Potted hydrangea care – What you need to know

Potted hydrangea care – What you need to know

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Hydrangeas are beautiful shrubs that make a powerful statement in any garden or home. Most people know the soft pink and blue clustered flowers typical of big-leaf hydrangeas but you can also find beautiful white colors, deeper reds, and multiple shades of purple. Hydrangeas are common as garden shrubs but you can grow them in pots or containers just as successfully. Whether you have those pots outside or inside caring for them does require a moderate amount of attention.

Before you start buying and planting hydrangeas make sure that you choose a variety that thrives in your area. You don’t want to pick a hydrangea that requires a great deal of sunlight, like the panicle hydrangea, only to remember far too late that you don’t live in an area with ample sunlight.

Planting hydrangeas in pots

When you are ready to plant your hydrangeas chances are you bought them from a local Nursery or garden centre in which case you will need to transplant them from the temporary pots in which they came to a permanent one.

If you are going to do this make sure that you purchase pots that can adequately hold the size of the hydrangea that you want. If, for example, you purchase a new seedling, a hydrangea that was propagated from a cutting and is only a few inches tall, it’s going to get much bigger so get pots that are large enough to account for the size of the shrub you plan to care for.

However, be careful not to plant them straight into large pots as you should pot up into larger pots gradually. For this reason, we think it’s well worth buying a Hydrangea that is already established and a good size, the bigger the better, making sure it’s not too big for the pot of course.

Make sure you purchase potting mix and peat moss. Hydrangeas are very finicky about the soil and water they enjoy. The soil should remain moist at all times but never overly watered so you need to make sure that it’s very soft soil, buoyant and adequate for drainage. If you need to improve the fertility you can add things like peat moss or other organic matter to the potting soil that you purchase.

It’s worth noting that if you purchase a mophead hydrangea that the flower colour will be determined by the soil ph which means you need the right compost, for example, blue hydrangeas need ericaceous compost which we talked about here.

When you first plant your hydrangeas in a pot you might want to add a water-soluble fertilizer following the printed instructions on the fertilizer you have selected. Fertilizer will help the roots to maintain moisture, fight off diseases, and take hold of the new environment.

Steps to plant hydrangeas in pots:

  • Fill the containers or pots where your hydrangea will be planted with the correct potting soil.
  • Create a hole in the center for the hydrangea.
  • Carefully remove the hydrangea delicately holding one hand at the base and turning it on its side while the other hand delicately removes the temporary container without damaging the roots.
  • Adjust the plant so it is right side up again and carefully place your fingers inside the bottom of the root structure to loosen it up without tearing them or damaging them. When plants are left at nurseries for too long they tend to get root bound which you will see if you look at the bottom of the containers. Root-bound plants typically have white roots that are grown out through the drainage holes of the temporary container and accumulated underneath.
  • Place the hydrangea into the hole and then cover it with more soil until you reach the top of the shrub.
  • Water the new plant until you note that the water has made its way all the way through the soil.
  • Put the pots in an area that receives morning sun light and shade in the afternoon to optimize growth.

How to care for hydrangeas in pots

Once you have planted your hydrangea, find, again, a place in your garden where the plant will receive ample morning sunlight and protection in the afternoon. Normally you wouldn’t want to place hydrangeas under trees because it would force competition for nutrients and water between the hydrangea and the tree but if your plant is in a pot it has exclusive access to the nutrients and the water that exists in that soil so you have much more leeway with regard to where you can put your potted hydrangeas in your yard. You can even keep them inside.

The amount of sunlight exposure they get is going to vary based on the variety. The panicle hydrangeas and the smooth hydrangeas prefer full sunlight and if they get too much shade they start to get leggy. The oak leaf hydrangeas and bigleaf hydrangeas prefer afternoon shade because the direct sunlight could cause the leaves to sag and the blooms to be scorched.

After you have planted your hydrangeas you should exercise the same level of care and maintenance that you would to a planted shrub in your garden. This includes checking the soil to make sure that the water levels are appropriate, and watering the plant if necessary. If your potting soil is too dry your leaves will start to curl drop off. If the containers in which you planted your hydrangeas are not well draining and water seems to be accumulating in the soil and never properly draining it might result in root rot.

Proper care also includes pruning the hydrangeas after they have flowered in order to encourage new growth, based on the type of variety you have. You should prune a big leaf hydrangea as soon as the blooms have stopped in the middle of summer. At the end of summer you can prune an oak leaf hydrangea after the blooms start to fade if necessary but it rarely requires it. If you have a smooth hydrangea or a panicle hydrangea you can cut it down in the early spring. Most hydrangeas do not require heavy pruning but they will benefit from deadheading where you remove old blooms as soon as they start to wilt.

Changing colors

If you have planted a lace cap or a mop head variety you have a bit more control over the color of the flowers that will bloom.  You can add compounds to increase the alkalinity or the acidity of the soil in order to change the color of the flowers to pink or blue, its worth also taking this into account when planting hydrangeas in pots so you use the correct compost such as ericaceous compost if you have purchased a blue hydrangea.

Image by Reisefreiheit_eu from Pixabay

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