Gorgeous pink hydrangea displayed on the mantel

I recently read about the most adventurous man in the world.

He planned and hoped and dreamed for years to climb the highest peaks on each continent and sail the seven seas.  He traveled the globe and sailed around the world and faced hardships and challenges and snow and ice and raging waters, but eventually he climbed that last mountain and sailed that last sea.

It is an incredible accomplishment.

One requiring great fortitude and extreme endurance.

I know.

I think I understand.

Because that’s exactly how I felt this week….

….when my hydrangea finally bloomed.

I opted to display the hydrangea in white against the white mantel

I’ve had minimal success before with hydrangea.

But they are so elusive.

A plant would bloom for a while and then stop and then end up with tons of leaves and one flower.

Now, I’m not an hydrangea expert, but I’ve really been working on my hydrangea skills and came up with some tried and true tips for anyone who has struggled with those beautiful blue or pink blooms.

These pink hydrangea pop beautifully against the white

1.  Location, location, location

It’s true for New York real estate and hydrangea blooms.

Hydrangea plants like a little shade and a little sun.  Filtered sunlight is the best.  I have moved mine around the garden and they finally landed in the perfect spot for my location.  It’s on the west side of the house under a large shade tree with extended branches.  They get that wonderful afternoon sun, but it’s not harsh at all because it’s filtered through the tips of the branches.

I also have a few on the east side of the house that get morning sun and complete afternoon shade and they aren’t blooming nearly as much.

They are the perfect summer flower to decorate with

2.  Pruning

Different varieties of hydrangea are different.  Some bloom on old wood, some bloom on new.  If you are in doubt (and you forget which variety you planted like me), leave the stalks and don’t trim until you see whether or not the old wood has blooms.  I accidentally trimmed some plants to the ground when we first moved to the house and it took years for the hydrangea to recover and start blooming again.

3.  Protect them over the winter

If it’s going to be a cold winter, you can add a layer of protection for the plants with a frame around them filled with large leaves from the yard.  I like the oak leaves the best because they don’t break apart as easily and form more of a barrier against the cold.

4.  Feed the hydrangea

There are tons of different products on the market to add nutrients to the soil to make the right consistency for hydrangea.  I’ve tried several with varying degrees of success and then I went old school with coffee grounds.  I just sprinkle them around the base of the plant and mix them into the soil.

Here's a peek at my hydrangea in the garden

(here’s my baby hydrangea just starting to bloom)

My friend has hydrangea bushes that surround her house full of so many blooms the plant can barely support them and when I asked her how she got her hydrangea to bloom she shrugged her shoulders and smiled at me and told me she ignores them.

So maybe that’s the key.

When all else fails, go all Hallmark movie on the hydrangea like the girl who really wants the guy to like her except he’s too busy to notice her and then he buys her parents’ flower shop and instead of falling all over him….

…..she acts like she’s not really aware he’s there.

And after all that ignoring, they all live happily ever after. 🙂

PS  Just posted some fun idea for flower arranging over on the Homes.com blog.  You can read the article here.

How to get your hydrangea to bloom

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  1. Image for renee renee

    I'm kind of like your friend. I have a huge white hydrangea at one end of the house. Last year bought one of those beautiful pink ones and decided to pot it and see how it would do. It has bloomed it's little head off. Bloomed non-stop until fall. Has been blooming like crazy again this year for probably the past month. Gets morning sun and pretty much shaded in the afternoon. I use miracle grow every few weeks - on the potted one only. The one in the yard has never been fertilized. It has buds and is HUGE! I dry blooms from it every year. I also don't do anything extra to them over the winter. This year I bought a blue one and again - decided to pot it (depending on the size, they'll probably get transferred to the ground at some point. The blue one promptly lost all it's leaves once I brought it home and has not bloomed again, but it's looking great and full of new leaves.

  2. Image for Kim Kim

    You have shown "great fortitude and extreme endurance". Now go enjoy all those beautiful blooms! One question though. Do you use brewed coffee grounds? Does it matter?

  3. Image for Terri Terri

    WOW!! Great tips..... My Mom was raised on a farm, one of 8 children who helped with all things "Working Farm"... huge garden, fields of corn... but she will be the first to say ( even now at 92) she is NO gardener!!! :) ... However... my whole growing up years she had the most beautiful full hydrangea bushes I've ever seen!!! Amazing bluish, lavender blooms ..... and she really & truly did nothing but ... every so often when she had brewed a pot of tea, she would take the loose tea leaves and distribute them around the hydrangea bushes... Seriously, so random and she did nothing else!!!! NOW ME ON THE OTHER HAND... who loves to garden... loves planting flowers, and tending to them.... WELLLLL... why can't I grow beautiful hydrangeas??? They are my favs!!!!!!!! sooooooo with all that said... I will follow your lead Karianne.. and watch for some gorgeous blooms ( like yours) !!!!! Thanks!!!!!

  4. Image for Laura Ingalls Gunn Laura Ingalls Gunn

    Right now there are 5 varieties of hydrangeas planted in 5 different locations here at Storybook Cottage. We have 16 oak trees so perhaps there is too much shade and not enough sun. My mom swore by coffee grounds and banana peels for her roses and my roses are gorgeous. I'll add them to the begging and pleading routine I'm currently using on the hydrangeas. Have a happy day!

  5. Image for Marisa Franca @ All Our Way Marisa Franca @ All Our Way

    AND this is a tip if you want to bring hydrangea blooms in the house. Are you ready?? :-) ALUM Yep! Ordinary every day alum. Cut the hydrangea stem and then stick it in the alum -- then put it in water. You know that in order to keep flowers blooming nicely in the house you have to keep trimming the stems about once a week and put in fresh water. Now that idea is not my genius idea -- it is Courtney at French Country Cottage that told us about it. I absolutely drool over her flowers. I have two hydrangea bushes that are doing great and one poor little guy who is stuck under a huge hosta. I think I'd better move him before he dies from lack of sun. Have a sun filled day and I'm glad your hydrangea is blooming for you.

  6. Image for Angie M Angie M

    I have one hydrangea that is blooming for the first time this year and another that is blooming more than it has in the past. The only thing I can think of that was different this year was the flooding rains here in the south this past fall.

  7. Image for Terri Godfrey Terri Godfrey

    KariAnne, you are right on all counts! It's what works for them in your individual yard. Hydrangeas are often a struggle but my favorite and one of the most beautiful flowers. In my herb and floral business Thyme in the Garden I dried hydrangeas for use in wreaths and arrangements. They are so romantic and pleasing to the eye. White hydrangeas such as PeeGee and Snowball are relatively easy to grow but it does take about 4 to 5 years for them to become prolific. They like organic, read that as compost, coffee grounds, ground eggshells and manure tea but often will just astound you with no care at all. Blue hydrangeas are another nation unto themselves. I have had the same issues with blue hydrangeas that you did. No blooms for years, then 200 blooms of all shades of blue and lavendar on the same two bushes. Then 6 blooms. Cheeky little devils. Coincidentally this week I was watching This Old House on PBS; an episode on blue hydrangeas. Turns out you really have to buy a blue hydrangea that is matched to your growing zone as well. A woman couldn't get hers to bloom but the plant she bought was for a warmer zone. When the winter is too cold that particular hydrangea goes back to square one and focuses on just growing the plant back and no blooms then. They replaced hers with a different zoned plant. Ok, so I've added my two cents worth. Thanks for all your postings....love your style.

  8. Image for Michelle Rudis Michelle Rudis

    I'm a life time wannabe gardener card carrying member. But the only thing I've ever been successful at growing moved out and started their own families. I'm in awe that you stuck with it, Karianne! I would have given up long ago. Good for you!!

  9. Image for Donnamae Donnamae

    Too funny! I ignore my hydrangeas....they get no protection from our Wisconsin winters....and they bloom just great! I'm a lazy gardener...fortunately, my plants are okay with that! ;)

  10. Image for Patricia Patricia

    I love hydrangeas. I've got them growing in our yard in both sunnier and shadier locations. The only time I didn't get lots of blooms was the year my husband helpfully "trimmed" them in the fall. Now he leaves that up to me and I only trim branches I know have bloomed. I don't fertilize or protect in winter. I think my climate (Seattle mild winter, sunny summer) seems perfect for them. Good luck with your blooms.

  11. Image for Celeste Celeste

    I had to laugh at your "baby" hydrangea bush. I wish I could get mine that big. Last year I planted one that "died" by Fall. It came back this Spring. All ten inches of it. By the time it makes it to blooming bush stage, it better be able to take care of itself, cause I'll be way too old to care for it.

  12. Image for Nancy Nancy

    I have always heard it is the acid in the soil that make it the different colors??? Here in Fla we see mostly "blue-purple"! Would it be that coffee "acid" is good for pink?? Your hydrangeas are beautiful.... Nancy

    1. Image for Beverly M Beverly M

      Sorry but you are incorrect on that one. Use Mir-acid to keep blue hydrangeas blue and Miracle Gro for the pink ones. We have 36 hydrangeas in our back yard; 12 each of blue, pink and white Annabelles. I took me years to learn which to prune and when and the proper feeding routine. This year it seems ours happen to know this is our last year here and they are all showing off to the max--- and my heart soars at the sight.

  13. Image for Jeanne @ I Dream of Jeanne Marie Jeanne @ I Dream of Jeanne Marie

    Hi KariAnne, I think hydrangeas are such beautiful flowers. I have one that blooms poorly but .maybe if I tried a few of your ideas I might have success. Your pink flowers are some of the prettiest colored ones I have ever seen. I think your thumb is "extra" green! Blessings, Jeanne

  14. Image for Carol Lander Carol Lander

    KariAnne, I love hydrangeas too. We finally had a place 3 years ago to plant one; just like you said morning sun, filtered afternoon sun. This year was the most amazing. Ours bloomed about 1 month ago (We're in Dallas so a little farther south than you.). Amazingly, we had pink, lavender and blue blooms on 1 bush. Have no idea how that happened. Now that it's getting really hot, the blooms are a bit spent and I know we probably have less than a week left. I'm glad you are enjoying yours and I get to enjoy them too.

  15. Image for Tarah Tarah

    OH no!! my boyfriend is going to kill me! I do not have a green thumb and the one time I prune something and now its not going to bloom. As I was doing it he gave me that look (since hes a landscaper, I should have stopped immediately) I though we had the non wood blooming version. I assured him I has googled this and it was what we should do. After reading this, I have to break the bad news! Thanks for the post though hopefully next year and I wont touch them again!

  16. Image for Cecilia Cecilia

    Yay that yours bloomed!! I have an oak leaf hydrangea and it finally bloomed this year. I want to add some mopheads at some point. They are just so pretty! Hugs Cecilia

  17. Image for Lynne B. Lynne B.

    I live in the mountains in Victoria, Australia, we have deep acidic mountain soil and my hydrangeas are HUGE, the bushes are almost completely covered in flowers. The original part of our house is well over a hundred years and I think the garden and hydrangeas are almost as old. They grow under Camellia Japonica bushes that are as big as trees and form an informal hedge between the house and the road. Every winter (mild here, only had very light snow twice in 34 years) I prune the stem that has flowered back to a fat healthy bud and don't prune the unflowered stem, because they flower on that next years growth. I never fertilise mine, its the rich acid mountain soil. For instance, I can't grow lavender because the soil is so acid, they just die on me. I have so many beautiful varieties of hydrangeas, when I'm pruning I sometimes wonder about the person who planted them so long ago. They are mostly rich deep blue, except one area near the chook shed where they are pink (don't know why because I thought that would be acid soil too) and some white lace-caps mixed with them. I had a florist call in one year and ask if he could pick some and he did so for years until he retired. So, I think the trick is acid conditions, as are coffee beans and tea.

  18. Image for Sheila Irwin Sheila Irwin

    Yours are doing splendidly! I'm embarrassed to say that (in the past) I had subscribed to the "ignore" method pretty regularly. I'm in California and they are all along my front window, which faces North so it gets pretty heavy morning sun but much needed shade in the hot afternoon. However, those were pink ones. And there was a tree nearby. Cut to today. I removed all the pink a couple of years ago when I wanted all white, and these have not fared as well. Not at all. Then on top of that, we lost our only large tree during a wind storm last year so now they get even more sun as well. They are alive, and they bloom, but they don't seem to produce much and they don't seem to grow bigger or taller. My older pink ones were large! Crossing my fingers that I can get these to actually grow! Sheila www.maisondecinq.blogspot.com

  19. Image for NormaJean NormaJean

    I think the "ignore them" trick is the answer. I planted 4 tiny plants behind my garage, where I hope to someday have a pergola and outdoor fireplace built (it's on the 20 year plan!). Since the hydrangeas are out of sight, they are also out of mind. Last week I happened to wander out back, and lo and behold, the plants are huge and full of blooms and lush green leaves! Mine are currently in the blue/purple range in color. So gorgeous! I can just picture myself sitting out there in white wicker rockers, sipping a cool glass of mint tea (under my handsome pergola, of course), nonchalantly explaining to anyone who will listen, all about my hydrangea expertise!

  20. Image for Susan Susan

    Your hydrangeas are gorgeous, KariAnne! I have to say, my gardens are overrun with them...they grow like weeds here...in fact, I've had to dig out several new hydrangea bushes that have sprung up and they are crowding out all of my other plants. I didn't realise that their roots are runners, similar to many weeds. Do you have any good tips for somehow making hydrangeas a little less enthusiastic? :)

  21. Image for Leslie Watkins Leslie Watkins

    One of my absolute favorites. Mine are blue and so gorgeous this year. Almost completely shaded and tucked in for protection...it seems very happy so I tiptoe around it and hold my breath that it stays happy.

  22. Image for Leslie Leslie

    I'm definitely in the 'ignore them' camp for our hydrangeas. BUT, since we purchased the plant from a local flower farm that we trust, I knew exactly what kind of hydrangea I was getting. And I definitely get giddy every time I see it bloom!

  23. Image for gail gail

    I love hydrangea! :) I have an original plant, and a "baby" of that plant side by side and they are doing great this year, after only a few blooms last year because they were newly transplanted. :) Mine are all shades of blue, pink and purple. I guess I need to try the coffee grounds! thanks for the tips Karianne! gail

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