Many of us have childhood memories of huge hydrangeas lining the neighborhood. When you're young their giant mop head blooms seem almost Alice-In-Wonderland-like in nature and larger than life. Their imaginative blooms are making a come back and are a great garden addition for any modern space. They are perfect companions as they require very little maintenance, but like most plants there are a few things you should know to take them from ho-hum to holy hydrangeas!
The first step to having the best hydrangea bush on the block (look out!) is knowing what type of hydrangeas you actually own. The easiest way to do this is by looking at the color of the blooms. Hydrangea macrophylla (zones 6-9, although some can reach zone 5) have the most colorful blooms and generally are the smaller ones out of the pack, normally staying under the 6 foot mark. They interact with the soil they're grown into and, most notably, produce pink or blue blooms (along with purple and a variety of other colors). The other common hydrangea variety is the Hydrangea paniculata (zones 4-8). These blooms can either be round like a pom pom, but are usually long and cone like in nature. They have white to cream blooms that can sometimes turn to a hue of light pink in late summer. The bushes tend to be larger and can grow up to 10-15 feet in size.
Why should you know what plant you have? Well just like going to the barber, these plants need an occasional haircut.
Although they are more than happy to grow fat and bushy on their own, paniculatas can be trimmed into trees, and in general, either variety will need a little taming to keep them in check with your landscaping and outdoor design. Macrophylla's don't ever have to be trimmed unless their aesthetics aren't up to par with your liking, so they are easy enough to take care of - they bloom from old wood. Any extra stems without blooms can be trimmed at any time and dead blooms can be cut when needed. If you're making major changes to branches and flowering stems, all pruning needs to be taken care of in late summer but before August. New growth and blooms appear in the middle of that month and you're goal is to give things a trim and still have flowers. If they're trimmed later than August it's not the end of the world, but as a result, they might not flower the following year.
Paniculata's on the other hand are a little different - they bloom from new wood. They prefer to only be trimmed in the the fall and winter months. They're determined plants and even if you cut them all the way back to the ground each time, which many people do since blooms only happen on new growth the following season, they'll shoot back up and show you who's boss. If pruned in spring or summer months they won't flower or bloom until the following year since.
These plants can be great space fillers in the garden and can help you fill up a naked corner that needs a little help. They're full of great memories for many people and making a come back for urban gardeners as they require so little care throughout the year and are a perfect companion to our busy lifestyles. They give you a great bang for your buck as long as you know when to prune and when to be patient.