UCCE Master Gardeners of Orange County
University of California
UCCE Master Gardeners of Orange County


Shrub- Hydrangeas

Hydrangea web
Hydrangea macrophylla planted outdoors in the right place can be very happy-go-lucky, and can grow to six feet tall and almost as wide. They bloom pink in Orange County due to the alkalinity of the soil and water. Most are deciduous and drop almost all their leaves in winter. They aren't well adapted to Southern California because they need lots of water (50-60" a year) which is a lot when you consider that we get 13" of rain a year here.

Hydrangeas relish really rich soil, gentle morning sun, and protection from strong sun. If not planted in the right spot, they can be problem prone so here is a link to our pest management web page.

Avoid sunburn by providing shade and proper cultural care, especially adequate irrigation. Appropriate irrigation before discolored leaf tissue is killed can usually restore the green color to sunburned foliage.
Cut off dead flowers after bloom, just above the new sets of leaves.

If you are trying to grow hydrangeas indoors, try a well lit window facing east.

Whether grown indoors or outdoors, hydrangeas do best if they are fertilized regularly.  Although some authorities recommend special fertilizer mixes to get maximum results, hydrangeas do amazingly well with a more relaxed approach. One can use organic additions to the soil such as manure and compost, or chemical fertilizers. If you use chemical fertilizers, apply a slow release, balanced fertilizer once or twice a year. Both applications should be in the summer. An application in May and another in July would be about right.

The amount of fertilizer used per plant will vary with the size of the plant. It is much, much better to err on the side of too little fertilizer than too much. A very small plant will take about 1/4 cup. A very large shrub will take 1 - 2 cups spread around the drip line of the branches (not next to the trunk).

Don't fertilize a plant that looks sick or wilted. If a plant is struggling due to a disease or root problems, the fertilizer will only add stress to it. Try to cure the illness before adding fertilizer.

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