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Tree Talk - Metropolitan Forestry Services

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January 10, 2020

Hydrangea Care for Optimum Blooms

monarch butterfly on a hydrangea bloom

Here are some helpful tips on Hydrangea care for this beloved St. Louis Landscape staple!

Fertilize throughout blooming season (spring – early summer)

  • Higher percent of phosphorus will encourage flowering
  • Too much nitrogen will yield large green leaves, but stunt flowering
  • This often happens when hydrangeas are planted downhill from a fertilized turf area

Wilting doesn’t always mean that the hydrangea needs more water

  • Most hydrangeas prefer moist well drained soil, but not wet (will cause roots to rot)
  • Too much sun exposure may cause temporary wilting, they may perk back up within a few hours after the sun fades

If they do need water, follow these guidelines

  • Heavy clay soils will produce more runoff so it’s best to use slow steady watering (drip irrigation, hand watering)
  • Use mulch! This will help conserve moisture in the soil for longer periods of time as well as keep the ground cool

Location, location, location…

  • Most prefer full sun/part shade, but research the type being planted. Some tolerate direct sun better than others
  • Climbing hydrangeas need to be placed in full shade
  • Bigleaf hydrangeas like full sun in the morning and some shade for the rest of the day
  • Hydrangeas planted in less than ideal locations may need supplemental watering and mulch to keep them hydrated and cool
  • Hydrangeas appreciate some winter protection
  • Place them close to a barrier for protection from ice and wind (evergreens, fences, structures)

Research your hydrangea

  • New wood – when flowers grow on current year’s growth
  • Old wood – when flowers grow on last year’s growth
  • Some (like ‘Endless Summer’) can bloom on both old and new wood. Pruning on these should be kept to a minimum


  • Focus on deadheading and prune damaged wood
  • Pruning should be done immediately after flowering, before the next set of flower buds are formed
  • Bigleaf hydrangeas start their bud formation for the following year in late summer, so prune before they form
  • Pruning will stimulate new growth and more bud formation

The Missouri Botanical Garden has hundreds of pages of different types of hydrangeas. Give us a call and we can help find a beautiful option for your yard!

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