Hydrangeas are the spectacular flowering jewel of any summer garden. The hearty shrub is capable of withstanding dry periods, is low maintenance and truly beautiful when flowering. Here are some facts to consider when introducing hydrangeas to your garden.
It was once believed hydrangeas needed regular, deep root watering to survive. Recent droughts have demonstrated just how hearty the hydrangea is and its capacity to withstand dry heat. But a good drink of water once a week — particularly on hot dry days — will help your hydrangeas thrive, especially when its leaves drop.
Hydrangeas thrive in cool temperatures, especially the rainy periods from late winter to early spring. They have been known to grow to perfection in coastal areas and can even withstand a salt laden breeze. They are not particular about the soil in which they grow.
Hydrangeas grow happily in dappled sunlight and particularly like afternoon shade. Too much shade will mean fewer blossoms. The plant will also thrive in direct sunlight, although the blooms will rapidly become bleached and colourless.
The plants are not demanding when it comes to feeding. Every spring, spread a few shovels of cow manure around each plant and supplement with blood and bone fertiliser over the roots. This provides all the nutrients the plant needs throughout the year.
Hydrangeas are best pruned in autumn or winter. Failing to prune your hydrangeas won’t stop them flowering, however they will produce smaller flowers with a shorter blooming period. Pruning too hard will delay the bloom or even prevent it. You can tell where to prune by looking closely at the plant. Flower-producing buds are fat. Further down the stem the buds change, becoming small and almost black. If you make the mistake of cutting too many of these immature buds, you’ll get lots of foliage but limited flowers.
Start by cutting back one or two of the older branches that flowered the previous summer. These have slightly spotted, soft, pale green growth. Old or neglected plants need to be pruned back hard and then watered heavily. Doing this heavy pruning will sacrifice next summer’s bloom but is necessary because it completely rejuvenates tired plants.