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Reader's Questions - Hydrangea
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Question:  We recently had our yard landscaped.  One plant I mentioned I wanted was a Blue Hydrangea.  The landscapers planted two Hydrangeas that look as though they are not sure what color they want to be, blue, purple or pink.  I read that the plants have to adjust to the soil to determine what color they will be but that you could change the color to Blue once the plant is 2 to 3 years old.  Is this true?  Also, the plants are not very tall however they already have very large balls on them which are top heavy, turning brown and touching the ground.  The plants themselves are very healthy looking.  Should I cut off those large flower balls or let them die off themselves?
The landscapers probably did put a blue hydrangea there, but the amount of light the plant gets and the Ph of the soil determine flower color no matter what variety you buy.  If Hydrangeas are happy with their placement, they will bloom at a very early age, and it appears that is indeed the case with yours.  All bigleaf hydrangeas tend to have top-heavy flowers but it's a bit less pronounced once the plant gets bigger because the foliage will help prop them up.  I also ordered a blue variety of hydrangea, but when it blooms, I get pink, purple, peach, and blue flowers all on the same plants.  I get more comments on those than on anything else in the garden, and I have decided to just let mine bloom whatever color they want to bloom because of so much positive feedback.  You are correct in that you can adjust the color when the plant is 2-3 years old.  Hydrangeas grow incredibly fast, and depending on what you started with originally, you can expect to have a plant at least 5 feet tall by 5 feet wide by the 3rd year.  If you want all blue flowers, you have to adjust the soil acidity down by adding aluminum sulfate, and if you want all pink flowers, you have to adjust the soil acidity up with lime.  Of course, unless you have done a soil test, you have no idea what you really have and you will have to wait till about the 3rd year when the plant really starts producing flowers and see what you get.  If it's a mixture like mine, you will have to up the soil acidity using aluminum sulfate for all true blue, but take it really easy if this is the route you are going to take.  I mulch with pine straw since there is a lot of it here, and I have noticed over the years that the flowers are tending more towards blue (the first year they were all pink), but if you are in a hurry, aluminum sulfate is the way to go.  Read the directions and follow them to the letter. There's a fine line between just enough and too much and you could make the soil inhospitable for the plant if you go overboard.  As far as cutting off the flower, if it looks bad or is dead there's nothing wrong with deadheading, and if it still looks good, there is nothing prettier than a Hydrangea bloom in a vase inside the house. Once the plant is established make sure you deadhead all the flowers before September, because next year's blooms will start forming on the old wood over the winter.  One last thing I have discovered with my Hydrangeas is that they root really easily from cuttings, so if you decide you like your plants so much that you want more, just find a newer non-woody stem, cut just below a leaf node, and stick it in some moist soil in the shade.  It will root within maybe 3 weeks or so.



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