How To Plant Hydrangeas

by dustytoes

Hydrangea shrubs can be a beautiful and worthwhile investment in your home landscape.

Recently I invested in six, new hydrangea shrubs, of many varieties, to plant in my yard. Before I went to the local nursery I did a bit of research and planning so I would know what to look for and where it would be planted.
Hydrangea flowers come in many colors and although the plants are easy to grow, finding the right spot in the yard was not so easy. Some need more sun than others, and without sun, I may not get the flowers I want.
Once I had decided what to buy and where to plant, I began adding this flowering perennial to my yard.

Do Some Research Before You Go to The Nursery

There are many lovely varieties to choose from, so know what you want before you buy.

Endless Summer hydrangeaAfter renting for years, I couldn't wait to own a home with a yard to landscape as I pleased.  Now that time has come, and I've been planting hydrangeas in my gardens.

I lived in a rental for three years that had a pretty, blue hydrangea in the front yard.  I didn't know much about taking care of it, so I had to learn.  I've discovered that I love this plant, not only for it's beautiful flower variety, but because it is a hardy perennial that is easy to care for.

Hydrangeas can grow to be quite large shrubs - some larger than others, but the nice thing is that they can be pruned, somewhat, to fit into a space.  It's best to plant them where they can spread out and have a natural shape, but a few varieties can be shaped into a small, ornamental tree.  

The mophead varieties have rounder flowers and stay fairly small, growing into a roundish shaped bush of about four feet.  Some other varieties can become massive shrubs.  There are also climbing hydrangeas.  Not all varieties will grow in all climates and since I live in the northeastern United States, I know more about the types I can grow here.

(Pictured:  My new "Endless Summer" blue hydrangea.)


My New Limelight Hydrangeas Will Be Planted By The Front Door

They will have white flowers that gradually turn light green.
Limelight hydrangea in pot
Limelight hydrangea in pot
My photo

Gardening Is In My Blood

I do it all myself.

Once I had bought all six, fairly large, pots of hydrangeas, I took them home and set them out in the yard where they would eventually live.  I knew I could not get them all into the ground in one day - I do have to pace myself at my age!  So I kept them watered well (very important when they are still in pots) while I took my time and finally got them all into the ground.

I also changed my mind a few times about where to plant them, but I hope they will be happy where they ended up.

This is how I planted each of them.  I left out the part where I encountered roots and large rocks in the ground where I wanted the hole to be.

Pick a Spot and Dig a Hole

Okay, this is obvious, but there is a little more to it.

If you haven't thought about this before purchasing the plant, find out, by looking at the tag, whether the hydrangea wants mostly sun or shade.

I live in New England and since it doesn't usually get unbearably hot here, lots of sun is okay for the macrophyllas.  Typically hydrangeas need some sun but want to be shaded from hot, afternoon sun.  The Limelight wants mostly sun, so it will go in my front yard where it will get plenty of morning sun and shade in the afternoon.

Pick your spot and dig a hole wider and deeper than the pot size so you will be able to mix in some compost.

Plant at the Correct Level

After adding compost to the bottom of the hole, the plant should sit level with the ground.
Dig a big hole
Dig a big hole
My photo

Mix Compost and Bonemeal at Planting Time

It's all about the soil!

compostI moved into this house last summer, and the yard had been terribly neglected.  All areas of the yard need help and the gardens need soil amendments, so I bought bags of compost to add when planting anything. I hope to make my own compost by next year, but for now, store bought will work.

I also add Bone Meal to my soil because it's good for the root system, among other things.

(This is the first time I've ever used lobster compost!)

Out of the Pot and Into the Earth

Be careful not to break stems here.

To get the plant ready for the ground, roll the pot and push on the sides to loosen it.  I let the top, leafy part of the plant hang into the hole for this to minimize breakage.

Once it's free of it's container, gently break up some of the roots that might be matted together along the sides and bottom.  This is so they won't continue to grow around in circles, but branch out in the ground.

Rough Up The Edges

Make sure the roots will grow out from the sides by roughing up the edges of the dirt once it's out of the pot.
Get the plant ready to go into the ground
Get the plant ready to go into the gr...
My photo: Limelight Hydrangea

Pack the Dirt and Give it Plenty of Water

This will get my new Limelight hydrangea off to a good start.

*Dig the hole and add compost and bonemeal for strong roots (if you want) mixed with dirt from the hole.

*Set plant in hole and pack compost / dirt / bonemeal mix all around the sides and pack it down lightly.

*Run water into the newly planted shrub at a trickle for a while - until you are sure it's well watered.

Be sure to give them a drink on hot days and especially when they are in bloom, or newly planted.  I don't think you can over water a hydrangea shrub unless your soil does not drain well.

The Limelight is Blooming the First Year of Planting

A large shrub will bloom the same year it's planted.

white hydrangea shrub

I did not expect my new hydrangea shrubs to bloom the first year I planted it. So it's a pleasant surprise that both shrubs I planted by the front door are full of blooms!

This is a photo of the Limelight in bloom.  The flowers start out as white, elongated flowers and turn light green as time goes on.

I will be photographing it as it ages and the flowers change color.

This shrub was planted in Spring 2012 (above), and is blooming by August!


Are Hydrangeas Growing in Your Yard?

Cuttings Can Root and Grow a Bit in Plain Water

I am experimenting with growing a new plant from these cuttings.

stem cutting rooted in water

When I was planting the hydrangeas a few of the stems were broken off accidentally so I placed them into a vase with tap water. I figured I had nothing to lose.

Some of them wilted and died, but a few kept looking nice and healthy and this one started growing new leaves at the top along with little roots.

If you try this, use a cutting from the mophead variety, which is what this one is, and be sure to change the water in the vase every couple of days.

I tried to grow this in a pot and it died.  The cuttings I tried to plant died also.  I've found that the best and easiest way to start a new, large and healthy plant is by Root Layering.

Types of Hydrangeas

Most all hydrangeas will bloom profusely if they have enough sun.

Although the plants I purchased were good size, I doubted that they would bloom until the following year.  I was very excited to see the first of the flower buds forming!  Every one of the plants I bought and planted this Spring ended up with lots of flowers.

Here is a list of the types I planted in Spring of 2012:

  • Limelight (white to light green)
  • Endless Summer (blue, in the right soil - photo below)
  • Blushing Bride (white - mine turned green and pink later on - photos below)
  • Pee Gee (white)
  • Pinky Winky (begins white and turns pink- has elongated flowers - photo below)

Lacecap Hydrangea Flower

This one won't grow in my area - it's not hardy enough.
Lacecap Hydrangea
Lacecap Hydrangea

The Round, Mophead Flower

Hardy in Zone 5, this one is a favorite.
Mophead Variety
Mophead Variety
Pinky Winky - White to Pink
Pinky Winky - White to Pink
Endless Summer
Endless Summer
Narrow Road Designs
Blushing Bride (early summer)
Blushing Bride (early summer)
Blushing Bride (late summer)
Blushing Bride (late summer)

When To Plant Hydrangeas

Spring and Fall are both good times to plant.

fall plantingThe Fall is a great time to plant perennials where I live in the northeastern U.S..  Our growing season is so short, that, for many, vegetable gardening takes a front seat to flower gardening in Spring.

Also buying perennials, including hydrangeas, is usually cheaper in Fall when the plants are not flowering and have that "gone by" look.

The only problem with that is sometimes hydrangeas won't be available at the local nurseries in Fall, or you won't have much of a selection.

To be sure of getting what you want, plant in Spring (which is what I am doing this year) and begin shopping for hydrangea plants just before Mother's Day when places are getting ready for that holiday.  Many moms love the flower.

Updated: 06/04/2014, dustytoes
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Hydrangeas growing in the yard - what could be better?

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dustytoes on 10/31/2013

Once hydrangeas are planted, they are easy to take care of and the blooms last so long.

jptanabe on 10/31/2013

Several of my neighbors have hydrangeas, so I'm sure they could grow in mine. I just have to go and buy some, and plant them of course. You've definitely inspired me to do that next year.

dustytoes on 05/02/2013

Thank you ..!

pkmcr on 05/02/2013

Excellent information and explanation and quite wonderful pictures!

PeggyHazelwood on 05/01/2013

Gotta love blue flowers. These are simply lovely!

dustytoes on 08/23/2012

@Katie - Fall is a good time to plant them. Next summer you will be able to enjoy the flowers!

katiem2 on 08/23/2012

Ah Ha, now I know how to plant them. I have a couple plants still in the pots that were given to me this spring. I have got to get them planted, where did the summer go... I'm so going to add Hydrangeas to my landscape. :)K

dustytoes on 08/21/2012

@TiaMaria, the Limelight grows in zones 4-8. Some hydrangeas do grow in Canada.

TiaMariaMartini on 08/21/2012

Simply beautiful. I can't wait to see the green tinged flowers. Do these grow very well in Canada?

dustytoes on 06/10/2012

I don't remember ever seeing them while I lived (for many years) in central Florida. I always thought it was way too hot for them to grown there. Interesting.

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