Tips for Growing Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas are probably the most popularflowering shrub in the summer garden. Their big beautiful blooms provide loads of color in shades of white, pink, purple and blue.

There are dozens of varieties of hydrangeas, with three basic flower types:

  • Mop heads: large ball-shaped blooms
  • Lace cap: flat blooms with clusters of tiny flowers in the center
  • Panicle: cone-shaped blooms or paniculata grandiflora varieties.

Mop heads and panicles give the best show, although the delicate look of lace caps is a great addition to any shady garden.

The newer varieties of repeat bloomers like the Endless Summer and Forever & Ever series are more reliable bloomers, flowering on both new and old wood.

Annabelle, with its beautiful large white blossoms, is considered the hardiest hydrangea variety, and features the longest latest blooms.

Oakleaf hydrangeas are excellent plants for their large uniquely shaped leaves, as well as their beautiful flowers. Their leaves add great texture to the garden, as well as beautiful purple color in the fall.

Climbing hydrangea is a vine form that once established blooms white lace cap flowers.

  • Hydrangeas require a lot of water, but need well-drained soil. They don't like constantly wet areas.
  • Hydrangeas thrive best in shady areas. They will grow in sun, but be prepared to provide lots of extra water.
  • Hydrangeas benefit from winter protection or sheltered placement. They won't survive Michigan's winters when planted in a open north or west facing area. The exception is the Annabelle, which will perform well in any location. Just be sure to keep it watered.

Fertilize hydrangeas throughout the summer when they're growing. Follow a regular schedule using a water-soluble fertilizer, such as English Gardens Bloom Booster. A slow-release fertilizer, such as Osmocote, is another option.


One of the biggest mistakes gardeners make with hydrangeas is pruning at the wrong time of year.

Don't prune or trim hydrangeas in the fall, except to remove spent flowers. Most hydrangeas bloom on old stems, so pruning in the fall may remove next year's flowers. It's best to let the plant die back naturally in the winter, and prune any dead branches once the new growth has begun to emerge. This could be very late spring, so be patient.


Some hydrangea blooms can be made to be blue or pink, depending on the soil acidity. The more acid the soil, the bluer the color. Alkaline soils make pink hydrangeas. Use aluminum sulfate or garden sulfur to add acidity to soil.

White hydrangeas are always white. No amount of tinkering with soil acidity will change their color.