Hydrangeas for Mom
Hydrangeas Never Go Out of Style
Casual and Elegant
A true garden classic, hydrangeas have associations with both American backyards and Mediterranean villas. That’s part of what makes them so perfect for California gardens. They’re casual, but elegant. And they grow beautifully with very little care.
Three Popular Types
It’s the mophead and lacecap hydrangeas that most people know and love, although oakleaf hydrangeas do well in California, too. The names are descriptive: mopheads have huge, round globes of multiple small flowers, while lacecaps have flower heads with “buds” (actually, very tiny flowers) surrounded by a rim (cap) of large flowers. Oakleaf hydrangea flower heads are conical with leaves shaped like oak leaves that turn red in fall.
Mopheads have a wider color range: white, pink, blue, purplish and red. Lacecaps are white, pink or blue. Oakleaf hydrangeas are white, but they will flush quite pink as they age.
Changing Pink or Blue
Pink and blue hydrangeas will change their color depending on soil acidity or alkalinity. Acidic soils will cause flowers to be blue, alkaline soils will turn flowers pink. Here in California, our soils are alkaline, so to get blue flowers you’ll need to apply aluminum sulfate, sometimes called hydrangea “bluing”. To intensify pink or red flowers, apply superphosphate. White hydrangeas remain white no matter the soil.
Siting and Care
Plant hydrangeas where they will be shaded from afternoon sun. They can have direct morning sun and late afternoon sun, however. Or, dapples sun all day. They can also be in total shade, providing the light is very bright. Give them well-amended, well-draining soil. Hydranges are very low care. They need regular water, so situate them where they will be well watered two to three times a week. They rarely are attacked by insects or disease.
Pruning is Important
These three hydrangeas bloom on “old wood”, meaning woody stems that are produced the previous year. To increase blooming, remove the stems that flower to within three to four inches of the ground after flowers are spent. This will encourage new stems that will flower the next year. Do not remove stems that don’t flower.
Breeders have recently been at work creating “reblooming” hydrangeas, meaning that they bloom more than once during the year, extending the flowering season. ‘Endless Summer’ and ‘All Summer Beauty’ are two of the most popular.