Hydrangea means water tub in Greek.

Hydrangeas are hardy to zone 8.

Hydrangeas should be pruned for the last time August 1.

Hydrangeas are Nature's little pH tester.

Hydrangeas are thirsty girls.

Hydrangeas love partial sun.

Hydrangeas can change colors--green, white, blue, pink, green--depending on the acidity of the soil.

Hydrangeas love very rich soil.

Hydrangeas will not flower if you prune in late summer, winter, or spring.

Hydrangeas should have their spent flowers removed as soon as possible for new blooms.

Hydrangeas usually only grow to about six feet tall, but Pee Gee Hydrangeas can grow to twenty five feet tall.

Hydrangeas need protection from very harsh weather: cold that is below 25 degrees and heat that is full sun.

Hydrangeas love to be planted in the hole with compost.

Hydrangeas are easy to propagate and give away.

Hydrangeas are native to asia, mainly Japan, but also China, Korea, and Indonesia.

Hydrangea flowers are produced from early spring to late autumn.


Hydrangeas: The Bouncing Beauty of the South

Hydrangeas are happy little girls when they can sit in the morning sun and enjoy the afternoon sun. They will grow in afternoon sun, but they get a little sad and need their tender spirits revived with more watering. Remember: They're tender little southern belles not solid little country girls, like phloxes, so don't make them take full sun. They like their soil just right–not too wet and not too dry. They are in full dressy bloom from May to July, but when their bloom starts to fade, remove the faded flowers--you may get some more blooms in the fall! Yay!

Giving The Girls a Home: Planting

Early fall is the best time to plant new Hydrangeas. You'll have to dig a hole 2 times as deep and wide as the root ball. Break up soil in the hole and mix in 1 inch compost–this will be her important vitamins. Gently remove her from her container and loosen soil around the outside of her root ball. Next, set her in the hole so she is at the same level she was in the pot. You may need to add dirt back into the hole to raise her up. Fill in the hole around her with the leftover soil and pack her in gently. Give her a nice long drink of water to remove air pockets. Mulch her well with compost, and you are set to go.

Blue or Pink? Fertilization

Want to put fresh color in your girls' tresses? Change your hydrangeas' color from pink to blue. To make your girls blue, dissolve 1 tablespoon of alum (aluminum sulfate) in a gallon of water and drench the soil around the plant in March, April, and May. To make your girls pink, dissolve 1 tablespoon of hydrated lime in a gallon of water and drench the soil around the plant in March, April, and May. BUT DON'T GET IT ON HER LEAVES, they'll brown--think of it like hair color on your skin. It looks ugly.

Fertilize liberally in the spring, in about May, and again in August. Wait until June to fertilize in more northern areas. Use a good balanced, slow-release, fertilizer and apply a cup around the base of a very small plant, and 1-2 cups around a very large plant. Spread out to drip line, but don't get it next to the trunk. Mulch with homemade compost to cover the roots. Never fertilize a plant that looks sick or wilted; it will just stress her more--almost everybody who feels under the weather wants to be left alone, so leave her alone.

To Prune or Not to Prune

Prune your girls--think of it as plastic surgery for your flowers. Lift, nip, and tuck: to reduce the size; to reshape the plant; to remove old, non-productive, or frost-bitten branches, or to remove faded blossoms. But if you want blooms in the spring, DO NOT PRUNE AFTER AUGUST 1 and remove only 1/3 of the oldest woody stems each year by cutting to the ground. Hydrangeas grow on the old wood from the previous year-- see the picture, upper right, above. Clusters of larger flowers will be produced if the plant is thinned down to half of the original number of stems. Alternatively, pinching out the tips of the new growth--prior to budding--will produce many more flowers, but the clusters will be smaller.

"Cleaning Up" consists of removing any shoots that did not harden off by the onset of winter and which were damaged by early fall frosts, those damaged during the winter, and those precocious shoots damaged by late spring frosts. Cut these stems back to new, vigorous growth in late April to early May. Cut the entire shoot down to the ground if it shows no sign of rejuvenation. This severe pruning often results in a proliferation of new shoots from the base of the plant. Remove some of these stems to allow sunlight and air currents to reach the center of the plant. While the new stems will not bloom during the current season, they should put on a healthy display next season.

The next form of pruning after they have started to bloom is dead-heading or removal of spent blooms. Cut the spent blooms, along with the flowering stalk, back to the uppermost pair of new buds. Be careful not to damage any of the new green shoots.

Major face lifts for old ladies requires a rejuvenative--but more severe--pruning. While a young hydrangea, like a young woman, needs little additional pruning except for dead-heading, removing dead stems, removing brown leaves, and removing the occasional misbehaving stem that spoils her appearance, older hydrangeas, like older women, may need much more help, a more severe pruning. Once your girls have matured, cut out about one-third of the leggiest, oldest stems each growing season. By doing this, you will let sunlight get down to her center, and you encourage the new stem growth. This is best done during a mild break in the winter, such as January or February, when you can clearly see her structure and you run no risk of hurting shoots. If one of your girls has become too big or leggy for her site or if she's gnarled, or both, or has been damaged, cut all her stems down to about a foot and a half from the ground. Remember: doing this means you won't have any blooms for that current growing season, but you will get a multitude of new shoots. Once they have started to grow, thin the new growth out to a reasonable number by cutting them down to the ground. By autumn, she will have grown a good framework of stems, and her flowering should occur again in the spring. However, her new stems will not be strong and will be a little weak, so they will need another season to get sturdy. Reserve this type of severe pruning for unrepentantly disheveled and irretrievable hydrangeas.

Making Babies, Otherwise Known as Propagating

If you want more pretty little girls around or you want to give some to your friends, it's easy: make babies! But Hydrangea babies are not made the traditional way; ya gotta do a little cutting. Propagate anytime between April to August. Propagate from the ends of her non-flowering shoots which have two or three pairs of leaves--they make the best cuttings. Propagate with a sharp and clean knife. After cutting a 6-8 inch healthy stem, strip the lower half of the leaves from the stem. Next, dip about 3/4 inch of the stem's cut end into some rooting hormone, and put the cutting into clean, moist sand, vermiculite or sphagnum moss, about an inch deep. Create a mini-greenhouse over the cutting using poly film over a wire frame. Place the cutting in a bright spot--NOT full sun--until the roots form. After rooting the cutting, it should be planted in a mix of rich soil such loam and peat moss. Not up to that complicated task? Good News: Hydrangea cuttings may also root when simply placed in a jar of water. Much easier!

Well done is better than well said.