We're all happier when our hydrangeas are in full bloom, and keeping these regal, woody perennials shining their brightest is surprisingly easy! While you won't have to break your back with finicky care requirements, you will need to remember these five expert care tips if you want your hydrangeas to linger a little longer in your Keswick garden this year.
How to Care for Hydrangea Plants in Ontario
Hydrangeas are amongst the most loved summer flowers in the world, gracing not only garden borders but also containers, raised beds, cut flower gardens, and even wedding bouquets! Though they may seem rather unapproachable, hydrangeas are actually quite easy to care for! To help you out, we've put together this simple care guide. While this guide will give you a general overview of hydrangea care, there are many hydrangea varieties out there, and some have slightly different care requirements. Please double-check the specific care requirements of all your plants before planting.
1. Light: Most hydrangeas generally thrive with a good four hours of morning sunshine and afternoon shade, though too much of either can prevent those fabulous flowers from unfolding. If you need a hydrangea that can take full sun and drier conditions, the panicle hydrangea is more adaptable and grows quite well in low-shade areas.
2. Soil: Most hydrangea plants love being in fertile, well-draining soil. If you have a sandier soil type in your garden, add some heavy organic material and mulch around your hydrangeas' bases to help them retain moisture. We also recommend adding a rich compost to your hydrangeas' soil–especially if it's quite heavy and clay-like–to help it retain much-needed moisture while allowing excess water to run through. You'll also want to consider your soil's pH levels, as some hydrangea varieties are known to change colours as their soil's pH balance fluctuates. As a general guideline, acidic soil with a ph lower than 6.5 will give you blue-lavender flowers, while alkaline soil above 7.0 ph yields reds and pinks.
3. Water and Fertilizer: Considering the word "hydrangea" means "water vessel," it's no surprise that this flowering shrub loves to drink! However, hydrangeas don't like wet feet, so proper drainage is essential. When you first plant your hydrangea, keep it watered regularly until well established, and be sure to give it a nice layer of mulch to keep moisture in and prevent the sun from overheating the ground and drying it out.
For the best care, water hydrangeas in the morning or later in the evening when temperatures are at their coolest. As for food, hydrangeas don't require a ton, so you can get away with giving them a single feed of organic fertilizer at the beginning of the growing season for a spring boost.
4. Pruning: Before you start going crazy with the scissors this year, make sure you know exactly what type of hydrangea you have and its specific pruning requirements. Some hydrangeas grow from old wood, while others only sprout from new wood, meaning that pruning at the wrong time can mean no new growth! Specifically, you'll want to distinguish whether you have a bigleaf, smooth, panicle, or macrophylla variety before cutting anything off.
Macrophylla hydrangeas bloom on old wood, so it's often better to avoid pruning these guys until the spring and only remove dead branches. For smooth and panicle hydrangeas that bloom on new wood, prune in fall or early spring. Avoid pruning while actively blooming to reduce the risk of removing new flower buds.
5. Overwintering: After a long and productive summer spent dazzling you and your guests with their abundant blooms, your hydrangeas will appreciate a safe winter rest. Ontario winters are known for some pretty harsh conditions, so we recommend bringing potted hydrangeas indoors before winter sets in and storing them in a garage or basement until spring. Remember to water them at least once a month to keep the roots moist.
For hydrangeas in your garden, water them regularly before the first frost to help them retain moisture over winter. Then, add a fresh layer of mulch and wrap any above-ground growth to prepare them for extreme weather and cold conditions.
We hope this simple hydrangea care guide has encouraged you to incorporate these beauties into your garden display this summer. If you're ever in doubt about how to care for your particular hydrangea variety at any time of the year, come by the garden centre for some expert advice—and to obviously stock up on more!