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Today’s post is all about my garden’s different hydrangea varieties and how they look as they bloom. Plus, I’ve added more answers to FAQs about hydrangeas from some of my readers!
Happy Sunday, friends! If you’ve been eyeballing my Instagram feed this spring, there’s something you already know (other than I’m working hard to crank out those floating deck posts and videos this month)… my hydrangeas are blooming like CRAZY!
I have several posts in my more-than-8-year archive on hydrangeas, many that address some of the FAQs about hydrangeas already, like understanding bloom color and the effects of overwintering. But this year’s high bloom rate has made my hydrangea blooms feel uniquely showy. Between the new vegetable garden, the deck, and the pub shed builds, I’ve been busy, and I LOVE seeing flowers in every direction as I work!
I suppose part of the reason I’m enjoying my hydrangea shrubs so much is that they are a living, encouraging reminder of my previous efforts. They grew into the beautiful flowers they are now because of the labor I put into them. I get to enjoy that accomplishment as I am sweating and swearing in the Georgia heat.
If you just rolled your eyes at that, I know — that’s about as deep as a temporary tattoo. But it’s Sunday, and I’m low on carbs, so let’s just agree to keep looking at the pretty hydrangea flowers?
Addressing Those FAQs About Hydrangeas
I love hydrangeas. I really do. They look great in my yard, and they always appear polished and healthy. They’ve also helped the mess from my soon-to-be-posted deck updates look a little less disheveled.
I frequently get questions on my hydrangeas, but mostly on social media in random pictures, so I am posting the answers to the FAQs about hydrangeas today to kill two birds:
- Answer some hydrangea FAQs and provide a quick go-to resource to share the link to this post when I need to answer them again.
- Show off my hydrangea flowers with more photos than necessary, in a super self-indulgent, Annabelle Porter-way. (Again, it’s the lack of carbs?)
I get questions about hydrangea care and all sorts of related queries. While all my hydrangeas are beautiful, one of the most significant differences I see in my plants is the blooms’ color and size. These differences are mostly due to the variety of hydrangea shrubs, so I’ll cover each type in my garden first.
Take a stroll through the hydrangea garden.
What are the Different Varieties of Hydrangeas in Your Garden?
There are many different varieties of hydrangeas, and the availability can vary by region. I have several types of hydrangea shrubs in my front, side, and back yards. Each has its own unique coloring that tends to fluctuate in a range, depending on the time of year and soil acidity.
The Original Hydrangeas
The main variety of hydrangeas I have is called “The Original” and comes in blue, pink, and lilac blooms.
The hydrangea name by itself is confusing, but the cheapest and most common plants sold in my area are this type (you’ll often see them sold in a telltale blue pot). I purchased several of these hydrangea shrubs as early as 2013. I updated the garden with more hydrangeas last year so that the plants would hug the back of the house in a long row on both sides of my patio.
After planting so many different hydrangeas, I’ve learned not to underestimate their spacing; they may take a couple of summers to grow, but they can get EXCEPTIONALLY large if you let them!
The above photo of my hydrangeas was last year when I put them in. This year, in the same spot, you can see they’re flourishing:
The bright blue hydrangea blooms make a great backdrop when Charlie decides it’s her favorite spot to cool down. <3
Hydrangeas can bloom in many different colors, from a light pink to a bright blue depending on the soil pH levels. I have a little more info on the soil pH levels further on in this post.
My hydrangeas typically start in a lilac color and get really blue (they almost glow)! Some of my varieties stay a purply-blue color. The main reason my hydrangeas go blue is likely pine needles; even after removing my pine trees, the pH in the soil is naturally acidic from having so many years of pine needles decomposing and mixing in. The acidity encourages blue hydrangea flowers — so, there you go!
(I had a moment of remembering My Big Fat Greek Wedding from that last sentence… anyone else?)
However, a small number of hydrangeas in my yard close to a water source come in pinker.
Bloomstruck Hydrangeas in Deep Purples
Another varietal in my yard is Bloomstruck. I planted these in one corner of the back yard as part of a sponsored series last year. I love these hydrangea flowers because their colors are a lot deeper in hue in comparison.
I also noticed that, while the Original hydrangea types have really gigantic blooms, the Bloomstruck hydrangea shrubs seem to produce smaller flowers, more clustered together, and more productive.
The size of the blooms could easily be because they’re less established. It could also be that I haven’t yet figured out how the watering differs on this side vs. the rest of the garden. So, we’ll see over the coming years if they bloom with bigger flowers or not (I suspect yes, since the ones closest to the Original type bloomed fewer, but a comparable size).
A few of the Bloomstruck hydrangeas are also coming in pink! It’s pretty distinctive how the soil’s pH level can change a lot since the flowers that grow closest to the downspout from the house are the only ones affected!
Blushing Bride Hydrangeas in White, Gray, and Soft Pink
While most of my hydrangeas are bright and colorful, my favorite flowers of any type are almost always white. (Anemones are some of my favorites, but I have never tried to grow them… maybe someday!)
So, I bought exactly one of the Blushing Bride Hydrangea variety and planted it on the other side of the fence, in the small garden I created by the air conditioning unit. I really wanted to see if they would change to a blue color or stay white. This variety of hydrangea is supposed to range from faint blue-gray to white to pink, so I’m pleased to see the white/gray colors popping up!
Twist n’ Shout Pink Lacecap Hydrangeas
Last year’s new garden had a huge mix-up from the local nursery, and they mislabeled three of my hydrangea plants as Bloomstruck when they were actually a different type. As a result, I learned the difference between a “Mophead” bloom and “Lacecap” bloom.
These Twist ‘n’ Shout Lacecap hydrangeas are honestly not my favorite because they look like someone came along and blew off half the blooms (kind of dandelion-fluff-like?). So once I realized the mix-up, I dug them up and replaced them with Bloomstruck hydrangeas as initially planned.
While I intended to return the Lacecap variety, I got too distracted and lazy. By winter, I thought they were dead from leaving them in their pots. But surprise—they all came back this year and are still happily living in their original pots! Of the three Lacecap hydrangeas, I replanted one out in the front of the house for color by the trash can screen (another project I still need to cover in detail as a tutorial for you guys!). I will plant the remaining two next to the pub shed when it’s finished this summer.
How Do You Get Hydrangeas to Change from Pink to Blue? (Or Vice-Versa)
I wrote a separate post a long time ago on how I get blue hydrangeas naturally. In the post, I include a few tips on what else you can do to make them change color, like adding specially-formulated fertilizers. But the real key to getting hydrangeas to turn your preferred color is two main factors: soil pH levels and variety. From Southern Living:
In strongly acid soil (pH below 6), flowers turn blue. In alkaline soil (pH above 7), flowers turn pink or even red. In slightly acid or neutral soil (pH 6 to 7), blooms may be purple or a mix of blue and pink on a single shrub.
While this is excellent hydrangea information to know, it’s essential also to consider the variety grown. Certain hydrangea types are less sensitive to soil pH changes, and some don’t change at all (mainly white ones). So, if you’re looking for a specific color, make sure that the hydrangea shrub variety you’re buying is capable of the color you want. It will be on the label!
As you can see here, with some hydrangeas, you even get one bloom, two colors!
Where Should You Plant Hydrangeas?
Honestly, these plants grow themselves. If you avoid planting them in a windy spot and have sufficient watering, they are very easy-to-care-for plants. I’ve planted my hydrangeas in areas that protect and water on their own:
- Against the house
- Near a fence
- Next to taller shrubs or trees
There are a few parts of the country where hydrangeas won’t grow, but if you have ever seen one of your neighbors with hydrangeas, there’s absolutely no reason to think you can’t grow them, too.
I had many of my shrubs develop spots from a fungus last year, but they came back strong this season. I suspect my efforts to keep a drip hose on them were what contributed to the problem, so I may have been better off neglecting them like I typically do!
I trim the hydrangea flowers as they bloom for bouquets. Since the buds for the next year on my hydrangeas form on old growth and new, I don’t trim them back until they begin blooming (important dates and other winter care info for hydrangeas here.)
Some people recommend cutting hydrangeas in later winter or early spring, but if you cut them when the new buds are forming, you’re cutting off the next year’s blooms.
Why Does My Hydrangea Wilt or Look Sad? Is It Dying?
Hydrangeas Look Dead in the Winter
Hydrangeas look dead in the winter. This is one of the more challenging things about hydrangeas —especially when it’s your first winter growing them, you might think they died off. They turn spindly and look like brown sticks. The good news is, they probably aren’t dead!
Unfortunately for hydrangeas, they aren’t evergreen shrubs. It’s totally NORMAL for the leaves to drop off and for the plant to go dormant in colder weather. In the spring, they’ll start to leaf up and bloom once more. I consider it a small price to pay for their beauty for the other three seasons of the year, but if it bugs you too much, consider interspersing some other evergreen shrubs in the yard. I grow gardenias and roses as well for that reason (plus the added fragrance).
So how should you care for hydrangeas over the winter? I have a whole separate post on hydrangea winter care, so it’s best to head over there to get more of that info (it’s also linked in the “More Hydrangea Ideas” section, below).
My Hydrangea Has Spotted Leaves
Spotted leaves on hydrangeas could indicate a fungus brought on by too-wet conditions. The best way to keep leaf rot from spreading is to strip away the affected leaves. If it’s a massive spread early in the season, you can buy products to treat it, but if it’s later in the year and winter is on the way, you might be fine to remove affected leaves from your hydrangea shrubs and wait to see if it still exists the next spring. With no leaves in winter, the fungus can quickly disappear on its own.
The Color is Fading on My Hydrangeas
It’s perfectly normal for older blooms to fade in summer. Cut them off for bouquets, and new flowers will continue to grow with brighter colors. I like to sprinkle in spent coffee grounds around as well; grounds are acidic, and as I mentioned above, pH is essential for color. Reusing the grounds is another way I get that vibrant blue!
My Hydrangeas Have a Lack of Blooms
There are two likely culprits for lack of blooms on your hydrangeas: you either cut them back in the winter after the cutoff date, or you are growing them too close together, and they are fighting for resources. When you cut back the stems in the winter, you might also cut off next year’s buds.
The blooms might skip a year or take a little time to re-grow new flowers if you cut too much. Be patient.
If it’s crowding that’s the problem for your hydrangeas, it can be as simple as moving a few plants over. I recently had my biggest hydrangea blooming like crazy, while the one right next to it was nothing but leaves. After moving the leafy one a foot or two further away, it started forming buds.
Do Hydrangeas Change Color in The Fall?
Hydrangeas continue to form new buds and bloom in the fall. It’s practically a new show because they often drastically change in color. The green with pink tips is probably my favorite blooms during this time of year.
How Should I Care for My Hydrangeas Over the Winter?
I have a whole separate post on this, so it’s best to head over there to get more of that info (it’s also linked in the “More Hydrangea Ideas” below!).
How Do I Keep Hydrangea Bouquets Fresh?
Because I’m building my deck, I’ve also had to trim the hydrangeas back early. Some plants were getting in the way, so I held off for as long as I could to get them to full bloom. Hello, hydrangea bouquets!
I got my first official hydrangea bouquet from my garden last year, but I’ve already had three bouquets this spring, so I consider that a pretty big win. The last bunch of hydrangeas was varied and colorful, so I played around with them one morning, to see what they might inspire.
While I have written before about how to keep bouquets (in general) fresh, I haven’t necessarily done much experimenting with cut hydrangeas yet. After all, this is still my first year of really cutting them for bouquets! But, I have done some online research for you, so here are some ways that people suggest keeping cut hydrangeas looking fresh after putting them in a bouquet:
- Remove excess leaves where they would fall in the waterline. Leaves that touch the water will rot and introduce bacteria to the hydrangea’s water source. (also: ick) –Bouqs.com.
- Plunge the cut stems in cold water immediately after cutting. Pour about 1 inch of boiling water into a container, and let it cool for a minute or two. Cut the stems to the lengths you want for your arrangement. Hold the bottom 1 inch of the stems in hot water for about 30 seconds. Then transfer the stems to cool water. Done! —Hydrangea.com.
- Cut the stem and use alum before sticking in water — like the hot water, alum breaks up the gumminess on the bottom of the stem that sometimes forms after cutting; the blockage prevents hydrangeas from soaking up water, so alum keeps it clear!
I’m very much an amateur in flower styling and photography, so opportunities to use a still subject are a rare but appreciated chance to get to know my camera and work with light. It’s also helping me brave my bigger, but harder to use camera that I bought a couple of years ago but haven’t quite mastered.
When I typically take photos, it’s in the middle of a tutorial (or of the dogs), so I usually try to get the most interesting shot I can within about 30 seconds and then move on to the next step. Instead, these hydrangea bouquets offered me a quiet time to play for the sake of enjoying the process. I may even frame one of these shots to remind myself to do this more often. Pause. Enjoy. Appreciate.
Anyway, to those readers who requested this post, I hope it answered some of your FAQs about hydrangeas! Thank you, too, because you gave me an afternoon’s worth of photography lessons thanks to your questions.
Got more questions about hydrangeas? Fire away!
PS I should mention that the nursery/brand that produces nearly everything I just mentioned was a sponsor of mine last year. I’m not getting paid or anything out of discussing them today, but there are certain rules I have to adhere to legally (both US and elsewhere) when mentioning brands, so I still have to say it, even though you probably knew that already!
More Hydrangea Guides & DIY Ideas
An established hydrangea is almost impossible to get rid of, as well!! The previous owner planted a beautiful white hydrangea beside a low juniper bush and a path. Well the juniper grew over the hydrangea and the hydrangea grew over the path. It gets in the way of our motorcycles, so I dug it up and gave it to a friend.
It came back the next summer. So I dug it up again, and gave it to another friend.
And it came back again. I’ve semi solved the problem by pulling the root closest to the path, but it still grows out from under the juniper, but by trimming it down to the ground every fall, it stays manageable.
I agree with you about lacecaps… they look… broken. :D
Some of the white ones are oakleaf, which I hear are some of the hardiest. But yeah, once the root ball is established, they are STRONG! You can probably kill it off, but I would think any efforts to kill the hydrangea might also kill off the juniper. Good luck on your gardening!
Wow your plants look beautiful. I’ve tried to grow them but have been unsuccessful. I just learned they like morning sun and afternoon shade, so the reverse of what they were getting. I think I’ll try them in pots on my back patio against the house since that’s the only spot where I’ll really get to enjoy them and give them the sun they need. I’ll be returning to your post(s) for more pointers, thanks so much!
Anytime, Toni! Thanks for reading!
Do you know if they come in a dwarf variety? I wanted to plant some sporadically around my nandinas in the front yard along with my Japanese maples.
Hmmm… not that I know of, but these DO pretty much take up the space you allow them to grow in. I let mine just grow as they please, so they can get huge (I want them to FLOOD my yard with color), but if you cut them back down in the winter, they will stay petite (I know this because I’ve had my former lawn guy mistake one for dead, cut it down to the ground, and it grew back the next year in a smaller size). I also noticed that when they grow too close together, they will steal nutrients from each other and will be slow to bloom. I have one that is a little older than the others and crowded out another, but I moved the small one over a couple of feet just a few weeks ago, and it’s starting to bloom already. Hope that helps!
I have always wanted to grow Hydrangea, but always lived in a place that they didn’t grow. So I moved. I just planted my first, a Nikko Blue in memory of our cat Nikko. My question is: should I cut any leaves that touch the ground this first season to avoid fungus? Thanks for your great posts, and approachable nature in your writing.
Hi Susan! What a sweet way to honor your pet! I’ve actually never trimmed off leaves to prevent fungus. I just let mine grow until I’m ready to trim back for the season or to prevent them getting too big/tall. That’s not to say that I’ve ever had a problem with leaves or stems showing problems, but usually it’s during really rainy seasons that I see my hydrangeas having issues (so trimming off leaves are pretty much the least of my problems). If you have been reading to cut off leaves as a tip from hydrangea sites, I suppose that could be possible? But many of the commercially available species you can get at nurseries these days grow quite well with very little upkeep, which is one of the reasons I love growing them so much! Lots of luck and I hope many happy years with your new blue friend!