Hydrangea macrophylla has been a stalwart in our borders for so many years… and, even though it may have been out of fashion in recent years, it is most definitely enjoying a resurgence in popularity – and rightly so, because these are truly wonderful plants!
They have an easy-going nature, are low maintenance, their blooms are long-lasting and, as deciduous shrubs, they’re great for adding interest to the border – and with so many varieties available, it’s easy to have heavenly hydrangeas flowering in your gardens from late Spring through to late Autumn. They also make a lovely display in a pot, especially if you want to enjoy a particular flower colour, but more on that later…
First, let’s cover the flower types…
The showy mophead varieties have traditionally been the most popular. Coveted for their voluptuous blooms, their full, round heads of large petals range in size from as small as a cricket ball to the size of a cantaloupe melon, and their flowers, floating above broad, mid green leaves, fill the border with heavenly shades of blue, mauve, pink and white the way no other flowering shrub can.
The sublimely elegant lacecap varieties maybe more subtle, but they are equally stunning in bloom, and for this reason they now enjoy as much, if not more, popularity than mopheads. Their ethereal flower heads are slightly domed, with clusters of larger, outer petals ringing tiny flowers in the centre and, like mopheads, there are varieties available in shades of blue, mauve, pink and white, providing great contrast to the green foliage.
Choosing Plants and Planting Tips
- Hydrangeas are fully hardy, and while some appreciate a spot which is sheltered from cold, drying winds, there are varieties which will thrive in cold, exposed or seaside locations – so be sure to match your choice to your garden conditions.
- Happy in full sun or partial shade, they prefer moist soil that won’t dry out but is well-drained – and if you’re concerned about your soil, again there are varieties which are less particular so choose your plants carefully.
- Regardless of the variety you’re choosing, be sure to select the best specimens available, so look for plants with equal branching on all sides, and if the leaves are already out, they should be bright green.
- On richer soils, hydrangeas will be happy to remain unfed, but on lighter, sandier soils, feeding annually with fertiliser in late Winter or early Spring will be helpful – don’t over-do it though, as over-feeding encourages foliage growth over the development of the all-important flower buds.
One of the quirks of hydrangea is the ability of the flowers to change colour, and the pH of your soil (which affects the availability of aluminium) will govern this. Varieties with blue or pink flowers tend to be blue in acid soil conditions (where there are high levels of aluminium available), mauve in acid to neutral soil conditions, and pink in alkaline conditions. To get the best flower colour, choose varieties that give the best colours for your soil pH.
If you want to keep your blue blooms, then you can ‘acidify’ your soil by adding products containing sulphur, aluminium sulphate or ferrous sulphate, and if you want to enhance red or pink flowers, simply apply a product containing limestone or chalk – and we have products in stock, whichever colour you prefer to keep your flowers.
If you don’t have the right soil conditions for your flower colour of choice and don’t want to apply products, don’t worry – simply plant your hydrangeas in pots, using suitable compost to maintain the colour of your choice!
And in case you were wondering… white flowering varieties are unaffected by soil pH.
Mopheads: Dead blooms on mopheads can be removed just after flowering in milder areas, but leaving them on the plant over Winter provides frost protection for the tender growth buds which sit below them – plus leaving them also adds Winter interest to the garden, especially when they’re covered in a delicate coating of frost. In early Spring the dead flower heads should be removed, cutting back the stem to the first strong, healthy pair of buds down from the faded bloom.
Lacecaps: Lacecaps are hardier, and so the faded flower heads can be cut back after flowering has finished to the second pair of leaves below the head. This prevents seed from developing, which saps energy from the plant.
- To keep either type flowering well, simply cut out one or two of the oldest stems at the base of the plant in Spring.
- To promote fresh, new, vigorous growth on established plants, cut back hard in early Spring, pruning out around one-third of the previous year’s growth to the base each year.
- To revitalise and renovate poor or neglected plants, cut off all stems at the base – but note that this will mean that your plant won’t bloom on the new growth until the following year.
So there you have it, our guide to heavenly hydrangea. And we know you want some, so come and choose from our great range of varieties, in-store NOW!