What About Hydrangeas?

Ask Henry!

Writer William P. recently asked about hydrangeas that don’t want to bloom: “I purchased three plants with beautiful flowers three years ago. The next two years only nice green leaves, no flowers?? What do you recommend I should do to get flowers?? They are not in the sun.”

'Endless Summer' blue hydrangea: endless disappointment

You almost certainly bought blue hydrangeas, a variety that was touted as great for northern New England called, ‘Endless Summer’. I callit ‘Endless Disappointment’. They are raised in greenhouses in southern places and arrive in our nurseries loaded with blossoms in June, big, blue blossoms.

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But in year two, the flower buds for June blossoms have almost always been killed by our cold winter winds. Eventually, and usually in September, a few blossoms appear. There is little you can do to change that, it’s the nature of the beast. If you want those blue flowers, buy a new shrub every year and treat them as annuals. 

Certainly it would help a little if you moved them to a place where they get more sun, as producing flowers takes lots of energy – which is provided by the sun. But the results would likely be the same (particularly since full sun means full wind and cold in the winter.)

'Pink Diamond' starts out white, and turn pink

Even though you might not be able to get BLUE blossoms, you can get plenty of nice blossoms from other hydrangeas: white ones, pink ones, pale green ones. I am very partial to Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pink Diamond’This has a longer, narrower blossom than the “PeeGee” hydrangeas that are so popular. Mine is a tree form, a standard that has a 4-foot trunk with branches shooting out in every direction on the top. It starts out white, then turns a nice subdued pink.

'Pink Diamond'

The PeeGee hydrangea is a very vigorous big shrub that has hundreds of big, fluffy white flowers late in the summer. If you pick the flowers before frost they will stay handsome in a dry vase all winter. But if you wait until after frost, they will be brown.

PeeGee hydrangeas are loaded with big, fluffy blossoms

Another great hydrangea is the climbing hydrangea, which blooms in June. It will attach itself to a stone or brick wall, and can be trained onto a wooden wall like a barn with lattice or ties. Mine has sent stems through cracks in the barn, so it holds on just fine.

Climbing hydrangea covers the north side of my barn

So give up on the blue ones, and look at some of the many others. There are plenty of great ones out there. And if you can make a recommendation to William for another nice hydrangea, or if you've had good luck with blue ones, please add a comment below where it says, "Start a Discussion' or 'Add a Comment'. 

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