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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 a few more answers to FAQs I get about my flowers!
Happy Sunday, friends! If you’ve been eyeballing my Instagram feed this spring, then there’s one thing you already know (other than I’m working hard to crank out those floating deck posts and videos this month)… it’s that my hydrangeas are blooming like CRAZY!
I have several posts in my more-than-8-year archive on hydrangeas already, ranging from bloom color to overwintering, but this year’s high bloom rate has made everything feel uniquely showy. Between the new vegetable garden, the deck, and the pub shed builds, I can’t help but LOVE seeing flowers in every direction as I work!
I suppose part of the reason I’m enjoying them so much is because they are a living, encouraging reminder of my previous efforts. They became what they are now because of the labor I put into them, so 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 flowers. 😉
They’ve really been making the mess of my soon-to-be-posted deck updates look less disheveled, too.
I get questions on my hydrangeas frequently, but mostly on social media in random pictures, so I am posting today to kill two birds:
- Answer some hydrangea FAQ and more quickly provide a resource (so I can share the link to this post when I need to answer them again) and
- Show off my flowers with more photos than necessary, in a super self-indulgent, Annabelle-Porter-way (again, it’s the lack of carbs 🤣)
One of the biggest differences I see in my plants are the color and size of the blooms. That is mostly due to the variety of the plant that’s growing, so I’ll cover each of those first.
The Different Varieties of Hydrangeas That I’m Growing
That name by itself is kinda confusing, but the cheapest and most common ones sold in my area are this type (you’ll often see them sold in a telltale blue pot). I purchased several of these as early as 2013, but made new updates last year so they could hug the back of the house in a long row on both sides of my patio. I’ve learned not to underestimate their spacing; they may take a couple of summers to grow, but they can get VERY large if you let them!
That above photo was last year. This year, same spot:
It makes a great backdrop when Charlie decides it’s her favorite spot to cool down. <3
They can bloom anywhere from a light pink to a bright blue depending on the soil pH. I have a little more info on that further on in this post. Mine typically start a lilac color and get really blue (they almost glow!) or stay a purpley-blue color. The main cause for this 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 flowers — so, there you go!
(I had a moment of remembering My Big Fat Greek Wedding from that last sentence… anyone else?)
A small number that are closest to a water source come in pinker.
These were planted in one corner of the back yard as part of a sponsored series last year. What I love about these is that their colors are a lot deeper in hue in comparison.
I also noticed that, while the Original type have created really gigantic blooms, these seem to be smaller, more clustered together, and more productive.
This could easily be because they are less established or 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 them are also coming in pink, but it’s pretty distinctive how the pH of the soil can really change a lot, since the flowers that grow closest to the downspout from the house are the only ones affected!
While most of my hydrangeas are bright and colorful, my favorite flowers of just about any type are almost always white (anemones are some of my favorite, but I have never tried to grow them… maybe someday!). So, I bought exactly one of this variety and planted it on the other side of the fence, in the small garden I created by the air conditioning unit. These are 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”
Last year’s new garden had a huge mix-up from the local nursery I bought them from, and they mislabeled 3 of my plants as Bloomstruck when they were actually a different kind. As a result, I quickly learned the difference between a “mophead” bloom and “lacecap” bloom. These are honestly not my favorite, aesthetically, because they almost look like someone came along and blew off half the blooms (kinda dandelion-fluff-like?). So, I dug them up and replaced them with Bloomstruck as originally planned.
While I intended to return them, I basically got too distracted/lazy, and by winter, thought they were dead from leaving them in their pots. They all came back this year and are still happily living in their original pots. Of the three, I replanted one out in the front of the house to bring in some color by the trash can screen (another project I still need to cover in detail as a tutorial for you guys!). I think I’m going to plant the remaining two next to the pub shed when it’s finished this summer.
Hydrangea color changes
I’ve written a separate post a long time ago on how I get blue hydrangeas naturally, plus a few tips on what else you can do to make them change color, such as adding specially-formulated fertilizers. But the real key to the right color has two main factors: soil pH 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 great info to know, there’s also the factor of 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 certain type of color, make sure that the variety you’re buying is even capable of the color you want. It will be on the label!
Hydrangea growth & maintenance
Honestly, these things grow themselves. As long as you avoid planting them in a windy spot and they have sufficient watering, they are very easy-care plants. I’ve planted mine in spots that basically do this on their own:
- against the house
- near a fence
- next to taller shrubs or trees
There are a few parts of the country where they simply 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 a bunch develop spots from a fungus last year, but they came back strong. I suspect my efforts to keep a drip hose on them were what contributed to the problem, so I may have been better off to neglect them like I typically do!
I now trim them 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 here). Some recommend cutting them 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.
Looking dead in the winter
This is one of the harder things about hydrangeas — during the winter, 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, they simply aren’t evergreen shrubs. I consider it a small price to pay for their beauty for the other 3 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.
Spotted leaves 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 just remove affected leaves and wait to see if it still exists the next spring. With no leaves in winter, it can easily disappear on its own.
It’s perfectly normal for older blooms to fade in summer. Cut them off for bouquets and new blooms will continue to grow with brighter color. I like to sprinkle in spent coffee grounds around this time as well; as I mentioned above, pH is important for color, so this is another one of my habits that helps get that vibrant blue!
Lack of blooms
Two likely culprits for this: 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 off stems in the winter, you might also be cutting off next year’s buds. All that means is that the blooms might skip a year or take a little time to re-grow new flowers. Be patient. If it’s crowding that’s the problem, it can be as simple as moving things over. Recently, I 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.
Fall color changes
These same shrubs continue to form new buds and bloom in the fall. It’s practically a new show, because they drastically change in color. The green with pink tips are probably my favorite during this time of year.
Because of the deck build, I’ve also had to trim them back early. Some were simply getting in the way, so I held off for as long as I could to get them to full bloom. Hello, bouquets!
I got my first official bouquet from my garden last year, but I’ve already had three this spring, so I consider that a pretty big win. The last bunch was really varied and colorful, so I played around with them one morning, just to see what they might inspire.
How to Keep Hydrangea Bouquets Fresh
While I have written before about how to keep bouquets (in general) fresh, I haven’t necessarily done much experimenting with my own 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) source
- Plunge the cut stems in cool 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 the hot water for about 30 seconds. Then transfer the stems to cool water. Done! source
- Cut the stem and use alum before sticking in water — like the hot water, what alum is meant for is to break up the gummy substance 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 am very much an amateur in terms of styling or photography, so moments like this, with just a hot cup of coffee and a still subject, are a rare but appreciated opportunity to better know my camera and work with light. It’s also helping me to brave my bigger, but harder to use, camera that I bought a couple of years ago but haven’t quite mastered.
When I typically photograph, it’s in the middle of a tutorial (or 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, this was a quiet time to play with the look of things, just 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 I promised to post this for, I hope you got the answers you needed! Thank you, too, because you gave me an afternoon’s worth of photography lessons as a result of your questions.
Got more questions about hydrangeas? Fire away! Oh, and have a great Father’s Day weekend!
P.S. I should mention that the nursery/brand who produces nearly everything I just mentioned were a sponsor of mine last year. I’m not getting paid or anything out of mentioning 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!