How To Grow And Take Care Of Hydrangeas

Hydrangeaceae (also known as hydrangea plants) are a great display for folks' gardens and are fairly easy to grow. They may look high maintenance but with the right tools and space, they'll be flourishing in months. Hydrangeas grow up to 15 feet tall and can be found in a variety of colors such as pink, blue, purple, and white. The best time to grow hydrangeas is during the spring and summer months; they'll reach their full growing point by the end of them.

The popular flower is native to Asia and the Americas according to the National Garden Bureau. Some hydrangeas are viewed as a symbol of gratitude in Japan due to ancient emperors giving them to their maidens, per Better Homes & Gardens. But the Victorians had a different perspective. They saw hydrangeas as a sign of vanity because they produce so many flowers without dropping many seeds. The flower's colors also have different meanings: Pink represents love and sincerity, blue is forgiveness, white symbolizes bragging, and purple means understanding.

How to use in garden

Hydrangeas are wonderful plants to use in your garden because they're so versatile. HGTV offers a multitude of suggestions on how to include hydrangeas in your space. If you have a fairy-like garden, you could grow dwarf hydrangeas (which only grow up to 36 inches tall) with a mix of other low-lying plants and moss. You can also create privacy for your home by growing hydrangeas as hedges. Don't forget that hydrangeas lose their leaves in the fall, so be sure to plant them with boxwood or other shrubs to fill out any potential gaps in the hedge. 

To create a romantic setting, you could create a path lined with hydrangea hedges on either side. Thanks to their vivid petals, these flowers are also ideal for brightening up dry areas of your yard. And if you want to bring some of hydrangeas' beauty indoors, you can also cut a few of their flowers off and put them in vases to decorate your home.

How to grow hydrangeas

While hydrangeas may look high maintenance, they are relatively easy to plant. You should try and plant the flowers either in the fall or early spring to give them time to establish roots before blooming. The perfect location for hydrangeas is an area in your yard that gets sun in the morning and shade in the afternoons. Once you are ready to plant and the location is chosen, the next steps are relatively easy.

First, dig a planting hole 2 feet wider than the size of the root of the ball. Make sure the depth of the hole is about the same height as the root of the ball, as you want to the root to be level with, or just a little higher than, the soil. Place the root into the hole and create a mound around it so that the water has better drainage. Once everything is in place, fill the hole with the well-draining soil until it reaches the top.

How to care for hydrangeas

While hydrangeas are very low maintenance, they still need some care. They require lots of direct sunlight in the mornings, but shade in the afternoons. Knowing how often to water them goes a long way. Glimour suggests watering hydrangeas with 1 inch of water per week during the growing season. Some hydrangeas, such as the bigleaf and smooth hydrangeas, differ and they need more water. But the others can live off of 1 inch of water. Hydrangeas need to keep their moisture levels up, so surrounding their soil with mulch will keep it moist. 

Fertilizer helps hydrangeas grow as well, but the timing of when to add fertilizer is different for all varieties of hydrangeas. Bigleaf hydrangeas need light fertilizer throughout March, May, and June. Oakleaf and panicle hydrangeas only need two sprinkles of fertilizer throughout April and June. Smooth hydrangeas need fertilizer one time in the later winter.

Hydrangea varieties

Hydrangeas have about 80 different species around the world, and are mostly popular in the Americas and Asia. They are an evergreen plant and can grow from 2-feet to 15-feet tall. There are four specific variations of hydrangeas that grow in the United States, according to Southern Living Plants.

  • Bigleaf hydrangeas (also known as Hydrangea macrophylla) come in two main flower types: Big Daddy and Dear Dolores. Depending on the pH level of their soil, bigleaf hydrangeas can change from blue to pink.
  • Panicle hydrangeas (or Hydrangea paniculata) can tolerate any weather conditions. They thrive in hot, humid temperatures, but can also survive cold winters. Examples of these are White Wedding and Moon Dance.
  • Oakleaf hydrangeas (scientifically known as Hydrangea quercifolia), such as the Tara hydrangea, are lauded for their year-round beauty, large size, and oak-shaped leaves.
  • Smooth hydrangeas (called Hydrangea arborescens), including the Incrediball Smooth, produce large, rounded flower heads in white, pink, and green hues. This species grows best in moisture-filled environments.

Are hydrangeas toxic?

Hydrangeas can be more toxic to animals than to humans. While it's best to keep the little ones away from ingesting any sort of harmful plant, animals should especially be watched over when they're near hydrangeas. Dogs, cats, and horses are the most prone to being affected if they ingest hydrangeas, according to Plant Addict. All parts of hydrangeas are poisonous because they contain cyanogenic glycoside, which causes serious stomach issues. Some clinical signs to look for in your pets include diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, nausea, and fatigue. 

Pets become curious of new things they've never seen before. Most of the time they'll sniff around the new object or try to chew on it, so planting your hydrangeas away from where your pets normally wander would be best for their health. If they happen to ingest any part of the hydrangea, check for any symptoms, and, if they have any, take them to their vet.

How to repot hydrangeas

Whether you decide to plant your hydrangeas directly into your garden or in a container, they should be replanted once you buy them. Repotting them into a larger container or directly into your garden helps with their growth. Hydrangeas should be repotted when their roots are starting to grow through the draining holes of the container, according to Garden Guides. Replanting when they're actively growing in the spring or summer provides the best results.

Garden Style has some easy tips on repotting. Start by preparing the soil that the hydrangeas are going to get transferred into. Use a soil that is rich in organic matter and previously acidified. Carefully dig out the plant from the current pot. If you need to pull out the plant because the roots are too long, do so gently, so as to not harm the roots. Prune the plant if needed due to black or rotting roots. Then, place the plant in its new pot covering the roots and stem with soil. This pot should be much larger than the first pot to allow new growth. Keep the new potted plant in a humid environment with plenty of shade for the first couple days. Water only the soil, to allow the plant to get comfortable in its new pot. After a couple days you can move it into a sunnier area.