Hydrangeas 101 – Choosing, Planting, Growing, Pruning Tips

This Hydrangeas 101 Guide will give you everything you ever wanted to know about hydrangeas! We’ll talk about the different types of hydrangeas and how to choose the best variety of hydrangea for your yard, planting and growing tips, when to prune hydrangeas (this is crucial!), sun requirements, how to change the color of blooms and even drying tips.

Hydrangeas 101 - the complete guide! kellyelko.com #hydrangeas #perennials #gardening #gardeningtips #gardener #flowers #plants #kellyelko

Hydrangeas scream summer to me! I always get tons of questions about hydrangea care so I thought it would be fun to gather up all the information I have learned over the years (including lots of trial and error) and share it with you.

Hydrangeas care kellyelko.com

Before you buy any plant, you must know your planting zone! The Department of Agriculture website has this handy, dandy plant hardiness zone map.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map - use this map to find out which plants will thrive where you live #gardeners #gardeningtips #plants

Just click on your state on this map from the Department of Agriculture website for more specific info because your state may have several planting zones like my state of New Jersey. I am zone 7a which is the perfect region for growing all kinds of hydrangeas.

Hydrangeas 101 - the Complete Guide to Growing Beautiful Blooms kellyelko.com #hydrangeas #perennials #hydrangea #gardeners #gardening #gardeningtips #garden

Do Hydrangeas Grow Back Every Year?

Hydrangeas are perennials which means that you can plant them once and they will reward you with blooms for years to come!

Types of Hydrangas

Hydrangeas come in hundreds of varieties and dozens of species, but most hydrangeas that you’ll find in U.S. garden centers are one of these three …

1 – Old Wood Hydrangeas

Mophead and Lacecap Hydrangeas (typically pink, blue or purple) bloom on old wood meaning that their buds start to form in the fall for next summer’s blooms. If they are trimmed in the fall, winter or spring, all of those precious buds will be removed and you summer hydrangeas will be flowerless. Only prune in June or July if necessary!  Only prune if the shrubs are too large for their space.

Don’t be afraid to remove dead stems or flowers any time of the year – this should be done annually and will not affect regrowth.

2 – New Wood Hydrangeas

PeeGees, Annabelle and Limelight hydrangeas (usually white) bloom on new wood meaning they can be pruned in the fall and will bloom on new stems in summer.

3 – Everbloomer Hydrangeas

There is a group of Mopheads that will bloom on old and new wood and whenever they are pruned – one common type is called Endless Summer.  These are the exception, not the rule, so make sure you know which type you have before cutting. You can spot them in the garden center because they are in the bright blue pots.

Limelight hydrangeas growing and care tips kellyelko.com

Why Won’t My Hydrangeas Bloom?

There is nothing worse than when your hydrangea bushes grow green leaves but don’t bloom! There are a few reasons this could happen …

Pruning – If you prune at the wrong time, (remember we discussed old vs new wood hydrangea varieties in this post), you will remove all the little buds that would have been this seasons flowers!

Sun / Shade – Hydrangeas need several hours of sun every day and they prefer morning sun with indirect afternoon light. If yours is in a shady spot and isn’t blooming, it may be time to move it.

Winter Frost – A spring frost can kill flower buds which means no blooms that season! Read the post below with my tips for dealing with winter frost hydrangeas.

Winter Kill Hydrangeas & How to Fix Them Here

If your hydrangeas look like a bunch of dead sticks like in the photo below, or they won’t bloom, make sure to read the post linked above for help!

Hydrangeas 101 - the Complete Guide to Growing Beautiful Blooms kellyelko.com #hydrangeas #perennials #hydrangea #gardeners #gardening #gardeningtips #garden

Full Sun vs Shade

Just like real estate, it’s all about location, location, location when it comes to planting hydrangeas. 

Most hydrangeas prefer a few hours of morning sun with dappled afternoon shade. As a rule of thumb, the farther south you live, the less sun your hydrangeas can tolerate.

Since there is always exceptions to rules, some hydrangeas, like Limelights, are sun lovers! Be sure you know your specific plants sun requirements before planting.

Dwarf Hydrangeas

If space is limited, choose a variety of hydrangeas that stay compact. Little Lime Hydrangeas are the smaller versions of Limelight Hydrangeas and they love full sun.

Summer Crush Hydrangeas like partial shade and their unique color, a deep and rich fuchsia, is a show stopper. I have two in my front yard and always get tons of compliments.

Summer Crush Hydrangea kellyelko.com #hydrangeas #hydrangea #summercrush #endlessummer #endlesssummerhydrangeas #summercrushhydrangeas #gardening #gardeningtips #landscaping #gardener

Limelight Hydrageas

If you’re looking for a sun-loving hydrangea that grows over 8 feet tall and is a spectacular hedge, you need to plant limelights!

I wrote an entire post about Limelight hydrangeas here.

Plant a stunning limelight hydrangea hedge kellyelko.com

Hydrangea Watering Tips

Did you know that overwatering can cause hydrangeas to produce less blooms! The type of soil you have determines how much and how often you should water. Clay soil holds water and will not need to be watered as frequently as sandy soil.

When the temperatures soar, hydrangeas may wilt in the afternoon sun. That is perfectly normal but they will perk back up when the temps cool down. I like to water in the early morning or early evening (I set the timer on my sprinkler system).

If you don’t have a sprinkler system, use a soaker hose or water by hand at the base of the plants. Make sure to mulch around your plants so you can water less frequently and the mulch will help keep moisture in the soil.

hydrangeas care tips kellyelko.com

Hydrangea Fertilizer

I like to use Holly-Tone, an organic plant food made especially for Hydrangeas and other acid loving plants.

The acidity, or pH level, of your soil will determine the color of your hydrangeas. Don’t be surprised if the pink hydrangeas you planted turn to blue flowers or vice versa!

This soil pH tester is an inexpensive way to find out the acidity of your soil.

Generally speaking, acidic soil, with a pH lower than 6.0, yields blue or lavender-blue hydrangea blooms. Alkaline soil, with a pH above 7.0, promotes pinks. With a pH between 6 and 7, the blooms turn purple or bluish-pink.

Depending on the acidity, you may even get a mixture of colors on one plant or even purple! If you want to change the color of your hydrangeas, you need to modify the soil with fertilizer.

stunning hydrangeas kellyelko.com

How to Change Hydrangea Color

The color of your hydrangeas will depend on the soil pH but you can alter the ph to get the color you want! These two fertilizers are great for getting the hydrangea color you prefer:

Color Me Blue fertilizer will turn your hydrangeas blue

Color Me Pink fertilizer will turn your hydrangeas pink

How to Cut Hydrangea Flowers

When cutting blooms for flower arrangements before August (the best time to cut), you can cut long stems but when you cut blooms after August 1, it’s important to cut ABOVE any buds or new growth. Cut short stems so you don’t risk cutting off developing buds for next year.

Hydrangeas 101 - the Complete Guide to Growing Beautiful Blooms kellyelko.com #hydrangeas #perennials #hydrangea #gardeners #gardening #gardeningtips #garden

How to Dry Hydrangeas

Dry hydrangeas at the right bloom time and you’ll enjoy blooms indoors all year long. Click the link below to read my tips.

How to Dry Hydrangeas the Easy Way Here

Gorgeous zinc planter filled with dried hydrangeas kellyelko.com

I created this beautiful wreath above my mantel with dried Limelight Hydrangeas.

DIY Limelight Hydrangea Wreath kellyelko.com #hydrangeas #wreaths #diyideas #diywreaths #gardening #gardeners #crafts #fallmantel #falldecor #fallcrafts

What I love most about hydrangeas is that once you know what you’re doing, they are pretty easy to care for but plants can be fickle as we all know.

So whether you’re a beginner gardener or have a Kelly green thumb, I hope you find this Hydrangeas 101 Guide helpful so you too can enjoy beautiful blooms and find out what is the secret to growing hydrangeas!

So there you have it. Everything I know about hydrangeas. If you have any questions or tips to add, please feel free to leave a comment.

Read More Gardening Posts Here

Adirondack Backpack History - love this gorgeous basket wreath filled with hydrangeas kellyelko.com #wreath #diywreath #adirondackbasket #basket #hydrangeas #falldecor

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  1. Hi Kelly, I’ve never had much luck with hydangeas when I lived in Tasmania, and I’m in Greece now and bought a beautiful blue hydrangea. I made a planter to put it in and have it on my patio under the pine tree. I had nowhere I could put it to get morning sun and not afternoon hot sun so I chose this spot where it will get dappled sun early afternoon and shade in the late afternoon. I’ve put it in potting mix… a good one I was told. Any idea on watering in that type of soil?

  2. Wow Kelly, thank you for this information. So helpful. I love that you are passionate about your hydrangeas. I love the feeling that flowers and plants bring us. I learned from your article that the flowers change color based on soil. I had no idea. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us!

  3. Thanks, this will come in handy, i have two but i wanted a limelight but i’m old,lol! and my sons are trying to do everything for me. Am looking forward to this fall so i can find some to plant. I have been busy in my yard and i do have my peonies, so i won’t fuss much!! Hope you and your family are doing well.

  4. Thank you Kelly. Your tips were helpful. It’s important now more than ever to restore beauty into our lives.

  5. Hi Kelly,
    Have enjoyed you posts. Used your New Orleans tips last year on my girlfriend trip. wonderful time!
    Also find the Hydrangea post very helpful. Last year you posted an article on the Power washer you have. I am in need of a new washer. What was the brand that you mentioned? Thanks for your help.

  6. Hi Kelly ,
    I live in Seattle and we prune our hydrangeas in February or March , thats when the buds are visible on the stems. Like you say, cut too soon, and no blooms …….
    I would also add that Lacecap hydrangeas make horrible cut flowers, they just fall apart and make a awful mess. So if someone wants cut / and or dried ones, do NOT get the Lace cap variety .
    Our neighbors have a type that is a “Oak leaf ” type , not sure if thats the real name of it, but they are white and get massively huge blooms.
    Stay well !!

    1. I am not a fan of Lace Caps. I love the big full blooms! Thanks for your tip that they don’t make good cut flowers because I love bringing mine inside Lynn. I also don’t have any Oak Leafs but I’m not a fan of that leaf shape. I guess I’m a traditional hydrangea kind of gal! Hope you and your family are well

  7. Hi Kelly! After desperately searching for information on my hydrangea, I came across your blog here. I’m not sure the exact hydrangea that I have, but it is definitely an old-wood mop head variety. My issue is, it just won’t get any bigger! It blooms great but stops growing at about 18- 24″ every year. I’m in Massachusetts and it gets morning and late afternoon sun. When I bought it, it was described as growing up to 4-5′ but it has been at least 5 years and no luck. I thought I should move it to get more sun, but it seems happy, just small. Any idea on what could be the issue?

    1. That is so weird Casey! If it hasn’t grown in 5 years, it’s probably a good idea to move it. But realize that by moving it, it might not bloom the first season.

  8. thank you for sharing this information. Having hydrangeas for years I’ve never experienced this until this year. I decided to trim the dead sticks and they are looking better, but I’m sad to hear I will not get blooms this year. My hydrangeas always got champion ribbons at our local fair. I did plant some summer crush last fall and I have buds!!!!

  9. I particularly appreciate how you’ve included various types of hydrangeas, each with its unique characteristics and care requirements. Your expertise shines through in your clear and detailed explanations, making it easy for both beginners and experienced gardeners to follow.

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