How to Grow Hydrangeas

Give your green thumb a boost with easy-to-follow tips for growing hydrangeas.

Hydrangea colors

Hydrangea colors

Soil pH can determine the color of French hydrangea flowers.

Photo by: photo by felder rushing

photo by felder rushing

Soil pH can determine the color of French hydrangea flowers.

By: Julie A Martens

Botanical Names: French hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla), oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangeaquercifolia), smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens), panicle hydrangea (Hydrangeapaniculata)

Fill your views with the outstanding beauty of hydrangea shrubs. Growing hydrangeas brings rewards in many seasons, from showy spring or summer blooms, to colorful fall foliage, to eye-catching winter interest from faded flower heads. You can easily learn how to grow hydrangeas. These gorgeous plants don’t demand difficult growing conditions.

Growing hydrangeas varies somewhat by region, especially when it comes to sunlight. To achieve success growing hydrangeas in the South, choose a spot with morning light and afternoon shade. This gives a great location for several types of hydrangeas, including the ever-popular French hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) and the Southern native smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens). In northern regions, these same hydrangeas can withstand full sun. In all zones, if your yard offers all day sun, choose panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata), which thrives in sun.

Another important aspect of growing hydrangeas is making sure plants are hardy in your zone. Hydrangeas are showy and a shrub most folks want in their landscape, but they’re not super winter hardy. The toughest hydrangea, in terms of withstanding winter chill, is panicle hydrangea. It’s hardy to Zone 4. The popular hybrid ‘PeeGee’ is tree-like in form. Other varieties, like ‘Limelight’ or dwarf ‘Bobo’, offer a more shrub-like or bushy shape.

As you learn how to grow hydrangea, consider the plant’s water needs in the landscape. French hydrangea (Hydrangea marcophylla) is not a water miser. It needs plentiful amounts of water throughout the growing season. It’s not an ideal plant if your region is prone to summer drought and municipal water restrictions. Smooth hydrangea need less water than French, as do the drought-tolerant panicle and oakleaf hydrangeas.

Pruning hydrangeas is one of the trickiest things about growing hyrangeas. The secret to successful hydrangea pruning is knowing what type of hydrangea you have, because different hydrangeas demand different pruning routines. French and oakleaf hydrangeas flower on old wood, which means you need to tackle pruning right after plants flower. Smooth and panicle hydrangeas flower on new growth, so you can prune in late winter or early spring.

As you contemplate growing hydrangeas, don’t get too concerned about learning when to trim hydrangeas. If you give your plants enough elbow room, you shouldn’t have to cut plants back too much. That’s another key to growing hydrangeas successfully: giving plants enough space.

Dwarf hydrangeas can fit neatly into small modern yards, but most of these showy bloomers need space to strut their stuff. Do your homework and make sure you know how big your hydrangea of choice will get — and then give it a spot where it can do its thing. That will eliminate any need for constant pruning.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Hydrangea Problems

Troubleshoot hydrangea issues including pests, diseases and odd colored leaves.

Caring for Hydrangeas

Growing hydrangeas? Brush up on hydrangea maintenance tasks with our seasonal checklist.

Transplanting Hydrangeas

Learn the ins and outs of moving hydrangeas in your landscape.

Hydrangea Fertilizer

Learn the secrets of feeding hydrangeas, including the scoop on special hydrangea food.

How to Change the Color of a Hydrangea and the Best Soil to Use

Unlock the secret relationship between hydrangea flower color and soil.

Hydrangea: Sun or Shade?

Sort out the confusion over how much daylight hydrangeas need to grow and bloom.

Growing Hydrangeas in Pots

Try your hand at growing hydrangeas in containers. Learn what you need to know to succeed.

Hydrangea Shrubs

Learn about different kinds of hydrangea shrubs and tips for using these pretty bloomers in the landscape.

Hydrangea Blooms

Learn about hydrangea flowers, including tips for drying these pretty blooms.

When to Prune Hydrangeas

Take the guesswork and confusion out of when to trim hydrangeas.


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