Hydrangeas: Red, White, and BLUE!

Hydrangeas are a long sought after shrub for their amazing, huge, round clusters of blooms. They come in white, red (really a pink), and the most adored color for a garden – true blue! These beautiful shrubs are easy enough to grow if you know a few key pointers. 

There are roughly five different kinds of hydrangeas, but I will be focusing on the Everblooming Mophead. These live up to their name and bloom all summer, unlike other hydrangeas which only bloom for a month in mid-summer.  

Mophead hydrangeas prefer shady conditions and regular watering conditions. They come in 3 or 5 gallon pots, but they can get 4 -5 feet tall and be wider than they are tall. Be sure to plant them with adequate room for them to spread.  

Clay soil will stunt their growth, and they struggle with a nutrient deficiency in sandy soil. Dig your hole nice and wide and place your plant so it’s level with the soil. Mix compost with your native soil before planting the hydrangea in the ground. 

Mopheads need acid soil or the plant loses its ability to draw up nutrients. This can appear as yellowing leaves or a change in color to the flowers. Blue hydrangeas should be blue, if they are coming out pink or white, then that is a sign of not enough acidic soil. I do not recommend messing with the pH to change the colors of your blooms. If you want pink blooms or white blooms then buy pink (red) or white hydrangeas! You’re only messing with the plant’s health otherwise. Use sulfur or aluminum sulfate to acidify your soil and prevent problems. 

Once fall comes, I use nearly an entire garbage bag of pine needles to protect them through the winter. Take a handful of needles and shove them down into the branches around the base at least ½ way up towards the top of the plant. The rest of the needles, I lay lightly over the top just as a way to lightly ‘blanket’ them and protect the bud eyes. 

In spring, remove the needles, and amend the soil with acidifier and a few handfuls of compost or manure for a nitrogen boost. Be patient! It’s nearly the first week in June before all the leaves have emerged from the naked branches. Tolerate these naked branches in spring, and the plant will reward you with way more blooms!  Only cut dead branches off in early summer. I start by cutting the tips off first, since it is so hard to tell what branch is dead and what may be still alive! If the branch is green inside, don’t cut anymore down. They will still produce leaves and flowers!        

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