My hydrangeas don’t / won’t bloom is a lament uttered by many gardeners who are new to growing the much loved-old-fashioned plant. Getting your plant to bloom is really all about proper Pruning, Winter weather conditions, and Light.
Pruning Your Hydrangeas ..Improper pruning of hydrangeas is the number one reason the plant does not produce flowers. There are basically two different kinds of hydrangeas; ones that bloom on old wood and ones that bloom on both old and new wood. Old Wood is branch growth produced in the previous gardening season (last year) that has survived over the Winter and re-leafed out again. New Wood is all new growth made this growing season (this year) on the plant. If a person has a hydrangea that blooms on old wood, and cuts it back in Fall, Winter or early Spring to make the plant smaller, they have by pruning cut off all the flower producing buds.
There are two different times during the year when you can either cut back (prune), or neaten up the plant. The first, if you want to cut the plant back a lot is right after the plant has bloomed. Any new growth made after the hard cut back, that growing season, should have next years flower buds on it. The second, the one I do, is let the plant tell
me you where and how much it wants to be pruned. In early to mid Spring wait to see which branches start to leaf out, and which branches show no signs of life. Prune the branches that have completely died and any dead tips of branches that have only partially survived the Winter. If you are not sure if a branch is alive or not, take your thumb nail and scrape into its bark. If it is a beige color it is dead. If it is a lime green that branch is alive, so leave it. Sometimes hydrangea branches that have leafed out will die, this is not uncommon. Just prune them off.
Weather Conditions also effect the hydrangea’s ability to flower. If you have a cold Winter with many days that go below zero degrees farenheit, the base and roots of the hydrangea that produces on old wood will not be killed, but its branches above ground will. All the branches that would produce flowers that following late Spring to Summer will be lost. All the new growth coming up that Spring, emerging from the ground will not have any mature flower buds on it, so there will be no flowers that year. The only hydrangeas that insure blooms no matter how cold the Winter are ones that bloom on both old and new wood like Endless Summer.
Light also effects the hydrangea’s ability to bloom. Many garden plant tags say site hydrangeas in a place that gets partial to full shade. Too much shade and you get few, if any flowers. Years ago I planted mine in a place that was shaded and got one or two flowers per year. While on a vacation to Newport Rhode Island USA, I saw hydrangeas out in full sun lining a driveway at a historical house all covered with flowers. That Fall I moved mine to a place that gets 4 Plus hours of direct Morning Sunlight coming from the east, but dappled afternoon light. Since moving them to that location they have all produced fine, if not killed back from extreme cold Winters.
A friend told me she tried siting hers in a place that got direct afternoon sunlight coming from the south. The plants almost instantaneously started to fry in that Oh to Hot sunny area and wilted. She quickly moved them.
My next door neighbor has an old-fashioned white variety of hydrangea that blooms on both old and new wood, in her zone 5-4 garden in upstate New York USA. The plant, as it got older expanded outward from the center of its base. She is able to dig / pry off new growth (stems and roots) from the base of the plant, and plant them wherever she wants in her garden. She has no trouble getting them to flourish on the north side of her house, under trees, or even in almost all after noon sunlight.
I think when siting hydrangeas, look for a place that gets 3 to 4 hours of direct, preferably eastern light. If the plant does not flower, or looks to be tortured in any way, move it to another location.
Feeding Hydrangeas ..All hydrangeas no matter what variety or color are acid loving plants. In the Spring and again in the Fall if you can remember, sprinkle a time release plant food like Espoma Holly Tone for Acid Loving Plants around the plant’s drip edge. The drip edge is the outside edge of the plant and some of the outer center of the plant’s base, but not the exact center of the plant where it comes up from the ground. Follow the directions on the package for the amount of product to use on the plant. If you have blue hydrangeas, the acid based plant fertilizer will make them a deep bright blue. Without the acid in the fertilizer they will be a more pinkish to mauve color. The acid does not instantaneously turn a pinkish flower blue. The plant will have to absorb and process it for a few weeks or months before flowering to produce the blue flower.
So there you have it, I hope this post answered any questions you had pertaining to hydrangeas. Now, get off the computer, you know the garden needs weeding ;-]
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