Tips for Better Blooming Hydrangeas
How to have blooming Hydrangeas...
Most importantly, buy from a knowledgeable nurseryman. The unfortunate truth is that most varieties sold in full bloom in retail stores, florists, and greenhouses may never bloom again in your garden.
On the positive side, you can enjoy easily blooming hydrangeas in your garden. Good varieties will provide a succession of long lasting blooms from mid-July until frost. Hydrangeas also make great cut flowers, and are easy to dry for permanent arrangements.
I like to divide the best hydrangeas into two basic types – White and Colored, but you will soon learn the "white" ones are not all just white and some of the "colored" ones come in that wonderful color white- along with shades from soft pink to purple to deep blue.
A Word on Pruning
Before we discuss the two types, a word about pruning. I have read and heard many conflicting and confusing instructions for pruning hydrangea.
A very simple rule that applies to all hydrangea and other flowering
shrubs is to prune immediately after the bloom. You can wait till they
are done, or even better - cut at least some of the blossoms in their prime for
cut flower bouquets. Your hydrangea will respond by making even more
The "White" Hydrangeas
These are the hardiest varieties and bloom most reliably
Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea Arborescens)
Annabelle is easy to grow, blooms reliably in sun or
shade. Grows 3-4’ tall, and spreads to fill a bed. Long flower stems may
need support because of the large snowball blossoms. Occasionally,
blossoms are greenish if the plant is stressed or not well ventilated. These
dry a nice lime green color if cut and taken inside before the flower
fades. 'Dead-head' prune these like a herbaceous perennial in late fall
after they finish blooming or you can wait till early spring before new growth
begins. Cut to ground level, or as some prefer, 6” high.
Incrediball is an improved 'Annabelle' with larger flowers and stronger stems. Hardy and heat tolerant.
Invincibelle Spirit and Bella Anna are new PINK 'Annabelles'.
Invincibelle Spirit II is a "new & improved" version of the Invincibelle Spirit. They boast sturdier stems and stronger pink color on the blooms.
Panicle Hydrangea (Hydrangea Paniculata) & Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea Quercifolia)
Most other white flowering hydrangeas are woody shrubs that grow 3-6' tall and wide. These will bloom reliably in sun or shade with no pruning at all. Some of these varieties are also now available in a tree form.
The white flowers of many woody hydrangeas turn pink - or even purple- as they age under good growing conditions. Flowers may be cut for fresh bouquets and dry easily. Woody shrub type Hydrangea will bloom freely with no pruning. However, pruning can be done to control size or shape during the dormant season. Shearing after growth begins in Spring will delay or prevent bloom.
The Panicle Hydrangeas include Pee Gee, Compact PG, Tardiva, Pink Diamond.
One of our favorite variations on the "white" flowers include Limelight (photo left), with a greenish tint on flowers that become pure white then pink, and Little Lime (photo right) - a dwarf variety of Limelight - with all of the hardiness and show stopping blooms for smaller areas.
Oakleaf Hydrangea Alice (left) and a dwarf Oakleaf Hydrangea variety Ruby Slippers (right).
The "Colored" Hydrangea
These varieties are a little less reliable and generally like more shade. There are some tricks, but most important is to plant the best varieties from a knowledgeable nurseryman. Most colored hydrangeas are treated as semi-herbaceous perennials which means cut them back within 6-12” of the ground during the dormant season.
Mophead Hydrangea (Hydrangea Macrophylla)
The most reliable varieties for consistent bloom are the Endless Summer series. However, Garden Debut's Nantucket Blue is proving to be quite a contender for "blue-est" flower out there.
Endless Summer Original is a reliable bloomer with sturdy foliage. Provides consistently good color.
Endless Summer Bloomstruck is an improvement on the already impressive Endless Summer Original. Darker, thicker foliage and more vibrant colored blooms edge this variety out above the others, so far.
Endless Summer Blushing Bride has a beautiful white flower with a pink blush.
Blushing Bride Hydrangea, with one of our beneficial insect friends.
After several years of testing, the Forever & Ever series of Hydrangea has shown that while it has larger blooms than the Endless Summer varieties, there are fewer blooms throughout the season. They are continually improving this line, so their next introduction could change our minds.
Both the Endless Summer series and Forever & Ever series bloom heavily all summer until frost on old and new wood.
Quick Tips For Your Hydrangea
- When fertilizing hydrangeas, use a fertilizer that has a low nitrogen content. Too much nitrogen, like too much water, makes few or no blooms and large, thick, lush, dark green leaves.
- Acidify your soil if you want blue blooms rather than pink.
- Prune hydrangeas in late fall, winter, or spring. DO NOT shear hydrangeas during the growing season.
- Hydrangeas need half a day's worth of sun or more, but they like at least a few hours of shade. They will bloom less, or not at all, in denser shade.
- Best tip: use a lightweight mulch to mound the base of the plant late each fall, or otherwise protect against winter cold to increase bloom for non-shrub type hydrangeas (macrophylla and arborescens).