Walk into any big box hardware store, grocery store, or florist right now and you’ll likely run smack into a huge display of stunning pink and blue hydrangeas. As winter drags to a close, they’re a very welcome sign of spring. They make a wonderful gift for Easter or just about any spring celebration.
I was fortunate to be gifted with this beautiful pink hydrangea by a friend last week:
Gorgeous, isn’t it? The tag tells me that the variety is named Pink Sensation. I expect there was likely a blue flowered version sold alongside it.
Few other houseplants have as much colour and impact, which is why hydrangeas like these are so popular. In fact, they’re so popular that last week the social media gardening groups I participate in were full of questions about these hydrangeas! I decided to answer a few of the most common questions about pink and blue hydrangeas here:
How do I take care of a hydrangea?
These hydrangeas like bright light and thorough waterings, as needed. By that, I mean water them well (to the point that they’re soaked all the way through), but do not leave their roots to sit in a puddle of water—they want to drink, not float. This way of watering is better for the plant than giving it a little bit of water every day. But, hydrangeas are very thirsty plants—you need to check them every day, to see if they need to be watered thoroughly again. While they may look like a nice houseplant, they’re actually a shrub in a small pot.
Look at all of the growth on the plant (sturdy stems, thick leaves, big flowers) compared to the small rootball:
The flower petals will start to wilt/curl when the plant gets dry. Ideally, you would water it before the plant sends you that signal, but if you see the wilt/curl water it right away. I confess that I had forgotten just how thirsty these plants are (it’s been a few years since I’ve had one) and saw the poor thing shriveling before my eyes. I watered it soon enough to save it, but you’ll see that the edges of the leaves browned, and that’s not going to go away.
This is something to keep in mind if you see some on discount at your local hardware store (I saw two full racks of them at less than half price at a big box hardware store this morning—all of them with severely wilted petals. They were salvageable, but there would be some residual damage).
Can I plant my hydrangea outside?
Well, the answer depends on where you live. These are what are known as florist hydrangeas—they’ve been coddled and coaxed in a warm greenhouse in order to be in full bloom at your local hardware store in mid-March. They are primarily intended to be enjoyed as houseplants and then discarded, much like cut flowers (although they last a lot longer than cut flowers, and at a similar price point—a good thrifty choice!)
However, these hydrangeas can be planted outdoors and enjoyed for years to come a) if you live in the right climate and b) you care for them appropriately. There are many types of hydrangeas with varying degrees of winter hardiness. Most of the florist hydrangeas are from the Hydrangea macrophylla family—the best information I can find online says that they’re hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8.
If you live within those zones (or in a bordering zone and want to try your luck), once the weather has warmed up past any danger of frost, you can begin to slowly adjust the plant to outdoor temperatures and direct sunlight, moving it first to a shady and sheltered spot and then gradually transitioning it to a more exposed position. Once it has been acclimatized you can plant it in a lightly shaded to full sun location and keep it well watered until the roots are established. Next year, you can prune it in spring (as it flowers on new wood). Be advised that this is a shrub—in the right conditions it grows to be about 1 metre (3 feet) wide and high. Situate it accordingly.
Will my hydrangea stay pink/blue?
Many florist hydrangeas can be either pink or blue–the acidity of the soil (the “soil pH”) determines whether the flowers will be pink or blue. You might notice that the flowers start out green when young:
It’s quite a fascinating phenomenon you can read more about here if you’re interested. In essence, soil with a pH level at or below 5.5 will produce blue flowers, soil with higher pH levels will produce pink flowers. If you’re just keeping your hydrangea indoors to enjoy as a houseplant for a season you don’t really need to worry about this–the soil pH is the plant pot is not going to change in a few weeks. But if you’re planting it outside you could add sulfur* or aluminum sulfate* to your soil in order to maintain blue flowers (follow the instructions on the package).
These are the top questions I’ve been seeing about these potted hydrangeas. If you have one, I hope my tips help you care for and enjoy it! And if you have a question about florist hydrangeas that I haven’t covered please leave it in the comments below and I’ll try to find you an answer.
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