Their big bushels of flower grant them a beauty unrivaled in the shrubbery world. Adding to their charm is the fact that they are wary to cultivate in almost any soil.
Hydrangeas bloom in a series of vibrant colors: pink, lavender, rose, white, and clear blue with an occasional bloom.
Their color depends on the acidity of the soil. In soils that have less than 5.5 pH, the color will tend to be blue while in soils that are more than 5.5 acidic they will tend towards the pinks.
If you get white flowers you have a hydrangea that is not affected by acidity.
Due to the size of most hydrangeas, they are good for garden sites alongside borders. There is, however, a smaller variety that can be placed in a pot, though these two are larger than most potted plants.
What type of plant are they?
Hydrangeas are woody shrubs with bright beautiful heads of flowers. While they are hardy plants they are very sensitive to loss of moisture.
To prevent problems in the winter, choosing the right type of hydrangea is essential.
First, consider how much sunlight it needs. Second, what type of soil is needed and whether you need to compost more to provide it with the right level of acidity.
Another consideration is the color and size of the blooms that you want. No matter the type all hydrangeas will bloom while receiving some morning sunlight and afternoon shade.
The way hydrangeas bloom depends on their type. They thrive in moist but not overly wet soils. The best amount of sunlight is full sun in the morning with shade in the afternoon. For this reason, it is best to plant them in the spring or fall when most areas will enjoy partial sunlight.
The following are the type of hydrangeas, which are defined by the type of flowers they grow, and their blooming times:
- Bigleaf: on old growth
- Oakleaf: on old growth
- Panicle: on new growth
- Smooth: on new growth
- Mountain: on old growth
- Climbing: on old growth
The most common variety is the Bigleaf, which is the shrub that adorns many a garden. It’s bud. Start to form in late summer and then it blooms in the Fall. This means that you need to avoid pruning a big leaf after August 1.
Hydrangeas at home or for decorating?
In spite of their shrub nature hydrangeas can be used in bouquets. The best way to place one in a bouquet is to cut one at the stem and put it into cold water to prevent it from wilting.
Once in the water, you can make it smaller by removing the lower leaves from the remaining stem. Once in the vase, it should be placed in a cool spot.
There are several ways to decorate with hydrangeas:
- Wreaths for your front door or any other part of the house can be created with the head of flowers.
- As centerpieces or table arrangements, for these, a combination of the blooms, flowers and buds can be used.
- Potted hydrangeas can be placed in vintage crates in some corner of the house or on the porch to give more of a farm-style look to your home.
When decorating and using hydrangeas outside of the garden it is important to remember their symbolism and meaning. As their name indicates hydrangea literally means water vessel reflective of their need for regular watering and its cup-shaped flower.
Their symbolism is more debated with some thinking it stands for vanity and boastfulness because of the abundant petals while others see in them an expression go gratefulness on the part of the giver towards the recipient.
How To Take Care Of Hydrangeas In Winter? What are their weaknesses?
Though beautiful, hydrangeas can be finicky especially in the winter months. It is important to prepare them for a harsh winter otherwise they will not bloom in the spring.
First, prune away any dead branches, but avoid cutting new ones. Most dead branches can be found at the base of the plant. Second, build a frame around the plant with stakes of wood.
But do not panic! Remember all hydrangeas will lose their lives during the winter months. This does not mean your shrub is dying. The plants are entering a period of dormancy.
This does not mean that they do not need watering. Even during the winter months, the roots need to be watered. This is especially true if you live in an area with a dry winter without much rain or snow.
If you do get snow it is important to keep the base of the Hydrangea covered with wood chips, oak leaves, pine straw, or some other type of mulch.
Even if the winter you live through is more rain than snow or completely without snow, the chipping will provide needed protections from rodents and bunnies that will be foraging for food during the winter months.
Mulching Hydrangeas in winter
Mulching is essential for the winter months and its benefits go beyond general protection. If the compost has been properly spread it will provide not just protection but environmental consistency. This is necessary in parts of the world where temperatures in the winter fluctuate between freezing and below freezing for weeks or even months on end.
This fluctuation of low temperatures leads to water molecules in the ground freezing and de-freezing cyclically throughout the winter months. This contracting and melting of water around and inside the roots lead to heaving.
The heaving of the roots disrupts the entire root system causing the death of the hydrangea. The best material for protective winter mulch is pine straw, oak leaves, or wood mulch.
Once the spring begins to arrive you need to wait until the date of the last frost to remove the mulch. The mulch needs to be removed after the last frost to void late spring damage. If it is not removed the increasing heat will create moisture around the stems leading to the type of rot that comes from a lack of air movement.
There are a few things to consider if you are growing your hydrangea outside of its usual growing zone and it is the wintertime. For example, if for whatever reason you are caring in a pot and transporting it from a warm climate to a colder one then it will need an extra layer of mulch for better protection. It might also help to put a wire cage around the shrub and wrapping burlap around the wire.
While the beginning of the winter is the best time to mulch, if you had a sudden cold spell and had not yet mulched, you are still in time. Some harm may have been done, but the hydrangea will be mostly fine and mulching will prevent further damage.
Watering Hydrangeas in winter
As mentioned before, even in the dormant state of winter hydrangeas still need to be water. The amount of watering varies, however, depending on the type of winter you experience.
If you are in an area that receives a lot of snow you don’t need to water it that much. The same applies if your winter is rainy. This is because the plants won’t have many leaves during the winter and so watering is minimal.
The best measure, in this case, is seeing how dry the soil and stems are: if they aren’t bone dry then you don’t need to water them.
One way to water hydrangeas in the winter is to make a small hole of a big bucket and place filled with water at the base of the plant allowing the water to trickle out slowly. This is almost like the plant is self-hydrated as it needs it. Another option is to turn the hose on at a slow cricket at the base of the plant leaving it there for an hour.
The colder the temperatures the easier it will be to water them with this method rather than spraying from above. Spraying from above has the risk of the water turning to ice as it falls onto the plant. Another way to prevent drying out in the winter is to water daily right after composting, before mulching, and before the ground freezes over.
More factors to consider
Another method for winter survival is to add compost to the based of the plant during the fall and before adding the mulch for temperature protection. This will allow the compost to break down over the winter preparing the nutrients for the spring.
You must be careful and not add nitrogen to the compost or soil because this would encourage them to add new leaves at a very late season. The best thing to use is well-aged manure or other organic matter then cover it with mulch.
This type of nutrient-rich matter should be applied in the early fall if you have harsh, long winter but if you are in a warmer climate with mild winters than it can be applied in the late fall or early winter.
There are a few pests and diseases to which hydrangeas are susceptible. These are:
- Botrytis blight: occurs when the area around the hydrangeas is water-soaked and it can spread irregular brown splotches. To prevent this avoid watering late in the day and only water at the base near the roots.
- Slugs: common in many gardens, they will chew through all the leaves
- Powdery mildew: this can occur on all hydrangeas but the big leaves are the most susceptible, it is a fungal growth that gives the leaves a yellow or purple blotchy look. This is usually the result of drastic temperature changes in one day: hot days with cool nights and affects potted indoor hydrangeas more than the garden variety. This can be prevented by reducing humidity and increasing air circulation.
- Root rot: this can occur on the oak leaf, which is usually used for landscaping, it causes wilting and is brought on by drought conditions. Avoid excess humidity by watering in the morning and not leaving the soil soaked.
- Aphid: these are insects attracted to the hydrangeas building large populations on them. This can cause leaf yellowing or fungal growth if the aphids have secreted a sugary liquid.
The secret to happy blooming hydrangea is when or if you decide to prune. The importance of pruning correctly does not detract from using the right location for sunlight and preparing the soil with composting or fertilizers. Pruning is not the same as removing dead flowers, which with hydrangeas is called deadheading.
Pruning is more invasive and it is used to maintain the shape or removed visibly dead growth. What parts and when to prune are dictated by the type of hydrangea you have and when it blooms as well as how it cultivates its future buds.
Pruning times vary depending on the type of hydrangea:
- Bigleaf: Summer after it has bloomed
- Oakleaf: Summer after it has bloomed
- Panicle: Late winter, right before the spring
- Smooth: right before the spring
- Mountain: Summer, after it has bloomed
- Climbing: Summer after flowering
Generally, those hydrangeas that bloom in the summer need to be pruned afterward, but with some limitations. The summer bloomers are also those shrubs that grow the buds for a new bloom inside the stems of the existing shrubs.
That means that when pruning the gardener needs to be careful to only cut away those branches that are truly dead wood or if doing it by seasons to prune only in the early spring. It’s also good to leave the faded blooms over the winter months and remove them in the early spring.
Those hydrangeas that bloom when recently planted, the panicle and smooth ones, should only be pruned before flowers have begun to form. This is because these two varieties bloom on the current season’s branches and not the branches from past seasons.
That is why they are called new wood bloomers. These are best pruned in the late winter as they lie dormant, even then only prune away dead branches.
If you want a fully plant the best option is prune down to the base. The two oldest stems leaving behind the newer stems.
The most important thing to having thriving hydrangeas is maintaining a balance in their care. Balance in the amount of water given, in pruning them, and in the type of compost used. Only then will each year bring forth the luscious and abundant blooms for which this plant is best known.
While the hydrangea is thought of as a hardy plant, and in comparison, it is less finicky than others, it can also be delicate. Too much water or too little water and it will have difficulties rooting. Its roots are very sensitive to temperature changes, especially in the winter requiring particular care during the winter months.
Since they are most commonly planted as shrubs they are exposed to all the seasons in those areas of the world that experience them. For this reason, it is one of those few plants that need both composting and mulching to survive the winter.
In extreme conditions, it’s recommended wrapping them rather than surrounding them with wooden and stakes and wiring.
The stakes are placed to avoid foraging and whole digging near the roots by rodents and bunnies during the winter months. The balance continues after the winter months have ended as it is important to remove the mulch before the temperature rise.
Too much heat with the mulch still covering the ground around the plant can lead to root. Another delicate area in their care is pruning, which like all shrubs needs to be done close to the base of the dried leaf and dried bloom to avoid accidentally pruning away the new buds that are grown within the old wood of the previous year.
When maintaining a balance you will have a yearly production of beautiful, bountiful flowers that can be used in a variety of ways to decorate the insides of your homes. Whether its a bouquet for a wedding or a wreath on a door you will always enjoy their abundant beauty.