Hydrangeas bring an unmatched elegance to any garden landscape. They produce larger than life, enticing blooms with dark green foliage that add old-fashioned charm to summer and fall gardens. Hydrangeas come in an array of types, colors, and flowerhead forms, which can add diversity and immense beauty to your garden space and make stunning bouquets of cut flowers.
Check out our tips for how to plant hydrangeas and care for them so they will keep blooming for you year after year.
Ideal Soil Composition and pH for Hydrangea Plants
Hydrangea plants require fertile, well-draining soils that receive plenty of moisture. Amend your garden soil with rich organic materials and well-decomposed compost. Mulch your garden, focusing around the base of the plants to help regulate temperature and moisture levels.
The pH of the soil can impact the color of your hydrangea plant. So, when thinking about how to plant hydrangeas, a simple soil test can help you determine what color blooms will present themselves at maturity. It is possible to have more than one color bloom on your hydrangea plant, depending on the soil composition. Acidic soils that measure less than 5.5 pH tend to produce blue flowers, while those with a soil pH of higher than 5.5 make pink flowers. White cultivars are not affected by a soil’s pH.
Hydrangea Plant Water & Nutrient Requirements
Watering is one of the most important considerations in how to plant hydrangeas. The key to success with any new shrub is to water thoroughly throughout the first year of being planted. Water the plant in deeply at least three times per week for best results. Hydrangeas tend to wilt in the heat, so help replenish them with a good soaking if you ever see signs of wilting leaves.
It is vital to plant the hydrangeas with the root ball level or just above the soil surface so that water will not pool up and oversaturate the plant’s crown. Too much water and poor drainage can cause woody-stemmed plants like hydrangeas to rot.
Acid loving plants like hydrangeas can benefit from an application of slow-release organic plant food upon planting. Fertile soil and additional nutrients will, in turn, bring more vibrant blooms and deeper green foliage to your garden.
Where to Plant Hydrangeas
Select a planting site that gets a fair amount of sun but also has some shade. Morning full-sun conditions are best, as the hot afternoon sun can stress out the plant, causing it to wilt under high heat.
Hydrangea Plant Spacing
Hydrangeas can be found in many varieties, so you must check the planting instructions for spacing requirements regarding how to plant hydrangeas. But overall, hydrangeas need plenty of room to grow and spread. Spacing recommendations can vary from three to ten feet, and some hydrangea varieties are climbers that need support.
How To Plant Hydrangeas
Plant hydrangeas in spring after the last frost or in fall before the first frost of the season.
- Dig a hole that is twice the diameter and as deep as the pot of your hydrangea.
- Test to ensure that the root ball will be level or just above the soil surface by placing the pot into the hole to check. Take the pot out and add or remove soil from the hole as necessary to leveling of the plant.
- You may consider sprinkling some organic starter fertilizer in and around the edges of the hole to help stimulate root growth and give your hydrangea shrub the best start.
- Remove the hydrangea plant from the planting container.
- Use your fingers to gently manipulate the roots at the bottom of the root ball.
- Place the plant in the hole and take a few steps back to assess the plant. Now is the time to make adjustments to which side looks best faced toward the main focal point. Turn the plant in the direction of your choosing.
- Backfill the hole and pack the soil in snugly around the rootball, eliminating air pockets as you go.
- Add mulch around the plant to keep roots cool and protected and to help the plant retain moisture.
- Water the hydrangea plant in well.
How to Prune Hydrangeas
There are two main types of hydrangeas, and they both have different pruning considerations. In the cases of both cultivars, new growth begins from the existing stalks and from the root ball’s base. Keep a keen eye out for new growth, buds, and healthy shoots as you prune.
Pruning Hydrangeas in the Fall
- Pruning time for fall bloomers takes place in the early spring.
- Snip away dead or diseased stalks.
- Use shears to remove spent flower heads. Be careful not to cut them back too low, or else you will sacrifice next year’s blooms. Trim back only to the first leaf joint.
- Remove any dry leaves and debris from the base of the plant and add them to your compost pile.
- Add mulch around the base of the plant.
Pruning Hydrangeas in the Summer
- Summer blooming plants should be pruned in the fall.
- Assess the rooty stems of your plant. Notice the difference between strong, sturdy stems with buds for next season and weaker, thinner offshoots.
- Use pruning shears to snip away any spindly shoots. Snip off any dead or diseased stems. Sometimes the stalks may have dead ends. Snip them out, leaving the healthy growth intact.
- Trim off any spent flower heads to the top of the next leaf joint.
- Work your way around the plant, maintaining healthy growth and removing dead and diseased stalks.
- Do not over prune. Maintain the overall size and shape of the shrub to ensure next year’s abundant blooms.
- Remove any dry leaves and debris from the plant’s base and add them to your compost pile.
- Add mulch around the base of the plant.
There are hundreds of varieties of hydrangea plants to choose from. Before you start considering how to plant hydrangeas, take a look at some available varieties and decide which best suits your taste and spacing requirements,
- ‘Nikko Blue’ produces vibrant blue six-inch mop heads on dark green foliage. Blooms in July and August.
- ‘L.A. Dreamin’ is a vigorous plant bursting with showy blooms that range from pinks, purples, and blues to white.
- ‘Masja’ is a compact variety that produces lovely pink flowerheads.
- ‘Strawberry Sundae’ produce billowing panicles of white and pink ombre reminiscent of a decadent strawberry dessert. Great for cutting.
- ‘Everlasting’ add diversity to the garden producing multi-colored bouquets of flowerheads. Great for cutting.
- ‘Cityline’ is a compact variety that grows great in containers and never needs pruning. It produces plentiful dark pink to red blooms on dark green foliage. Spread of only 12-36 inches.