Woman Tending Hydrangea Shrubs

Planting Hydrangea shrubs can be a fun and rewarding experience. Hydrangea care can be intimidating but if you follow a few simple rules you’ll find the summer blooms are well worth the work!

While doing your research, it’s important to keep in mind that there are different kinds of Hydrangeas. Each with its own unique look and care requirements. The four most common varieties in the United States are Hydrangea macrophylla, Hydrangea arborescens, Hydrangea quercifolia, and Hydrangea paniculata.

When to Plant Hydrangeas

Early spring and fall are both great times to plant your Hydrangea bushes. But is one better than the other? The answer is yes and it depends on how you buy your shrub.

If you are wanting to plant a Hydrangea grown in a container, then spring or fall will work just fine. In fact, the reason we grow them in containers is so they can successfully be shipped and transplanted throughout the entire growing season.

However, if your Hydrangea is a bareroot, meaning it is in its dormant state without soil, you’ll want to plant in the early to mid-spring.

This gives your newly added flowering shrub enough time to come out of dormancy and establish its roots while the days are long and warm. Keep in mind that spring-planted shrubs will need consistent watering during that first growing season.

How to Plant Hydrangeas

Steps to Planting a Hydrangea

1. Choose Your Hydrangea

Each type and variety of Hydrangeas for sale have different needs. Some work best in milder climates like those in USDA Growing Zones 3-7 while others might thrive in zones 6-10.

They will also grow to different heights. Hydrangea paniculatas like Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea make fantastic privacy hedges while Hydrangea macrophylla (sometimes called mophead Hydrangeas) like BloomStruck® are great as accent plants.

Make sure to read our #ProPlantTips for Care when selecting your Hydrangeas as that is where you’ll learn each plant’s specific needs. It’s also always a good idea to check with your local extension office to learn more about which varieties will work best in your immediate area. 

2. Location Selection

Many Hydrangeas like full sun with some afternoon shade so finding the correct place to home your Hydrangea can sometimes be challenging. A spot with morning sunlight and dappled shade later in the day is best.

You’ll also want to be mindful of the soil composition. Well-draining soil is best to prevent root rot. If you’re unsure of the drainage the spot you’ve picked out has, try filling the hole with water and seeing how long it takes to empty. 

If you suspect you have poorly draining soils, check out our blog on possible drainage solutions!

3. Dig Your Hole

Depending on your feelings towards digging, this may or may not be your least favorite part of the process. Luckily, you’ll only have to do it once per shrub (hopefully!). 

For container-grown shrubs, dig the hole as deep as the container is tall and about a foot wider in all directions to allow the roots plenty of room to grow. For bareroot, dig the hole as deep as the roots grow and wide enough that the roots can fully extend in all directions.

An added step for bareroots would be to create a small hill of dirt inside your hole so that you can set the root’s center on it while the rest of the roots spread out below. 

Planting

4. Remove the Hydrangea From its Container

Obviously, if you’re dealing with a bareroot, skip this step. If you’ve got a container, this is the part where you’ll want to gently take the shrub out of its enclosure.

Before moving on, consider lightly teasing the roots at the bottom to facilitate new growth once it’s in its new home. No need to go overboard, a quick once over should do the trick.

5. Place Shrub and Backfill With Soil

Go ahead and set your Hydrangea in the hole so that its base is level to, or even a little higher than, the surrounding soil. It’s worth noting that you might want to take a step back and check the shrub is in the ground straight - figuring that out once the roots are buried is less fun. 

Then it’s a simple matter of backfilling the surrounding area around the root ball with soil. 

6. Water in Well & Mulch

These last two steps can be done in either order, but they’re both important. After the roots are buried, completely saturate the soil around the shrub. This gives the Hydrangea a much-needed drink and will eliminate damaging air pockets, ensuring all roots are in contact with soil. 

The last step is to cover the immediate area with a layer of mulch, starting about an inch from the base of the stem. Not only will it elevate your garden’s aesthetic, it’ll also protect your Hydrangeas roots in places temperatures drop precariously in the winter or spike in the summer. 

Other Hydrangea Care Tips

Picking and planting Hydrangeas can be just the beginning of your journey. Sure, you can plant it and let it do its thing each year and it’ll be absolutely gorgeous. But what if you’re looking to do more?

Changing the Flower Color

Some Hydrangea shrubs can have pink or blue blooms depending on the soil pH. If you’d like to try your hand at changing your Hydrangea bloom’s colors, start by using a soil test kit to find out the natural soil pH. Then, depending on what you learn, try adding lime to the soil for pink or aluminum sulfate for blue. 

There’s quite a bit of information out there on the subject. If you’d like to go on a deep dive, check out our blog on the topic.

Pruning Hydrangeas

Another frequently asked question is how to prune Hydrangeas, and when? Each kind of Hydrangea is different, some bloom on old wood and others on new growth. There are even a couple new varieties that bloom on both!

Bigleaf Hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) and oakleaf Hydrangeas mostly bloom on old wood and should be pruned right after they bloom. 

If you have smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) then a quick shear all the way to the ground each year in the early spring is best.

The last group of common Hydrangea, Hydrangea paniculata, is by far the most forgiving and easy to grow. It likes to be pruned in the early spring before new growth starts to show. Simply shorten the length of last year’s stems by about 1/3rd.

Pruning can feel a little overwhelming at times. We have everything laid out in our blog on how to prune hydrangeas. Feel free to reference it when deciding on a pruning schedule.

Growing Hydrangeas give gardens a burst of color in the early summer and gorgeous structure during the rest of the year. Use them as in foundation plantings or as show-stopping hedges around the edge of your property. 

If you have any questions about a specific cultivar, don’t hesitate to ask our plant experts here at Naturehills.com. We’re always happy to help and to answer any questions you may have.

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