How To Grow Hydrangea Flowers At Home (Oakleaf, Panicle, Bigleaf, Or Smooth!)

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Hydrangeas, with their luxuriant blooms and vibrant colors, have captured the hearts of gardeners and homesteaders worldwide. We can show you how to grow, fertilize, nurture, and prune these breathtaking shrubs. Whether you’re a seasoned green thumb, grizzled flower gardener, or starry-eyed enthusiast, this comprehensive hydrangea garden guide will provide the know-how and skills to cultivate them without stress.

Beautiful hyndrangea flowers growing in a Japanese garden.

We’ll also analyze five of our favorite hydrangea cultivars, including common setbacks new hydrangea gardeners may encounter.

Sound good?

Then let’s grow some together!

Hydrangeas Plant Growing Requirements

Lovely purple hyndrangea flowers growing in Japan.

Hydrangeas thrive when planted in well-draining soil with plenty of organic matter. Fertile, humus-rich soil provides the best conditions for their growth. Try adjusting soil pH to influence bloom color. Acidic soil (pH 6.0 or lower) produces blue flowers, while neutral to alkaline soil (pH 7.0 or higher) yields pink blooms.

Remember to enjoy the large flower heads of hydrangeas, which come in various colors. However, keep in mind that the plant is toxic to animals. 🌸🌿

Read More – 17 Colorful Spring Flowers That Are Easy To Grow – Newbie Friendly!


Massive hydrangea hedge growing and thriving in front of a matching red building.

Hydrangeas thrive in partial shade, with afternoon sunlight dappled by tall pine or oak trees. But it’s also a balancing act. Too much shade can reduce flower output. While they can also grow in full sun, they may need extra water on hot summer days.

Some hydrangea cultivars also like sunlight more than others.

Full Sun Hydrangeas

Some hydrangea varieties, such as the Paniculata (PeeGee) and Arborescens (Smooth) types, thrive with full sunlight. These sun-loving hydrangeas produce larger flower clusters. Please provide at least six hours of direct sunlight daily to keep them happy.

Partial Shade Hydrangeas

Most hydrangeas fall into this category. The popular Bigleaf Hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla), including the mophead and lacecap varieties, prefer partial shade. Plant them where they receive morning sun and afternoon shade. Avoid placing them in intense, scorching sunlight.

Full Shade Hydrangeas

The Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) is a shade-loving species with attractive foliage and cone-shaped flower clusters. Plant it in areas with minimal direct sunlight, such as under large trees or on the north side of a building.


Beautiful fall garden with white hydrangea ready for a fresh fertilizer batch.

Hydrangeas benefit from semi-annual time-released fertilization, which promotes healthy growth and vibrant blooms. Fertilize hydrangeas in spring and early fall.

Choose a balanced, slow-release fertilizer with equal nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) parts. Look for a formulation like 10-10-10 or 14-14-14.

Sprinkle the fertilizer evenly around the hydrangea plant’s base. Water thoroughly after applying to help nutrients penetrate the soil.

As mentioned earlier, soil pH affects hydrangea bloom color. To intensify blue flowers, apply aluminum sulfate to acidify the soil. Add lime to raise the pH if you want pink blooms. Adjusting the pH can be done alongside semi-annual fertilization. 🌸💚🌸


Watering blooming hortensia hydrangea flowers.

Hydrangeas need steady water throughout the entire growing season. Water them deeply once to twice weekly, especially during hot and dry weather. Avoid light daily watering, as it won’t reach the root system effectively. Stick your finger about four inches into the ground. If it feels dry, it’s time to water.

Read More – 21 Breathtaking Trees With Lovely Purple Flowers, Berries, And Leaves!

Pruning Hydrangeas

Blue and purple hydrangea flowers growing through a cute picket fence.

First, you don’t need to prune hydrangeas. They can survive and thrive perfectly fine without pruning. It’s best practice to plant them in a spacious area to allow natural spreading, minimizing the need for excessive pruning in the first place.

However, pruning hydrangeas helps remove dead or diseased branches, enhancing disease resistance and air circulation. Proper pruning can also increase the size of flower clusters and maintain an appealing shape.

Let’s explore the key points about how and when to prune them.

Pruning Old Wood Blooming Hydrangeas

These hydrangeas bloom on old wood, which means the flower buds form on branches from the previous year. Examples include oakleaf hydrangeas and non-reblooming bigleaf and mountain hydrangeas. Time your pruning of old wood hydrangeas carefully. To ensure next year’s flowers, prune them early, immediately after they flower in the summer. I’ve heard horror stories of gardeners pruning their old wood-blooming hydrangeas in the fall, only to destroy next year’s flowers accidentally! These hydrangeas begin forming their flowering buds surprisingly early, sometimes as early as September. That’s why it’s wise to prune them immediately after they flower in the summer if you must.

(You can also prune dead branches in spring. But be careful not to prune the budding flowers.)

Pruning New Wood Blooming Hydrangeas

New wood hydrangeas produce flower buds on new wood or the current season’s growth. Examples include smooth and panicle hydrangeas. You can prune them aggressively after they bloom, and they’ll likely recover and flower wildly next year. Prune them in late fall (before heavy snow) or early winter. Pruning new wood hydrangeas is way less stressful than old wood hydrangeas. Next year’s flower buds don’t form until late spring. So you won’t accidentally remove them when pruning in summer, fall, winter, or early spring.

Hydrangeas Planting and Growing Schedule

Vivid pink and violet hyndrangea flowers thriving and blooming against beautiful beach backdrop.

Here are the critical dates all hydrangeas growers should know.


May is a great month to start planting hydrangeas. If you’re in a colder climate, consider planting them towards the end of May when the risk of frost has passed. Choose a spot with well-draining soil and partial shade.


June is another ideal time for planting hydrangeas. They’ll have plenty of time to establish their roots before the heat of summer. Water them regularly and mulch around the base to retain moisture.


Your hydrangeas should be in full bloom in July! During hot spells, be vigilant to ensure your hydrangeas don’t dry out. If you have mophead or lacecap hydrangeas, adjust the soil pH to influence flower color (acidic soil for blue flowers, alkaline soil for pink flowers).


Continue to water your hydrangeas consistently. Deadhead faded blooms to encourage new growth. If you’re growing hydrangeas in containers, make sure they’re well-hydrated.


As fall approaches, hydrangeas start preparing for winter. The beginning of fall is a great time to prune any dead or weak branches.

Remember that specific care instructions can vary based on the type of hydrangea (e.g., mophead, oakleaf, panicle) and your local climate. If you have a particular type of hydrangea in mind, feel free to ask for more detailed advice! 🌸🌿

Read More – 15 Beautiful Plants For Hanging Containers That Also Grow In The Shade

Best Hydrangea Cultivars For Growing

Here are our favorite hydrangea cultivars for growing. (We love them all. But these are our five favorites.)

1. Oakleaf Hydrangeas

White oakleaf hydrangea shrub blooming on a beautiful sunny day.

Famous for its heavily lobed oak-like leaves, this stemmy shrub typically grows four to eight feet tall and wide and looks compact and round. In late spring to early summer, cone-shaped flower clusters appear, featuring bedazzling white blooms that gradually fade to shades of mauve and pink.

As fall arrives, the green, leathery foliage transforms into vivid purple, red, and bronze hues. Even in winter, the cinnamon-colored bark along the stems adds interest to the landscape. In USDA zones 5 through 9, oakleaf hydrangea thrives and works perfectly for container growing, garden perimeters, border plantings, or massed alongside walkways.

  • Appearance: These shrubs have large, lobed leaves that resemble oak leaves. The foliage and flowers are spectacular. They produce cone-shaped flower clusters.
  • Flower Color: The flowers can be white, pink, or purple.
  • Growth Habit: Old-wood hydrangea.
  • Bloom Time: They typically bloom in early summer.
  • Height: Around 4 to 8 feet.
  • Spread: Approximately 3 to 5 feet.
  • USDA Growing Zones: Zones 5 to 9.

In the dappled shade of ancient oaks, the Hydrangea quercifolia unfurls its lobed leaves like delicate parchment scrolls. Their ivory blooms seem reminiscent of moonlit snowflakes, cascading from sturdy stems, whispering secrets of woodland magic.

2. Bigleaf Hydrangeas

Purple pink and blue bigleaf hydrangea blooming in the garden.

Bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) is a majestic native Japanese species. These deciduous shrubs have large, showy flower heads in diverse colors, including purple, blue, and pastel to hot pink. Bigleaf hydrangeas grow into a rounded, mounding form, creating a bushy appearance. They are among the easiest flowering shrubs to plant and thrive in moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil with full sun to part shade.

  • Appearance: They have glossy, serrated leaves and produce large, colorful, round flower clusters.
  • Flower Color: Flower color can vary depending on garden soil pH. Highly acidic garden soil almost always produces blue flowers, while alkaline garden soil produces pink to purplish flowers.
  • Growth Habit: Old-wood hydrangea.
  • Bloom Time: They bloom from late spring to early summer.
  • Height: Varies, but typically 3 to 6 feet.
  • Spread: Similar to height.
  • USDA Growing Zones: Zones 6 to 9.

In gardens kissed by ocean breezes, the Hydrangea macrophylla reigns supreme. Its mophead blossoms are plump like summer peaches, and it blushes in hues of cerulean and blush. Each petal is a painter’s brushstroke on the canvas of a coastal dream.

3. Panicle Hydrangeas

Panicled hydrangea with lovely pinkish white flowers.

Panicle hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata) are a stunning landscaping favorite. They are also known as peegee hydrangeas, hardy hydrangeas, and Limelight hydrangeas. They originally hail from Asia, where cultivators have grown them as ornamental plants in gardens and landscapes for hundreds of years.

Panicle hydrangeas are famous for their significant, multi-stemmed, woody growth. They typically reach a height of 8 to 15 feet but can grow up to 25 feet tall. These sun-loving hydrangeas flower vigorously on the current season’s growth. Their blooms are showstoppers, with significant, beautiful clusters of flowers that appear in summer.

Panicle hydrangeas offer excellent cold and heat tolerance, making them suitable for a wide range of climates, from chilly USDA zone 3 to balmy USDA zone 8 (and even zone 9 for varieties like ‘Limelight’)

  • Appearance: Their flowers form cone-shaped clusters that start white and turn pink as they age.
  • Flower Color: Initially white, but they can develop pink or even reddish tones.
  • Growth Habit: New-wood hydrangea.
  • Bloom Time: They bloom in mid to late summer.
  • Height: 6 to 15 feet, sometimes much higher.
  • Spread: 6 to 10 feet.
  • USDA Growing Zones: Zones 3 to 8.

High on sun-kissed hills, the Hydrangea paniculata dances with abandon. Its conical clusters, like celestial chandeliers, sway in warm zephyrs. From alabaster to rose, they celebrate the sun’s golden embrace.

4. Smooth Hydrangeas

Gorgeous Annabelle Hydrangea shrub with white and pink flowers.

These charming shrubs are native to the eastern United States and bring a touch of elegance to any garden. Their large, rounded flower clusters blossom heavily in summer, transforming from light green to white and eventually turning tan or yellow for winter. Their blooms are beautiful and also make excellent dried flowers.

Unlike some other hydrangea species, smooth hydrangeas are cold-hardy and don’t usually require additional winter protection. However, they can die back during particularly harsh winters.

  • Appearance: They have large, rounded flower clusters and broad, green leaves.
  • Flower Color: Typically white, tan, beige, or creamy.
  • Growth Habit: New-wood hydrangea.
  • Bloom Time: They bloom in early to mid-summer.
  • Height: Typically 3 to 5 feet.
  • Spread: Similar to height.
  • USDA Growing Zones: Zones 3 to 9.

In quiet meadows, the Hydrangea arborescens stands sentinel. Its creamy orbs, soft as moonlight, nod in gentle agreement with the whispering grass. Simplicity becomes elegance, and every petal holds the promise of summer’s sweet embrace.

5. Aspera Hydrangeas

Purple and white hydrangea aspera blooming in the garden.

Hydrangea Aspera, or rough-leaved hydrangea, is a lesser-known species native to dense forests between the Himalayas across southern China and Taiwan. Aspera hydrangeas are thick, robust, deciduous shrubs that sometimes reach ten feet tall and wide, with large serrated-edged leaves that are greyish-green on the top and light green below.

In summer and early fall, it produces large, flattened flowerheads resembling those of the lacecap hydrangea. These flowerheads feature tiny purplish-blue flowers in the center and more prominent, star-shaped whitish flowers that fade to purplish or soft pink as they mature.

  • Appearance: Their leaves are velvety and have serrated edges. The flowers are lacecap-like.
  • Flower Color: Usually pink or blue to bluish-purple.
  • Growth Habit: Old-wood hydrangea.
  • Bloom Time: They bloom in summer.
  • Height: Varies, but generally 4 to 8 feet, sometimes exceeding that.
  • Spread: Around 4 to 7 feet.
  • USDA Growing Zones: Aspera hydrangeas prefer USDA zones 7 to 9.

The Hydrangea aspera thrives in forgotten corners. Like ancient manuscripts, its serrated leaves guard the secrets of distant lands. When the dusky petals unfurl, they reveal a breathtaking tapestry of lilac and lavender.

Read More – 10 Beautiful Plants That Grow Perfectly Against Fences – Edibles And Flowers!

Mophead Vs. Lacecap Hydrangeas

Mophead hydrangeas have big, round heads of many large flowers. They often have numerous sterile florets that completely obscure any fertile florets that have developed.

Lacecap hydrangeas have a circle of large flowers surrounding many small, fluffy flowers. They display more plainly visible fertile florets and fewer sterile florets. In the wild, most hydrangeas naturally exhibit a lacecap form with few sterile florets, but selective breeding has led to mophead hydrangeas with showier sterile florets.

Common Problems With Hydrangeas Plants

Hydrangea plant with scorched or burnt leaves.

Look out for these hydrangea-growing problems you might encounter.

Scorched Leaves

Scorched leaves on hydrangeas typically occur due to excessive sun exposure or inadequate watering. When leaves appear brown or crispy along the edges, it shows leaf scorch. Here’s how to prevent this issue.

Shade: Provide partial shade during the hottest days, especially if your hydrangeas are in full sun. A cheap shade cloth from Amazon or Tractor Supply can work wonders.

Watering: Hydrangeas need consistent moisture, especially in the summer. Water deeply, but avoid waterlogged soil.

Mulch: Apply a layer of organic mulch from cedar, pine straw, shredded bark, or wood chips near the plant’s base to help hold moisture and moderate temperature.

Lack Of Blooms

If your hydrangeas aren’t blooming, several factors could be at play.

Pruning Mistakes: Pruning at the wrong time can remove flower buds. Hydrangeas blooming on old wood derived from last year’s growth should be ready for pruning after flowering. Those that bloom on new wood (current season’s growth) are ready for pruning in late winter or early spring.

Nutrient Imbalance: Ensure proper fertilization. Lack of nutrients can lead to reduced blooming.

Cold Damage: Late spring frosts can damage flower buds. Covering the plant during frosty nights can help. (This happens all the time in New England. It’s called a false spring. The weather gets warm too early, so the trees begin to flower. But then, a last-minute frost kills the young buds! Last year, my nectarine tree suffered from a false spring. As a result, I didn’t get fruit that year!)

Wrong Flower Color

Remember that soil pH influences Hydrangea bloom color.

  • Blue Flowers: Blue blooms appear with acidic soil (pH 6.0 or lower). To enhance the blue color, add aluminum sulfate to the soil.
  • Pink Flowers: Alkaline soil (pH 7.0 or higher) produces pink blooms. If you want pink flowers, add lime to raise the pH.
  • White Flowers: Some hydrangea varieties remain white regardless of soil pH.

Test your soil first to avoid overdoing it, as excessive amendments can harm plants.

How to grow hydrangea flowers at home.


Thanks for reading our article about growing hydrangeas!

These are some of the most rewarding summer or spring flowers for homesteaders. And, once you get the hang of pruning them, they’re surprisingly easy to maintain.

What about you?

  • Are you going to grow hydrangea flowers this year?
  • What’s your favorite hydrangea color? Delicate pink? Pristine white? Or pretty blue?
  • Do you have any creative uses for hydrangea blooms?
  • Have you tried propagating hydrangeas?
  • What hydrangea cultivar is your favorite?

We love brainstorming with fellow hydrangea fanciers and hope to hear from you!

Thanks again for reading.

Have a great day!

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