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Spring Plant Care: Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas are to Cape Cod like corn fields are to the Midwest – we tend to see them everywhere. While hydrangeas are not native to our region alone, they can thrive here – and are forever tied to our special coastal community. Simply put, we just love them.

So how can we do our best by Cape Cod’s favorite perennial? This time of year, it’s mostly about food and water – just like growing kids! Shrubs wake up in the springtime, so it is important to take time to maintain them early in the season.

Now: Fertilizing

Replenish nutrients for onset of new spring growth. Hydrangeas require moderate and balanced fertilization – we recommend a 10-10-10 blend. Sprinkle fertilizer on top of soil around base, about 6 inches from stems. A fresh layer of compost also improves soil. Scratch compost and fertilizer into top 2 inches of soil and water immediately

Now: Watering

Regular watering in spring, especially if your shrubs get full sun. Water approximately once per week, 1-2 inches each time. Your plants may need more frequent watering if top 6 inches of soil start to become dry. Adding mulch will help to retain water; about 2-3 inches deep is great

Later: Pruning

Only spring flowering varieties need pruning – these are types that produce new growth/buds in summer (summer and fall flowering hydrangeas don’t need spring pruning, but you can always trim damaged or overgrown branches)Pruning should happen as soon as they stop flowering, or you may remove new buds. Cut out old stems that just bloomed, trim back any overgrown stems to maintain shape. Rinse pruning shears in solution of 1 part bleach and 9 parts water to disinfect

Got the blues? A note about color. Love those blue hydrangeas? For the big leaf variety (Hydrangea macrophylla), the color of the flowers is dependent upon the pH of the soil. Blue blooms like acidic soil. The recipe: dissolve 1/4 cup aluminum sulfate in 1 gallon of water, and water the plant with solution weekly for 4 weeks, with a second application during n the summer.