Elegant flowering shrubs
Hydrangea shrubs always get plenty of attention with their vibrant and extravagant blooms in the summer and autumn landscape. Although these perennial shrubs look gorgeous in the garden, they can also look spectacular as container plants. The smaller and compact forms of mopheads, lacecaps and panicle hydrangea varieties tend to fit better in containers for an entryway, patio, balcony or porch.
QUICK TIPS for PLANTING HYDRANGEAS
- Use a good quality potting mix with coarse peat, pine bark & composted material… a mix that will provide good drainage such as the Pasquesi Potting Mix or organic Black Gold Potting Mix.
- Fertilize: Add slow-release fertilizer granules when planting or water your plants with a soluble acid fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro® Water Soluble Miracid Plant Food.
- Love blue flowers? Add a regular dose of aluminum sulfate to achieve the blue tone you desire.
- Consistent watering: The hydrangea’s shallow root system needs a regular watering schedule.
- To make sure that you can enjoy these perennial shrubs next year, plant them in the ground in early September so they can establish a good root system before winter.
- If you are growing mopheads or Big Leaf hydrangeas, you probably know about the shrub’s “magic secret.” These are the hydrangeas that can change color. If you plant a mophead hydrangea in acidic soil, you'll see blue flowers. If you grow the same shrub in alkaline soil, the flowers will be pink instead.
Tip: When hydrangeas are planted in pots, most will not achieve the full mature size on the plant tag.
QUICK TIPS for PLANTING HYDRANGEAS
Hydrangea ‘Azure Skies™’: Selected for prolific blooming, vibrant bloom color and mounding and compact growth habit, ‘Azure Skies’ features an abundance of summertime flower clusters and will continue to bloom well into fall. Flowers are blue in acidic soil and pink in alkaline soil. This petite shrub reaches 3’ tall x 3’ wide.
Hydrangea Endless Summer™ Collection: The Endless Summer™ varieties below are re-blooming hydrangeas. They are bred to flower on new growth, as well as year-old stems. They will bloom even after a cold winter or spring… which is good for the unpredictability of our zone 5:
Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Balimer’ “the Original”: This re-blooming Mophead or ‘Big Leaf’ hydrangea blooms from spring through fall. Enjoy mounds of blue or pink flowers and large heart-shaped, green leaves on a shrub that matures from 3-4’ tall x 4-5’wide in the ground but will stay smaller in a container.
Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Summer Crush’: Here's another Endless Summer hydrangea shrub that blooms from spring to fall. ‘Summer Crush’ is adored for its raspberry pink flowers (red in alkaline soil or neon purple flowers in acid soil) and its bright green leaves. Not only is it drop-dead gorgeous, but it is compact so you get a neat, tidy look throughout the summer. The shrub grows from 18-36" tall x wide in the ground but stays manageable in a container. Perfect!
Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Twist and Shout’: This re-blooming Lacecap has delicate, deep pink or periwinkle florets that bloom from late spring through fall. Gorgeous upright, rounded shrubs with sturdy, red stems and serrated, green leaves mature from 3-5’ tall x 3-5’wide in the ground but stay on the smaller side in a container.
Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Bloomstruck’: This is one of the newest, re-blooming Mopheads in the Endless Summer family. It boasts abundant blooms that begin with light green buds that flower with lilac-purple or rose-pink blooms (depending on the soil’s acidity level) from late spring through fall. Enjoy mound-y shrubs with plenty of flowers, red-purple stems and thick, dark-green leaves. ‘Bloomstruck’ matures from 3-4’ tall and 4-5’wide and was developed to be extremely heat & cold tolerant and disease resistant— especially towards powdery mildew. Look for colorful fall foliage, too.
PLANTING PARTNERS for HYDRANGEA CONTAINERS
The plants below make interesting companions to hydrangeas as they can thrive in the same dappled sun or morning full sun/ afternoon shade and moist, but not soggy conditions, as the Big Leaf Hydrangeas.
Button fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia ‘Duffii’): smallest of the Boston ferns with tiny golden-green button-like leaflets on arching stems. Enjoy its lemon-y scent.
Foxtail fern (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Myers’): This fern have soft, furry fronds that add bold texture and contrast to your containers or hanging baskets.
Golden Japanese Forest Grass (Halonechloa macra ‘Aureola): green and yellow variegated blades of grassy foliage cascades like a gentle waterfall.
Mexican Feather Grass (Nasella tenuissima): Bright green, feather-like foliage moves with the slightest breeze. This grass offers nice contrast to larger, flat leaves of the Big Leaf hydrangea.
Bacopa (Bacopa): Annual with trailing stems of rounded green leaves and small white, pink or purple flowers that bloom all summer.
Hosta (Hosta): The smaller hosta leaves will complement hydrangea florets. Look for the smaller varieties with white or butter-yellow leaf patterning.
Lobelia: These delicate dark blue, light blue or white flowering annuals offer an airy complement to Big Leaf hydrangeas in containers. (Since Lobelia love the cooler temperatures, the blooming often slows during the heat of summer. The best way to revive them is to cut them back by as much as one-half to two-thirds, followed by regular watering. This radical pruning will regenerate new growth, and by the time the cooler weather of fall arrives, your plants should be in full bloom again. You can also pinch back plants at any time if you prefer bushier growth.)
PANICLE HYDRANGEAS for SUN CONTAINERS
Hydrangea paniculata, ‘Little Lime’: This woody-stemmed hydrangea is a shorter and more compact version of Hydrangea ‘Limelight.’ It grows from 3-5’ tall and wide with cone-shaped, chartreuse and white flowers that become ‘dusted’ with pink when cooler weather arrives. It is different than the mophead variety with its cone-shaped flowers and blooms later in summer… thriving in filtered to full sun.
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bobo’: This is a dwarf hydrangea that matures up to 3’ tall and 4’ wide. It’s a re-blooming, perennial shrub with conical-shaped flowers that emerge white and mature to a softer pink in the fall. It’s a beautiful choice for summer containers that gradually change into fall colors as the temperatures cool down.
CARING for BIG LEAF HYDRANGEAS
Light: Part sun to shade. In northern climates (our zone 5), they bloom best in a location that allows for full morning sun and dappled shade in the afternoon.
Bloom Time: Late spring to fall
Water: Moist soil but well-drained.
Fertilizer: Use a granular, slow-release fertilizer with a 10-30-10 ratio in early spring or early summer. Don’t overdo it because this will encourage bigger leaves and fewer blooms.
Color: You can change the color of the blue or pink hydrangea simply by adjusting the soil’s pH level. Most of the soil in our area is more alkaline so this will bring out the pink color in these hydrangeas. If you prefer blue flowers, add aluminum sulfate, composted oak leaves, pine needles or coffee grounds to your soil. Continuous use of products such as Color Me Blue or Espoma’s Organic Soil Acidifier for Hydrangeas will make sure the flowers turn blue.