Garden Tips for the Great Garden State — Hydrangeas They are a Changin’
For me, gardening is mostly about growing delicious organic vegetables from the day the soil thaws, until the last bulb of garlic gets planted in the fall. But, from time to time, I will plant flowers and I’ll be man enough to admit, I do enjoy when the tiger lilies are blooming in the summer.
I guess growing flowers will come more with age, or maybe it will come with more free time. Either way, it’s only fair that we give a tip here and there for those who enjoy growing things you can’t eat.
I get asked this question a lot. “I heard you can change hydrangea’s color, how do I do that?.”
First off, you need to make sure you have the correct variety. Varieties that are white lack the ability to change their color. The varieties that have flowers somewhere in the blue-purple-pink spectrum are pretty cool in that you can change the color of their blooms by changing the acidity or alkalinity of the soil that they grow in.
If you want pink flowers, just make the soil more alkaline. If you want blue flowers, make the soil more acidic. You can achieve many different colors along this spectrum and depending on how big the hydrangea plants are, you can even get them to bloom half pink, half blue.
To acidify your soil for blue or purple flowers you can mulch around the base of the shrub with peat moss, or use a soil acidifier such as ammonium sulfate or aluminum sulfate. Just follow the instructions on the package for how much to add.
To make your soil more alkaline or less acidic, you can add wood ash or garden lime around the base of the plant. Remember that wood ash is much more potent then lime so go gentle with it and add more if the color doesn’t change enough for your liking.
You may have to re-apply throughout the season, so keep notes on what you put down, when you applied it, and the results, this way you can hone in on the perfect schedule for your desired color.
One last thing about hydrangeas to those who plan on trying this out with new plants… When you buy hydrangeas from nurseries, they pump them up with so much fertilizer to make SURE they are in bloom by the time they will be ready for sale. Don’t be surprised if it takes them a couple years to get going once you plant them around your house. They might not even flower the first year or two and this doesn’t mean you should keep pumping them with chemicals to force them. Just feed them with some quality compost each year and your patience will be rewarded.
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