The Q&A Archives: Planting

Question: What type of soil mix should I use to plant hydrangeas? When and what type of plant food should I use?


Answer: Hydrangeas do best in an organic, humusy soil that stays evenly moist but is well drained. Most soils will benefit from the addition of organic matter such as compost, well rotted autumn leaves, milled sphagnum peat moss or whatever similar organic material(s) you have available.

A slow release granular fertilizer is best. If you have one of the big leaf hydrangeas (H. macrophylla) and want to emphasize the blue coloring, use a fertilizer for acid loving plants such as Hollytone. For other hydrangeas, use any general purpose granular or slow release granular form with an analysis such as 10-10-10 or similar proportions. Follow the label directions for how much to use.

Using an organic mulch year round will feed the soil and add organic matter on an ongoing basis as it breaks down over time. It also helps keep the soil evenly moist. Spread it in a flat layer over the root area, keep it about three inches thick. Do not allow it to touch the stems or "trunk" of the plant.

The most important thing you can do for your new hydrangea is to water correctly. Your goal in watering is to keep the soil evenly moist like a wrung out sponge, not sopping wet and not dried out. To know if you need to water, dig into the soil with your finger. If it is still damp, do not water yet. When you do water, apply it to the soil surface and water thoroughly and slowly so it soaks down to the deeper roots. After watering, wait a few hours and then dig down to see how far the water soaked in; it can be surprising.

There is no set schedule for watering, it depends on your soil type and on the weather. Good luck with your new hydrangea!

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