One of the most popular flowering bushes in the garden is the hydrangea. With over 20 varieties of the spring bloomer, hydrangeas come in many shapes, sizes and colors with something for just about any growing zone and garden design. Five cultivars of hydrangea are native to North America and can readily be found in most garden centers. More unique types are best found at specialty catalogs or online. Proper hydrangea care takes a little knowledge---this is not a bush to plant and forget. Hydrangeas love a little babying and will respond well with gorgeous blooms.
Hydrangeas grow best in well-draining soil with some shade throughout the day. Avoid full shade because sun is needed for flowering. Check for plants with information spikes or tags with care tips including the amount of sun that's best for your particular variety. Consider planting these bushes along the edge of wooded areas not only because of the burst of color against the browns and greens of the woods, but also to draw butterflies and bees.
Hydrangeas are famous for their particular pH level specific needs. As the soil experiences differing acidic levels, so will the colors of your flowers. Some gardeners will change the garden's pH balance purposely to get different results. A high pH will effect the level of aluminum in the soil, which will change your blue blooms to pink. It is not uncommon to see bloom groupings that go from blue to purple to pink. For most cultivars, a pH level of 5.5 or lower will result in pure blue, while a pH of 6.5 or higher will be pink. Levels in the middle will give purple. For a free testing to determine your soil's pH level and for advice on how to amend it to the level you wish, take a soil sample to your local cooperative extension office.
Pruning is a common dilemma for the gardener. With blooms that grow only on new shoots, panicle and smooth hydrangea varieties need to remain untouched in early summer just after the blooming season and pruned back in fall or winter. Bigleaf and oakleaf varieties respond well to a thorough winter pruning, being cut back to two thirds for better blooms next season. Bigleaf varieties that are affected by cold weather dieback can be pruned at any time for aesthetic reasons.