How to care for your Hydrangea
Hydrangeas have always been a popular garden shrub, but in the last decade their popularity has grown quickly. This growth is due to their ability to give summer long colour, easy care, new shorter growing varieties ideal for tubs and containers and lastly an ever increasing range of popular flower colours.
The two most popular forms being the mophead and lacecaps, that said the wonderful paniculata forms gain in interest as each year goes by.
How to cultivate your Hydrangea:
Firstly choose a spot in the garden which is semi shaded, early morning sun or later afternoon sun being preferable, try to keep them out of any hot sunny positions.
They favour a moist yet well drained soil and do not enjoy being water logged. When planting in the border prepare the planting position with plenty of well composted material and well rotted farmyard manure.
Prepare your hole at least 2 to 3 times the size of the pot your plant is supplied in and line the hole with the same material. The all new gro sure planting magic is a great product to incorporate in the planting hole and will help to encourage good early growth.
It’s worth mentioning at this stage that the PH of your soil can effect the on going colour of your flowers. With the soil on the acid side you will continue to keep flowers blue as Aluminium Sulphate is present and in acid conditions its possible for pink forms to turn blue also. An ideal PH for blue forms is between 4.5 and 5.
As your soil gets more towards neutral or even slightly alkaline then there is less Aluminium Sulphate present and your blue flowers will start to turn pink. Aluminium Sulphate can be added to your soil by using hydrangea colourant available at most garden centres or as aluminium sulphate from boots, applications of this will help you keep your flowers nice and blue.
Lining your planting hole with gro sure ericaceous compost will also help to keep your blue forms blue. It is worth noting if your garden is alkaline then consider growing your hydrangea in a pot or container, in gro sure ericaceous compost and if your area suffers with hard water as well then water with rainwater not tap water.
The opposite being true of the red or pink flowering forms where a PH of 6.5 to 7 would be good, still slightly on the acid side and then to enhance flower colour ground limestone or chalk can be applied around your plants at approx. 2oz to sq. yard in the winter months. The good news, in most cases, the white and green flowered forms are not effected by the PH of the soil.
In dry conditions please remember to water your hydrangeas. It is common for them to droop on very hot days and a good watering late in the afternoon and cool rest over night will leave them unaffected. One good tip is to keep your plants moist in September time as this helps the formation of the following years flower buds.
In mild springs always be aware of fresh new growth which can be easily damaged by frost so always be prepared to offer some protection, a good layer of fleece should do the trick.
On-going feeding of your hydrangeas should not be excessive as it can create too much soft non-lowering wood. So a gentle feed with fish blood and bone in late winter or early spring is the best advice.
If you are on light soils then a very small top up can be carried out as the flower buds are forming in mid to late June. If your plants are in pots or containers then use a good controlled release fertilizer as this will steadily feed them all season, gro sure ericaceous plant feed granules would be ideal.
To grow a hydrangea in a pot or container is a simple process. Remember to position them in partial shade so not on that hot sunny patio where you love to sit. Pot size; be prepared to pot your plant on, at first choice a pot approx.
3” bigger all around than the one its supplied in, then after at least one season pot it on again into its final pot. Use a lime-free compost for all blue forms, not so critical with pink forms.Ensure there is good drainage.
After potting ensure your plant remains moist, do not let it dry out as this effects the plants flowering ability.
Pruning of your hydrangea or how to, is the most frequent question asked. With the mophead hydrangeas, hydrangea hortensis you leave the dead flower heads on all over the winter and then prune the flowered stems back, well down the stem to two healthy buds leaving the non flowered stems to flower that year.
Do not prune all stems as you will cutting of this seasons flowers and this is the most common reason for the non flowering of hydrangeas in our experience.
The lacecap forms being that little bit hardier and can have their dead flowers removed as the flower heads fade using the same principles as for mopheads.
All of the paniculata forms are different where by you prune every stem to a good pair of lower buds, as low as 10” from the ground, they really benefit from this hard pruning.
Pest and diseases are seldom something that your hydrangea will suffer. Mildew can be seen on them from time to time but seldom is it fatal. Its usual cause is a stressed plant e.g under watered or under fed.
Most insects do not look upon hydrangeas as a favourite plant and tend to leave them alone.
To help grow vibrant healthy hydrangeas we recommend specially formulated hydrangea feed. Apply when planting and as a topdressing in the spring.
Rake, hoe or fork into the top surface of the soil, and in dry weather, water well for maximum benefit.
If you’d like to colour your hydrangea we recommend hydrangea colourant, this uses iron and aluminium salts to maintain a vibrant blue colour.