Can I Plant My Gift Hydrangea Outside?

Can I Plant My Gift Hydrangea Outside?

Before Easter and Mothers Day our greenhouse is filled with beautiful potted Hydrangea plants. These make lovely gifts but since they are raised in a greenhouse, and are in flower months before their natural blooming time when grown outdoors, many wonder if it’s possible to keep them and plant them in the landscape later.  Here are some tips for success:

  1. Most hydrangeas that are sold as gift plants are hardy on Cape Cod. Like other Hydrangea macrophylla, they will form flower buds in August that will open the following summer. These buds are vulnerable to cold damage if the temperatures drop below 10 degrees in the winter. So like all of our pink and blue hydrangeas, these will have reduced flowering the summer after a cold winter.
  2. Potted Hydrangea plants dry out quickly. This is the most challenging thing about keeping them indoors in April and May. The best thing to do is to immediately transplant your greenhouse Hydrangea into a slightly larger pot. Be sure the pot you use is about an inch larger on all sides and has a drainage hole. Use fresh potting soil to fill the spaces, and don’t cram it in too firmly…pushing the potting soil in a pot squeezes the air out, and those small air spaces are important because that’s where the water flows and the roots grow.
  3. After repotting, keep your Hydrangea in a bright location but not in the sunniest window you have. An Eastern facing window is perfect. Plants will also thrive when near but not directly in a Southern or Western window.
  4. Water your Hydrangea when the soil starts to feel dry – do not let it dry to the point of wilting. Do not have the pot sit in a saucer of water for longer than an hour as this may cause roots to rot.
  5. At the end of May, put your Hydrangea outside in a part-shade location during the day and bring it in at night for a week. After that week, plant your Hydrangea in a place where it will get morning sun and afternoon shade. Keep in mind that most Hydrangea shrubs grow at least four feet high and wide, so don’t let its current small size fool you.


  1. Red toned Hydrangea flowers will be a dark purple or blue in our naturally acidic soils. If the soil remains alkaline the flowers will stay red or pink.

    Red toned Hydrangea flowers will be a dark purple or blue in our naturally acidic soils. If the soil remains alkaline the flowers will stay red or pink.

    These greenhouse-grown hydrangeas may not produce more flowers this summer but given the right location and winter weather they should grow and flower the following year.

    Hydrangeas don’t make great houseplants long-term. But if you live in areas where the winter temperatures go below 5 degrees on a regular basis, you can plant these in pots and over-winter them in a garage or other area where they can be dormant but not go much below 30 degrees. They will leaf out in the garage in March – don’t worry – just keep the soil damp but not swampy wet and put the plants outside once all danger of frost is past. They should come into flower in late-June or early July. Fertilize with equal parts Osmocote and Holly-tone or Flower-tone (one tablespoon each per pot) applied when you place the pot outside for the summer.


  1. Judy Robinson on April 13, 2017 at 4:46 pm

    I have 9 beautiful hydrangea gifts planted over the last twenty years that have done beautifully .

    • kathy on May 25, 2018 at 3:03 am

      where do you plant them east west north or south side of yard. thanks

      • CLFornari on May 25, 2018 at 4:11 pm

        Kathy – these are best planted in a spot where they get morning sun and afternoon shade. They need at least 3 hours of sun but if they are in hot noon or afternoon sun the flowers brown very quickly.

  2. Sandra McCaulley on April 22, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    When did you plant them outside. Thanks

    • CLFornari on April 23, 2018 at 12:05 am

      Plant your gift hydrangeas outside when the NIGHT temperatures are reliably above 50 degrees fahrenheit (10 celsius). Since these are prone to drying out quickly inside, transplant to a slightly larger pot now with new potting soil around the root ball. On Cape Cod we can plant these hydrangeas outdoors in mid to late May.

  3. Michael Slattery on March 14, 2019 at 4:05 pm

    I just received a Hydrangea plant as a gift. Do I remove flowers that fade away while the plant is indoors over the winter?

    • CLFornari on March 14, 2019 at 8:58 pm

      You can either clip off the dried/wilted flowers or not. The important thing is to keep it in a place that gets a half-day of sun and to make sure it doesn’t wilt from drying out.

  4. Ron Kramer on May 10, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    that comment means nothing if you don’t say what zone you’re in. Done beautifully in TX? or in MI? There is a hell of a difference.

  5. Judy on May 13, 2019 at 2:06 am

    I received a beautiful hydrangea potted plant for mother’s day I live in zone 6 can I plant this outdoors or do I leave it in a pot and just enjoy it as it is

    • CLFornari on May 13, 2019 at 2:06 pm

      Without knowing which hydrangea you received, or whether you live in a warm zone 6 or a cold zone 6, it’s hard to answer. But if you got a blue or pink “mophead” hydrangea it will live if you plant it outside but if you’re in a cold zone 6 (if it goes into the single digits for long in the winter, or below zero) it’s very unlikely that the plant will flower for you. These plants form their flower buds in August, and if the winter temps go below 5 degrees those flower buds get killed.

  6. jerry Lynn sams on May 21, 2019 at 5:58 pm

    Have a blue sunset Hydrangea and was wondering about growing it outside in zone 5 South Eastern Mich. I also use wood chips and have been successful at growing a banana tree outside for 14 years

    • CLFornari on May 22, 2019 at 12:50 am

      Since Blue Sunset is a macrophylla that produces flower buds the year before, and those buds are zapped by winter temps in the single digits or below, it’s unlikely that this plant will flower for you when grown outside. It will be root hardy but not bud hardy – so different from a banana that just has to grow back from the roots. If you want to see flowers on this plant again put it in a pot and over-winter in the garage where temps don’t go below freezing. Yes, you can keep it alive in the ground but it won’t flower.

  7. Ginny on June 13, 2022 at 9:44 pm

    I have a beautiful Blue Sunset hydrangea that I have in the house. I’d love to plant it outside but we are zone 4. What is the possibility of this plant surviving our winter? If I overwinter it in the garage do I cut it back?

    • CLFornari on June 20, 2022 at 11:36 am

      Blue Sunset is a Hydrangea macrophylla, so even if the roots live through the winter, you will never see flowers on the plant. These shrubs form their flower buds in July for the next year, and those buds get zapped by temperatures in the single digits or below. Grow it in a pot and overwinter in the garage. NEVER cut it back – the only pruning you do on these plants is to remove dead canes.

  8. Norma Meincken on July 30, 2022 at 11:46 am

    I received a potted hydranga with no name, but care instructions which say not suitable for planting outside. I live in zone 6, supposedly blooms are pink. I want it outside, help. Norma

    • CLFornari on August 1, 2022 at 8:55 am

      It’s probably not one that is bud hardy, so if you plant it outside it won’t flower. You might go ahead and try it, but it’s likely that your cold winter temperatures will zap the flower buds formed the summer before.

  9. Mary on September 11, 2022 at 6:39 pm

    My Easter hydrangea has been outside, in its pot all summer. Is it safe to put it in the ground now before winter?

    • CLFornari on September 12, 2022 at 7:43 am

      Safe if you live where that plant will keep its buds over the winter so it will bloom next year. Not knowing where you live, it’s impossible for us to advise you further.

  10. Mary on September 13, 2022 at 8:03 pm

    I’m sorry. I’m in southern Michigan. There are currently no buds but it looks healthy enough. Was going to plant it under an over hang next to the house, facing East and see how it fares. I was just uncertain how big it will get. Thank you for your help.

    • CLFornari on September 17, 2022 at 9:49 am

      They do have buds now for next year’s flowers – but they are small. Look closely where the leaves attach to the stems. Size is genetic – most of these grow between 3 feet to 5 feet tall and wide. Without knowing the variety you have, it’s impossible to know just how big it will get.

  11. Karry Brass on February 20, 2023 at 9:15 pm

    I have 3 let’s dance macrophylla hydrangeas in containers in zone 5b in my garage. It’s February 20 and I see new branches coming up out the dirt. They do get sun from outside threw the garage window…plants face south in my garage. Only place I could put them. Should I shield it from the sun or let it be?

    • CLFornari on February 27, 2023 at 10:28 am

      Let them be. My hydrangeas in pots in my garage are leafing out now as well. Once it’s warm enough to put them outside just be sure to place them in the shade first so that the leaves they are making now don’t get sunburned. Until then, keep them watered when needed.

  12. Alicia on February 27, 2023 at 7:04 pm

    I saved 5 white hydrangeas from being thrown in the dumpster after the flower and garden show in Seattle along with lots of tulips, daffodils and bluebells. It’s February, and they were forced to bloom early. I live in Washington state, Olympic Peninsula. We are still getting snow, but it’s not really sticking. Temps dropping as low as 23 at night, 30’s to 40’s during the day. Should I wait to plant the hydrangeas? I think these other bulb varieties are more cold hardy so I might go ahead with those. Is there anything I can do give them a stronger chance at survival? My garage is too small to house all of these plants and gets very little light.

    • CLFornari on March 6, 2023 at 1:27 pm

      You should wait until the night temps are above freezing to give them the best chance to survive. However, since they were rescues, and if you have no space in the garage, plant them and hope for the best. Sometimes plants live against all odds!

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