Hydrangeas add color, charm to garden or container

April 13, 2012

by Suzann Herricks, Victoria County Master Gardener

edited by Charla Borchers Leon,
Victoria County Master Gardener
Gardeners' Dirt
Hydrangeas of different varieties and colors were available for purchase at grocery stores (H-E-B) and florists, as well as in garden centers last week for spring and Easter.
Hydrangeas are used as statement pieces in cut flower arrangements, and when dried, the significant blooms can produce an abundance of color.
The French hydrangea (H. macrophylla) "Endless Summer" is a commonly grown mophead variety. It naturally produces blooms that are pink, sky blue and shades in between the two. Aluminum sulfate can be added to change the pH level of its soil as described in this article and turn the bloom from pink to shades of lavender and blue. This variety can grow in the garden, as well as in a container.

This greenhouse hybrid hydrangea is in a container on the shaded back steps at the home of Master Gardener Charla Borchers Leon. It was purchased solid white at Christmas, and as the blooms have matured, they have turned a pale green color with pink to rust-colored tips. This variety will do well to dry and use in floral design.
One of the pleasures of gardening is trying a unique plant that has been recommended by another gardener, or just because the specimen looks good in a catalog or magazine. One that I have not yet tried is the hydrangea. I've always thought of them as my grandmother's plants because they grew with ease around her East Texas home.

Although not common in the Victoria area, they offer a striking statement to a shady spot - and can be grown with the right conditions. They are more and more noticeable in elegant cut flower arrangements from the florist and certainly had their showing as a nursery plant this past week with the onset of spring and Easter. They can also be beautiful as dried blooms with which to decorate.

Several flower forms are available

Flower forms vary from attractive, showy mopheads to delicate lace caps. A commonly grown mophead variety is the French hydrangea (H. macrophylla). Three of the best cultivars are "Blushing Bride," "Forever and Ever" and "Endless Summer." The leaves have a bold texture; all are deciduous. These big-leaved hydrangeas should be pruned after flowering and deadheaded periodically to encourage repeat blooms on the current year's growth. Remember that deadheading is removing only the blooms. Pruning involves cutting back stem growth well below the bloom.

Another commonly grown variety is the "Oak Leaf" (H. quercifolia) that grows prolifically in east Texas. It is native to the southeastern United States. Blooms are creamy white, which later turn pinkish. They appear in late May and June and continue into the fall. To use as a dried flower, let the bloom begin to dry on the plant and then cut. There is even a climbing variety (H. anomala petiolaris) that is cold hardy. It is vigorous after established, but it takes three or more years for the blooms to appear. New cultivars continue to enter the market.

Color of blooms can depend on type of soil

Blooms are white, pink, rose-red and blue. The color of those that naturally bloom pink can be altered by changing the pH of the soil, but a white one will always be white. A pH of 5.5 or lower is acidic and yields blue blooms. Above 6.5 is alkaline and blooms will be pink.

Our soil tends to be alkaline, so if you like lavender/pink blooms, just plant and enjoy. However, if you want to try to alter the pH of the soil, try adding one pound of aluminum sulfate dissolved in five gallons of water and apply one gallon per plant every two weeks. If you are curious about your soil's chemical content, you can request a soil test kit by contacting the Texas AgriLife Extension office. To prepare a small area, remove a volume of soil and replace with a mix of two thirds spaghum peat moss and one third washed sand or potting mix. This blend is also good for containers.

Only basic care required

In the south, hydrangeas need a shady area or morning sun and afternoon shade. Soil should be well drained. There are no serious pest problems, but powdery mildew can be a problem in a humid period or if there is poor air circulation around the plants. Most will survive outdoors year after year unless there is a particularly cold winter. One of my gardener friends had several years of success with the "Endless Summer" variety until last year's 17-degree weather. Hydrangeas are an excellent choice for container gardening.

Send a message with flowers

During the Romantic period, a charming way of communicating thought was not by tweeting or through Facebook, but by sending flowers that represented the message of the sender. A bouquet of red roses would say, "I love you." If one received a purple pansy, the message was, "I think of you all the time." If hydrangeas were received, the sender was saying, "You are heartless and vain." The simple act of sending flowers to someone must have been pretty complex for the florist and his customers, and many a beau must have apologized to his sweetheart by exclaiming, "I didn't know what I was saying."

Whether you want to send a message or simply enjoy its beautiful blooms, the hydrangea may be one that you will want to add to your garden.

Test the pH level in your soil to determine the likely bloom color.Soil testing forms and information can be found at:



H. macrophylla
'Blushing Bride'
'Endless Summer'
'Forever & Ever'

H. quercifolia
'Snow Queen'

H. anomala petiolaris
Climbing varieties



WHAT: Texas Watershed Steward Workshop
WHEN: 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: Victoria Educational Gardens, 283 Bachelor Drive at Victoria Regional Airport
FREE TRAINING: Open to anyone interested in improving water quality in the San Antonio Bay/Guadalupe Estuary region.
SPONSORED BY: Texas AgriLife Extension Service and the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board in cooperation with the San Antonio Bay Partnership.
See to pre-register or for more information.
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or, or comment on this column at