published Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

Five Tips: How to grow better hydrangeas

Although about 23 species of hydrangeas exist in the United States, only five are widely grown here, according to the U.S. National Arboretum.

The different varieties have certain preferences, but all the plants like to be hydrated, said Craig Walker, self-proclaimed “perennial nut” at The Barn Nursery.

“Hydrangeas do like water,” he said. “They’re going to grow better and bloom better if they get plenty of water.”

The color of the hydrangeas also depends upon the variety and even the soil. Limelight hydrangeas, for example, are typically white and can even take on a green tint.

Gardeners can alter soil to affect the blooms’ color. Walker said adding aluminum sulfate to the soil will increase the blue tint, while adding garden lime can make them more pink.

Ultimately, he said, planting hydrangeas is easy, even for the novice gardener, as long as you “loosen up your soil, keep them watered, give them the afternoon shade and enjoy them.”

Hydrangeas also can be dried easily, according to the USNA. Let blooms develop a “papery” feel, then cut stems and hang upside down.

Five Tips

1) Water early in the morning or late in the evening.

2) Water at the base. Wetting the foliage, especially at night, can cause disease.

3) Choose your spot carefully; hydrangeas will do best in afternoon shade.

4) Amend the soil with a good topsoil or compost to help loosen and fertilize the soil.

5) Take care when trimming. Most of the snowball blooms grow on old wood.

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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