Hydrangeas 101: The Basics You Need to Know For Hydrangea Success

If Spring were to have a poster child, it would be the hydrangea. These beautiful, clustered blooms are the darling of weddings, Spring table settings, and gardens, offering a burst of color and softness to any niche or bouquet. While effortlessly popular, these blooms are anything but effortless. Caring for your hydrangea isn’t a painstaking process, but it does require some basic knowledge and know how to grow them successfully.


Hydrangeas are gorgeous, especially when properly pruned and nourished. 

Pruning Your Hydrangea

Not all Hydrangeas are created equal. Different hydrangeas have different pruning needs, and for these flowering shrubs, timing is everything. Hydrangea Macrophylla, also known as “big leaf hydrangeas,” are the the large, typically blue-blooming hydrangeas many of us are used to seeing. Bloom’n Gardens recommends following the advice of the United States National Arboretum, which recommends regular pruning for this variety of hydrangea with the following stipulations:

“Removing about one-third of the oldest stems each year will result in a fuller, healthier plant. This type of pruning is easiest to do in winter, since the absence of leaves makes it easier to see and reach inside plants.  [As] igleaf and oakleaf hydrangea…flower on previous year’s growth, [they] should be pruned shortly after flowering is complete.”

Hydrangea Paniculata, or “panicle hydrangeas”, require a different style of pruning, as they “flower on current year’s growth and can be pruned anytime from late summer until early spring.”

Altering the Coloration of Your Hydrangea

When buying hydrangeas, the name of the plant does little to tell you which color it will bloom. “Nikko Blue, Pretty in Pink, Forever Pink and Blue Deckle, all have an almost equal chance of blooming pink or blue, depending on the soil they are planted in,” says Gardeners.com. If you wind up with a hydrangea that’s a different shade than what you wanted, don’t worry; there are things you can do to alter the coloration of the blooms.

While you can’t exactly turn a white hydrangea blossom blue or turn even the brightest of pink hydrangeas red, you can alter the coloration of your hydration with soil additives. The vibrancy and shade of your hydrangea can vary based on the pH of your soil; most Georgia soils are low in pH, leaving you a lot of room to alter the balance by adding lime or ammonia sulfate. First, you’ll need to test your soil’s pH level. Once you know that, find the target pH for the color you’re trying to achieve:

  • Having a pH of 5.2-5.5 will encourage blue coloration
  • Having a pH of 6.0-6.2 will encourage pink coloration

To raise soil pH, you will need to add garden lime, wood ash, or dolomitic limestone. The amount of each item you will need to add will depend on the soil you’ll be planting in; follow directions on your product packets carefully.

To lower soil pH,  ammonium sulfate or aluminum sulfate. If you prefer a more organic approach to gardening, you can try adding naturally acidic items such as ” conifer needles, sawdust, peat moss and oak leaves.”

See Hydrangeas at Their Finest

Planning to get a hydrangea, but not sure what to do it with it yet? Trying to decide which additives to try for your hydrangea’s coloration? Kate and the team from Bloom’n Gardens will be at The Penny McHenry Hydrangea Festival on June 1st and 2nd. Come out and see other competitors in the Flower Show or take a Garden Tour. Have questions about Hydrangeas? We’re happy to help!


Are you growing hydrangeas? Have you tried soil additives? Tell us about your growing experience, successes, and woes in a comment!

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