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Hydrangea blooms are a wonderful sign that summer is here. There’s nothing quite like the beautiful blooms that hydrangeas provide especially given the variety of colors that they afford. Every summer garden can capitalize upon the blue, pink, purple, white flowers all juxtaposed with the bright green foliage. Most people recognize hydrangeas in bush form but what most people don’t know is that you can actually grow hydrangeas in the form of trees.
Choose the right hydrangea
There are only a few hydrangeas which can be cultivated into the shape of a tree so you won’t be able to achieve a hydrangea tree with just any variety. The hydrangea paniculata, the one with the white conical flowers can reach up to 25 ft tall and be pruned into the shape of a tree. The most popular for trees is that of the PeeGee hydrangea.
These hydrangeas need full sun most of the day with just a bit of shade in the afternoon so if you are planning on having a hydrangea that you cultivate into a tree make sure that you plant it someplace where it will get a lot of brightness. You also need to make sure that the soil in which you plan to plant your hydrangea is rich, moist, and well-draining. You can add things like compost or perlite to your soil in order to allow for better moisture retention and a healthier array of nutrients for your plant before you put it in the ground. If you are going to plant multiple trees, make sure that you give them at least 3 feet of space between one another, and no more than 10 ft.
Initial training and Hydrangea tree care
Once you have the appropriate hydrangea variety and you have selected an area that will get it off to the best start in your garden, you need to properly train the hydrangea so that it takes on the shape of a tree. Now, you have a few options here.
- First, you can purchase a hydrangea that has already been trained and has already been cut into the shape of a tree.
- Second, you can take a shrub that you already have or one that you purchased and prune it yourself.
If you are going to prune it yourself be cognizant of the fact that it could take several years for the tree you have chosen to reach the desired height. To that end you want to choose a hydrangea that is young, one that has a strong form and a generally straight form already. If you are going to prune it yourself, look at your shrub and find the strongest stem, the one that is the most dominant.
Take that dominant stem and tie it to a stake and then pinch one inch from the tip. By removing the tip of that stem you will force the plant 2 produce branches. You want to leave at least three or four shoots that are evenly spaced along the top 1/4 of the tree but get rid of any of the leaves below that. This will force it to produce stronger stems, shoots, and leaves along the additional branches that grow outward like a tree. This is a process you will have to repeat every spring prior to new growth being developed.
Your hydrangea tree can be pruned at any time with the one exception being summertime. However, the best time to prune is at the beginning of Spring. To do this:
- Go through the canopy of your plant and get rid of any old growth that did not produce any flowers or produced flowers that were smaller than all the others.
- Check the soil at the base of your tree. You are going to look for suckers which are essentially small sprouts that are coming up out of the soil. These suckers could come up out of the soil but they might grow from the tree trunk itself. In either case you want to get rid of them.
- In order to make sure that the tree canopy remains neat and tidy, be sure to cut your branches back until each of the branches contain two or three nodes. These nodes are the small bumps that you see along the length of your branches.
The hydrangea trees are much more tolerant of things like cold weather compared to other species but they also need more sunlight than other species. If you live in a rather hot, inland area you should give your tree some shade in the afternoon. If you grow your tree in an area with full sunlight it will require a great deal of watering which is not only expensive but time-consuming.
If you are growing a hydrangea tree be sure to feed it twice a year. It is best to fertilize at the beginning of Spring right before the plant shows you its new growth and to fertilize after you have pruned it in the spring to help it as it is finishing it’s blooming cycle. Never fertilize after the end of July.
Hydrangeas are very fast growers and you will typically get approximately 25 inches or more every year until has reached maturity. If you grow your plant in the form of a tree it will typically grow 3 in wide and 13 ft tall.
Be aware that growing a hydrangea paniculata will give you two feet of growth each year so you need to be careful of where you plant it taking into consideration nearby sidewalks, buildings, patios, or driveways. If your tree is left to its own devices it can grow between 10 and 20 ft high and the canopy itself can expand to the same size.