Ready, set, plant: Hydrangea prep and care

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Updated May 4, 2023

hydrangea flowers in bloomAs a popular summer plant, hydrangeas will be blooming soon, but your customers may be wondering how their beautiful blooms can stay healthy for longer periods of time.

Since hydrangeas come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes, they are ideal designing plants for most gardens, and when well cared for, their blooms can last most of the summer and well into the fall.

To ensure your customer’s hydrangeas live long and prosper, take a look at a few simple tips you can use to help these beauties blossom, even in the summer heat.

Planting and overall care

The first step to having healthy hydrangeas your customers will love is to choose a site where these beauties will thrive. If customers don’t already have hydrangeas in their yard, talk to them about the best areas to plant them.

Take a quick walkthrough of your customer’s yard and scope out areas that have a good amount of space available, exposure to both sun and shade, whether or not there are existing plants in the area and which areas could do with a good color pop.

For those located farther north, hydrangeas will be able to handle more sun exposure, whereas, in the south, the heat reaches temperatures that are sometimes too extreme for hydrangeas placed in direct light.

This is why finding an area that has both sun and shade exposure is imperative. Also, keep in mind that planting hydrangeas on the eastern side of buildings can help ensure the plants are protected from the sun during the hottest portion of the afternoon.

After the site is chosen, soil preparation is step two. Begin by determining what type of soil your customers have in their yard by testing the soil, and once you know what you’ll be working with, get the hydrangeas ready for planting.

There are four types of soil types – silt, sand, clay and loam â€“ and the best type of soil for hydrangeas is loam. You can add amendments to the soil to help make it more loamy.

When planting, make sure it’s done in either early spring or fall, and remember that the blooms and stems must be protected from strong winds and hot sun.

Make sure there’s a healthy amount of space between each plant to allow it to expand upward and outward, and keep the crown of the plant even with the ground when planting to keep it from drying out.

Once the hydrangeas are in the ground, it’s important to keep them well-watered and fertilized. Hydrangeas typically prefer moist, well-drained soil, but not wet. If overwatered, hydrangeas can produce fewer flowers.

To learn more about watering techniques for your customer’s hydrangeas, click here.

When fertilizing, remember that the best time to apply it to hydrangeas is in spring or early summer. It’s recommended that you use slow-release, granular fertilizers with a high phosphorous percentage, as phosphorous is the element that encourages bloom production. While over-fertilizing can cause the hydrangea leaves to become large and green, it can stunt bloom production.


Hydrangeas can bloom on what’s known as “old wood” and “new wood,” according to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Old wood blooms are typically produced by buds that were set in the previous summer, and buds forming on this year’s growth will appear on new wood.

While many think it’s best to prune hydrangeas in February, Kerry Smith, home grounds team leader at the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, says it’s best to prune shrubs that bloom on old wood shortly after current flowering. This helps avoid removing next year’s developing buds.

It’s recommended to perform general maintenance on bigleaf and oakleaf hydrangeas annually, and all dead wood should be removed and about one-quarter to one-third of the older stems should be cut.

As an easy to remember date, Smith recommends all pruning for these two hydrangea species is done by July 4.

“The next year’s flower buds begin forming in August,” Smith said. “If a shrub blooms on new wood, prune in late winter or in spring to stimulate new growth for additional blooms.”

For a more detailed look on when to prune, click here.

Multipurpose plants

Don’t forget to talk to your clients about the many uses hydrangeas can serve in a landscape, such as focal points and transition plants.

Using hydrangeas as a focal point is easy and ultimately gives a beautiful end result. Whether they are added to a garden bed or containers, these bright, fluffy blooms are aesthetically pleasing and give much-needed color to otherwise bland areas.

For customers with a more traditional-looking garden, they may be hesitant to add in plants like hydrangeas, as it could take away from the more “formal” look they want. This is certainly not the case, as their large blooms can help amplify the effect of the other flowers around them. Also, let clients know that with the varieties available, they are sure to find a few options that will keep in line with a formal style while still adding a little pizzazz.

Hydrangeas can also serve as the perfect transition plant for customers wanting a clear transition from yard to woodland. Shade-loving hydrangeas can thrive in the woodland setting, but they should be planted farther away from trees so they are not forced to compete for water. To make the transition less jarring and appear more natural, mix in some native plants or spring-flowering bulbs.

For more ideas on how you can use hydrangeas in your customer’s yard, click here.

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