Posted by: scentandviolet January 17th, 2017
Growing hydrangea in Houston (South Texas) is not impossible, but it is not easy either. Sun and humidity can make it very challenging to have a nice hydrangea bush that will both bloom and survive.
First, you have to choose appropriate variety – and this is were it becomes challenging. The variety that works the best for our zone is Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). This gorgeous shrub performs much better than other varieties, however it does not look like the hydrangeas we see in the magazines or in flower shops. Flowers are cone-shaped, cream colored and the shrub can grow to be 8 feet tall. Flowers will change color throughout season to pink and even reddish brown in autumn (note: you cannot change the color of Oakleaf hydrangea by changing acidity of the soil)
Next hydrangea on our list as the top performer for South Texas is PeeGee hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata). Again, not your typical magazine variety hydrangea. Cone-shaped flowers are usually white-green that will turn pink with age. PeeGee hydrangea, if left unpruned can grow up to 15 feet – not bad for a shrub. With proper pruning, PeeGee hydrangeas are often trained to look like trees.
However, what most of us would like to grow is the picture pretty French hydrangea, or mopheads (Hydrangea macrophylla). Of course, these hydrangeas are the most difficult to grow in Houston (and southeast Texas). Are you ready for the challenge?
Let’s start with the best site for hydrangea: East side of the house (or any structure) will receive morning sun and be in the shade for the remainder of the day. If you do not have room on the east side, north side will be your additional option. Of course, if you’re like me and orientationally challenged, you need to spend some time observing: Find a spot that gets up to few hours of sun in the morning and is shaded throughout the rest of the day.
Second issue to consider is the size of your site. Hydrangeas need room to grow. Consider that French hydrangeas can grow up to 8 feet wide and 7 feet tall. When planting, leave at least 2 feet in each direction (from the center of the plant) for your hydrangea to grow.
Third thing to consider is the color of the hydrangea. Easiest to grow in southeast Texas are pink and red colored blooms (our clay soil is very alkaline and as such works best for pinks and reds). Once you have become a hydrangea growing pro, you can play with changing the acidity of the soil (If you want blue hydrangeas, you will need to add Aluminum sulfate to the soil, to lower your pH and make soil more acidic).
Got all that? Lets dig a big hole. Hole needs to be twice the width of the pot you bought your hydrangea in. Depth of the hole needs to be the depth of the soil in your pot plus 4 inches. Add about 4 inches of compost to the bottom of the hole. Place your hydrangea and cover it with the soil you dug out. If your clay soil is too dense, mix it up with potting soil (keep the ratio 3:1 – 3 part potting soil, 1 part clay). Cover the top of the plant with 4-5 inches of mulch. We recommend cedar mulch (keeps the termites away). Water until all the mulch is moist.
And last, but not least is keeping your hydrangea alive. Hydrangeas like moist soil. You need to water hydrangeas daily until established (2-3 weeks). Do not water leaves and blooms (leave that part to rain), just soil (mulch) around the roots. Water your hydrangea early in the morning (recommended) or late in the evening. Once established you need to experiment and observe a little. Start watering your hydrangea bush every second day. If your leaves look healthy (not drying or wilting) keep up with that schedule. If your leaves start turning yellow to rust colored, you’re watering too much and need to change the watering frequency. You will soon discover that mulch is your best friend. It protects the roots, retains water well and provides home to bugs.
Would you like to take it up a notch? Plant chives, thyme, and lemon balm close to your hydrangeas. These herbs can grow in shade and will help you attract some beneficial bugs. They smell lovely, and why not use some in your kitchen, too? Also consider planting some shade friendly Texas native flowers
Your hydrangea survived and thrived? It’s gotten too big and you’d like to prune it. Please check this video from North Coast gardening on how to properly prune hydrangea
Scent & Violet, flowers and gifts is a full service florist in Houston, TX offering flower, plant and gift delivery in Houston, Katy, Richmond, Fulshear, Sugar Land and Bellaire. We aim to create fuss-free, everyday shopping source for flowers, plants, and gifts. It is our belief that we can create better relationships through gifting, better environments through plants, and better state of mind through flowers.