Hydrangeas are a truly unique flower, especially when it comes to hydrangea care and maintenance. They can be identified by their globe-shaped blooms, which flourish in summer and spring. Hydrangeas symbolize heartfelt emotion, gratitude, and sometimes boastfulness. These blooms are often given on fourth wedding anniversaries to symbolize appreciation.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to care for hydrangeas, including sun, water, temperature and other care needs. We’ve also included different types of hydrangeas, a planting guide and some frequently asked care questions.
Hydrangea Care Overview
Hydrangeas are beautiful and lush shrubs that boast vibrant shades of pinks, blues, and purples. Typically found in Asia and the Americas, this iconic plant can be seen outside many homes in a partially shaded area.
Though hydrangeas are generally low-maintenance plants, there are several things to keep in mind when planting a new bush. From the pH of the soil to the amount of sunlight the plant gets, these specific care needs are crucial to ensure a successful blooming season.
Up to 15 feet
Mid-summer through fall
Blue, purple, red, pink, green, white
3 to 9
Full sun to partial shade
3x a week
Toxic to pets
Planting hydrangeas is a breeze if you follow the right steps. Location plays an important role in the healthy growth of hydrangeas, so pick wisely when deciding where to plant your bush. See specific tips on planting below.
Where Should I Plant Hydrangeas?
When planting hydrangeas, be sure you choose a location that allows for plenty of sunlight, shade, and room for growth. The hydrangea plant should be able to reach its full size of 15 feet without pruning and does best in a sheltered location with sunny mornings and shady afternoons. Planting hydrangeas in beds next to your home or against a fence allows the plant to get the perfect amount of sunlight and shade.
How Do I Plant Hydrangeas?
Once you find the perfect location, follow the directions below:
Dig a hole that is as deep as the roots (usually 6 inches). This hole should also be 2–3 times as wide as the plant.
Place the plant in the hole and fill it half full with well-drained soil.
Water the soil until it is moist and then fill the rest of the hole with soil.
Water the topsoil thoroughly.
Keep in mind, if you are planting multiple hydrangeas, try to space them 3–10 feet apart.
How To Grow Hydrangeas
Hydrangeas require specific care in order to grow their large and bountiful flowers. Be sure you choose a location that has the right sunlight and soil to facilitate their needs. Providing ample water will also be key to helping them grow.
Hydrangeas prefer a location that has full sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon. This preference can vary based on the variety, so be sure to look into the recommended amount of sunlight that your variety requires.
The name hydrangea originates from the Greek words “hydro” which means “water” and “angeion” which means “vessel.” As the name states, these water vessels require plenty of water to thrive. Generally, watering them 3 times a week is a good rule to follow. The soil should be moist at all times, but not too wet.
Hydrangeas grow well in soil that is rich and somewhat moist in a hardiness zone between 5 and 9. Adding mulch underneath your hydrangeas can keep the soil moist if you live in a warmer climate. Although they enjoy the water, the soil should still have good drainage to prevent waterlogging. See below the recommended pH for a given color.
Blue hydrangeas: pH 5.2-5.5
Purple hydrangeas: pH 5.5-6.5
Pink hydrangeas: pH 6.5 and higher
Pests and Diseases
Hydrangeas are not prone to pests and diseases, but they may appear if the plant is not cared for properly. Some of these include leaf spot, mildew, aphids, leaf tiers, and red spider mites.
Hydrangeas are not edible and are poisonous to cats, dogs and horses. All parts of the plant are poisonous because they contain cyanogenic glycoside. Though it is not often fatal, consuming a hydrangea plant is still dangerous for both humans and animals.
Pruning hydrangeas promotes the regrowth of flowers and keeps the plant from growing out of control. How you prune the plant will depend on the variety, so check out the instructions for these popular types of hydrangeas below:
Pruning French and Oakleaf Hydrangeas: These common hydrangeas should be pruned after the flowers fade in the summer. When pruning, cut the oldest stems down to the base. If the plant is old, you may need to cut all the stems down to the base. This will prevent it from flowering that season, but it will return much healthier.
Pruning Smooth and Panicle Hydrangeas: The smooth and panicle hydrangeas should be pruned before the flower buds are formed, usually in late winter. This is when the plant is dormant. If the cold winter kills any buds, pruning will help them grow back in the spring. Any dead branches should be pruned as well.
Popular Hydrangea Types
Before planting these flowers, it’s important to choose a variety that will be compatible with your environment. The amount of sunlight you get, soil type and size of the blooms you desire will all be key in finding the right variety of hydrangea for you.
There are four main types of hydrangeas that are commonly found in gardens:
French hydrangea (hydrangea macrophylla)
French hydrangeas are popular in the southern United States and are commonly a blue hue. They are also known as bigleaf hydrangeas. Two main types of French hydrangeas are lacecap hydrangeas and mophead hydrangeas.
Smooth hydrangea (hydrangea arborescens)
These hydrangeas are native to the southeastern United States and grow into giant cream-colored blooms. They thrive in more acidic soil and are considered deciduous plants, meaning they lose leaves in the winter.
Oakleaf hydrangea (hydrangea quercifolia)
Oakleaf hydrangeas produce a white flower that is either a single bloom (one layer of petals) or double bloom (two layers of petals). They are able to withstand dryer climates, so if you’re in a warm area these hydrangeas may be a good fit for you.
Panicle hydrangea (hydrangea paniculata)
Panicle hydrangeas have white blooms that change to pink or red in the fall. They can adapt to full sun and are at their prime in autumn. This variety is easy-to-grow and will stand out in your garden all summer — it might even attract butterflies!
Taking care of hydrangeas can be difficult for some, especially if you’re a first-time gardener. Check out our quick answers to frequently asked questions about hydrangea care.
How do you control hydrangea color?
Controlling hydrangea color depends entirely on your soil pH. Alkaline soil has a pH above 7.0 and results in shades of pink and red. A pH between 6 and 7 turns the blooms purple or bluish-pink. If you choose to lower your pH, all you need to do is add garden sulfur or aluminum sulfate to your soil. In order to raise the pH, it is recommended to use ground lime.
When do hydrangeas bloom?
Though the blooming season depends on the type of hydrangea you have, it’s best to plant them in mid-spring through the late summer or early fall. However, it may depend on your variety and it’s specific care needs, so we recommend researching your hydrangea variety ahead of time.
Do hydrangeas like sun or shade?
All hydrangeas will bloom and grow well in morning sun and afternoon shade. Needs vary based on the type of plant, but generally, hydrangeas like to stay away from intense heat and heavy shade as it can lead to sparse blooms.
Do you need to deadhead hydrangeas?
As blooming season approaches, be mindful of your flowers as deadheading is an important step to encourage new flower growth. Be sure to stop deadheading once it hits mid to late fall.
Giving your hydrangeas the proper care will allow them to produce beautiful blooms every year. Whether you are planning on planting hydrangeas in your garden to enjoy throughout the year or you’re growing them for a specific flower arrangement — know that you’ve got what it takes to nurture big, bold, and beautiful blooms!