Do you have a hydrangea in your garden or have a desire to grow one? I grew up in southern Ontario and the big white balls of hydrangeas grew everywhere. If you are looking to plant a hydrangea, I was delighted to discover there were some hardy varieties developed for the Edmonton climate. In the past year, I have planted some hydrangeas hoping to add this beautiful plant to my garden. My one hydrangea, a PeeGee, has bloomed every year. My other hydrangea is a big leaf and unfortunately, I pruned it when I should not have. I have summarized the information on the two different types of hydrangeas you might buy for your garden, as it can be confusing when researching the subject.
Paniculata Graniflora or PeeGee hydrangeas are the easier hydrangeas to grow in the Edmonton area. These hydrangeas grow flower buds from new wood stems in the spring, similar to the H. arborescens or smooth hydrandrea (Annebelle) which also grow from new wood growth. There is a variety of PeeGees and some favorites are Limelight, Bobo, Pinky Winky, and Annebelle is a favorite of the smooth hydrangea.
The other type of hydrangeas are those that form flower buds on old wood from the previous summer. These are called H. macrophylla (Big leaf, Mophead, or Lacecap) or the Oakleaf hydrangeas.
These types are harder to maintain as the buds grow on the stems in the summer to bloom the following year. Protecting these buds so they do not die before the spring is essential.
Why is new wood growth and last summer’s growth important? It is useful to know when you are pruning your hydrangea if you are wanting blooms for the following summer to consider this growth.
The hydrangea I first mentioned (PeeGee) can be sustained when you cut the finished blooms immediately after flowering or remove only dead, damaged, unsightly wood.
In order to have the other hydrangeas bloom next year, you will need to avoid pruning them in order for the buds to grow through the summer and return.
A very good example of how to prune your hydrangea and tips for creating more blooms can be found on this website:
Winterizing your hydrangea:
Water your hydrangea well before frost. Do not fertilize.
Mulch your hydrangea well to protect the crown. You can mulch with leaves or straw.
Put a protective barrier around your hydrangea and wrap it with burlap.
By Tamie Perryment (Organic Master Gardener)