The Q&A Archives: Transplanting hydrangeas

Question: A few weeks ago, my friend offered me some transplanted hydrangeas that are 4 feet high. She said that she would take them out of the ground and cover their root systems with dirt (in a bucket) so I could pick them up a few days later. When I arrived to pick them up, I realized that she didn't cover the root systems with dirt well at all. In fact, some of the plants that wouldn't fit in buckets she left exposed out of the ground with no water or dirt.

Are these hydrangeas worth saving? I have them in the ground now, however, it is so hard to tell if they are going to die (because everything is kind of dead looking in zone 5 right now). Could you give me some tips on caring for these transplants and also, how to get them through the winter?


Answer: You might be surprised just how much neglect a hydrangea can take. Since you've already planted them, all you need to do is to water deeply once each week until fall rains take over the job for you. The roots will establish themselves as long as the soil temperatures remain above freezing. When the ground freezes the roots will suspend their growth but they'll pick right up where they left off as soon as the soil warms in the spring.

You should see some new growth in the spring. When that begins you can prune out any winter kill and your hydrangeas should be just fine. It would be worth your while to find out exactly what kinds of hydrangeas you've planted. Some bloom on new wood and some bloom on old wood. If yours is the kind that blooms on new shoots which develop on old wood, and if the plants die down to ground level each winter, you'll get lots of lush, green growth but no flowers. If yours is the kind that blooms on new wood or on both new and old wood, it won't matter if the plants die down to ground level each year - they'll still bloom for you. So it will pay to do some research and make sure that the plants you were given were performing well in your friend's yard.

Best wishes with your new plants!

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