The Q&A Archives: Soil preparation when planting Hydrangeas

Question: I live in Cary. I just bought a new hydrangea plant today and want to plant it into the ground tomorrow. The ground here is clay soil. Can I just plant it directly from the pot into clay soil? Or should I add something to the plant hole?

Answer: Hydrangeas generally tolerate all kinds of soil, as long as it drains well. To get your shrub off to a good start, you'll want to dig a hole as deep and slightly wider than the nursery container. Then rough up the soil on the sides and bottom of the hole to help the roots find places to venture out. Unpot the shrub and set it in the hole, making sure that the finished level will be the same soil level as the plant was growing in the container. (Not too deep, not too shallow). Then fill in around the sides with the soil you removed from the hole and tamp it down to remove any air pockets. When you're finished, water well to help settle the soil. You might also use some of the leftover soil to build a berm to hold water. This watering basin or watering well should be a circle of soil about 12" away from the plant and about 3-4" high. When you water, fill the basin and allow to drain, then fill it a second time. You should only have to water once a week (twice if the weather is really hot). Watering in this way will concentrate the moisture over the root mass and allow it to trickle down to fully saturate the roots. Don't amend the soil or add anything to the hole. If you do, the roots will remain in the planting hole where the soil is rich instead of venturing out into the native soil. If this happens, the plant can eventually strangle itself. Best wishes with your new hydrangea!

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