Hydrangea has taken the stage in our summer gardens. Its easy elegance and adaptability to sun or shade make it a great choice for any garden. You can cut the flowers for arrangements or leave them to dry on the stems for a pretty winter snow scene. Hydrangeas offer an important burst of blooms in late summer and are easy to grow.
In full sun, Hydrangea paniculata really shines! ‘Limelight’, one of the most popular, is a large six to eight foot shrub. Look for smaller varieties such as ‘Bobo’, ‘Little Lime’ or ‘White Diamonds’ if you want to tuck one into a perennial bed. With cultivars that can grow in full sun or partial shade, this is the most adaptable hydrangea, and a truly versatile garden plant. This hydrangea offers panicle-shaped sterile and fertile flowers that can be chartreuse, white and shades of pink. Fall color ranges from yellow to orange and rose. Many new introductions make this a useful and easy-care plant for all styles of gardens. Sizes range from four to eight feet, with some available in tree form. Consider adding one to the perennial border for its long bloom time or plant in masses for drama.
These hydrangeas prefer moist, well-drained soil with good loam but very tolerant of our alkaline soil. You may prune them in early spring to control size. Leave dried flowers on the plant to provide winter interest and remove in spring.
For the shade garden, consider the heirloom Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’. Try a newer introduction such as ‘Bella Anna’ that blooms pink and ‘Incrediball’ which has sturdy, upright stems. These are the first hydrangeas to bloom in early summer, continuing through July. Flowers are typically a large mophead type. The flowers all start out green, turn white or pink and then return to green. At this point, they can be cut for drying. They are prized for their long bloom time and relative ease of care.
These hydrangeas thrive on shade in average soils, although they will tolerate some sun with adequate moisture. Grow in masses to brighten up a shady area or to add bones to a cottage style garden. Mature plants may require a grow hoop for support. Prune in late fall or early spring to six to 12 inches or just down to the first set of buds if you desire smaller sized shrubs.
For dramatic fall color, Hydrangea quercifolia, turns deep burgundy wine in autumn and there are many varieties available including ‘Sikes Dwarf’ and ‘Snow Queen’. Chosen for its four seasons of interest with large flowers, excellent foliage, and exfoliating bark, oakleaf hydrangea adds a coarse texture to the garden. Flowers are white changing to a pink/mauve and finally drying to papery brown. There is a size available for virtually any space, ranging from three to six feet at maturity. These hydrangeas are virtually pest free except for rabbits and deer. Provide protection from fall through spring to prevent animal damage. Perfect for the shade garden they prefer a moist well-drained soil and will not thrive in a dry soil. For this hydrangea, prune after flowering to control size only if necessary. Oakleaf blooms on old wood, meaning flower buds are set on last year’s growth. If you cut them down in spring, you will remove flower buds for the coming year.
In a small space, try Hydrangea macrophyllya, which reaches three feet high and wide and blooms all summer long. Macrophyllas are a beautiful group of plants known for their great foliage and flowers that can be white or shades of pink, lavender and blue. The newer cultivars, including the Endless Summer Series, have been cultivated to bloom on new and old wood so even if the winter kills the old growth, you should still get flowering later in the summer. Their ideal growing conditions include consistently moist but well drained soil, morning sun and afternoon shade or dappled shade. These hydrangeas do not do well in full or hot afternoon sun.
Some macrophyllas are the “blue” hydrangeas that thrive in acidic soil. Our soil pH is alkaline which produces a pink flower instead of blue. In order to change the flower color, we recommend tilling Espoma Soil Acidifier and organic materials such as pine fines, pine needles, decomposed oak leaves, or The Growing Place Choice Garden Mix into the soil before planting to change the flowers to lavender or bluish. Deadheading the Endless Summer at the first set of opposite leaves will encourage re-blooming. Be patient with the new cultivars, they are slow to acclimate after planting and may not bloom much for the first three years while expending their energy on establishing their roots. We recommend using a slow release, organic fertilizer, like Espoma Holly-tone on re-blooming hydrangeas. You will want to wait until the new growth appears in the spring and only prune out any dead stems. Cultivars include: ‘Endless Summer‘, a mophead flower, and ‘Twist ‘n’ Shout‘ that has a lacecap flower.
Posted on 8/7/2013 at 9:00:00 PM