5 Mistakes You Should Never Make with Your Hydrangeas
Avoid these common errors, and you’ll be on your way to stunning blooms in no time.
In love with ‘Little Lime’? Swooning over ‘Strawberry Sundae’? Charmed by ‘Vanilla Strawberry’? You’re not alone. Green-thumbed Southerners have been planting hydrangeas for ages, and for good reason. These stunning blooms have a strong visual impact, but require surprisingly little maintenance. There are, however, a few ways to go wrong with your hydrangea care. We’ve rounded up a few of the most common mistakes that can leave your hydrangeas with bare, woody stems and no blooms. Avoid these errors and your hydrangeas will be flourishing in no time.
Of course, these rules vary based on the variety of hydrangea you’re working with. At the end of the day, it’s about understanding the needs of your specific hydrangea variety and tailoring your plans accordingly.
In our guide to caring for hydrangeas, our Editors list pruning with care as the cardinal rule in hydrangea maintenance. “Hydrangeas don't need much pruning, so if you get too bold with the garden shears, you may end up with bare branches come summer,” write our Editors. “When you break out the shears and start to snip, you'll want to remove any dead wood. You can also shorten any wayward branches to help shape the plant.”
In addition to overzealous shearing, pruning at the wrong time is a common mistake that could result in failure to bloom. Here’s our general rule of thumb: “In summer, you'll need to prune your once-blooming French hydrangeas, oakleaf hydrangeas, and mountain hydrangeas. In winter, you should prune smooth hydrangeas and panicle hydrangeas, while you can prune your reblooming French hydrangeas in summer or in winter.”
Lack of sun or shade
Picking a spot to plant your hydrangeas is a crucial decision, and there are many factors to consider. While that French hydrangea may look stunning beside your mailbox, planting in a spot with full, unrestricted sun is one surefire way to jeopardize your blooms.
When it comes to French or Bigleaf hydrangeas, those varieties famed across the South for their stunning clustered blooms, sunlight is a necessary part of the equation to encourage a strong bloom. “They bloom best if given sun in the morning and a little light shade in the afternoon, particularly during the hot summer. If you plant them in all-day shade, they won't bloom,” writes Grumpy.
Oakleaf hydrangeas thrive in the shade and won’t bloom in full sun, while panicle hydrangeas love to soak up full sun and won’t bloom in the shade. Every hydrangea is different.
Planting in dry, poorly-drained soil
Planting in infertile soil can be detrimental to the growth of your hydrangeas. Most hydrangeas prefer loamy, well-drained soil with lots of nutrients—avoid rocky, dry soil.
You should also pay attention to the pH of your soil, which can impact the color of your hydrangeas. For more tips, read up on Grumpy’s guide to hydrangea care.
Planting under big trees
While the sun or shade needs of your hydrangea will vary based on its type, one denominator remains pretty much the same: Don’t plant under big trees. If you plant your hydrangea under a big tree, it’ll be competing with that established ecosystem for water and nutrients. Plant in a spot where your hydrangea can be the star of the show.
Over- or under-watering
French hydrangeas require a substantial amount of water to stay well-nourished and healthy—in the absence of rainfall, you may have to water them every other day. Other varieties, like ‘Limelight’ or ‘Pee Gee’ hydrangeas, can tolerate drought.