How to care for hydrangeas to keep them healthy and flowering

How to care for hydrangeas to keep them healthy and flowering

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Hydrangeas have won the hearts of many thanks to the timeless beauty and the easy-care required. Growing gorgeous hydrangeas and keeping them healthy and flowering is a fairly simple task, suitable for all gardeners. The question many people ask is ‘how do you care for hydrangeas?’ well this starts with what type of hydrangea you have.

Types of hydrangeas

There are hundreds of modern varieties of hydrangeas perfect for every idea or design you want. There are dozens of species around the world but most of them fall under one of six species:

  1. Smooth hydrangeas. These include old fashioned styles known as the Annabelle with large white blooms.
  2. Panicle hydrangeas. These include the grandifloras and the PeeGee’s. They are called panicle hydrangeas because of the long, pyramid-shaped clusters that the flowers have resembling a panicle. You can find panicle hydrangea colors ranging from a light white shade all the way to a deep pink or even a pale lime color.
  3. Bigleaf hydrangeas. The bigleaf hydrangeas are commonly referred to as the florist hydrangeas or the French hydrangeas and even mophead hydrangeas in the UK. The most commonly recognized are the mop head flower clusters that are large and vibrant or the lacecap hydrangeas which have tiny flowers in the middle ringed with larger flowers. They range in colors from white and pink all the way to blue and purple and are among the most popular for any gardener simply because the color of the flowers can be altered by changing the soil composition.
  4. Mountain hydrangeas. Mountain hydrangeas have flowers that are similar to the delicate lace cap flowers in size but have flower blooms that are similar to the mop head styles. There are brilliant shades of purple, blue, white, and pink all offered for the mountain hydrangeas.
  5. Oakleaf hydrangeas. These have cone shaped clusters of flowers with beautiful leaves that mirror the oak trees. These are particularly popular for the range of colors provided by the blooms. You can get white all the way to a deep, rich red. Once the flowers have closed off the season the foliage continues to change colors and offers beautiful yellow and orange, and rich red and burgundy shades.
  6. Climbing hydrangeas. Climbing hydrangeas have large vines and they are typically used to cover big walls and other support structures like trellises. They have a deep rich, cinnamon red color bark with beautiful white flower clusters. They also tolerate shade making them ideal for shady walls where mosyt other climbers struggle.

Looking after hydrangeas

Whatever variety you have in your garden the requirements for looking after hydrangeas is pretty basic across-the-board.


Hydrangeas thrive when they live in an area that has access to the bright morning sun, usually no more than four or six hours of daily sun. In the afternoon they required light shade ideally. The morning rays are much gentler and the shade protects against the afternoon heat. Having too much shade limit the flower growth that you are able to achieve so it’s ideal to find that perfect balance and then stick with it for all of your hydrangeas.


Hydrangeas do best in soil that is well-drained but retains moisture. They never like to be overly dry or overly wet. They prefer to have the perfect level of moisture retentive soil which can be achieved by adding organic matter to your soil such as earthworm castings. Anything that you add to improve the aeration and loosen any hard soil will help to improve not only how well the water penetrates but how well is retained.


As mentioned, hydrangeas need a lot of water. The blooms and the leaves require a great deal of hydration which is why you need to keep the soil moist at all times but never too wet and never too dry. Having an organic layer of compost can keep the soil cool.


Hydrangeas really need a great deal of nutrition which is why it is important to keep a balanced fertilizer in your soil to provide the nutrition that they need.

How to look after hydrangeas

Once you have provided your hydrangeas with all of the elements they need it is important to properly prune them at the critical times. If you prune them at the wrong time you might clip off the new flowers that are waiting to open up. The panicle hydrangeas and smooth hydrangeas develop new flowers every summer and a cold winter might kill the plant down to the ground but you’ll be surprised when spring comes around and new wood grows with beautiful blossoms in the summer. If you prune these back to 1/2 their proper size before spring begins you can encourage new stems and, subsequently, new flowers.

For the other hydrangeas they typically bloom on old stems so you might notice flower buds forming in the summer and overwintering throughout the cold months, then blooming in the early summer or late spring. If you prune the stems or cold-weather prunes the stems you might lose some of those blossoms. So if you absolutely need to prune the flower make sure you do it after your hydrangea has flowered and not before.

There are a handful of select Mountain hydrangeas and bigleaf hydrangeas who’s upcoming blooms appear on new stems and old stems. These varieties will flourish with next to no pruning requirements whatsoever.

Changing hydrangea color

Hydrangeas will typically change color, with regard to the flowers in particular as the season goes by. Many of them have bronze shades or antique tones as they get older but there are two varieties whose color change can be significant depending on the soil that you have. These include the bigleaf hydrangeas and the mountain hydrangeas.

The colors you can get will vary slightly based on the soil you have ranging from blues to pinks. Highly acidic soil with a low pH will force the hydrangeas to take up aluminum so the colors will become bluer. Conversely alkaline soil with high pH will limit the amount of available aluminum so the colors you get will lean toward pink. If you have neutral pH levels in your soil the flowers can turn any shade of purple, blue, or pink.

Using a test kit for your soil at home you can alter the soil as desired to play around with the colors of your hydrangea. There are plenty of components you can add to the soil to make it more acidic or more alkaline but whatever you do understand that your soil will return to its natural state at some point so if you choose to change the color of your flowers it is something you will have to do on an annual basis.

Image by saponifier from Pixabay

2 thoughts on “How to care for hydrangeas to keep them healthy and flowering

  1. Question please. It is November and I live in Zone 6. I have five firefly hydrangea bushes, which bloom on old wood. Last year I just let them go in the fall and in the spring picked up the dead leaves. Now I decided to cut off and clean up the dead leaves as the plants looked terrible. While I was at it, I trimmed out some dead wood. Now I am concerned that I should not have done this until spring. Will the plants weather the winter okay or should I do something to help protect them, i.e., put more mulch down and , lightly fertilize with Hollytone and maybe cover them with a light fabric tarp when the weather gets very cold, or? Please advise. Thank you.

  2. Hi Christina, if you are worried about the cold weather, I would just put some mulch around the base of the plants to help protect the roots and maybe put some fleece over them if the weather for forecasted really cold. What you are really trying to do is protect the new buds on the previous year’s growth, this is usually protected by that year’s foliage and stems as they add some protection naturally. Hope this helps

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