Nothing spells Summer like Hydrangeas! They are beautiful and easy. But their popularity has meant that the varietals have started to pop up everywhere and now we need to know what we’ve planted and how to care for them. I am a huge Oak Leaf Hydrangea fan because I love mine to be big and form a hedge ( I use Alice which can grow to 10 feet). but I also have always had a Nikko or two in the flower beds. Do I prune both the same? NO!

If you are lucky, your home had a PeeGee hydrangea when you moved in. I think we need a guide to growing these lovelies. So lets get started. And by the way, you can get a piece of grandmom’s PeeGee and grow it in your yard. I’ll show you how.

 Some hydrangeas have large, round flower clusters while others have smaller, flatter, and more delicate flowers. The foliage also varies depending on the species. Plus, these versatile shrubs thrive in sandy coastal soils, shady woodland sites, and almost everything in between. To ensure that hydrangea shrubs have time to establish a healthy root system before blooming, it is best to plant them in fall or early spring. Once planted, hydrangeas are rapid growers, averaging 2 feet or more of growth per year.

Toxic to people and animals, be careful not to allow young children to place in their mouths.

Fertilizer: If your soil is rich in nutrients, you likely won’t have to fertilize your hydrangeas. In fact, if hydrangeas are given too much high-nitrogen fertilizer, they might grow full and lush but with fewer flowers. If your soil is not rich, apply a flowering shrub fertilizer in the spring.

Placement: Hydrangeas prefer fairly mild temperatures. In areas with cold winters, dieback (a plant dying from the tips of its leaves inward) can be a problem. Protect your hydrangeas from cold winds by planting them in a sheltered spot or with a burlap windscreen or burlap frame filled with dry leaves. A north- or east-facing site, where temperatures remain somewhat constant, is a better choice than a spot on the south and west side of your property, which will heat up in the winter sun and can cause buds to open prematurely and be vulnerable to cold snaps. Hydrangeas prefer moderate to high humidity, as dry climates can cause the leaves to wilt which is why they naturally grow and are native to the South.

Too much shade can reduce a hydrangea shrub’s flower output. Hydrangeas do well in the partial shade provided by tall deciduous trees, especially if they receive morning sun and the partial shade is in the heat of the afternoon. They will also thrive in full sun but might need extra water on hot summer days.

Water: Hydrangeas prefer a deep watering at least once a week unless you’ve had rainfall. During particularly hot weather, slightly increase the amount of water, but make sure they’re not sitting in soggy soil.

Soil: Hydrangeas can tolerate a wide range of soil types. YES! And you may be able to change their flower color. Although somewhat determined by cultivar, the color can be tweaked by the amount of aluminum in the soil and the soil pH. The soil pH determines how available aluminum is to the plants. Acidic soil (aluminum available to the plants) will give you blue flowers, and alkaline soil (aluminum unavailable to the plants) will give you pink flowers.

To decrease the acidity of your soil and change flowers from blue to pink, add hydrated lime to the soil in the spring. To increase the acidity to change flowers from pink to blue, add aluminum sulfate to your soil in the spring, or mulch with oak-leaf mulch.

CategoryBlooms on old or new woodWhen to prune
Bigleaf hydrangeaOldImmediately after flowers fade
Smooth hydrangeaNewLate winter or early spring before new growth starts
Peegee hydrangeaNewLight pruning in late winter or early spring
Oakleaf hydrangeaOldSummer after flowers fade
Mountain hydrangeaOldImmediately after flowering
Climbing hydrangeaOldWinter or early spring, only when necessary to control size

The Essentials

Oak Leaf Hydrangrea H. quercifolia

Easily recognized by its oak leaf-shaped foliage. It is native to the southeastern United States, in woodland habitats from North Carolina west to Tennessee, and south to Florida and Louisiana. Can grow from 4-8 feet up and out.

PLANT:  full sun to partial shade in moist well-drained soil.

PRUNE: Oakleaf hydrangea blooms on old growth and should be pruned immediately after it has finished flowering.

Mountain hydrangeas are small flowering shrubs with narrow, pointed leaves and flattened flower heads.

Mountain Hydrangea H. serrata

Mountain hydrangeas are small flowering shrubs with narrow, pointed leaves and flattened flower heads. 2 feet high and out and works well under higher shrubs and in border gardens.

PLANT: Easily grown in sun or partial shade

PRUNE: Prune after it flowers, trim back to a pair of healthy buds. In early spring, prune unhealthy stems to the ground.

Smooth Hydrangea H. arborescens

Smooth hydrangea, including the popular cultivar H. arborescens ‘Grandiflora,’ doesn’t usually have any problems blooming, though its white flowers aren’t as showy as we normally expect from hydrangeas. It’s a round shrub with leaves that are somewhat rounded with a pointed end, paler on the underside than on the top. Popular varieties are Annabelle or Incrediball.

PLANT:  full sun to partial shade in moist well-drained soil.

PRUNE:  lightly just after its flowers fade in early autumn.

Peegee Hydrangea H. paniculata Grandiflora

Also known as panicle hydrangeas, peegees display massive snowball-shaped flower clusters in mid- to late summer. The flowers start out white and slowly turn pink, drying and remaining on the plant. Can take full sun and is the hardiest of all the hydrangeas in cold weather. It can grow to 6′ up and out.

PLANT: Best in full sun to partial shade.

PRUNE: light pruning of individual stems in late winter or early spring plus you can deadhead spent flowers during summer

Climbing Hydrangea H. anomala petiolaris

The stunning climbing hydrangea is the type you see slowly making its way up a tree or other support. It’s a vine not a shrub, and it generally requires little to no pruning. This plant flowers on old wood grown during the previous season.


PRUNE: might need occasional late winter pruning to set boundaries. Overgrown? cut back to ground level in early spring to rejuvenate the plant.

Bigleaf Hydrangea Hydrangea macrophylla

The bigleaf hydrangea often has flowers whose color changes with the soil pH: blue in acid soil and pink in alkaline soil. However, there are also a few varieties that simply stay white. Its leaves are coarsely serrated and glossy, dark greenBigleaf hydrangeas set their flower buds from late summer to early fall. Grows to 4-5 feet up and out.

PLANT: Sun to part shade. Rich, well drained soil

PRUNE: When most of the flowers have faded, it’s time for pruning. Pruning in the spring or even late fall will remove the flower buds and any chance of getting blooms for that season. Don’t prune the old wood because this is what will keep flowering as the new growth matures.


After a successful growing season, you hate to see your hydrangeas fade. So keep them around by drying them. Here’s How:

  1. Cut the blooms when they are just past their prime. If the flower has too much water, it can take too long to dry out and get mushy. You want to cut them when they are getting a little papery in texture.
  2. Remove all the leaves.
  3. Place the stems in a vase of water with about 4-5 inches of water. Place the stems in a cool dry place and wait for the water to evaporate. Dont overcrowd the vase. Give the stems plenty of room and air to dry evenly.
Give the stems plenty of room to dry evenly


Wreathe can be made from fresh or dried hydrangeas


You’ll need a grapevine form, some wire, a hot glue gun and a clear sealant.

Work your way around the wreath form, weaving bunches through the grapevine to hold them in place. Secure the stems to the wreath with florists wire. Simply loop it around the wreath and twist to secure. Once you’ve worked your way around, add smaller hydrangea flowers to fill in any gaps. If needed, you can use hot glue to keep the flowers in place. Spray with a clear sealant (yes hairspray works). Will last for years with care.


You’ll need a wire frame, floral wire

Work your way around the wireframe attaching bundles of blooms and wrapping the wire 3 times for each bundle. Limelight hydrangeas work well here!


During the Victorian era, hydrangeas were thought to represent showiness or boastfulness. This was because while hydrangeas produce spectacular flowers, they rarely, if ever, produce seeds. This can create a problem for a gardener who wants to propagate hydrangea shrubs. Because of this, propagating hydrangeas is typically done from cuttings — also referred to as “striking”.

Let’s take a look at how to root cuttings from hydrangea bushes.

The first step for how to root cuttings from hydrangea is to select a stem for cutting. In early fall, choose a stem for hydrangea propagation that is at least 6 inches (15 cm.) long, has no flower, and is new growth. A new growth stem will be a lighter green than old growth. Also be aware that if you live in a colder climate where the hydrangea dies back to the ground, the whole shrub may consist of new growth Once you have selected a stem to propagate the hydrangea, take a sharp pair of shears and cut the stem off just below a leaf node. A leaf node is where a set of leaves will be growing.

The hydrangea cutting should be at least 4 inches (10 cm.) long and should contain at least one additional set of leaves above the selected leaf node. Next, strip all but the topmost set of leaves from the cutting. The cutting should have only two leaves left. Cut the two remaining leaves in half crosswise (not lengthwise).

Dip the end of the cutting in rooting hormone. While rooting hormone will increase the chances of successfully propagating hydrangeas, you can still propagate hydrangea shrubs without it. Stick the cutting into damp potting soil. Cover the pot with a plastic bag, making sure that the bag does not touch the leaves of the hydrangea cutting. Place the pot in a sheltered location out of direct sunlight.

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