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Hydrangea care can be a bit of a process, but hydrangeas are one of the most wonderful flowering plants to grow both indoors and outside. These big bloomers can be hard to grow in this part of the world (Alberta, Canada) but I have found some tips and tricks that seem to make caring for hydrangeas easier and keep them coming back year after year. Follow these simple tips for caring for and pruning hydrangeas indoors and out.
Watering Tips for Hydrangeas
One of the most important Hydrangea Care tips is to make sure to keep the soil moist at all times. For outdoor and indoor potted hydrangeas, do not let the soil get too dry or over-saturated. I find that watering them at the same time each day allows the hydrangea plant to stay happy.
For indoor or potted hydrangeas, the easiest way to do this is to place a tray at the base of the plant and water it once daily. The roots will soak up the water slowly from the tray below and keep your hydrangea healthy and happy.
Fertilize your indoor potted hydrangeas every two weeks with an all-purpose fertilizer. This will help keep your hydrangea in bloom for much longer.
If you plant your hydrangea outside, use fertilizer until about the month of August when the growing season begins to slow. After that, wait until the following spring to fertilize. For outdoor bigger hydrangea plants use a fertilizer higher in phosphorus (that’s the second number you see when you are reading fertilizer packages. Ex. 10-25-10) as this encourages bigger hydrangea blooms. You can check out this article on fertilizers for more details.
Trimming, Cutting and Pruning Hydrangeas
I have found that it is best to prune off additional shoots so that only the bigger stems remain. This will ensure the growth of larger blooms. Early in the season, trim back long shoots by several inches to prevent your plant from becoming spindly and untidy. By the middle of the growing season, refrain from trimming the hydrangea plant any further.
Caring for Hydrangeas in the Winter
When caring for hydrangeas during the winter months, try to insure that the plant has been winterized. Place mulch around the hydrangea. Mulch helps insulate the soil and prevents frost heave, a condition that occurs when soil repeatedly freezes and thaws.
Secondly, make sure to keep the hydrangea plant well watered up until the day it freezes, this provides the roots with moisture over the winter and will help to protect the plant in the harsh season.
Hardy Hydrangeas in Alberta, Canada
Although in the past hydrangeas have been difficult to grow in our zone 2-3 climate here in central Alberta, a few options have now been created that I have been successful with growing!
The Annabelle and Limelight hydrangea varieties have been found to be the most successful in Alberta, but the Limelight hydrangea is probably my favourite! It creates big blooms that you can harvest in the fall and if you dry them correctly can last for a few months.
Hydrangea Care Tips
Begin with a Large Starter Plant
I highly recommend buying a larger starter plant, while it is a larger investment you have much more success and get bigger blooms in a shorter time considering the hydrangea is already harder to grow in zone 2B or zone 3. Did you know larger garden centres usually offer a guarantee on their larger perennial plants for 1 year? So keep your pot and your receipt just in case.
Keep the Soil Well Drained
Hydrangeas love well-drained soil but until established, they require a lot of water. Use gravel or rocks to ensure your soil stays drained both in the ground and in a potted flower pot. Learn everything you need to know about planting flowers in pots.
Plant Hydrangeas In Sun
Hydrangeas love to bathe in the sun. In my experience, hydrangeas on the east or west facing sides of my home do the best. Be sure to plant them somewhere they are protected by harsh wind or climate as well.
Water Hydrangeas Everyday
Water, water, water!! Hydrangeas LOVE water. Every day during that first year they will need lots of care, and watering every day will be essential. A tip is to place mulch around the plant in a circle and create a well. So pull the mulch off of the base of the plant so that it creates a barrier about 8″ away from the root base so the water can pool at the roots. Every year after you can start to reduce the amount you water the plants. Once established, you can water a bit less, every 2-3 days.
Fertilize For Best Results
Fertilize a few times early in the spring and then follow the above recommendation for fertilizing from there forward.
Winterizing and Pruning Hydrangeas
Prune any blooms, but do not cut back the hydrangea too much as the new growth in the Spring will bud from the old stems. And WATER, WATER, WATER again. Watering before the ground freezes is so important to protect the roots, especially in a central Alberta climate with chinooks. And then cover the roots generously with mulch or even dead leaves and grass clippings will work.
If you follow these tips you should be able to create a beautiful limelight hydrangea hedge in a zone that previously could not grow these beautiful blooms! I am so happy to now have so many options for our climate here in Alberta. Please leave me a comment below if you have a tip for caring for your hydrangeas!
If you are looking for more flower care ideas you can check out our post on more ways you can make cut flower last longer.