When to transplant hydrangeas?

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Garden Q&A: Moving hydrangeas a delicate process

Question: I want to transplant an old-growth hydrangea that’s about 5 feet in diameter to a new location. What is the best way to dig it up, and what time of the year should I do it? I will rent a backhoe to dig it up if necessary.

Answer: Every time someone asks me about the best time to move a mature shrub, my answer is “never.” However, I know that there are many different reasons why someone would have to relocate a mature shrub, and I have done it myself many times over the years. I’ve managed to have a very good rate of success. The trick, it seems, is a combination of proper handling techniques and after-care.

Let’s start with a less-important concern before moving on to those two: The timing. While certain shrubs much prefer to be transplanted at a particular time of year, hydrangeas do not. As long as you avoid the heat of summer, anytime during the growing season would be fine. That being said, if you choose to move it in the spring, you’ll need to be more diligent about watering than if you were to wait until fall. Fall transplants often receive more regular rainfall and therefore tend to require less artificial irrigation. So, if you are willing to turn the hose on every few days, go ahead and move it this spring, but if you want Mother Nature to handle some, if not all, of the watering chores, wait until the fall.

Regardless of the timing of the transplanting process, the proper handling of a mature shrub is a must. Dig a root ball (I much prefer careful hand-digging to backhoe digging on a shrub of this size. We are not talking about a massive tree or shrub specimen here.) The root ball should be large enough to extend a foot or more out past the drip-line of the shrub (the outermost tips of the branches).

Hydrangeas do not form a tap root, so the root ball does not have to be super deep, but it should extend down as deeply as you can handle. The width of the root ball, in this case, is more important than the depth because of the fine, fibrous roots of the hydrangea. Work carefully to keep the soil intact around the roots. You don’t want the root ball to “crack.”

Once the root mass has been dug, lay a tarp down next to the hole and, using a helper or two, shimmy the tarp underneath the root ball. If you can’t do this, carefully lift the root ball out of the hole and place it on the tarp, again being careful not to “crack” it. Once the shrub is safely out of its old home, drag the tarp to the new location.

When preparing the new planting site, dig the hole about twice as wide as the root ball, but no deeper. Position the hydrangea into the hole and make sure it will be planted to the exact same depth as it was in its previous location. Planting too deep is the kiss of death for trees and shrubs.

Backfill the hole with the same soil that was excavated from it, breaking up lumps and tamping out air pockets as you go. Adding compost or other soil amendments to the backfill is no longer recommended due to the creation of a “good soil pocket” in which the roots are likely to circle. Refrain from fertilizing until a year after planting, as newly developing feeder roots are sensitive to fertilizer burn. Pruning should also be delayed for six months to a year.

Once the shrub is settled, water it thoroughly and continue to do so for a year or more after transplanting if ample rainfall doesn’t occur. Deep, twice-weekly irrigation is far better than shallow, daily waterings.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. Send your gardening or landscaping questions to [email protected] or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

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    How to Move Your Houseplants to a New Home Without Killing Them

    What do you do when it’s time to move and you have houseplants? Can you take them with you? The answer is probably yes, but the process requires a little extra effort on your part.

    Remember, your plants are living things and often require specific conditions to thrive. This article aims to help you as much as possible in protecting and moving your plants.

    Hiring a Moving Company

    While you may want to hire a moving company to transport most of your stuff for you, in general, they won’t move plants (by the way, here are some other things movers won’t move).

    Research the Law

    Each state has its own laws concerning bringing in plants. These laws are there to prevent the spread of plant diseases and pests. The National Plant Board has the laws for each state, so if you’re moving across state lines, have a look and read up on each state you’ll be traveling through.

    Research Your Plants

    Do some research on your plants and on the area you’re moving to. The climate may be all wrong for some of your leafy friends. How much light does the area get compared to how much your plants need? What’s the overall climate like, including yearly rainfall? If you discover certain plants you own won’t do well there, it’s time to ask your local friends if they’ll adopt your plants.

    Potting

    Get some plastic pots to transport your plants in, rather than their usual, ceramic pots. Also, purchase some fresh, sterilized soil. Then, two or three weeks before the move, you will transfer your plants to their new pots.

    To do so, gently remove each plant from its current pot, brushing away soil and freeing the roots. Hold the plant in the new, plastic pot, and pour in sterilized soil, making sure that the plant is comfortably upright when you’ve finished. You can then water the plant as usual.

    After you’ve repotted the plants, rinse out the ceramic pots and set them aside. When they’ve dried, you can pack them in boxes, wrapping each in newspaper or packing paper, and filling the empty space in each box with additional packing paper. You can then bring them with you and transfer the plants back into them at your new home.

    Watering

    Water your plants two or three days before moving day. Pour in enough water to get the soil moist, but not terribly wet.

    Boxing Your Plants

    The morning of or the night before the move, pack your plants. You’ll need sturdy boxes that are tall enough for each plant, plastic bags large enough for the pots, tape, and newspaper or packing paper.

    When you pack a plant, first tape the bottom of the box securely. Next, put the pot in one of the plastic bags and close it off at the base of the plant, to keep in the moisture and to help prevent dirt from spilling. Then, place the plant carefully in the box and fill in the empty space with packing paper. Shut the box, and poke a few holes in the side for air. Label it “Live Plant” and “Fragile.”

    Moving

    You have three options for getting your plant to your destination. You can bring it in your car, bring it on a plane, or ship it.

    If you have several plants, your car is your best option. Keep them in the cabin of the car, not in the trunk, so they get some air flow and sunlight. If your trip is going to take several days, remember to water them, and consider bringing them with you into each hotel or motel.

    Surprisingly, many airlines allow you to bring a plant aboard as a carry-on item. Check the guidelines for whatever airline you’re taking.

    Although moving companies won’t transport plants, shipping companies, including the United States Postal Service (USPS), UPS, and FedEx sometimes will. You’ll need to ask for their guidelines and ensure that your plant meets them. If you ship a plant, really ensure it’s secure in its box, as it can get jostled and tipped over in transport. Also, insulate the package if it may go through somewhere cold, and avoid weekend shipments, which can delay when the plant gets to you. Use the fastest shipment option possible.

    Keep in mind throughout the process, including moving, that your plants are delicate, and to treat them with as much care as possible.

    Plant care isn’t always the easiest when you’re unsure of where to start. Once you learn plant care basics and find a routine, you’ll notice all the wonderful benefits of being a plant parent. Research has shown that plants can help you breathe happier and boost your mood just by having them around. Whether you’re decking out your room or office with houseplants, we’ve highlighted some top plant care tips to assist you in taking care of your new plant babies. Following these plant care instructions will come to you as second nature very soon!

    1. Feel the Soil to Know How Often to Water Your Plants

    For potted plants at home, you may be unsure of how often to water them. For most plants, the golden rule is to see if the first inch or so of soil is dry. If dry, this is an indication that the plant needs water. If there are leaves that have shriveled or are dry/discolored, the plant might need a little extra water than a regular routine.

    2. It’s Better to Underwater Your Plants Than Overwater Them

    A plant can recover faster from being deprived of water than one given excess water. To rescue an overwatered plant, you may need to repot the plant and remove any unhealthy roots and overwatered soil before moving the plant into a new pot.

    3. Skip Fertilization for Houseplants if You’re Unsure

    Houseplants don’t require fertilization unless they are struggling to grow. If you’re unsure of how much or what type of fertilization to use when planting, it’s better to skip that step altogether. Too much fertilization may actually end up killing your plant rather than helping it.

    4. Houseplants Love Stability

    We recommend scoping out where you’ll put your plant in your house before picking one out. Plants thrive once they are used to their surroundings and finding a spot with the right amount of light is important. Temperature is also important. Fluctuating temperatures will shock your plant and therefore lead to the plant not being able to develop and maybe even die. Most plants prefer temperatures of 65º–75ºF.

    5. Smaller Plants Are the Fastest Growing Plants

    When buying your chosen plant, it’s always better to purchase a smaller plant over a larger one. This is because a smaller plant will be able to get more established in its home and have a larger ratio of roots to top growth. A larger plant will not continue to grow until its roots catch up with the top growth.

    6. Place Low Light Plants in Bathrooms

    Low light plants still need light, but a small bathroom window with no direct light shining through is the perfect light source for these types of plants. The shower will be your plant’s main source of water as well, but not directly from the hose. The humidity produced when showering will water your plants that do not require too much watering. You may want to peek every once in a while to see if your plant needs an extra drink. This can easily be done by checking the soil, see the first tip.

    7. Water Deeply, Rather Than Lightly and Frequently

    When you water lightly and frequently, only the top roots are able to drink the water, and your plant may not receive the fuel it needs to survive. Watering deeply, which entails watering your plants heavily with water, allows for all the roots to grab a drink. To avoid overwatering, slowly water your plant and watch for when the water is not draining through the soil anymore. Once you notice this, stop there.

    8. Prune Your Plants

    Getting rid of old-growth on your plants will help your plants grow again. This is kind of like how trimming the dead ends of your hair will help your hair grow again. After winter is when you’ll see some of the tips or leaves of your plant dying, so a simple plant haircut will do!

    9. Try Out a DIY Self-Watering Planter

    Hiring a plant sitter may be difficult if you’re crunched for time or budget, but don’t fear for your plants’ lives — there are many ways to water your plants while you’re away. Some methods include recycling glass and plastic bottles or creating your own drip system. To learn how to craft these DIY self-watering methods, follow our guide on watering your plants while away.

    10. Don’t Repot Your Plants by Pulling Them!

    Pulling a plant out will not only ruin the stems, leaves, and blossoms but will also tear roots. Damaged roots need to heal before they can fully take in nutrients, so pulling your plant out of its pot is never a good plan. Check out our guide on repotting a plant to guarantee no damage to your plant.

    11. Try to Replicate Your Plant’s Native Habitat

    This includes the type of soil you buy, humidity, temperature, water and sunlight. Researching your plant’s native habitat will help you discover the climate and terrain your plant prefers. Adapting this to the way you care for your plant will be beneficial for your plant’s longevity.

    12. Most Plants Flourish in High Humidity

    With most homes having dry air, especially in the winter, you may want to adjust the air. This could be as simple as purchasing a humidifier for the rooms of your home that contain your adored plants.

    13. Keep an Eye Out for Yellow or Droopy Leaves

    Asking your local horticulturalists will certainly lead you to the correct fertilizer for each plant because depending on the terrain your plant has come from, the plant will require a certain fertilizer to heal back to full health. Along with fertilizer, you can stir up some homemade plant food that your plant will most definitely thank you for.

    14. Make Sure Pots Have Drainage Holes

    Having a way for pots to drain is vital for your plant and the soil. Proper drainage allows the roots to receive air, rather than sitting in water and suffocating the roots.

    15. Dust Your Plants!

    Plants that collect too much dust on their leaves can’t get the sunlight they may need to survive, especially green plants and plants with big leaves. A few times per year, use a wet cloth and lightly wipe down the leaves of your plants on both sides.

    Following all these tips will hopefully lead to a long and wonderful life for each of your plants. The best part about bringing your plants home is choosing which spot to warmly welcome your plant. If you notice that your plant is dying, there are ways to revive your plant.

    How to Grow Hydrangeas

    Would you love to know how to grow hydrangeas to make them thrive? These stunning blooms are a favourite choice for many gardeners. With their fabulous flowers and foliage, these versatile, hardy plants are a great addition to any garden.

    “Flowers are the beautiful hieroglyphics of nature with which she indicates how much she loves us.” – Goethe

    Hydrangeas flower in spring and summer and can be cut back in winter or grown from cuttings. Hydrangea colour is an indication of the pH value of your soil. Pink flowers indicate it is alkaline (pH of between 8 and 12). Blue flowers mean the soil is more acidic (pH of between 1 and 6 with 7 being neutral). White hydrangea flowers may change colour as they mature. Don’t worry though – you can adjust the pH and the colour! Keep reading to learn how.

    Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as canvas – working with nature provides the technique.

    As a little bit of trivia, the name ‘hydrangea’ comes from two Greek words: ‘hydor’ which means water and ‘angeion’ meaning vessel. This is because the seedpods resemble drinking cups! So let’s look at where, when and how to plant out a hydrangea, as well as their ongoing needs.

    Where to Plant Hydrangeas

    Location: Although hydrangeas are pretty hardy flowers, they can suffer in full summer sun or windy conditions. These both dry them out quickly. Hydrangeas prefer a partially shaded area or one that receives morning sun only. So, the best location is partially shaded or ‘dappled’ shade. All varieties should bloom and grow well in a morning sun/afternoon shade location but not in heavy shade. Try the southern side of your garden (southern hemisphere) or the northern side (northern hemisphere).

    Avoid heavy shade under a tree with a large canopy – choose a partially shaded area with dappled light.

    Avoid planting under a tree. Tree roots will compete for the rich moist soil around your hydrangea. There may also be insufficient light if the tree canopy is large.

    Space: If you only have limited space, you might consider growing them in pots or containers. Choose your pot wisely for the mature size of the plant and consider the plant’s needs. Hydrangeas need consistent moisture so avoid porous pots.

    Hydrangeas can be grown in pots with the right soil and care.

    Depending on the cultivar, most hydrangeas need at least 1m2 of personal space to feel comfy and do their best. Make sure you check the label first to determine the mature size of the plant.

    Drainage: You will also need to consider your hydrangea’s drainage requirements. Whilst hydrangeas like moist, compost-rich and well-drained soil, they hate ‘wet feet’! Raised beds are a good option if these are available or even a mounded position.

    When to Plant Hydrangeas

    If your potted hydrangea has been grown and raised in a garden nursery, it will be used to being outdoors all year so you can plant anytime.

    However, if you decide to plant during a hot summer, it would be wise to time your planting for early morning or late afternoon during the coolest part of the day. This will avoid heat stress. Also, bear in mind that during the hotter months of the year, your hydrangea will need to be kept well watered to establish in its new location.

    Hydrangea blooms make beautiful cut flowers.

    How to Grow Hydrangeas – Likes & Dislikes

    Just like you have your preferences for the home you live in, so do your plants! Hydrangeas are no exception. Knowing what they prefer will help you make a wise choice. Give them what they want and your hydrangeas will not just survive, but thrive!

    Likes: Good drainage; dappled shade; sufficient water; moist rich composted soil; mulch and a regular feed.

    Dislikes: Hot sun and a windy location; heavy clay soils; too much shade; competing for nutrients and drying out.

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    How to Prepare your Soil and Plant Hydrangeas

    STEP 1. Pre-soak your potted hydrangea

    Anytime I transplant a plant or seedling from a pot to its new home, I give it a little TLC (tender loving care)! I find I never have any stressed plants as a result. Plants seem to settle into their new position more quickly. Many people just pop a plant straight into a hole and cover it back up with the soil they just dug out. Then wonder why their plant doesn’t look healthy!

    It’s especially important to put extra attention into your soil for container grown hydrangeas. These ‘babies’ are totally dependent on you, their gardener ‘parent’!

    From experience, I believe you will get better results with a little extra effort and it takes only a minute anyway. If you’ve invested in your beautiful hydrangea, why not give it the best chance right?

    • First, to a bucket of water, add some liquid seaweed fertiliser. Check the directions on the brand you are using and make up a ‘strong’ solution. Why give your hydrangea a seaweed ‘bath’ prior to planting in its permanent home? Seaweed products are made from kelp, which is full of trace elements that build soil and plant health. Seaweed also prevents transplant shock. Plant stress is a common problem when ‘moving house’ from a pot to a new location.
    • I think of seaweed or kelp as ‘Nature’s Rescue Remedy’ and a pick-me-up tonic for plants. It provides a rich source of nutrients needed for healthy plants and helps build resistance to pest and disease. All good reasons to invest in it!
    • Slowly lower the pot into the bucket. Allow the plant to soak until all air bubbles have stopped coming to the surface. This may take a few minutes or longer. While your pot is soaking, prepare the hole or new larger pot.

    STEP 2. Preparing your soil or pot

    Dig a hole that is twice as wide as the hydrangea’s root bulb on all sides. So if you have a 200mm pot, dig a 600mm hole, so the plant has 200mm extra space all the way around for the roots to grow into. Only dig the hole as deep as the pot itself.

    Make sure the hole is only as deep as the pot but leaves space around for the roots to grow

    Likewise, if you are transplanting your hydrangea into a larger pot, leave sufficient room for the roots to grow. You can always move it to a larger pot again later as it grows.

    STEP 3. Supercharge your Soil

    Hydrangeas love compost. Why? It is full of nutrients, helps retain moisture and builds the organic matter in your soil. This in turn, attracts worms who aerate the soil with their tunnels. These helpful earthworm ‘bulldozers’ leave you a trail of rich humus for free. Their worm castings build soil health and an instantly available food source for your hydrangea’s plant roots. Worms are wonderful garden helpers! If you have your own homemade compost, then use that as a preference. If not, then choose a certified organic compost as this is probably the next best available alternative.

    Additional soil improvers such as rock dust minerals, Epsom Salts (magnesium sulphate), mulch, worm castings, chopped banana peel or slow release plant food can all add valuable minerals and nutrients to the soil. These will boost your hydrangea’s growth. You can add any of these to the hole before planting and adding the compost or potting mix.

    “A healthy garden is a reflection of a healthy soul.”

    If you live in an area that doesn’t get much rainfall or you have water restrictions, your soil may need a little helping hand to retain moisture. I recommend adding some coir peat or coconut husk fibre. Coir peat comes in compressed blocks you can rehydrate and significantly improves moisture holding capacity. Available online or at garden centres, hardware and produce stores and even some garden sections in department stores.

    It is sold as a solid dry ‘brick’ that you can soak in water and will fluff up. You can add to your soil, potting mix or mix with compost. Coir peat (coconut fibre) is a sustainable by-product of the coconut industry. The husk fibre is recycled and is an economical way of adding organic matter to your garden.

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    Coir peat retains up to 70% of its own weight in moisture. This is a cheap addition to any garden or pot. Simply follow the directions for the amount of water to add. Tip: Always use warm water to speed up hydration or you’ll be waiting until the next day for it to absorb it all! Try adding some liquid seaweed and about a tablespoon of Epsom salts to the water at the same time. These will be absorbed into the coir peat and act as a slow release fertiliser. Epsom salts contain a water soluble form of magnesium sulphate which assists with root development.

    STEP 4. Planting your Hydrangea

    Remove the pot from the soaking bucket. Tap gently on all sides to loosen the roots. Or run a knife around the edge if it appears to have been in the pot a long time. If there are roots growing out the bottom, it may be a bit pot-bound. Just snip these off. Place your hydrangea in the middle of the hole and back fill firmly with the compost.

    Adding compost and nutrients to your potting mix or soil will boost plant health and minimise problems.

    STEP 5. Feed your Soil for Beautiful Blooms

    Add a slow release organic fertiliser to the soil or potting mix. This will slowly feed your hydrangea with a balanced diet of nutrients it needs for healthy growth. If the fertiliser you select doesn’t include rock minerals or soft rock phosphate, try adding some. Natural (non-chemical) mineral fertilisers are a blend of crushed volcanic rocks which give vitality to soils and build correct soil structure. Rock minerals should be applied to every garden to restore mineral balance and improve plant health. It is a bit like humans taking mineral supplements because we always have minerals missing in our diet.

    Your hydrangeas will thrive in healthy soil

    STEP 6. Add Mulch

    Hydrangeas have a fibrous root system that is close to the soil surface. So it is important to mulch well. I prefer to use a ‘feeding’ mulch which breaks down to add more organic matter to the soil. Mulches such as sugarcane, hay, lucerne, pea straw, grassy mulch hay, even grass clippings (no seed heads) will all add valuable nutrients to the soil. Mulch also protects your hydrangea from losing too much moisture from the soil. You can always apply a decorative mulch on top of this if you wish.

    How to Water, Fertilise and Care for Hydrangeas

    • To establish your hydrangea and encourage new root growth, water in well.
    • On hot summer days, water in the morning so the plant won’t wilt during the heat of the day.

    How to Grow Hydrangeas Tip: When in flower, water deeply twice a week.

    • Water deeply every 3 days rather than a shallow water daily. Or water when it is noticeably dry. This encourages deep root development. You can water add Epsom salts (1 tablespoon to a 9L watering can) monthly.
    • As a rule of thumb, it is better to underwater rather than over water! Hydrangeas will ‘tell’ you they need a drink by wilting a little.
    • In winter, cut off all the flower heads that have finished blooming, six joints from the flower head. This will help them bloom beautifully the next year.

    Hydrangeas can be pruned into a compact shape and look great in containers with texture like wicker baskets.

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    Learn more about How to Grow Hydrangeas

    • Watch this practical video on How to Trim Hydrangeas for some great tips on pruning your hydrangeas.

    How to Change the Colour of Hydrangeas

    • Watch this video on what to add to your soil to Change the Colour of your Hydrangeas from pink to blue or vice versa!

    How to Make Your Cut Hydrangea Flowers Last Longer

    • Want to make your woody stemmed hydrangeas last a week longer in your vase? Find out how to treat the stem so you can enjoy your favourite cut flower longer.

    Hope you’ve enjoyed my tips about how to grow hydrangeas. Connect with Nurseries Online (Australia), Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture, The American Hydrangea Society and The Lakeland Horticultural Society UK for more information, galleries, links and varieties in your region. There are also some useful global links on Queensland Gardening Pages.

    For more ideas on growing flowers and fragrance in small spaces, check out Micro Gardening and Inspirational Small Garden Ideas for lots of pictures too.

    Do you have hydrangeas growing in your garden or have a tip to share? If you like this post, please share it!

    Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. I only recommend products or services I use personally or believe will add value to my readers. Please read my Disclosure Statement for more details.

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    General care for hydrangeas

    Location, planting and transplanting

    Hydrangeas like mostly shady spots, but some varieties can take more sun. The more sun your hydrangea gets, the more frequent watering that may be necessary to maintain the blooms and leaves. Plant in the spring after spring frosts but before the hottest summer months have set in. The active growth period for hydrangeas is March through September. You may transplant established hydrangeas, but it’s best to move the large specimens in spring or fall.

    Soil

    Soil should be well draining and rich with organic matter, bark and peat moss. Try to avoid animal manure as it tends to be too high in nitrogen. Well-aged manure is acceptable. Test your drainage before planting; it may require some amendments to improve drainage. If your soil is holding too much water, add sand or bark. If your soil is draining too quickly, add garden mulch or peat moss.

    Water

    Hydrangeas like lots of water, but it is possible to overwater, especially with slow-draining soil. Hydrangeas don’t like to have their roots sitting in water. Signs of too much water are brown leaf edges and leaf drop. Signs of not enough water are droopy leaves that perk up within a half hour of watering. Drip irrigation is usually successful.

    Common pests and disease

    Slugs and snails like certain hydrangeas but can be stopped with slug and snail bait. Powdery mildew and black spot occur in shady locations when the hydrangea gets poor air circulation. Discard any leaves with traces of mildew or fungus. Rust spots occur with too much direct sunlight after overhead watering. Water in early morning or late afternoon at the base of the plant

    Fertilizer

    Use a balanced time-released fertilizer a few times a year — spring and early fall. It is not always necessary to fertilize; most hydrangeas bloom better if a little starved. After hydrangeas form buds and begin to bloom, yellowing leaves in the center of the plant is a sign that they need some fast-acting fertilizer. If you’re wanting blue and purple blooms, be sure that you use a fertilizer that is low in phosphate. Phosphate limits the plants’ ability to absorb aluminum.

    Color

    It’s the aluminum in the soil that changes the pigments in the blooms to blue and purple. Soil needs to be acidic for the plant to absorb the aluminum.

    Hydrangeas (with the exception of white ones) are at least a little bit pH sensitive. In acidic soil conditions (less than 6 on the pH scale) with available aluminum, you will tend to have blue and purple blooms. It’s the aluminum in the soil that changes the pigments in the blooms to blue and purple. Soil needs to be acidic for the plant to absorb the aluminum. To increase acidity, amend your soil with aluminum sulfate (established plants only), coffee grounds, rusty nails and coins, or conifer needles. In neutral soils (6 to 7.5), hydrangeas tend to have red and pink blooms. To increase the alkalinity in soil, add garden lime or super phosphate.

    Blooms, dried

    Hydrangeas don’t dry well when freshly flowering. It’s best to wait about six to eight weeks after blooming until the head has a papery appearance. Cut in the morning and be sure to remove all leaves from the stem. You may hang the cut bloom upside down or in a vase with just a few inches of water. Keep the blooms out of the sun in a well-circulated area. Once dried, the hydrangea can be sprayed with floral spray paint for deeper colors.

    Blooms, cut

    Hydrangeas don’t cut well when freshly flowering. Wait at least a few weeks after the bloom is completely open. Remember, the older the bloom, the longer it will last. According to experts, the trick is getting that oxygen bubble out of the stem. Leaves take moisture away from the stem, so remove all leaves. If possible, cut just little stems. You may soak the entire cut in cold water, use florist alum gel to seal the end of the stem (and drain the oxygen bubble) or put the stem in boiling water.

    Pruning

    It does seem that the later and the more harshly you prune, the fewer flower blooms can be expected the next season.

    When to prune is mostly a matter of convenience. We have pruned both in the fall and early spring and had good results either way. It does seem that the later and the more harshly you prune, the fewer flower blooms can be expected the next season. This is because most hydrangeas bloom on “old” wood. With young plants, be sure to prune enough growth to form them into a good shape and no more. The ‘Paniculata’ and ‘Arborescens’ varieties bloom on new wood, so you may cut them for size in the spring or fall.

    You may prune in the fall after blooming or in the spring after the hard frosts are over. Remember, the later you prune and the more drastically you prune, the fewer blooms you’ll have. Prune to the first leaf node of this year’s growth.

    Cut 1⁄2” to 1” above a budding node at a 45-degree angle. These buds will be the new leaves and blooms of your hydrangea. If you live in an area that is prone to spring frost, protect these buds with bed sheets or frost cloth (a light felt) on nights that frost is expected.

    Established hydrangeas tend to have branches that die back every year. These are completely woody branches inside the hydrangea. Cut up to a dozen of these branches down to the ground to spur new growth at the base.

    Choose the Top Hydrangeas for Your Garden

    Mopheads and lacecaps and oakleaves, oh my! The ruffled cluster blooms of hydrangeas are trusty additions to your perennial garden, but there are dozens of varieties with different colors, leaves, growth patterns and sizes. So where do you start when selecting a hydrangea shrub for your yard? Leave it to us—we’ll help you find the perfect hydrangea for the soil, light levels and moisture levels of your garden.

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    Hydrangeas for Sun

    While most hydrangeas do best in shade, varieties of Hydrangea paniculata prefer sunny spots. Most selections have large clusters of white flowers in summer. The showy blooms fade to shades of pink or red before drying to beige. In many areas, they dry right on the plant in fall and stay looking good through most of the winter.

    Growing

    While Hydrangea paniculata likes full sun, it also does well in part shade. It prefers moist, well-drained soil rich in organic matter, so it’s helpful to amend your soil with compost, peat moss, or other similar materials before you plant it. Hydrangea paniculata is one of the hardiest varieties; it thrives in Zones 4-8.

    Pruning

    Because this hydrangea blooms on current year’s growth, the best time to give it a trim is winter or early spring.

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    Standout Varieties

    • Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bombshell’ is a dwarf selection that grows 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide. It bears clusters of white flowers from midsummer to autumn.
    • Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ is sometimes called peegee hydrangea. It’s a large shrub or small tree to 20 feet tall.
    • Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ bears light lime-green flowers from midsummer to fall. It grows 8 feet tall.
    • Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea paniculata ‘Rehny’ bears large clusters of white flowers that fade to strawberry pink from midsummer to autumn. It grows 7 feet tall.

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    Cold-Climate Hydrangeas

    Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens), also sometimes called hills of snow or snowball hydrangea, is an especially easy-growing type that’s native to areas of North America. It has clusters of pure white flowers from midsummer into autumn; the older flowers often fade to green before they turn brown and dry.

    Grow smooth hydrangea in part shade and moist soil that’s rich in organic matter. It’s not very drought tolerant, especially if it’s in a spot that gets afternoon sun—so be sure to water it during dry spells and apply a 2- to 4-inch-deep layer of mulch on the soil. This extra-hardy hydrangea thrives in Zones 3-9.

    Smooth hydrangea blooms on new growth, so if you need to prune it, the best time is in winter or early spring. Some gardeners cut it back to 6 or 8 inches tall every year to keep it dense and compact.

    • Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ bears extra-large clusters of white flowers. It grows 5 feet tall.
    • Hydrangea arborescens ‘White Dome’ bears fluffy clusters of creamy-white flowers. It grows 6 feet tall and is hardy in Zones 4-9.

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    Easy-Care Hydrangeas

    Majestic oakleaf hydrangea is one of the easiest types to grow. It’s also one of the showiest thanks to its big clusters of white summertime flowers, attractive peeling bark, and textured foliage that turns brilliant shades of purple-red in fall. Oakleaf hydrangea can be a big shrub (it grows 8 feet tall) that’s great for providing summertime privacy or as a backdrop in the shade garden. Like smooth hydrangea, it’s native to areas of North America.

    Give oakleaf hydrangea a spot in shade or partial shade and moist, well-drained soil. It stands up to dry soil a bit better than most other types, but still appreciates moisture during drought. Like any other hydrangea, it will perform best if there’s a lot of organic matter in the soil. Oakleaf hydrangea is hardy in Zones 5-9.

    Oakleaf hydrangeas bloom on last year’s branches, so the best time to prune them is right after the flowers fade in late summer. Because the bark is interesting as it matures, many gardeners do not prune their oakleaf types.

    • Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Alice’ offers extra-large blooms and more spectacular fall color. It grows 10 feet tall.
    • Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Little Honey’ shows golden-yellow foliage and clusters of white summertime flowers. It grows 4 feet tall.
    • Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’ bears clusters of double white flowers. It grows 8 feet tall.
    • Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Vaughn’s Lillie’ displays spectacularly dense clusters of white flowers. It grows 4 feet tall.

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    Hydrangeas for Season-Long Color

    It used to be that the beautiful blue- and pink-blooming hydrangeas would bloom once a year, usually in June. But plant breeders have been hard at work, and their efforts are paying off in a new type of hydrangea: rebloomers. Series such as Endless Summer and Let’s Dance offer big, colorful blooms every few weeks in summer and fall. Many of these varieties offer beautiful fall color.

    Reblooming hydrangeas do best in a spot that gets morning sun and afternoon shade. Like other hydrangeas, they prefer moist, well-drained soil that has a lot of organic matter in it. The plants aren’t very drought tolerant, so you’ll probably need to water them during dry spells.

    Here’s a hint: The level of acidity in the soil affects the flower color of blue and pink varieties. The more acidic the soil is, the bluer the flowers will be; the less acidic, the pinker the flowers will be. Add soil sulfur or aluminum sulfate for bluer flowers and add dolomitic lime for pinker flowers. Both of these products are available from your local garden center—read the packaging directions to determine how much of the product to use in your garden.

    Rebloomers produce blossoms on both last year’s branches and this year’s stems, so you can prune them at any time without significantly affecting their flowering cycle. Many gardeners find the plants grow and bloom best if they only cut off parts of branches that died over winter.

    Encourage your hydrangea to produce more blossoms by cutting off the flower heads as they start to fade.

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    • Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Endless Summer’ bears mophead clusters of pink or blue flowers. It grows 5 feet tall. Zones 4-9
    • Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Endless Summer Blushing Bride’ bears white flowers flushed with light pink. It grows 5 feet tall. Zones 5-9
    • Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Endless Summer Twist-n-Shout’ bears blue or pink lacecap-type flowers. It grows 5 feet tall. Zones 4-9
    • Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Let’s Dance Moonlight’ bears rich blue or pink mophead-type flowers. It grows 5 feet tall. Zones 5-9
    • Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Let’s Dance Starlight’ bears rich blue or pink lacecap-type flowers. It grows 5 feet tall. Zones 5-9
    • Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Mini Penny’ bears blue or pink mophead-type flowers. It grows 4 feet tall. Zones 5-9
    • Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Penny Mac’ bears blue or pink mophead-type flowers. It grows 6 feet tall. Zones 5-9

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    Hydrangea for Shade: Mophead

    Mophead-type hydrangeas—the ones with the big, puffy balls of flowers—lend a grace and old-fashioned elegance to the garden. They’re beautiful cut flowers and dry well, too. Many offer outstanding fall color, to boot. Most mopheads bloom in June and July on last year’s branches. This makes the plants susceptible to winter damage (the flower buds freeze and die). Late-spring frosts can also kill buds before they open.

    Mophead hydrangeas typically thrive in morning sun and afternoon shade. They prefer moist, well-drained soil that’s full of organic matter. Keep them looking good by watering them during periods of drought. Otherwise, the leaves may turn brown and crispy.

    Here’s a hint: Like many other blue or pink hydrangeas, the soil pH will make the blooms appear more blue or pink. The more acidic the soil is, the bluer the flowers will be; the more alkaline it is, the pinker the flowers will be. Use soil sulfur or aluminum sulfate to make the soil acidic for blue flowers or add dolomitic lime for pinker flowers. Look for these products at your local garden center. Read the packaging directions to determine how much of the product to use in your garden.

    Because these hydrangeas bloom only once a year, the best time to prune them is right after they finish flowering. By late summer they’ve already started making next year’s blooms.

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    • Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Big Daddy’ produces huge clusters of blue or pink flowers. It grows 5 feet tall. Zones 6-9
    • Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Buttons ‘n’ Bows’ bears clusters of pink or lavender-blue flowers edged in white. It grows 4 feet tall. Zones 6-9
    • Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Cityline Venice’ displays clusters of bright pink or lavender-blue flowers on strong stems. It grows 4 feet tall. Zones 6-9
    • Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Color Fantasy’ shows clusters of rich red flowers over shiny, dark green foliage. It grows 3 feet tall. Zones 5-9
    • Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Forever Pink’ offers clusters of rich pink or lavender-blue flowers. It grows 3 feet tall. Zones 6-9
    • Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Lemon Daddy’ has golden-yellow foliage and clusters of blue or pink flowers. It grows 4 feet tall. Zones 5-9
    • Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Nikko Blue’ offers clusters of rich blue or pink flowers. It grows 6 feet tall. Zones 6-9

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    Hydrangea for Shade: Lacecap

    These beautiful hydrangeas have a more refined appearance—they have a cluster of tiny blooms ringed by starry, bigger ones. Like mopheads, they bear flowers on last year’s branches and are also good picks for adding fall color to the garden.

    Lacecap hydrangeas prefer morning sun and afternoon shade. They like moist, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Water them during dry spells to keep them looking good, otherwise, their leaves may turn dry and brown.

    Here’s a hint: You can influence the bloom color of blue and pink lacecap varieties by changing the pH of your soil. Acidic soil creates blue flowers; alkaline ground makes the flowers pink. Use soil sulfur or aluminum sulfate to make the soil acidic or add dolomitic lime to make it more alkaline. Find these products at your local garden center and read the instructions on their packaging to determine how much to use in your garden.

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    • Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Bits of Lace’ produces pale pink flowers on a 5-foot-tall shrub. Zones 6-9
    • Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Lady in Red’ offers red flowers, burgundy stems, and beautiful purple-red fall color. It grows 5 feet tall. Zones 5-9
    • Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Lanarth White’ bears white flowers on a compact, 3-foot-tall shrub. Zones 6-9
    • Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Lemon Wave’ offers foliage boldly edged in cream, white, and yellow. The blooms are light blue or pink. It grows 6 feet tall. Zones 6-9
    • Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Mariesii’ displays pink or blue flowers over white-edged leaves. It grows 5 feet tall. Zones 6-9

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    Climbing Hydrangeas

    The most majestic member of the clan, climbing hydrangea is a slow-growing vine that matures at about 50 feet. In summer, it bears lacecap-like clusters of white flowers over its rich green foliage.

    Give climbing hydrangea a spot in part to full shade and a sturdy support to climb on. This vine is great at scaling walls and other structures because roots grow from the stems and cling to a surface. Be sure to give climbing hydrangea moist, well-drained soil that has a high organic matter content.

    Here’s a hint: Be patient. Climbing hydrangeas are notorious for taking a few years to get established. It may not appear to grow at all for three or four years. But when it does, it more than makes up for it.

    This hydrangea typically doesn’t need pruning. Remove wayward shoots any time between winter and midsummer.

    • Hydrangea petiolaris ‘Firefly’ bears green leaves edged in gold and clusters of white flowers. Zones 4-8
    • Hydrangea petiolaris ‘Kuga Variegated’ displays green leaves stippled in cream and gold. Zones 5-7
    • Hydrangea petiolaris ‘Skylands Giant’ bears extra large flower clusters. Zones 4-8

    All About Hydrangeas

    Charming Shrubs

    Photo by Ralph Anderson

    Perfection doesn’t really exist in the plant world—or on any planet where living things thrive. But hydrangeas come pretty close. With long-lasting blue, violet, pink, white, or chartreuse blooms and an easygoing disposition, these reliable summer-flowering shrubs look right at home in a wide range of situations, from carefree cottage gardens to more formally manicured ones. When many other flowering shrubs and perennials have passed their peak, these deciduous beauties continue their season-long performance, with abundant, attention-grabbing flowers that dry to shades of linen for autumn and winter interest.

    For all their versatility and showmanship, hydrangeas are not particularly picky about where you plant them. They’ll happily grow in just about any landscape that offers well-drained soil, moisture, and some shade during the hottest part of the day. New varieties have even been bred to rebloom throughout the season. They’ve also shed troubles that plagued hydrangeas of previous generations, like floppy flowers. You can find types with colorful fall foliage and smaller stature, perfect for small yards. There are varieties that boast more sun tolerance and extra cold hardiness, too. So if you haven’t explored the nursery lately and wonder if these old-fashioned garden favorites are right for you, this is the place to find out.

    Shown: Bigleaf hydrangeas (shown) are found in gardens across the United States, but the iconic shrub actually hails from Japan. North America has its own native species, however; both oakleaf and smooth hydrangeas grow naturally in our eastern woodlands.

    Vitals

    Photo by Webb Chappell

    Where do They Grow? Hydrangeas hold their own in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 9. They do well in acidic as well as alkaline soils. Unlike many flowering shrubs, they tolerate both sun and shade.

    When to buy? Like all shrubs, hydrangeas are best planted in spring or fall, when temperatures are mild. Summer planting is never ideal, but with plenty of water and some shade, the plant should power through.

    How much care? After planting, maintenance is easy, calling for little more than watering and snipping spent flowers.

    Are they Pet-Safe? Keep Fido and Fluffy away. All hydrangeas contain traces of cyanogenic glycosides, toxins that, if ingested, cause gastrointestinal upset in cats and dogs.

    What do they cost? A 1-gallon pot goes for $20 to $30, depending on the variety.

    Pick Your Plant: Bigleaf Hydrangea

    Photo by Courtesy of White Flower Farm

    (Hydrangea macrophylla)

    Selling points: This group has two bloom shapes, round mopheads and flat lacecaps. Most flower in early summer on buds set the previous year, but everbloomers, like ‘Endless Summer’ (shown), flower repeatedly into fall.

    Size: Up to 6 feet tall and up to 8 feet wide

    Zones: 6 to 9

    Pick Your Plant: Smooth Hydrangea

    Photo by Elke Borkowski/GAP Photos

    (Hydrangea arborescens)

    Selling points: Cold hardy and forgiving of dry shade, this tough North American native boasts white, sometimes pink, dome-like blooms starting in early summer and lasting into fall. ‘Annabelle’ is an old-school standby, while ‘Incrediball’ is less prone to flop.

    Size: 3 to 5 feet tall and wide

    Zones: 4 to 9

    Pick Your Plant: Panicle Hydrangea

    Photo by Botanic Images Inc./Garden World Images

    (Hydrangea paniculata)

    Selling points: Extra sun-loving, this sizable type is the only hydrangea you can train into a tree form. Most varieties, including ‘Little Lime’ (shown), boast cream-to-pink conical flowers that last into late summer.

    Size: 10 to 22 feet tall and up to 8 feet wide

    Zones: 4 to 8

    Pick Your Plant: Oakleaf Hydrangea

    Photo by FhF Greenmedia/GAP Photos

    (Hydrangea quercifolia)

    Selling points: One of the best picks for deep shade, this southeastern native features cone-shaped blooms from mid- to late summer and hefty leaves that turn purple-red in autumn. ‘Snow Queen’ (shown) is especially bright in fall.

    Size: 4 to 10 feet tall and up to 8 feet wide

    Zones: 5 to 9

    Pick Your Plant: Climbing Hydrangea

    Photo by Jerry Pavia

    (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris)

    Selling points: Although slow to start, this woody vine does fine in sun or shade and offers a multiseason show that’s worth the wait, with white lacecap summer flowers, golden fall foliage, and russet-colored winter stems.

    Size: Up to 50 feet tall

    Zones: 4 to 9

    Pick Your Plant: Mountain Hydrangea

    Photo by Terry Jennings/Garden World Images

    (Hydrangea serrata)

    Selling points: This underused, compact species produces delicate bunches of lacecap blooms from summer to autumn. Depending on soil pH, varieties such as ‘Bluebird’ (shown) flower blue or pink, and some even boast showy burgundy foliage in fall.

    Size: 4 feet tall and wide

    Zones: 6 to 9

    Ways to Use Them: As a Tree

    Photo by Susan Roth

    Panicle hydrangeas naturally grow as shrubs, but a little pruning can turn them into trees, or standards, making room for more plantings at their feet. H. paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ (shown), commonly called PeeGee, takes on a dramatic tree form. Towering up to 22 feet, it boasts white summer flowers that mature to rose, while newer dwarfs, such as ‘Limelight,’ top out at 8 feet.

    Ways to Use Them: To Climb a Structure

    Photo by GAP Photos

    Any garden structure looks lovelier with a vine scampering up it. Place climbing hydrangea near entryways or seating areas where you’ll enjoy its sweetly scented flowers. And give its aerial roots something sturdy to cling to, such as a masonry wall or a large tree trunk. Standout varieties include variegated ‘Firefly’ and its silvery-leaved cousin, ‘Moonlight.’

    Ways to Use Them: In Tight Spaces

    Photo by Doreen Wynja

    Thanks to the many recently introduced dwarf varieties, it’s easier than ever to make room for hydrangeas. If your yard has only a little space to spare, consider trying the 3-foot-tall-and-wide mophead ‘Glowing Embers’ (shown), the iconic pink or blue everbloomer ‘Mini Penny,’ or ‘Little Honey,’ a white-flowering oakleaf variety with chartreuse foliage.

    Ways to Use Them: In a Container

    Photo by Doreen Wynja

    Planted in pots, hydrangeas can bring beauty to patios or decks. Compact varieties, such as ‘Penny Mac’ (shown), work especially well and help ensure a full look. Just be sure your shrub has good drainage and plenty of water; potted plants dry out faster than ones in the ground.

    Hydrangea Planting Guide

    • Spot a good site. Although hydrangeas can handle full sun in colder climes, they typically prefer morning sun and afternoon shade. Select a sheltered area with fertile soil and ample room for the shrub to spread.

    • Prep the hole. Dig a hole that is the same depth as your hydrangea’s nursery pot and two times as wide. Remove the plant from its container, gently loosen any circling roots, and plant at the same depth at which it was growing in its pot—no deeper.

    • Apply mulch. Spread an organic mulch, such as compost or shredded bark, around the base of the plant to maintain the cool, moist soil conditions in which hydrangea roots thrive. A 2-inch mulch layer is plenty.

    • Water regularly. After planting, give the shrub a long drink and continue to check the soil for dampness in the weeks ahead. The soil beneath the shrub should feel cool and moist to the touch but not wet; soggy soil leads to root rot.

    Food, Water, Shelter

    Photo by Elke Borkowski/GAP Photos

    Mature shrubs are easygoing and require minimal attention.

    • Go easy on the fertilizer. Overfeeding can burn roots, and too much nitrogen leads to more foliage than flowers. In early spring, sprinkle just a half cup of slow-release 10-10-10 granular plant food around the shrub’s entire root zone, then apply a second dose in midsummer. Hydrangeas also benefit from an annual topdressing of well-rotted manure or compost, which supplies nutrients and improves the soil’s moisture retention.

    • Ready your garden hose. Hydrangeas are heavy drinkers. Those planted in sandy, fast-draining soils or beneath water-hogging shade trees are especially prone to drying out in summer. During the growing season, regularly check the top 6 inches of soil for moisture and water deeply when it feels dry.

    • Beware of frosts. Bigleaf varieties can be fickle bloomers because their flower buds sometimes fall victim to late frosts. For winter protection, cover the shrub with evergreen boughs or surround it with an open cylinder of chicken wire filled with straw. Just be sure to promptly remove the covering once the threat of frost has passed. Or, better yet, plant panicle, smooth, or everblooming varieties, which all bud too late in spring to freeze.

    Shown: Smooth hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ benefits from the shade of a tree. Lime-hued lady’s mantle and violet bellflowers provide a nice contrast to its white blooms.

    Changing Bloom Color

    Photo by SHOSEI/Aflo/Getty

    Not crazy for that pale blue your hydrangea flaunts each summer? Try deepening it or even changing it to pink. Bloom color for bigleaf and mountain hydrangeas depends in part on soil pH. Most varieties flower blue in very acidic soils (pH 5.5 and lower), purple or a mix of shades in less acidic soils, and pink in more alkaline soils (pH 6.5 and higher). Using soil amendments that tamper with pH can intensify a shrub’s hue or change it altogether. Just be prepared to keep reapplying.

    • Why it works Hydrangeas require aluminum to produce blue flowers. Plants can easily extract metals from acidic soils, but under alkaline conditions, metals become insoluble and flowers bloom pink.

    • What to do For pink flowers, mix 1 tablespoon of hydrated lime into 1 gallon of water and pour under the shrub. To go from pink to blue, try a soil drench of 1 tablespoon of aluminum sulfate (sold as “soil acidifier”) dissolved in 1 gallon of water. Apply either solution monthly in March, April, and May.

    Propagate to Multiply Your Riches

    Illustration by Jillian Ditner

    If you have one shrub, you can easily get more by using this simple method, called layering. In spring or early fall, select a low, flexible stem almost parallel to the ground. Leave foliage on only the top 12 inches of the branch and strip off the rest. Bury the leafless section several inches deep, leaving the top 12 inches of stem above ground. Use a rock to keep the buried section from popping up, and stake the portion above-ground so that it stands straight. After a year or so, give the branch a slight tug—if it resists, it’s rooted. Snip the stem near the base of the mother plant. Then, to help prevent the rooted branch from going into shock, wait a few weeks before digging it up and transplanting.

    Don’t Prune Off The Buds: Old Wood Bloomers

    Illustration by Jillian Ditner

    An annual trim to remove spent flowers and trigger growth keeps shrubs tidy. But before you snip, know which hydrangea type you have. Pruning time hinges on when shrubs set their buds, and not all types are on the same schedule.

    Prune old-wood bloomers as flowers fade. The flower buds of this group—which include bigleaf, oakleaf, mountain, and climbing varieties—are produced the previous summer. To avoid accidentally cutting off buds, prune these shrubs before buds start to form, snipping fading blooms just above a nearby leaf node.

    Don’t Prune Off The Buds: New-Wood Bloomers

    Illustration by Jillian Ditner

    Prune new-wood bloomers in late winter. The buds on panicle and smooth hydrangeas form and flower all in one summer, so there’s a wider window for pruning. When shrubs are dormant, snip dried flowers just above a leaf node where you’d like two new stems to sprout, or cut back the whole shrub 2 feet from the ground.

    Companion Plantings

    All great plant combinations play on similarities and differences. Most of us think of hydrangeas in terms of flower color, but they also offer bold textures with their foliage, and round shapes with their mounding habit and big blooms. As you select neighbors for your shrub, opt for ones that repeat or contrast with some of these features. The following perennials do a little of both; match your shrub with one or more for a no-fail combo.

    • Ferns Most are fine-textured and vase-shaped, contrasting nicely with the hydrangea’s bold, round curves. Two tried-and-true picks are silvery ghost fern or evergreen soft shield fern (shown).

    • Ornamental grasses Their airy leaves make a stunning counterpoint to the hydrangea’s dense, mounding foliage. Consider pairing a hydrangea with Korean feather reed grass, which thrives in part shade and sports pinkish plumes in summer.

    • Hostas The teardrop leaves of this classic shade dweller echo those of every hydrangea except oakleaf, while their hot and cool hues create contrast. Try pairing a blue-flowering hydrangea, for instance, with a gold-leaved hosta, or a blue-leaved hosta with a shrub that blooms pink.

    Fixes for Common Woes: Wilting Foliage

    Illustration by Jillian Ditner

    It doesn’t always mean drought. If the plant’s leaves are wilty and its feet are wet, you’ve likely caused root rot by overwatering. Leaves might also wilt in high heat or full sun. In this case, they’ll recover overnight. But if it happens daily, a move to a shadier locale is in order.

    Fixes for Common Woes: Yellowing leaves

    Illustration by Jillian Ditner

    They often signal a nutrient deficiency. If only new foliage is affected, the plant may need more iron. This condition is called chlorosis and often occurs where soils have a high pH. Amending the soil with chelated iron and mixing in some compost will correct the issue. If only older leaves are yellowing, however, try fertilizing. The shrub may need nitrogen.

    Fixes for Common Woes: Chalky Foliage

    Illustration by Jillian Ditner

    It’s a symptom of powdery mildew. It might look like a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, but it’s actually a fungal disease. Plants growing in sites with high humidity and poor air circulation are especially vulnerable. Transplanting or pruning back neighboring plants can help tilt conditions in your shrub’s favor, as can removing any affected foliage in fall to prevent the disease from wintering over.

    Fixes for Common Woes: No Blooms

    Illustration by Jillian Ditner

    This has several causes. Pruning at the wrong time of year and mistakenly snipping off buds is a common culprit. But an extra-harsh winter or a planting site with too much shade are also possible causes.

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