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Hydrangea Growing Basics

 

Hydrangeas complete the summer landscape with big, beautiful blooms

Hydrangeas are a vivid member of the summer garden. Their huge blooms in whites, pinks, and blues are rewarding for any gardener. They're typically easy to grow and are faithful in producing each season if cared for properly.

Hydrangeas vary from pink to blue based on the acidity of the soil. While white species are always white, pink can turn to blue with more acidic soil while pink can be produced in soil with added lime or superphosphates. French hydrangeas are the most popular in the pink/blue range.

The plants do best in partial shade with about 6 full hours of sun beginning in the mornings. Some varieties are more sun-tolerant. They all love moist and well-draining soil.

Different hydrangea species require various methods of pruning.

In general, immature hydrangeas typically do not need pruning. Deadhead the spent blooms and remove browning leaves as needed. Older plants must be pruned properly in order to enjoy blooms at their fullest.

For bigleaf and oakleaf varieties, cut back enough of the older wood to allow plenty of light into the center. The recommended time is just after all blooming is finished for the season. Because next-season flowering will be off the shoots from this season, cut back all the stems of spent blooms and keep all new growth intact.

Smooth leaf hydrangeas bloom on new spring growth. Remove about 50% of the old growth in early spring (after last frost). Cutting back to the ground produces larger blooms, but weaker branching may cause droop.

Some familiar names include:

Oak Leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)
-Alice
-Harmony
-Snow Flake
-Snow Queen

Big Leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)
-Many hybrids are categorized as lacecaps or mopheads.
-Nikko Blue
-Forever Pink Dwarf

Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens)
-Annabelle
-Grandiflora (hills of snow)

Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris)
-Will attach to almost any surface and climbs to great heights. Slow starter, but worth the wait.

Panicle Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata)
-This species is the most sun-tolerant
-Grandiflora (PeeGee) - known also as the "tree" hydrangea as it will grow accordingly with pruning.

Just when the hydrangeas may begin to fade, it's easy to cut the blooms and use in dried indoor arrangements. Waiting until the bloomlets feel a bit papery on the stem is the key to a perfect arrangement. Some of the color will already have faded, but not enough to destroy the beauty of the bloom. Strip the leaves and place the stems in vases. No water is needed. The blooms will continue to fade and dry, but should last for many months.

 

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