Big Leaf Hydrangeas: A Comprehensive Care Guide

If you’re looking for a beautiful and low-maintenance flowering shrub, look no further than bigleaf hydrangeas. Not only are they stunning, but they’re also incredibly easy to care for. In this article, we will delve into the essential aspects of bigleaf hydrangea care, providing you with all the information you need to ensure your plants thrive.

The Perfect Soil and Light Conditions

For your bigleaf hydrangeas to produce an abundance of flowers and maintain healthy foliage, it’s crucial to provide them with ideal soil and light conditions. These shrubs thrive in moist, humus-rich soil that is well-drained. Place them in an area that receives full sun to partial shade. If you live in a region with scorching summers, consider providing some afternoon shade to prevent foliage from getting damaged. To promote optimal blooming, it is recommended to apply a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer, once in spring and again after flowering.

Consistent Moisture is Key

Bigleaf hydrangeas love consistent moisture, and they may exhibit drooping leaves if they become too dry. To keep your plants healthy, ensure they receive about an inch or two of water each week. Additionally, apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch around the base of the plants. This will help retain moisture in the soil and suppress weed growth. During periods of extreme heat, even with ample moisture, the foliage may show signs of stress. In such cases, it’s best to leave the plant alone and wait for the cooler part of the day when the leaves will quickly recover.

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Transforming Flower Colors

One fascinating feature of bigleaf hydrangeas is their ability to change the color of their flowers. While white-flowered varieties and a few others maintain their hues, most can shift from bright pink to true blue depending on the soil’s pH and the presence of aluminum. To ensure your hydrangeas showcase blue flowers, make sure aluminum is available to the plant. In acidic to neutral soils, this is not an issue. However, in alkaline soils, the roots cannot absorb aluminum, resulting in pink flowers.

Testing Soil pH and Making Adjustments

To determine your soil’s pH, conducting a simple soil test is recommended. If your soil is acidic or neutral, but your hydrangea flowers are pink, you can apply granular aluminum sulfate, sulfur, or iron sulfate to acidify the soil. Consult your local garden center to determine the best option for your area. Be cautious not to exceed the recommended dosage, as this can harm or even kill the plant. Allow several months for the treatment to take effect, and consider applying lighter doses several times rather than a heavy application. Once you’ve successfully lowered the pH, using a product like Miracid® can help maintain soil acidity. Consider grouping your plants together so you only need to modify the pH in a specific area.

When dealing with alkaline soil, you can try to acidify it gradually over time by incorporating ample organic material and adding elemental sulfur. However, if your soil’s pH is 7 or higher, this method might not be effective. In such cases, growing blue-flowered hydrangeas in containers allows for better control over the pH level with minimal soil volume.

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Pruning Techniques

It’s important to understand the pruning requirements of bigleaf hydrangeas to ensure they bloom prolifically. With the exception of the Endless Summer series, most bigleaf hydrangeas bloom on mature wood. This means that the plant forms flower buds for the following year in late summer or early fall. To avoid cutting off these buds and missing out on the gorgeous blooms, all that’s generally required is light trimming in early spring. Simply remove any old flower heads, cutting them back to the closest leaf nodes.

In severe winters, the tips of the stems may experience damage due to the cold. In such cases, it’s advisable to remove the dead portions. While the flower buds at the tips may be lost, this pruning often stimulates dormant side buds to develop and bloom. If the entire plant dies back during a harsh winter, cutting it down to the ground in early spring is appropriate. Established plants can usually bounce back and send up new growth as the weather warms.

Choosing the Right Variety

If your region experiences fluctuating temperatures in spring, you may face challenges with regards to emerging flower buds. Late spring cold snaps can destroy these buds, resulting in no blooms for the season. To mitigate this issue, consider planting bigleaf hydrangeas in northern or eastern exposures. These locations are less prone to breaking dormancy prematurely and being damaged by late frosts. Alternatively, select more cold-hardy cultivars like ‘Nikko Blue’ or ‘Blue Billow’. Additionally, newer varieties that bloom on both old and new wood, such as the Endless Summer series, are excellent choices. Even if winter kills the flower buds on these plants, new buds will form on the fresh growth, ensuring a delightful display of midsummer flowers.

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Protecting Your Hydrangeas from Deer

As with many garden plants, deer have a penchant for bigleaf hydrangeas. If deer are a concern in your area, it’s advisable to use a spray repellent regularly, especially during the growing season. This will help deter these hungry critters from making your garden their buffet line.

Large hedge of blue hydrangeas: You can change the flower color of hydrangeas to be this lovely shade of blue by acidifying the soil.


Changing the pH of your soil will change the color of your bigleaf hydrangea blooms.

Bigleaf hydrangeas are a captivating addition to any garden. From their stunning flowers to their adaptable nature, these shrubs are a delight to care for. By following the guidelines provided in this article, you can ensure your bigleaf hydrangeas thrive and reward you with an abundance of colorful blooms. For more information and a wide selection of bigleaf hydrangeas, visit the Ames Farm Center.