The Q&A Archives: Planting Potted Hydrangea

Question: I just received a hydrangea as a gift and would like to plant it in my garden. It's currently in full bloom. Would it be best to plant it right now while flowering, or wait until the flowers are gone? What conditions and watering does it require?

Answer: Florist's hydrangea is Hydrangea macrophylla, or big leaf hydrangea. Planting sometimes stresses plants, making the leaves and stems wilt. Any blossoms on the plant will wilt and die. Wait until the flowers are spent, then cut them off. Water the shrub well and allow it to drain while you prepare the planting hole.

Choose a partially shady spot, with at least some protection from hot afternoon sunshine. Dig a hole slightly larger than the pot your plant is in. Loosen the soil, then lay the pot on its side and gently remove the plant. You may have to tap the sides and bottom of the pot to coax the plant out. If the roots are spiraling around, straighten them out so they'll grow out instead of around in a circle. Plant at the same level it was growing in the pot and firm the soil all around the roots. Then water well to exclude any air pockets around the roots.

Bigleaf hydrangeas produce blossoms on new shoots that grow from the previous year's wood. If you prune carefully after the blooms are spent, taking one-third to one-half of the old wood, new flowering shoots will appear the following spring. Repeat this process annually. Plant in rich, porous soil (amend with compost or peat moss to retain just the right amount of moisture), and mulch the root zone to help suppress weeds. Hydrangeas are fast growing shrubs.

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