15 Tips For Summer Hydrangea Care This Season
Caring for your hydrangeas in the heat of the summer is a bit different than spring or fall, and quite the opposite of winter. You are likely dealing with higher temperatures, and less moisture, depending on where you live. In this article, coastal gardening expert and hydrangea enthusiast Jill Drago shares her top tips for summer hydrangea care!
Hydrangeas are known as being low maintenance shrubs. While they can be a bit picky about where they are grown, and in the soil type they will thrive in, once they’ve started to mature, they can be pretty easy to care for. But what about summer hydrangea care? Is it different than the care you’d give your hydrangeas in the spring?
The simple answer is yes, it’s a different season, so you’ll need to consider a few additional tasks, and also avoid others which are better suited for fall, spring, or winter prep. So what is it that you should be doing that you might not be?
I’ve outlined some of my favorite nuances when it comes to summer hydrangea care in the article below. You’ll learn about stepping up your watering needs, if you should be pruning, how often to deadhead your hydrangeas during the summer, and more. Let’s jump in!
- 1 Increase Your Watering Frequency
- 2 Add Mulch if You Didn’t in Spring
- 3 Hold Off on Fertilizer
- 4 Continue to Deadhead Spent Blooms
- 5 Add Compost to Your Garden
- 6 Regularly Weed Around Hydrangeas
- 7 Relocate Struggling Plants
- 8 Start Leveraging Containers
- 9 Plant Full Sun Species
- 10 Accent with Summer Annuals
- 11 Monitor Daily For Pests
- 12 Prep For Fungus
- 13 Keep Your Garden Clear
- 14 Enjoy Some Cut Flowers
- 15 Take A Break and Enjoy Them
- 16 Final Thoughts
Increase Your Watering Frequency
It is well established that hydrangeas love water. In the summertime, they will need a bit more water to get through the heat with grace.
If you know there is a stretch of heat coming, water heavily before the heat event arrives. This will help prevent the plants from drying out too quickly. Hydrangeas have a tell tale way of letting us know that they are thirsty: their leaves will droop down towards the ground. Watering the plants when you notice this will help, and once the hydrangeas get a break from the sun they will most likely perk back up.
It’s worth noting that underwatering (and overwatering) are one of the most common hydrangea problems that happen to both new, and experienced gardeners.
One thing to avoid while you are watering is soaking the leaves with your hose. It might seem like this will cool the plant down, but it could lead to leaf burn or more importantly the spread of fungal disease. Drip irrigation, or even just laying your garden hose on the ground at the base of the plant is the way to go.
Add Mulch if You Didn’t in Spring
If you made the mistake of not mulching in the springtime, adding mulch in the summer will help to retain moisture in your soil by preventing evaporation. This will help you in the watering department. Gardens that have been mulched have a greater success rate when it comes to the amount of water moving readily to the soil. Water can run off easily from unmulched gardens adding to your watering woes.
Choose a good quality mulch for your gardens, I like pine bark for my yard, but every region and every gardener has their own preference. Add about one inch of mulch to your beds. Avoid mounding the mulch around the base of the plant, this could lead to rot.
Mulch is also great for keeping weeds in control. Make sure to weed your gardens before applying the mulch. This will set you up for great success.
As mulch breaks down it is a great addition of organic material to your soil, and is a great way to help your sandy soil hold more moisture.
Hold Off on Fertilizer
Hydrangeas really benefit from fertilization in the spring. It is advised not to fertilize after August to keep your hydrangeas safe from winter damage. If you forgot to fertilize, don’t worry about it. Your hydrangea will be just fine.
If you are working on changing the color of your Hydrangea macrophylla, you will want to be adding your soil acidifier every 60 days until your desired soil pH has been reached. If you are adding lime to pink your flowers that should wait until the fall.
Fertilizing at the wrong time can cause a couple of issues: one is fertilizer burn. If a plant is dried out from the summer heat and you apply fertilizer you run the risk of burning the roots which will affect your leaves and the overall health of your plants.
Another problem that could arise is anticipated growth. If your plant puts out too much growth too late in the season, that growth will likely suffer from winter damage because it has not had enough time to prepare for the cold.
Continue to Deadhead Spent Blooms
As the summer goes on, you will notice that your hydrangea flowers will begin to dry out and lose their colorful luster. When this happens you can deadhead the blossoms right off. You don’t need to do this, but it will help keep a tidy plant and save you some work in the fall.
When you are deadheading you will want to snip below the spent flower and above a pair of leaves. Using clean sharp snips make a nice clean cut, remove the snipped flower and move on to the next!
While you are deadheading, take a peek through your plant to see if there is any deadwood lingering from the previous winter. If you see any dead stalks, or stalks that are brown with no green growth on them, you can cut them right to the ground. This will help air circulation throughout the plant.
Compost is great for your garden at any time of the year. You may be a home composter (which I highly recommend), or you may choose to purchase your compost from a garden center. There are many great bagged composts available.
I personally love Coast of Maine products. I have seen the results from adding their compost to my gardens and let me tell you, they do not disappoint.
There are many different ways to incorporate compost into your garden. I like to mix it in when I am planting new plants in my garden. However, my favorite way to use it is to apply it as a mulch in my flower beds. This will improve your soil drastically. Take my word for it- it is worth the effort, and your hydrangea blooms will thank you.
Composting your gardens is so beneficial for your plants, as well as the earth. Everything you put into your home composter is one less thing that goes into your trash can. Adding compost to your garden will enrich your soil. This bumps up the presence of beneficial bacteria and fungi. Compost can also reduce the need for chemical fertilizers in your gardens.
Regularly Weed Around Hydrangeas
Weeds LOVE the hot, dry weather that comes along with the summer. Weeding your garden will of course keep your landscape looking pristine. More importantly weeds can rob your hydrangeas of water and nutrients that are much needed at this time of the year. In some instances weeds can even grow tall enough to rob your hydrangeas of sunlight.
Weeds are aggressive little buggers, pull them as soon as you can! The longer you leave weeds in your garden the more likely they will be to produce seeds and spread even more aggressively!
Weeding your gardens can be a tedious task in the summer heat. I like to go out with my coffee in the morning, or after dinner for a few minutes each day to clear the weeds. The more you weed, the less you will need to weed in the seasons to come.
Relocate Struggling Plants
Hopefully you have already planted your hydrangea by the summer. However, this is a good time to reassess the location of your existing hydrangeas. If it seems like your hydrangea may be getting too much sun, or too little sun, this is a good time to make a transplanting plan for the fall.
When you are dreaming about your summer gardens in the dreary winter months, you may forget how much sun or shade an area of your garden might actually get once your deciduous trees leaf out. This has happened to me, unfortunately!
Transplanting hydrangeas in the summer is not recommended because the heat of the summer raises the risk of transplant shock. But it is a great time to find a new spot for your hydrangea. Transplant in the fall when the temperatures are cooler, and be sure to give it a lot of water before the ground freezes.
Start Leveraging Containers
If space is hard to come by in your garden, try planting a hydrangea on its own in a container or as part of a mixed container. The beauty of container gardens is that they are mobile. You can place them on your deck, near a pool, or even in the woods.
Every species of hydrangea has at least one variety that is great to use in a container. Dwarf hydrangea varieties tend to perform best. It is best to use large containers with a drainage hole if you are planning on growing hydrangeas in pots. Use potting soil when you are planting your hydrangeas instead of garden soil.
Hydrangeas in containers look great with potato vine, ornamental grasses, and trailing flowering annuals such as petunias.
When summer comes to a close you can transplant those hydrangeas into a spot in your garden, or you can overwinter them in the pot. Move the container to a spot that is cool but warm enough to keep the roots from freezing such as a garage or three season porch.
Plant Full Sun Species
Many hydrangeas love partial shade. However, if you have full summer sun Hydrangea paniculata is the way to go! This species of hydrangea loves the full sun, and tends to be a bit more tolerant of drought.
These shrubs come adorned with white cone shaped flowers that range in colors from green, white to pink. They are typically larger than bigleaf hydrangeas, growing to about 6-8 feet tall, but there are some compact varieties available that will grow to only three or four feet.
Hydrangea paniculata looks great planted in a mass, as a hedge and combined with other sun loving perennials such as catmint, low growing roses, or perennial salvia.
Add some pop to your gardens, and beautify those hydrangeas even more by adding summer annuals to your garden. For your shade loving species, adding begonias or impatiens would be lovely. For panicle hydrangeas, you pretty much have your run of the mill when it comes to summer annuals.
Monitor Daily For Pests
Hydrangeas attract very common garden insects. Insects will typically attack plants that are stressed. Stressed plants could be suffering from drought.
Look for aphids on the stems, japanese beetle damage on the leaves, and webbing from spider mites throughout your plant. These insects can be removed by hand, or sprayed off with a strong spray from your hose.
Using insecticidal soap every week or two will help to keep your pest population down.
Prep For Fungus
If you have had issues with fungus in the past, this is a great time to get ahead of those nasty spores and try to prevent an infection. Fungal diseases can cause issues for hydrangeas at just about any age.
Using copper fungicide before fungus appears on your hydrangea leaves is the way to go. This type of fungicide really only works by protecting the plant tissue from an infection that has yet to occur. You may not have much success using it to get rid of an existing infection.
Copper can be toxic to plant tissue if it is used too liberally. It is very important to follow the labeled instructions on whichever product you choose. Bonide has a copper fungicide that is available at most garden centers.
Keep Your Garden Clear
As summer takes its toll on our gardens you may begin to notice leaves falling and collecting in your beds, as well as weeds. Spend a few minutes a week cleaning out your gardens to ease the workload of the fall.
Rake out any leaves that have landed on the mulch, and pull leaves out of the crown of the plant. Cut back any perennials that need to be cut back or deadheaded, and don’t forget to weed!
Enjoy Some Cut Flowers
These big blossoms make amazing cut flowers for your indoor vases. The flowers are often so large that one or two stems will do the trick.
The night before you plan to cut some stems, give your hydrangea a heavy watering. Go out the next morning to cut your flowers. Just as when you deadhead, cut just above a set of leaves. Make sure you have the length of stem you need for your arrangement! I would suggest bringing a bucket of water, or even the vase you will be using out into the garden with you. The sooner you can get these big beauties into water, the longer they will last.
Once you have arranged your flowers, keep the vase full of water. If the flowers begin to wilt you can try spraying them with water from a mister.
Allow the water to evaporate naturally when you are done with the arrangement. This will aid in the drying of the flowers which can be saved and used for fall or winter decor or accents in fall arrangements.
Take A Break and Enjoy Them
Okay, okay enough already. You have done everything you can to have healthy, beautiful hydrangeas this summer. Sit back and relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Hydrangeas truly can be low maintenance plants. They don’t have to become more high maintenance in the fall if you take care of them properly during the summer months. Make sure to stick to the tips I’ve outlined above, and you should be able to enjoy your hydrangeas through the summer and well into the fall!