How to Grow Hydrangeas

Growing Hydrangeas

If a hydrangea doesn’t bloom, chances are it isn’t planted in the right spot. While some varieties tolerate more or less sunshine than others, in general hydrangeas do well with:

  • Light: Full morning sun, with some light afternoon shade.
  • Soil: Rich, crumbly, well-draining soil with plenty of organic matter.
  • Water: They don’t have the word “Hydra” in their names for nothing! Choose a location with plenty of water and good drainage. Hydrangeas are thirsty plants, but they don’t like to sit in water.

Oakleaf hydrangea exhibit dramatic red foliage in the fall.

Planting Hydrangeas

When planting or propagating hydrangeas, keep in mind that:

  • Early summer is a great time to plant hydrangeas, but they are more readily available when blooming. Plant anytime throughout the growing season, although they will need TLC in hot weather.
  • Use lots of organic matter in the planting hole, especially if you have clay soil.
  • Make sure your hydrangea is planted at the same depth it was in the pot.
  • Hydrangeas can be propagated using softwood cuttings on an existing plant. Choose a nonblooming, new, soft green stem, and take a 6”- 8” cutting with several pairs of leaves. Remove the bottom leaves, dip in rooting hormone, and plant in light compost. Create a mini-greenhouse using glass jars or plastic. Place in a bright, shady spot, and keep moist until rooted. Transplant carefully into light, rich soil.
  • Hydrangeas can also be propagated by burying a live branch in a technique known as ground layering.

Hydrangeas need rich soil and plenty of water

Caring for Hydrangeas

To keep your hydrangeas healthy, remember to:

  • Fertilize 2-3 times throughout the growing season with a balanced, slow-release organic fertilizer.
  • Keep hydrangeas mulched to hold in moisture. Organic mulches will also break down to enrich the soil.
  • Hydrangeas become visibly wilted if allowed to dry out. They need at least an inch of water per week during the growing season, and possibly more in hot, dry weather.
  • Deadheading promotes more blooms, although some gardeners like to leave the dried blossoms on the stalks during the winter.
  • New growth can be cold-sensitive. Protect your hydrangeas from late-spring freezes, and don’t fertilize or prune in the fall.

Hydrangea blooms come in a wide variety of colors.

Pruning Hydrangeas

Pruning techniques for hydrangeas vary depending on the variety:

  • Bigleaf (H. macrophylla) and oakleaf (H. quercifolia) hydrangeas bloom on buds that emerge from old wood.
    In spring, only remove stalks you’re certain are dead. Heavier spring pruning will result in lots of new stems that won’t bloom until next year.
    After they bloom in summer, you can prune lightly for shape, and also thin the stalks – if desired – to encourage fewer, but larger, blooms.
  • Panicle (H. paniculata) and smooth (H. arborescens) hydrangeas bloom on new growth, so they can be pruned in early spring to encourage a flush of new stems for summer blossoms.
    Some gardeners prune smooth hydrangea to the ground in the late fall and treat them as a perennial.

Bloom color varies even within the same plant.

Changing the Color of Hydrangea Blooms

The color of pink and blue hydrangeas depends on the amount of aluminum within the plant, which is controlled by soil pH. Acid soil (plus aluminum) makes the flowers blue, while alkaline soil turns them pink.

Gardeners love to manipulate this by adding supplements to achieve a desired flower color. Each variety reacts differently to color manipulation, and white varieties usually won’t change color at all.

Bloom Color Tip

For blue blossoms, supplement with 1 tablespoon of aluminum sulfate in a gallon of water, applied about once a month throughout the growing season.
For pink blossoms, add lime to bring the soil pH no higher than 6.2.

Drying Hydrangea Blooms

Hydrangea blossoms make lovely dried flowers. Leave them on the plant until they are papery-feeling and partially dry.

Carefully cut the stems and hang the flowers upside down, or stand them in a jar, until completely dried.

Further Information


  1. I live about 50 miles north of Dallas, TX. I love hydrangeas. I remember my grandmothers yard was filled with these lush flowers. They were even around the front porch of her house. I remember but I have to admit, that was about 45 years ago. Her house was about 80 miles north east and had red soil and probably a high sulphur content. The name of this small town was Sulphur Bluff. The city was Sulphur Springs and yes they mined sulphur.
    I on the other hand have black soil and order to grow almost anything I have to dig up the soil and replace it with a potting/garden soil/top soil/peat mixture.
    I have tried a few times to grow hydranges, not much luck. I was always told to plant on the North side of the house. However I have seen hydrangeas planted on the West side in direct sun in Dallas. and that west summer sun can get real hot in the summer. Do these plants have a desired location? north/south/east/west?

  2. My hydrangea is two yrs. old. Finally this summer it has flowers but they’re white. They are supposed to be blue. Do you know when they will change color? Thanks

  3. My hydrangea starts to bloom and then stops. It looks healthy, but just one darn bloom per season.

    I get morning sunin the back until about 1:00 then on one side I get full sun all day from sun up to sun down. The front get afternoon soon from 2:00 til sundown the other side gets filtered morning sunligt. Thats where I have the hydrangea planted, but near the front of the house Where do you suggest I transplant it to or do I need to do something to promote the blooms

  4. My hydrangea gets the morning sun and full sun until noon when it falls to the back or west side of the house. It is full and loves that arrangement evidently because it has flourished every year. I need to cut it but here’s where I flinch. I have been told to prune in the fall and after it turns cool, and not to prune in the spring when the buds are evident. I’m afraid I’ll lose the beautiful blooms…but I know that they do well in a space that gets morning sun.

  5. M. Waldrop, I don’t know where you live, but I had beautiful hydrangeas in Maryland. I thinned them when they were in full bloom. That way I could use the cut flowers in the house. A big healthy hydrangea can be thinned an incredible amount. If you wanted to be smaller, not just thinned out, you should probably trim it back in the summer after it blooms. Now, I’m in San Antonio and trying to figure out if there’s a way to get these beautiful flowers to work in my very alkaline soil. I’m going to try one in the ground and one in a pot.

  6. The previous owner of our house planted three mophead hydrangeas in a perfect spot ~ they were only two feet tall but loaded with big, blue blooms. Unfortunately, after the blooms were gone, an uninformed mower (my son) mowed right over them! Yep, cut them to the ground. I just knew that was the end of the hydrangeas. To my surprise, this spring all three burst forth with vigorous green shoots full of leaves and even some small blooms! I’m impressed with the hardiness of these old-fashioned, gorgeous plants and have bought a couple of Limelight hydrangeas to complement the blues.

  7. I have 2 plants 1 planted in the ground I guess considered low light and the other in a container on the porch. The one in the on the front porch bloomed beautifully. The other on the ground didn’t. 🙁 So now I lm thinking of taking out the ground one and planting in the front either closer to more light or front caddy corner to my giant hibiscus and opposite to my jasmine. Any input which do you think it would prefer? I’m scared to lose it so I’m keeping the potted one where it is.

    Thank you
    Tammy 🙂

  8. I live in San Antonio in a condo. Please help me grow at least one blue hydrangea, pot or ground. Thanks

  9. I am trying to find a good fertilizer for my Hydrangeas that are in a pot and will be planted in the yard, but can’t seem to do this. I live in Williamsburg Va

  10. We have beautiful, variegated hydrangea bushes in the back of our house. Mulched, well watered, afternoon sun, good drainage…but no blooms. Help

  11. Hydrangeas bloom with White, Pink & Blue flowers. Why are the flowers of different colours, inspite of growing on the same plant? i want to know yet i am little bit confused in this question only.

  12. I m fond of Hydrangea. Got some seeds n going to plant them in a pot for my partial sunlit balcony. Thanks for the tips in your blog!

  13. We have an oak leaf hydrangea that has never bloomed. It was planted ten years ago and appears healthy other than that. Will a bloom-boosting agent be of help? I read where you said it’s probably not in the right place. Will you please let me know what the sun / shade requirements are?

    Thank you!

  14. I got this white hydrangea a small one with 2 blooms I planted it about a month ago and now the color of the blooms are almost a lime green ? What is it doing? I also took 11 cuttings / Starts Now in pots growing good from a dark Blue hydrangea Will the color keep the blue or will it change also Please I need some Info.

  15. I planted my hydrangea in the ground, no blooms, leaves healthy. I moved it to another location, same thing. I then put it in a pot and moved it around. Now, for the first year I have huge beautiful blooms. I think that I will leave it in the pot. I am not sure about feeding it though. Any info?

  16. Does anyone put extra mulch or straw around them in the winter for protection? Mine didn’t bloom very well this year either. This is the first year for us and just leaning about them. Thanks.

  17. My hydrangea are young and just beginning to look good when I went out one day and the leaves were white powdery looking. what is wrong and what can I do? The leaves are starting to fall off but there is new buds popping out.

  18. I live in zone 7b. We have experienced an extremely warm month of December, the hydrangeas are beginning to leaf out. However, there is going to be a cold front coming next week. Will this damage the plants that have leafed out?

  19. Hello. Love your hydrangeas article. Lots of info I never knew, but I would like to try some hydrangeas in my garden. Can you please tell me what kind of hydrangea are in the pic above that have both blue and pink blossoms on them? Also, can these be grown in shady areas? Thank you so much!


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