A mild winter like the one we just had meant a great spring for Hydrangeas. Normally when we have a rough winter, the stems would typically die back. What we’re seeing now is that some of the stems from last year are alive all the way down to the tips, as well as some of last year’s buds, which means new growth has a head start. We’re already seeing plants fully leafed out in the landscape here.
If you’re considering one for your own space, it’s important to know how to care for them to keep your plant looking great throughout the growing season.
One of the most popular varieties we get questions about is the hydrangea macrophylla, especially regarding pruning. The most important pruning tip to remember is to resist the temptation to prune all the way to the ground because most varieties of hydrangea bloom on old wood, so if you remove the old-growth, it will affect the flowering for the season.
You should also make sure to water, especially if your plants get a lot of sun. A 2-3” layer of mulch around the base will help keep the moisture in as well but remember, no “volcano” mulching (where you pile the mulch higher up next stem). Mulching around your hydrangea will encourage deep roots to develop, adding to winter hardiness.
Right now, your hydrangeas should be leafed out. The size and height of the plant will vary depending on how old your plant is. More mature hydrangeas are taller right now than newly planted ones. It’s okay for some branches to still look dormant. Any twigs poking out beyond the outside edge of green leaves may be tipped back only so far that they can’t be seen. Many plants you see in the landscape are starting to form flower buds. This is a great sign. Color is on its way!
Now is also the time to feed your hydrangea. We recommend Holly-Tone, which is a slow-release fertilizer for acid-loving plants. Once your plants start blooming you can also apply soil acidifier or garden lime to ensure they’re the perfect color for your garden all season long.
For additional tips for success, be sure to reference our Hydrangeas Demystified Guide.
You can also view our Hydrangea Talk Video Playlist on Youtube for everything hydrangea-related.
As always, if you have additional questions about how to care for your hydrangeas, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re here for you!
Things seem to be looking up for Hydrangeas
2016 proved to be such a disappointing year for Hydrangeas but I think things are looking up. Fingers crossed! I suppose I should not lump all hydrangeas together and give some credit where credit is due. Some Hydrangea varieties actually performed quite well last year. Most of the smooth-leaf(Annabelle) and paniculata(Limelight) Hydrangeas actually put on a nice show in spite of Mother Nature’s lack of cooperation. The Hydrangeas that struggled the most last year were the big leaf varieties/macrophylla. But we love this kind of Hydrangea! No need to stop loving them. The Endless Summer, big leaf varieties of Hydrangea are so beautiful with their pom-pom-like pinkish to bluish blooms. Macrophylla Hydrangeas got hit hard with last year’s late April frost. Shame on Mother Nature. Hydrangeas were duped by the unusually warm March weather in 2016 and thought it was their signal to grow. Then April came along and fooled everyone with her unexpected, harsh frost. Poor Big Leaf Hydrangeas, they didn’t know what hit them! Here is the good news…2017 seems to be going better for our favorite Big Leaf Hydrangeas. What can we do to make it an even better year?
Let’s begin with flower color. Macrophylla varieties of Hydrangeas are interesting because in some people’s yards, they have these showy, pink cotton candy-like flower balls. In other yards, the flowers are of the deepest blue. How is this possible, that the same type of hydrangea can be pink on one property and blue in another person’s garden? It is not because Hydrangeas have a choice, it all has to do with the pH of your soil. The sweeter the soil, the pinker the Hydrangea flower. The more sour the soil, the bluer your Hydrangea flower. It is as simple as science. If you prefer pink cotton candy over blue, add lime to your soil. Lime makes the pH more alkaline/basic, thus, in turn, making the flowers pinker. If you have a preference for blue, add sulfur to your soil. Sulfur makes the soil more acidic. It is important that you start your applications of Lime or Color Me Pink a.s.a.p. Soil Acidifier and Color Me Blue also should be applied first thing in the spring. It takes a little while to change the pH of your soil, so get going now to see the color you prefer when they bloom.
pH is not the only important part when it comes to Macrophylla Hydrangea care. They also need to eat guys! Don’t deny them the fertilizer they need to give you those showy blooms. If pink is your color, use Plant-Tone on those hydrangeas. It contains no sulfur, so the soil will not become more acidic. If you are true blue, use Holly-Tone. It has a touch of sulfur, so your soil pH will drop even lower, making flowers even bluer. Fickle flowers aren’t they?! Actually, they are pretty low maintenance. Did you know that you do not even need to prune a Hydrangea except for some simple dead-heading of the spent flower? Yes, it is true, they would rather be left alone. Be patient folks. Macrophylla Hydrangeas can be slow to show green growth on the old stems. Don’t be hasty and cut them right off in the spring. Give them some fertilizer and give them a chance to do their thing.
I love all of our Endless Summer varieties of Macrophylla Hydrangeas, from Twist n’ Shout to Bloomstruck, they are all so pretty and just make me think of New England. You might even want to have some fun this year and see if you can change some Macrophylla varieties pink and the others blue in your yard. Why not?! Go for it. While you are at it…throw some Lime around some other sweet soil-loving plants. Lilacs, Peonies, Clematis, and Tomatoes all love a little Lime. If you are in the process of changing your Hydrangeas blue, share some of the soil acidifiers with your Blueberry bushes and Potatoes. They like a little sour treat.
The bottom line is, do not stop loving and caring for the Big Leaf/Macrophylla Hydrangeas. As long as Mother Nature cooperates, they will shower you in pinks or blues. It is all up to you!
Come see us at Van Wilgen’s. We would love to help!
*Color Me Pink
*Color Me Blue