Hydrangeas are one of the most beloved plants in our gardens, and for good reason—they provide lush greenery and gorgeous flowers year after year. Many gardeners have questions about pruning, color changes (pink or blue), basic care, transplanting, and how to get stubborn ones to bloom.

How to Grow Hydrangea from Cuttings shows how simple it is to create new plants from the ones you have.

Some images courtesy of Proven Winners

What Kind of Hydrangea is this?

There are 49 species of hydrangeas.

These 6 types are commonly grown in Canada and the United States.

Once you know which variety you are growing, you will know when or if to prune. Contrary to popular advice, most hydrangeas do not require pruning. You can see the hydrangea pruning list here.

I have answered Frequently Asked Questions here.

1Bigleaf – Hydrangea macrophylla

Cityline® Venice Bigleaf Hydrangea macrophylla by Proven Winners

Also known as florist’s hydrangea, Hortensia, mophead, or lacecapHardy to USDA zone 5Bloom on old woodDo not pruneProtect in winter and during spring frosts to prevent buds damageRelated: How to Propagate Hydrangea Cuttings

2Panicle – Hydrangea paniculata

Fire Light® Hardy Hydrangea paniculata by Proven Winners

Hardy to zone 3Bloom on new wood when plant is at least two years oldPrune in late winter or early springMay not bloom if sunlight is insufficientLimelight hydrangeas are also a favorite from this category.Need pruning instructions?
See the hydrangea pruning video here. 

3Smooth – Hydrangea arborescens

Incrediball® Smooth Hydrangea arborescens by Proven Winners

A popular example is Annabelle hydrangeas.

Hardy to USDA zone 3Bloom on new wood when plant is at least two years oldPrune in later winter or early springMay not bloom if sunlight is insufficientRelated: How to Prune Hydrangeas

4Climbing – Hydrangea petiolaris

Climbing hydrangea

Hardy to USDA zone 4Bloom on old woodPlants that are at least 5 years old bloom bestDo not pruneSign up for the Empress of Dirt Creative Gardening Newsletter

5Mountain – Hydrangea serrata

Tiny Tuff Stuff® Mountain Hydrangea serrata by Proven Winners

Hardy to USDA zone 5Bloom on old woodProtect flower buds during spring frostsDo not pruneGet your free Spring Gardening Checklist here

6Oakleaf – Hydrangea quercifolia

Gatsby Gal® Oakleaf Hydrangea quercifolia by Proven Winners

Hardy to USDA zone 5Bloom on old woodPlants that are at least 5 years old bloom bestDo not pruneProtect in winterJoin the Royal Digital Garden Library for unlimited downloads

Answers to Common Hydrangea Questions

1How can I successfully grow hydrangeas?

Choose a variety you love that is well-suited to your growing conditions and gardening zone.Hang on to your plant tag and read it! There is key information there for the successful growing.Choose the best location for sun, soil drainage, and protection from winter winds.Hydrangeas must have well-draining soil. They are fussy about their water: never let them dry out or sit in soggy soil. Even moisture all the way.Some morning and afternoon sun is ideal. Avoid scorching sun. Panicle hydrangeas including Fire Light are the one exception: they can tolerate full sun in northern climates.Most hydrangeas do not require pruning. Know which type you have and only prune if advised (see tips here for identifying and pruning your hydrangea).Cityline® Venice Bigleaf Hydrangea macrophylla by Proven Winners2Can I grow hydrangea from cuttings?

Yes, you can grow new plants from the ones you have by taking cuttings. The full instructions are here: How to Grow Hydrangea from Cuttings.

3How Can I Change the Color of My Hydrangea Flowers?

It is possible to intentionally change the flower color but only with certain varieties: bigleaf (Hydrangea macrophylla) and mountain (Hydrangea serrata). 

You may also find that your hydrangea shifts in color from pink to blue or blue to purple as it adapts to your garden soil.

The color is determined by the availability of aluminum in the soil which in turn can only be accessed within certain pH soil levels.

An established bigleaf or mountain hydrangea will be pink if the soil is alkaline and blue if the soil is acidic.

If a hydrangea has several color blooms like the one in the next photo, it may be transitioning to the current pH level or different parts of the garden soil may have different levels.

Color-Changing Myths Busted

Burying pennies or rusty metal in the soil, or adding pine needles, coffee grounds, epsom salts, vinegar, or aluminum foil near a hydrangea plant will not change the flower color.

4Help! My hydrangea is not blooming! What can I do?

Assuming the plant is healthy and at least two years old, here’s a few things that may be inhibiting blooms.

Is the hydrangea getting too much sun, water, or fertilizer?

Sun: It depends on the variety, but, generally, six hours of dappled sun per day is ideal. Too little or too much and they may not bloom.Water: You never want the plant to sit in dry soil but neither can they tolerate soggy feet. Is your plant in well-drained soil and evenly moist?

Holly-tone by Espoma is an organic fertilizer suitable for hydrangeas in spring.

Fertilizer: Most hydrangea benefit from fertilizing in the spring, but that’s it. Blooms are encouraged by phosphorus (P). Look for fertilizer like Holly-Tone (read about the benefits of organic fertilizers here) or a synthetic fertilizer with NPK 10-30-10 for blooms.
Perhaps you used a fertilizer heavy with nitrogen that encouraged leafy growth instead of flowers? Or, too much was applied?Has the plant been heavily pruned?

A common mistake is to prune hydrangeas that do not need old growth removed and accidentally removing the wood that produces blooms.
If this is the case, it will simply take time for things to regrow. Put away the pruners and your blooms will resume eventually.How old is the hydrangea?

Some hydrangea need to mature a few years before they will bloom reliably.5My hydrangea leaves are turning brown and falling off. What’s going on?

Uneven watering—either too little or too much—can cause problems. Without enough water, leaf tips may turn brown and dry.Do the brown leaves have reddish-purple rings? This may be the fungus anthracnose. Try a google image search to check.
If it is, carefully remove and dispose of the affected leaves and consult a garden nursery expert for treatment recommendations.

6When should I transplant my hydrangea?

The best time to move a hydrangea is late fall (before first frost) or early spring (before buds form).

7If I can only have one, which type should I choose?

My choice is the Limelight hydrangea by Proven Winners. You have to see it in person to grasp just how beautiful it really is. The more famous giant, mophead hydrangeas are well-known for their complete, over-the-top, massive mounds of flowers, and there is a definitely a place in the world for them. But the Limelight has the most graceful, under-stated elegance with its creamy-white flowers tinged with a hint of green that seems to work in just about any garden. Classic beauty! Love it.Limelight is one of the Hardy paniculata hydrangeas at Proven Winners which means it is suitable for colder climates as low as USDA zone 3.This pdf chart is useful for choosing hydrangea right for your zone at a glance: Proven Winners Hydrangea Comparison Table.Limelight® Hardy Hydrangea paniculata by Proven WinnersHow to Plant Hydrangea

I hope you have found this useful and enjoy a nice, long garden love affair with these gorgeous plants.

~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛