Caring For Gift Hydrangeas

Caring For Gift Hydrangeas

Our customers love Hydrangeas, so it’s no wonder that the spring gift plants that are in the store make people smile. We stock pink and blue flowering Hydrangeas from mid-March through Mother’s Day, and they are popular presents as well as a reminder that summer is coming. Many wonder how to care for these plants indoors, and if they can be successfully grown outside. If you’ve received a Hydrangea as a gift this spring, or purchased one for yourself, here is what you need to know.

Most gift hydrangeas aren’t labeled as to variety, so you may need to guess about how large the plant might grow in the landscape. Mosts mopheads will be pink when grown in alkaline soil and blue when grown in acidic soil. If you plant this pink hydrangea outside on Cape Cod it’s likely to be blue in the years to come.

The most important thing about caring for your hydrangea indoors is not to let it dry out. This is most easily done by transplanting it into a slightly larger pot right away. Choose a pot that is an inch or two larger on all sides, with drainage holes, and use a fresh potting soil. Do not put any rocks or other materials in the bottom…just potting soil. This repotting will provide a layer of soil that holds moisture around what is most likely a root-bound plant.

Many ask, “Will this Hydrangea live outside?” or “Can I plant this Hydrangea in my yard?” On Cape Cod, the answer is yes, but if you live in colder areas the plant may not flower for you in years to come. Hydrangeas form their flower buds in August for the following summer, and blooming depends on those buds making it through the winter. In areas where the temperatures go below 5° in the winter, the buds are likely to get killed by the cold. The plant might live, and grow back from the roots every spring, but it won’t flower.

The color of mophead (Hydrangea macrophylla) flowers develops over time. The pale yellow or green blossoms on these young plants will turn blue as the flowers mature. You don’t have to add anything to the soil to assist in this color development.

On Cape Cod you won’t be able to plant this outdoors until mid to late-May. So you’ll want to keep it in good shape until then. Remove any foil or other gift wrapping and repot the plant as described above. Place it on a saucer in a bright location. If it’s in a very sunny window, the Hydrangea is likely to dry out quickly, so pulling it out of the hottest sun is advisable. Water the plant well when the soil starts to look and feel dry. Don’t let the plant wilt if you can help it, since wilted flowers turn brown quickly.

Your gift Hydrangea has been well fertilized by the grower, so you don’t have to add fertilizer when this plant is indoors. When you plant it in the garden you can sprinkler some Holly-tone or Bio-tone in the area before planting, and spread an inch of compost in a wide area before digging the hole. But while the plant is indoors, keeping it watered is what’s most important.

While caring for your Hydrangea indoors, start looking outside for the perfect place to plant it later in the spring. These Hydrangeas flower longest when they are grown in morning sun and afternoon shade. Although mophead Hydrangeas will tolerate full sun, the flowers will brown quickly in such locations.

If you live in a colder climate, or if you don’t have a good place to plant your gift Hydrangea in your yard, you can grow these plants in pots. Use an attractive but light weight container that’s at least 12″ in diameter along with a good quality potting mix. (We like The Coast of Maine Bar Harbor Blend.) Keep the pot in a dappled shade or morning sun location all summer, watering the pot well if the soil is dry. In October, when the leaves start to change color, pull the pot into an unheated garage for the winter. Water it whenever the soil is dry. Note that these plants will break dormancy early in the spring, so they are likely to already have flower buds when you pull them back outdoors in May.

These gift hydrangeas are just a peek at the shrubs that will soon flood into our store on West Main Street. Once the warmer weather arrives in May, our nursery will be fully stocked with a selection of Hydrangeas in assorted sizes, flower types and colors.
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