How to Care for Hydrangea

With over 260 species of hydrangea worldwide, the entire genera of hydrangea is a fast, beautiful world of color. Hydrangea macrophylla, the common "big leaf hydrangea", is grown in American gardens for its lovely lacy flowers. Learn how to care for hydrangea and how to influence the flower color. (Yes, you can change the flower color to some degree!)
Hydrangea macrophylla, or the common big-leaf hydrangea, can be grown in gardening zones 3 through 9 in the United States. It prefers shade or partial shade, with full sun first thing in the morning and shade thereafter.
Hydrangea's lacy flowers are actually a collection of tiny flowers. Large petal flowers are sterile. These surround smaller, star-shaped fertile female flowers.
Hydrangea need rich, well-drained soil and plenty of water. Soil pH affects flower color, as does the presence of aluminum in the soil. White hydrangea flowers cannot change color; white is a genetic (inherited) trait. Pink and blue, however, can be influenced.
To turn hydrangea flowers pink, the Virginia Cooperative Extension recommends dissolving 1 tablespoon of hydrated lime and dissolving it in a gallon of water. Water it into the soil around the plant March, April, May and June. To turn hydrangea flowers blue, dissolve 1 tablespoon of aluminum sulfate in a gallon of water and follow the same watering schedule. White flowers cannot change color, and you can't make blue or pink flowers turn white. White is a genetic trait.
Hydrangeas are beautiful harbingers of summer. They're an old-fashioned favorite plant for the landscape. The cool purple, blue, pink and white hues blend in well with many landscape plants and add a gorgeous focal point to the garden. If you're lucky enough to have a hydrangea in your garden, I hope that these tips are helpful.

Jeanne Grunert
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  • Jea1958888 Jea1958888 on Jul 21, 2015
    I have 4 bushes of hydrangea. 2 have never bloomed in the 3-4 yrs I have had them, Why?

  • Janis Cramer Janis Cramer on Aug 23, 2015
    Love hydrangeas. Zone 5 First one is "City Line" and planted 5 more this year and more to come. Some hydrangeas bloom on new growth and some not. Check your plant to see which one you have (jeanannc32).