How to Grow Hydrangeas

At the end of last week’s column, I asked for advice on how to grow hydrangeas. Thanks to your e-mails, I have become an expert on the subject.
“I have two hydrangeas in my backyard facing east,” wrote Toni Noonan, who lives in Burbank. “I have had one of them for many years and have just planted another one this year. They bloom beautifully, and I have never had a problem with them. My mother also had a hydrangea in Glendale facing east, as well as several of my neighbors. Evidently hydrangeas are to be planted facing the east.”
“I have one growing in a pot in my backyard, and it is currently blooming beautifully with large red flowers,” wrote Tony Gentile from Thousand Oaks. “In the summertime, the plant gets northwest sun in the early evening for one to two hours. Otherwise, it is shaded. The current location seems ideal, although days around 90 degrees mean extra evening watering. Also, extra watering is required after Santa Ana winds.”
From North Hills, Richard Blagdon wrote: “My hydrangea bush produces huge pink and blue blooms. It is located in the shade, but with bright surrounding light. I feed monthly with Miracle-Gro. In the fall, I cut it down to the wood. While in bloom, it needs lots of water. A clothes dryer (moist heat?) behind the hydrangea might be a positive growth factor.”
Jean Traubner related that “I have kept my hydrangeas happy and healthy for 25 years here in Shadow Hills. Not the same plants of course due to gophers. Mine even froze this winter. I water every day, always keep the dirt wet and never expose them to direct sun. They are on the south side of the house this time. I was told not to plant there, but that is where the shade is. They like any kind of food. They get treated just like the rosebushes. Every one is under a pine tree.”
“I live in Acton,” wrote Linda Murad, “and have had great success with hydrangeas. The plants are located under pine trees with filtered shade. I fed them acid food late last summer and did not cut them back. We had several freeze days last winter, and they came back more beautiful than ever this year. The odd thing is that they are close to a hill and get a lot of wind in the afternoon, so I’m surprised by how well they are doing.”
Janice Smiley wrote about plants growing along the north side of her daughter’s home in Castaic, “the most magnificent hydrangeas that I have ever seen in Southern California,” with “blossom heads as large as 10-inch dinner plates.”
Last but not least, Gary Nelson passed along his “Formula for hydrangea success” in Newbury Park. “Plant them on the north side of the house (northwest quadrant is best),” he writes. “Protect them from the hot afternoon sun. In February, cut stems back to 18 inches or less and feed them heavily with acid fertilizer (as used on azaleas). Feed again when regrowth starts in March-April. Feed again in mid-May during vigorous growth, about every sixty days. Be very generous with water. You almost can’t give them too much! Do the above and they will bloom until Halloween, at least.”

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