How to Care for Hydrangeas in Winter to Maximize Blooming in Summer

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How to Care for Hydrangeas in Winter to Maximize Blooming in Summer

A hydrangea in full bloom is a colorful sight to celebrate. But did you know that some types of hydrangeas actually produce their flower buds during the growing season before blooming? The young, tender buds form in late summer and then need to hang on through whatever winter weather comes their way. If cold winds, subzero temperatures, and freeze-and-thaw cycles damage those buds, chances are you won’t see any hydrangea flowers the following spring or summer. Extra care for your hydrangeas in winter in colder regions will help maximize their blooms. Here’s what you can do to prepare your hydrangeas for the cold so you’ll be sure to enjoy their beautiful flowers once again.

Blushing Bride Bigleaf Hydrangea

1. Know your hydrangea type.

The first step in planning winter care is to get a good idea of what kind of hydrangea you are growing. If your hydrangea doesn’t bloom in spring but instead blooms exclusively in mid to late summer, it’s likely a smooth or panicle hydrangea. These varieties produce flower buds in spring. Because smooth and panicle hydrangeas develop flower buds and bloom in the same growing season, they rarely require extra winter care.

The Best Hydrangeas from the Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden

Hydrangeas that bloom in spring and early summer are likely bigleaf or oakleaf hydrangeas. These hydrangeas bloom from flower buds created the previous summer or fall (a few varieties, such as Endless Summer hydrangeas, also form buds the same year as they bloom). If extreme cold or drying winter winds are a challenge in your region, consider adding some winter protection around these spring and summer-blooming shrubs. If you live in a milder climate and haven’t had trouble with your bigleaf or oakleaf hydrangea blooming in the past, you probably don’t need to protect your plant.

2. Protect spring and early summer hydrangeas.

Flower-bud protection is the goal of caring for hydrangeas in winter. The simplest method is to mound shredded leaves or bark mulch around the base of the plant to about 12 inches or so. Put the mulch mound in place in late fall after the ground freezes, and uncover plants in spring when temperatures begin to stay above freezing.

3. Water plants well.

Like all trees, shrubs, and perennials, Hydrangeas overwinter best when they are fully hydrated. Water hydrangeas deeply a couple of times in fall. Winter winds can quickly dry out hydrangeas. Ample moisture in fall will help stems withstand freezing blasts of air.

4. No need to prune.

If you trim your plants in fall or winter, you may mistakenly remove flower buds for the following year on bigleaf and oakleaf hydrangeas. Leaving the old flower heads on the plants will also add some interest to the winter landscape. It’s best to save hydrangea pruning chores until spring or summer after plants bloom (don’t worry, the new growth will soon hide any dead stems from the following year).

5. Bring potted hydrangeas inside.

Potted hydrangeas overwinter best in a garage or basement where the temperature stays cool but doesn’t freeze. The plants will go dormant, but you’ll still need to water the pots occasionally, about once a month, to keep the roots moist, until spring.

Most Popular Flowers & Plants in the USA

RegionPopular FlowersPopular Plants
Northeast (e.g., New York, Massachusetts)Rose, Purple Lilac, Mountain LaurelSugar Maple, American Elm, White Pine
Southeast (e.g., Florida, Georgia)Orange Blossom, Cherokee Rose, Southern MagnoliaLive Oak, Spanish Moss, Saw Palmetto
Midwest (e.g., Ohio, Illinois)Carnation, Violet, Purple ConeflowerBur Oak, Prairie Grasses, Wild Bergamot
Southwest (e.g., Texas, Arizona)Bluebonnet, Saguaro Cactus Flower, Indian PaintbrushJoshua Tree, Agave, Mesquite
West (e.g., California, Washington)California Poppy, Coast Rhododendron, BitterrootGiant Sequoia, Redwood, Manzanita
Rocky Mountain (e.g., Colorado, Montana)Rocky Mountain Columbine, Bitterroot, Indian PaintbrushBlue Spruce, Aspen, Sagebrush
Great Plains (e.g., Kansas, Nebraska)Sunflower, Goldenrod, Purple ConeflowerCottonwood, Bluestem Grasses, Buffalo Grass
Pacific Northwest (e.g., Oregon, Alaska)Oregon Grape, Forget-me-not, Pacific RhododendronDouglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Ferns

This table includes the most popular flowers and plants in the USA by region, which considers a range of botanical species, including native and widely cultivated varieties.

Most Popular Flowers & Plants in Australia

RegionPopular FlowersPopular Plants
New South WalesWaratah, Bottlebrush, Flannel FlowerEucalyptus, Acacia, Banksia
VictoriaCommon Heath, Waxflower, Pink HeathMountain Ash, Silver Wattle, Victorian Blue Gum
QueenslandCooktown Orchid, Golden Penda, Umbrella Tree FlowerMoreton Bay Fig, Macadamia Nut, Queensland Bottle Tree
South AustraliaSturt's Desert Pea, Kangaroo Paw, Eucalyptus BlossomAdelaide Blue Gum, South Australian Blue Gum, Saltbush
Western AustraliaRed and Green Kangaroo Paw, Mangles Kangaroo Paw, Swan River DaisyJarrah, Marri, Karri
TasmaniaTasmanian Blue Gum, Leatherwood Flower, Tasmanian WaratahHuon Pine, Tasmanian Oak, Myrtle Beech
Northern TerritorySturt's Desert Rose, Frangipani, Desert RoseBoab, Gidgee, Spinifex
Australian Capital TerritoryRoyal Bluebell, Australian Daisy, CorreaSnow Gum, River Red Gum, Black Mountain

This table offers a basic overview of popular flowers and plants in each Australian region, focusing on a combination of state flowers, native species, and other characteristic plants. It's important to note that specific species' popularity and prevalence can vary. This table is a simplified representation. Consulting local botanical gardens or regional horticultural societies in Australia would be ideal for more detailed and accurate information.

Charlotte Gammon

By Charlotte Gammon

Meet Charlotte Gammon, our expert and author. She's our true treasure, as she has got 20+ years of experience in gardening, winery and house design. In early 2000s, she worked for today.com magazine and was in charge of the gaardening section. Later on, Charlotte opened her own designer agency and worked as a designer and decorator. We are happy to have Charlotte with us, as she is our good friend. We value her experience and we're sure you will love the articles she created for our blog.