How to Cultivate Hydrangea

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Whether you call them by their proper names of Hydrangea macrophylla, quercifolia or arborescens — or prefer names like Kardinal, All Summer Beauty and Glowing Embers — the vibrant pink and blue of the hydrangea plant creates bursts of beauty in many gardens. While the plant produces large, hearty leaves along with its flowers, it requires special climates and protection from too much sun to ensure proper cultivation.

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging


  1. Create drainage in soil in a spot out of dry, hot sun (morning sun and afternoon shade are ideal). Dig a hole 2 feet by 1 foot, and plant hydrangea starters in the spring or fall.

  2. Fertilize the hydrangea approximately three times a year (March, May and July, according to Clemson University) with a general purpose fertilizer of 2 cups every 100 square feet. Water after adding the fertilizer.

  3. Water hydrangea a minimum of once per week to prevent leaves from drying out.

  4. Manipulate the color of hydrangea blossoms by adjusting the soil pH of the plant. For pink hydrangeas, lime soil for a pH of 6 or higher, suggests Clemson University. For blue hydrangeas, keep soil at a pH of between 5 and 5.5.

  5. Prune leaves regularly up to August 1 each year. The type of hydrangea planted will determine the style of pruning. For example, the Grandiflora or Pee Gee hydrangea requires removal of dead flowers and offshoots or it will rapidly overgrow its gardening spot. On the other hand, the climbing hydrangea is lower maintenance, requiring a minimum of early summer pruning.

  6. Extend the hydrangeas by splitting an old clump into two with a shovel, digging a trench and replanting one of the clumps, then reforming the soil around the original plant.

  7. Watch for hydrangea-specific problems such as flower blight, Cercospora leaf spot and powdery mildew, according to the University of Tennessee Extension.

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