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The Ultimate Guide to Growing Hydrangea Shrubs

The beautiful hydrangea is a gardener's favorite all over the world. For centuries, the elegant appearance and classic colors of hydrangea shrubs have made them a favorite in homes from the urban center to the rural countryside.

Although relatively easy to grow, the plants need some care and attention. The level of necessary work will depend on the varieties you choose to plant.

An Asian native species, this shrub is well-adapted to the United States and can thrive in USDA plant hardiness zones three through nine. Selection involves the gardeners finding which hydrangea shrubs work in their specific areas. This plant prefers a sunny spot in the yard and demands at least six hours daily to bask in the sunshine. However, it can also tolerate some shade, particularly in the afternoon.

It loves woody, moist soil—but don't overwet it, as too much moisture can cause rot, mold, and mildew. This post will explore hydrangeas in greater depth and provide you with all the growing information you’ll need to enjoy a pleasurable experience and beautiful, blooming hydrangea shrubs.

Hydrangea Shrub Varieties

There are two main categories of hydrangeas: those that flower on old growth and those that bloom on new growth.

NOTE: Old-growth hydrangeas are not popular with most gardeners due to their "picky" nature, but it is at least worth noting their existence to avoid purchasing them by mistake. We carry the better-natured new-growth variety at TN Nursery.

Old-Growth Hydrangeas

These hydrangea varieties grow from the ground up. They start flowering at a certain height, usually one to two years after planting.

Although they are lovely, they also require a bit more patience. Most gardeners prefer the second type, new-growth hydrangeas.

New-Growth Hydrangeas

These varieties bloom on the previous year's growth and will kick off the flowering process when new shoots grow from their root system.

Some of the most popular new-growth hydrangeas you can plant in your garden include Pee gee Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata Grandiflora), the lovely Nikko Blue Hydrangea, Snow Hill Hydrangea, and Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens).

Hydrangea Colors

Gardeners select many different species of Hydrangeas for their flower colors, which range from various blues to purples, reds, pinks, and whites.

Hydrangeas famously "change colors" depending on soil quality. Thus, you might get a different color than you expected.

That phenomenon is a result of your soil's acidity level. The earth contains many natural minerals and metals, including aluminum, which needs acidity for absorption and determines the color of the hydrangea flower.

Selecting Hydrangea Plants

When choosing the hydrangea varieties you want to plant in your garden, consider their color patterning and how tall they will grow.

For example, white flowers work best against dark-colored fences or leafy, dark-green trees. Gardeners often select Snow Hill Hydrangeas as a backdrop for richer-colored flowers like roses and daylilies.

It would help if you also consider your climate and the length of time you plan to grow your hydrangeas. Some varieties will only flower at specific temperatures at certain times of the year and may not bloom when planted outside their ideal conditions.

When and How to Plant Hydrangea Flowers

The best time to plant hydrangea is in the spring after the danger of frost has passed. However, if your local climate does not experience fall frost, you can plant them in late summer or early fall.

  • Dig a hole twice as wide and just slightly shallower than the container they are currently in. Then, fill the bottom of the planting hole with a mix of composted organic matter and soil from around your garden so the roots can soak up the nutrients.
  • Place your hydrangea plant(s) in the ground and backfill it with more organic material, ensuring a slightly raised mound around each plant's stem. The stems usually produce new roots from where they meet the soil surface.
  • You also want to ensure that the plants are growing straight, not leaning to one side or another, as this can cause problems later on when they try to grow too large for their allocated space.
  • Water thoroughly after planting and continue to do so every few days until the soil becomes moist.
  • If you live in a climate with snow, remove any that accumulates over your hydrangea buds during winter. This will help protect them from cold damage and help them blossom the following year.
  • After the growing season, add an inch to two inches of hardwood mulch around the base of your hydrangea. The wood will break down, release nutrients, and insulate your plant against frigid winter temperatures.

Hydrangea Flowers Care Needs (They have such an easy-going nature!)

Hydrangea's quick growth rate and low maintenance requirements have earned it the reputation as the perfect flower to plant once and then enjoy.

Here is some information regarding caring for established shrubs.

Soil

  • Hydrangeas typically grow best in finely mulched, well-drained soil with a slightly acidic pH.
  • If your plants appear to be wilting or not thriving despite receiving adequate water, you should check the soil's pH level first.
  • Add lime to raise your soil's pH level if it is acidic, and add sulfur if it is alkaline.
  • A good practice is monitoring the soil's pH and adjusting it as needed to ensure it doesn't fall below a range of five or over nine, which will also damage the plants.

Sun

  • Most variants of hydrangea grow best in total sun exposure, requiring a minimum of six to eight hours of sunlight per day. However, some will tolerate partial shade--with less prolific blooming.
  • Space the plants adequately for enhanced air circulation and an effective leaf-drying process after rain showers.

Water

  • Hydrangea flowers need one to two inches of water weekly to thrive and grow into large, healthy bushes.
  • If they receive too little water, the blooms will dry up and drop from the stems; if they receive too much water, they will become limp and unattractive.
  • Use a soaker hose or drip irrigation system to directly water the plant's roots where it's most effective.

Fertilizer

  • Hydrangeas flourish when given a slow-release fertilizer every six weeks from spring through fall.
  • A high-nitrogen fertilizer will boost blooming by stimulating new plant growth.
  • However, feed them appropriately, as you may otherwise have leafy and thick plants with very few blooms.
  • Do not fertilize after the blooming period is over unless you want to encourage new growth for next year—then only use organic fertilizer, as it will be much less harmful than chemicals would be.

Temperature and Humidity

  • Hydrangea plants prefer pretty mild temperature zones–check your USDA growing zone for a species that will perform well for you year after year.
  • Too much exposure to cold weather can cause the blooms to drop off the stems. If this happens, don't worry - your plants will still grow new flowers in spring.
  • If you reside in a USDA zone with frigid wintertime temperatures, protect your hydrangeas by removing all foliage on their stems and branches and covering them with a one- to two-inch thick layer of mulch.

Pruning

  • Prune your hydrangeas in fall or early spring to remove dead blooms and stems, crossing stems and branches that grow at odd angles.
  • In addition, you should stake tall blooming stalks during the growing season. This practice will reinforce them so they can hold up the flowers.

Pest control for Hydrangea Plants

Hydrangea plants are hardy and generally pest-resistant. But what do you do if you experience an issue anyway? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Several pests, including aphids, Japanese beetles, and spider mites, may impact your hydrangea plants.
  • Ladybugs are your friend--they eat aphids and spider mites. If you see them, let them be!
  • Using an alcohol-soaked cotton ball or swab, you may manually wipe aphids from the leaves. For other pests, apply insecticidal soap or horticultural oil according to manufacturer instructions.
  • Be sure to spray your entire plant, including the undersides of the leaves.

Hydrangea Shrubs Are an Excellent Addition to Your Garden

Hydrangea shrubs require minimal care and come in an extensive range of colors to suit almost any color story. Once you master the care techniques, you will have a lovely, long-lived plant for decades.

TN Nursery has healthy and robust hydrangea shrubs that will add vibrant floral colors and beautiful foliage to your garden from spring until late summer every year.

Shop All Our Flowering Shrubs

Visit our online shop for a wide selection of plants and trees, or stop by our store in Tennessee!

We offer fast shipping nationwide so that you can transform your garden today!

If you have questions about hydrangeas or any other plant needs, please contact us at [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you!

snowball bush - TN Nursry

Japanese Hydrangea

Large Japanese Hydrangea is a shrub featuring large, conical clusters of white, showy flowers that gradually turn pink or red as they mature, creating a stunning display in gardens and landscapes. Incorporating them into landscaping offers various benefits that contribute to the beauty and versatility of outdoor spaces. These elegant shrubs bring striking flowers, adaptability, low-maintenance care, potential for multiple uses, and a timeless charm to garden settings. Japanese Hydrangea has Huge Blooms As summer arrives, these Snowball Hydrangea live up to their name. The blooms grow in rounded clusters and can reach an impressive size of 10 inches. Each spherical cluster includes many tiny flowers, each with four delicate petals. Although initially pale green, they turn a beautiful white during summer. On a sunny day, the blooms look especially radiant as they reflect the sun's rays. The shrub leaves have a rich green hue, complementing the attractive white flowers. When it is in full bloom, its flower clusters may become thick enough that they mimic the appearance of snow. People often plant several shrubs to enjoy being enveloped in their beauty. Japanese Hydrangea Has Timeless Elegance  Japanese Hydrangea, also called Annabelle, is perfect for anyone who wants to add timeless elegance to their property. The enormous flower clusters look ethereal on a breezy day as they sway and bob gently. The rustling sound of the leaves in the wind adds to the peaceful look the shrubs boast. Each silky flower petal contributes to the overall smooth look of these shrubs.  When these shrubs adorn landscapes, they add unique beauty. Homeowners use them to create luxurious tranquility. Event venues use them to design magical-looking spaces for outdoor weddings or other special occasions. The stunning off-white petals complement nearly every hue and shade. With their bright and clean appearance, they can improve the look of any landscape. Today, these shrubs are famous for moon gardens because of their captivating beauty and pleasant aroma. Japanese Hydrangea Has A Wonderful Aroma  Japanese Hydrangea emits a subtle scent comparable to sweet alyssum or jasmine as the blooms appear. On a warm summer day, the smell is delightful. Also, the blooms blend well with the lovely and woody scents of other flowers, shrubs, and trees. Overall, this type of shrub is a versatile choice that appeals to all the senses and adds a distinct touch of sophistication.

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Blue Hydrangea - TN Nursery

Blue Hydrangea

Blue Hydrangea has vibrant dinnerplate blooms, lush foliage, and versatility, making it famous for gardens, parks, and residential landscapes. Scientifically known as macrophylla, it is a captivating flowering shrub celebrated for its enchanting beauty and the tranquil ambiance of gardens and landscapes. Revered for its vibrant azure blossoms, it is a botanical masterpiece that has charmed horticulturists and nature enthusiasts for generations. With a profusion of attractively hued blooms, Blue Hydrangea makes beautiful additions to any garden. The flowers appear in clusters or cones up to eight inches wide. The foliage is generally deep green with a matte or waxy surface, but leaf shapes vary significantly between varieties. Some plants produce oblong or heart-shaped leaves between four and eight inches long, while others are adorned with serrated, deeply veined, or lobed leaves of similar size. Blue Hydrangea Has Amazing Blue Blooms One unique fact about them is that the most eye-catching parts of the plant aren't made up of petals, as is the case with most other flowering plants. Instead, showy, colorful blooms are comprised of petal-like structures called sepals. Sepals are sturdier than regular flower petals and protect the tiny flowers hidden behind or below them. Their bloom clusters vary from faint sky-blue to deep purple, with most shades in between. The color of the flowers it produces is based on the plant's variety and the content of certain minerals in the surrounding soil. Get Blue Hydrangea Dies Back In Winter They go dormant in the cooler months. As warmer weather returns, the plants start putting on new foliage, and new flowers begin forming in mid-to late spring. They will burst into full bloom in the early summer, with the flowers generally reaching their prime during June, July, August, and September. Some varieties only bloom once per growing season, while others rebloom continuously throughout the summer. Creating Height and Depth With Blue Hydrangea Blue Hydrangea can grow six feet or more with a six-foot branch span. These standard varieties are suitable for creating a border, a flowering green wall, or a divider between lawn areas. If space is a consideration, smaller varieties that are great for raising pots or planters are also available. These varieties will reach just two to three feet with a similar branch-spread diameter. Some plants also act like vines and can scale trees and fences to heights of 50 feet or more.

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Snow Hill Hydrangea - TN Nursery

Snow Hill Hydrangea

Snow Hill Hydrangea is a compact deciduous shrub with large rounded clusters of white, snowball-like flowers, making it a popular choice for garden borders and as a foundation plant. They bring various benefits to landscaping projects, contributing to outdoor spaces' visual aesthetics, versatility, and overall charm. This hydrangea cultivar offers unique features that make it a valuable choice for various landscape designs. One of the primary benefits of landscaping is its stunning floral display. The Snow Hill Hydrangea is perfect for people fantasizing about winter wonderlands. With snowball-like blooms, these gorgeous shrubs bring the beauty and magic of them to your garden without the chill of a natural snowfall. What Can I Expect From the Foliage of Snow Hill Hydrangea Formally referred to as arborescens, this deciduous shrub is a compact plant, with most specimens topping around five feet in height. In terms of width, they typically span three feet to five feet. Stems are tan with a velvety texture. The simple leaves are serrated with fine hair. Either rounded or oval, they're broad and measure three inches to six inches across. Most will be at most six inches in length. This native shrub has two-tone leaves in the spring. The tops are deep green, but the undersides are paler green. Of course, these leaves change with the seasons. In the fall, they turn yellow. How Do Snow Hill Hydrangea's Bloom They produce impressive ball-shaped clusters of flowers that measure between eight inches and 12 inches. These clusters are formed by incredibility dense groupings of smaller flowers. Each bloom features four or five petals and measures less than one inch across. They have a lengthy bloom period. It starts in May or June. Flowers will generally remain white until September. Does Snow Hill Hydrangea's Bloom Change Color While many can react to soil changes by changing the color of their flowers, it won't disappoint fans of the winter season. They consistently deliver white or cream flowers at the start of the summer season. It is a deciduous plant, so it does reflect the seasons. If the ball-shaped blooms are allowed to dry in place, they will shift briefly to pink before turning brown. It's a different look, but these dried flowerheads can still add visual interest to a fall garden.  Snow Hill Hydrangeas are striking plants that efficiently fulfill various purposes. They can serve as a focal point or provide concealment. They grow beautifully along slopes and in borders, and they would be happy in rain gardens, shade gardens, and pollinator gardens.

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Hydrangea Arborescence Live Stakes - TN Nursery

Hydrangea Arborescence Live Stakes

Hydrangea Arborescence Live Stakes offer a range of benefits when incorporated into landscaping designs, making them a popular choice among landscape designers and enthusiasts. Their distinctive characteristics, versatility, and aesthetic appeal contribute to their value in creating beautiful outdoor spaces. Hydrangea Arborescence Live Stakes Have Large Flowerheads The massive blossoms of a Hydrangea Arborescence Live Stakes are a sight. Their circular or dome-shaped flower heads are collections of numerous tiny flowers packed closely together. Delicate and papery in texture, the individual blossoms range from pink to green and even creamy white, depending on the cultivar. The flowers can extend up to 12 inches in diameter, creating a striking and verdant overall impression. Enhance Your Garden with a Variety of Textures Of Hydrangea Arborescence Live Stakes The texture of them is rougher than that of mophead variants. Their leaves are glossy, narrow, and shaped like hearts. To keep the leaf apart from the main stem, the leaves have lengthy stalks. When planted close together, these stakes create dramatic, textured backdrops. And when shaped into more upright shrubs, their sturdy and woody stems add a structural element to garden areas and other outdoor spaces. Leaving the wasted flowerheads on the bushes all winter gives the garden a one-of-a-kind visual and textural surprise, as the dried flowers add a touch of rustic beauty. Hydrangea Arborescence Live Stakes Has Stunning Blossoms In Summer Hydrangea Arborescence Live Stakes produce white blossoms starting in the middle of summer. These blooms open into enormous snowballs, many of which are nearly as big as a basketball. As the temperatures get more relaxed, the flowers develop a jade green hue, which persists even after the first frost. This jade green tone transitions to shades of yellow, gold, and bronze before the leaves fall off in the winter. Their dried flowerheads can be any shade of tan or brown. Newly planted arborescence plants don't usually bloom during their first year of growth. Plants with this compact and rounded growth habit are great for lining borders and defining walkways. Their coarsely textured, dark green foliage gives gardens the illusion of more life and vitality. Many people use them to frame entryways to their gardens. You can even mix them with other plants, like decorative grasses or perennials, to make varied and beautiful border plantings along walkways.

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