What a fitting time of the year it is to talk about Hydrangeas; due to their favourite epithet being “Christmas flower”. Growing into a handsome big shrub that gets covered by brilliantly coloured big blooms, a must have for gardens with shady areas and a sure bet to enthral with their flowers. They tend to need a bit of a rest after all that flowering, thus they lose their leaves during winter making them deciduous.
- Depending on the colour of flower that you are looking for – be it blue, pink, white and all shades in between – one has to change the pH of the soil, but more about that later.
- Hydrangeas need a semi-shade spot in the garden. Morning-sun-afternoon-shade is ideal, which makes them perfect for that tricky south side of the garden.
- Due to their lush big leaves they will require regular watering. To help save water, mulch around their base and add more as soon as the mulch breaks down.
- Think of planting them close to a down-pipe so that they can get some of that lovely rainwater.
- The change in flower colour is what really sets Hydrangeas apart. Changing the pH of the soil alters the colour of the flowers.
- This works depending on the pH of the soil, a pH of 7 is neutral, anything lower than 7 is acidic and above 7 is alkaline. Hydrangeas in acidic soil tend to produce blue flowers, whilst neutral produces white flowers and alkaline masses of pink blooms. The shades can vary tremendously and it is very rewarding to see different colours created.
- To make the soil more acidic cover with acidic mulch when planting, repeating every year. Feeding your Hydrangea with aluminium sulphate or an acid plant feed is a guarantee for blue flowers.
- If you fancy pink blooms applying agricultural-lime will increase the alkalinity of the soil, but bear in mind changes made to the pH of the soil will only be seen the next year.
- A great idea is to plant them in pots, which will keep them smaller and allow you to change the colour of the flowers without affecting the plants around it, as most plants prefer a neutral soil.
TIPS FOR GROWING HYDRANGEAS
- One can prune Hydrangeas in spring as soon the buds start swelling, but only prune back to where there are still buds because if you prune into the old wood there is a chance that it won’t send out fresh shoots.
- The severity of the pruning dictates the size of the bush; if you want a big shrub give it a good pruning or if you require a more compact plant only give it a light pruning.
- After flowering give them a light pruning to remove all the spent flower heads.
- Fungus can become a problem in rainy weather so spray them with a general purpose fungicide after heavy rains.
- Closer to Autumn one can ignore any fungus or unsightly leaves as your Hydrangea will naturally drop its leaves during Winter.
- Hydrangeas work great as a cut flower and is perfect for bringing colour into the home during December.
Looking after Hydrangeas is really easy and they make a lovely colourful filler for those shady areas. They can be planted any time of the year but planting one now will ensure that it is established by flowering time next year.