though the instructions of most fertilizers recommend more frequent use. I don’t know of any magic fertilizer for hydrangeas but I’ve been using Jack’s Blossom Booster (available {here}) and my hydrangeas have done well with it!
  3. Frost damage. A late frost can damage developing buds so that they never bloom. In cold climates, before winter you can try mounding up mulch or straw about a foot high around the base of the bushes to protect and insulate the developing flower buds.
  4. Too much shade/not enough sun. Hydrangeas need a certain amount of sunlight to bloom so if yours isn’t getting several sunny hours a day, that could be the problem – you might need to try a different spot in your yard.

Do you guys have any other questions that I missed or hydrangea tips or tricks of your own to share? Let me know in the comments! And if you want to save the link to this post so it’s easy to find when spring rolls around, I created a Pinnable image at the end of this post!

Now go forth and enjoy your Labor Day weekend!

Fertilizing Hydrangeas: Hydrangea Care And Feeding

Known for their lush foliage and supersized flower head, their shrub like appearance and long bloom period, hydrangeas are a common garden staple. How to feed hydrangeas is a common concern.

Hydrangea Fertilizer for Proper Hydrangea Care and Feeding

Hydrangea care and feeding is fairly simple once you learn some basic rules. Specially formulated hydrangea fertilizer is available but isn’t really necessary. A good all purpose 12-4-8 to 10-10-10 composition will provide all the fertilizing hydrangeas need. Either a chemical source or organic matter can be used successfully.

Applying a once a year slow-release chemical formulated for shrubs and trees is the simplest solution to hydrangea care and feeding. A less expensive fast-release compound will work as well. As to what to use to naturally fertilize hydrangeas, a combination of sulfur, compost and peat moss has proved to be a successful hydrangea fertilizer.

When and How to Feed Hydrangeas

How to fertilize hydrangeas is just as important as what you’re fertilizing hydrangeas with. Fertilizer burn can occur when too much is applied. Scorched looking leaves are the first sign of too much fertilizing. Hydrangeas should be lightly dressed with fast-release fertilizer in March, May, and July.

Be sure to spread it around the drip line of the branches and not the base. Water well. If the fertilizer you choose is a slow-release type, remember to lightly cover it with soil to activate the fertilizer. How to feed hydrangeas should also include a light bi-annual dose of liquid iron to keep the leaves a healthy green.

A discussion of how to fertilize hydrangeas wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the addition of small amounts of sulfur or lime when fertilizing to change hydrangea color. Hydrangeas treated with sulfur will remain or turn blue. Lime results in pink and a change to either color takes time. Please note: white hydrangeas will not change color.

Gardeners who practice good hydrangea care and feeding will be rewarded with luxurious foliage and glorious blooms.

Q: We are growing some hydrangeas and roses in large pots and half-barrels. We have the watering schedule figured out, but how often should we be applying fertilizer and what kind is best?

A: When you grow shrubs in pots you have greater control over the soil conditions than you would have over growing the same plants in the ground. Regardless of the size of the pot, when you water, you must always apply enough water to ensure that some runs out of the container’s drainage holes. This leaching removes harmful salts that could build up in the pot, but it also leaches out some of the fertilizer that the plant needs for healthy growth.

There are many fertilizer choices on the market, organic or chemical, liquid or solid, and the best one to select is the one that you find fits your preferences and routine. The one thing you need to remember is that your plants will require regular feeding from the start of the growing season until the end of the growing season.

Back when I was a student, we tested potted plant performance with various fertilizer regimes. The best plant growth occurred when a little water-soluble fertilizer was added to the irrigation water every time the plants were watered. The next best plant performance was when a slow release fertilizer was added to the soil.

Q: We’ve reduced the size of our front lawn to conserve water. With a smaller lawn, I want to make it as nice as possible. Where can I get good, reliable information on lawn care that will be relevant our geographical area? Most of what I see in my gardening books doesn’t seem to be relevant to our climate.

A: The UC Riverside Turfgrass Program has an excellent website that offers accurate information on growing turfgrass in California for both homeowners and those in the turfgrass industry. The internet address is: https://agops.ucr.edu/turf/turfHome.html.

By selecting “Turfgrass Information for California Homeowners” you will find up-to-date information on topics relevant to you such as the UC Guide to Healthy Lawns. This guide covers topics such as selecting the variety of turfgrass best for you, pre-plant preparations, irrigation scheduling, fertilizing, and even pests and diseases.

In addition, a number of helpful publications can be downloaded at no cost. This one website can probably answer all your turfgrass questions now and in the future.

Growing Tips: Hydrangeas, Color and Fertilizing

Got the Bloomin’ Blues?

To see if you can encourage your hydrangea to produce blue or pink flowers, determine what kind of hydrangea you have! Most types of hydrangeas grown in Massachusetts are listed in the table below.

Only bigleaf (Hydrangea macrophylla ) or mountain hydrangea (Hydrangea serrata) flowers will turn blue. Some cultivars of these are better suited for blue flowers while others are best grown as pink.

Aluminum in the tissue of hydrangea flowers causes the blue coloration. Most soils have enough aluminum, but the aluminum is not available to the plant if the soil pH is high.

For most bigleaf hydrangeas, blue flowers will be produced in acidic soil (pH <5.5). Plants in neutral to alkaline soils (pH >6.5) will usually produce pink flowers. Between pH 5.5 and pH 6.5, the flowers will be purple, or a mixture of blue and pink on the same plant.

Adjusting pH – A Gradual Process

To raise pH, add limestone according to directions on the bag. Too much lime can cause new growth to yellow due to lack of iron.

To lower pH apply an acidic fertilizer such as aluminum sulfate, or wettable sulphur. Mulch with peat or pine bark.

Exact amounts of lime or aluminum sulfate needed to get the flower color you want will vary depending on current soil pH and soil type. Caution: too much aluminum sulfate will injure plants. Follow application directions carefully.

When and how should hydrangeas be fertilized?

For blue cultivars of bigleaf and mountain hydrangea, fertilize once in spring with a formulation for acid‐loving plants. Phosphorus in the soil tends to bind aluminum so that it isn’t readily available for the plant. Use a fertilizer low in phosphorous (the middle number in the content analysis) such as 12‐4‐8 to encourage production of blue flowers.

For other types of hydrangeas, use a general purpose fertilizer, at recommended rates on the package. Incorporate dry fertilizer into top 2” – 3” of soil and water thoroughly.

Resources

How to Grow Hydrangeas

How To Grow Hydrangeas

Featuring dark, broad leaves and globes of clustered flowers ranging in color from pink to blue, hydrangeas are a distinctive and eye-catching addition to any Atlanta landscape. Learning how to grow hydrangeas will improve the beauty of your plants.

How to Plant Hydrangeas

Plant hydrangeas in the spring or fall, choosing an area of your lawn that gets sun in the morning but shade in the afternoon. Dig a hole as deep as the roots of your plant, and 2 to 3 times as wide. Set your plant in the hole and fill it half full with dirt. Water, and let the water absorb. Once the water drains, fill the hole with soil. Finish by watering the new plant thoroughly.

While the basics of planting every hydrangea is about the same, each type is grouped in to four larger categories, and each has their own special growing, care, and pruning needs.

Types of Hydrangeas

There are hundreds of types of hydrangea shrubs, and all of them are very diverse. Different types will thrive in different growing zones, depending on their hardiness. Fortunately, all types of hydrangeas like the Atlanta area’s growing conditions! With the right care, any hydrangea will make a great addition to your landscape.

Hydrangea Macrophylla: “Bigleaf” hydrangeas need partial shade, which means about 6 hours of direct sun, preferably in the morning. Afternoon shade will help your plant’s leaves from drooping.

Fertilize in March, May, and July with 8-8-8 or 10-10-10. You’ll need to make sure the soil stays moist. Using mulch will help retain moisture. These hydrangeas are color-changers. If you want blue blossoms, use acid-forming fertilizer. If you want pink blooms, use an alkaline-based fertilizer.

‘Bigleaf’ hydrangeas generally bloom in June and July in Atlanta. If you cut the blooms at the end of their cycle, that will encourage more blooms.

Prune ‘Bigleaf’ hydrangeas before August 1st, as new buds grow during late summer. If you prune during the spring, you might remove potential blossoms!

Hydrangea Arborescens: ‘Smooth’ hydrangeas are native to the Southeast, with large, white flowers. They are fond of moist soil and partial shade, and are very effective under tree landscaping. Fertilize in late winter with 10-10-10, and add mulch for moisture retention and root protection.

‘Smooth’ hydrangeas are new wood bloomers, which means that blossoms form on new growth as opposed to the prior year’s growth. As such, prune these hydrangeas during late winter before the new year’s growth begins. Remove the oldest stems and tip prune the youngest shoots for best growth. To restrict size, cut the whole plant to 12” in height.

Expect blooms in June and July. These plants can bloom a second time in August or September if the old flowers are removed after blooming.

Hydrangea Paniculata: ‘Panicle types’, or ‘Tree hydrangeas’, as they are nicknamed, are Northeast natives, but are hardy in the Atlanta area. Unlike most other hydrangeas, ‘Panicle’ hydrangeas need more sun than their cousins. They prefer moist, loamy soil in sun or partial shade. Fertilize in April and June with 10-10-10.

‘Panicle’ hydrangeas are new wood bloomers, and need to be pruned in late winter. They are nicknamed ‘tree’ hydrangeas because with careful pruning, they can grow to resemble trees!

Most ‘Panicle’ hydrangeas are late bloomers, with blossoms in late summer or even in early September. The blooms generally start white and turn pink as the season progresses.

Other Varieties:

Hydrangea Quercifolia: ‘Oakleaf’ hydrangeas are Southern natives, and are fond of moist, semi-shaded areas. The foliage is very striking more so than the flowers on these shrubs. During the fall, the leaves turn deep red and bronze. During the winter, the bark peels in an eye-catching way. Fertilize with 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 in spring and summer.

‘Oakleaf’ hydrangeas are old wood bloomers, so prune around the beginning of August or when the blooms begin to fade. The new buds will form at the end of the summer, so do not prune during the winter. You can, however, trim to promote growth.

Hydrangea Petiolaris: ‘Climbing’ hydrangeas are great for Atlanta ground cover, since they can grow 60-80’. These are very ivy-like, and must be planted against masonry walls or trellises. Plant in a moist, semi-shaded area with well-drained soil. Too much shade will reduce the number of blooms, although the foliage itself won’t be affected. Fertilize in spring with 10-10-10.

‘Climbing’ hydrangeas are old wood bloomers. Prune this variety only to keep it contained.

How to Dry Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas are not only beautiful on the bush, they are gorgeous in any flower display. However, unlike other flowers, they are a little harder to dry. The trick is the timing more so than the method!

You can easily dry them by hanging them upside down, or leaving them in an inch of water and waiting for them to dry. While it’s tempting to cut the blooms at their peak, doing so will result in wilted blooms. The trick is to wait until the blooms have started drying on the plant. You’ll need to experiment with your individual shrub, but with a little patience, you can preserve these attractive flowers for the winter!

How to Get More Hydrangea Flowers

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All hydrangeas love water. Their name comes from the Greek “hydra” meaning “water” and “angeon” meaning “vessel.” Hydrangea leaves sag when the plant is too dry, telling you they need water. The leaves also go limp in midday heat, so wait until evening to see whether they recover before you water them.

Whether to fertilize is a touchy question with hydrangeas. Most hydrangeas don’t need much extra fertilizer, but woody plant guru Michael Dirr, a retired University of Georgia horticulture professor, says you can apply a balanced slow-release fertilizer in late winter to early spring. Be careful: If you apply too much fertilizer, you might get more leaves than blooms. Too much nitrogen also produces long stems that might not set flower buds. Stop fertilizing in late summer to let the plant go into winter dormancy.

The key to getting more hydrangea flowers is to understand which hydrangea you’re growing. Each type has slightly different requirements.

Choose the best hydrangeas for your yard.

Discover more hydrangea varieties in our Plant Encyclopedia.

Panicle Hydrangea

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Panicle hydrangeas, with their big cones of flower clusters, are the most reliably hardy in Zones 3-8. They grow each year on new wood, so you can prune them any time and not worry that you’re cutting off the next year’s flower buds. You can plant them in full sun in Northern states, providing only a bit of shade in hot zones, because they need sunlight for best flowering.

Common varieties include ‘Grandiflora’, Limelight, and Vanilla Strawberry.

Learn more about gorgeous Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea.

How to Get More Flowers:

  • Plant panicle hydrangeas in all-day sun or afternoon sun.
  • Water them during times of drought.
  • Amend the soil liberally with organic matter (such as compost)
  • Limit hard pruning to early spring, just before new growth emerges.
  • Deadhead blooms as they fade.

Smooth-Leaf (‘Annabelle’) Hydrangea

Image zoom Annabelle Hydrangea

Smooth hydrangeas, named for their large, smooth leaves, are easy to grow in Zones 4-9 in sun or shade. The best known, ‘Annabelle’, was discovered by a horticulture professor in the 1960s and traced to Anna, Illinois. There are many types of smooth hydrangeas on the market today, including two varieties that bloom pink instead of the typical white. You can cut smooth hydrangeas to the ground each in spring and they will still produce flowers.

Common varieties include ‘Annabelle’, Endless Summer Bella Anna, and Invincibelle Spirit.

How to Get More Flowers:

  • Plant smooth-leaf hydrangeas in full sun if the soil stays moist. (Partial shade is better in spots that dry out from time to time.)
  • Water them during times of drought.
  • Amend the soil with organic matter (such as compost).
  • Prune stems back in early spring, just before new growth emerges.

Bigleaf Hydrangea

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The bigleaf group (Hydrangea macrophylla) and its cousins, the oakleaf (H. quercifolia), climbing (H. anomala), and serrate (H. serrata) hydrangeas, can present the biggest challenge when it comes to getting more flowers. These hydrangeas all primarily bloom on the previous year’s stems (sometimes referred to as “last year’s wood”). If you prune the stems one year, you are likely cutting off the next year’s flowers. It’s fine to remove any dead stems in spring. If you want to prune for shape, do it no later than early August, because the following year’s flower buds are set when temperatures start to drop.

In cool-summer climates with abundant summer moisture, bigleaf hydrangeas can be grown in full sun. Where summers are hotter or dry, though, these hydrangeas appreciate bright morning sun and afternoon shade. Growing these — or any type of hydrangea — in too much shade will result in fewer blooms or none at all.

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Bigleaf hydrangeas can be especially touchy when grown in Northern states. Although some varieties are hardy in Zones 4 or 5, many are only reliable in Zones 6-9. In cold regions, flowering can be affected by early-fall frost, late-spring frost, or super-cold winter temperatures. If you wish, you can cover bigleaf hydrangeas with 12-18 inches of mulch after the first frost, removing the mulch as soon as the threat of frost passes in spring.

Consider growing one of the many new hydrangeas that bloom on old and new wood. They’re often called rebloomers, but they’re technically remontant, meaning they flower more than once in a season. Or enjoy bigleaf hydrangeas only for their leaf colors; some varieties sport green-and-white variegated leaves or lemon-lime hues.

Common varieties with variegated foliage include Guilded Gold, ‘Lemon Wave’, and Light-O-Day.

Learn about Wedding Gown hydrangea, a double reblooming lacecap.

How to Get More Flowers:

  • Plant bigleaf hydrangeas in half-day sun in average soil; full sun in areas with cool summers and consistently moist soil.
  • Water them well in spring and early summer; it’s okay to let them be a bit drier from late summer to early autumn.
  • Amend the soil with organic matter (such as compost) on a yearly basis.
  • Don’t prune unless necessary (except to cut out dead/diseased branches). Limit pruning of varieties that bloom on only old wood to late June and early August.
  • Give the stems extra winter protection in winter by wrapping them in burlap and insulating with shredded leaves.
  • Keep good air space between the plants; don’t crowd them together or against other plants.
  • Don’t give bigleaf hydrangeas too much love; if they’re too comfortable (water, fertilizer, etc.), they may devote all their foliage to leaves instead of blooms.
  • By Deb Wiley

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