How to Increase Hydrangea Blooms (6 Methods)

How to increase hydrangea blooms

Hydrangeas bloom from early spring or mid-summer through til late summer. Below we explore how to increase the number of hydrangea flowers and extend how long hydrangea flower for! 

To increase blooms, plant the hydrangea in an area of morning sun with shade in the afternoon, ensure the soil is consistently moist and apply a well-balanced fertilizer in Spring. Hydrangeas bloom on last year’s growth, so avoid pruning your hydrangea too often, to encourage more flowers. 

Conditions for Blooms:How to Increase Hydrangea Blooms:
Morning sun followed by afternoon shade or dappled light:Hydrangeas can flower less if they are planted in too much shade. Plant hydrangeas in morning sun, followed by afternoon shade or dappled light throughout the day to promote flowering.
Consistently moist soil:Hydrangeas require the soil to be consistently and evenly moist for the flower buds to develop. If the soil is too dry then this can reduce flowering significantly water as often as required so that the soil is consistently moist around the hydrangeas roots.
Avoid pruning too often:Hydrangeas flower on old wood rather then new seasons growth. If you prune back the hydrangea too hard you can remove the growth from which the flowers emerge and prevent the hydrangea from flowering.
Use a well balanced granular fertilizer:If you use fertilizer too often or in too high concentration, then the excess nitrogen can cause the hydrangea to grow lots of foliage with fewer flowers. Use a well balance granular fertilizer as it releases the nutrients slowly and has all the nutrients the hydrangea requires for flowering, at the right concentration.
Ensure the hydrangea is sheltered:Hydrangeas are woodland plants and flower for longer when they are shelter by trees or other shrubs from frost and wind which can damage the emerging flower buds.
Amend the soil with organic matter:Hydrangeas flower more in soil that has been amended with organic matter (such as compost, leaf mold or well rotted manure) before planting. Mulch around your hydrangea every Spring to create the optimal soil conditions for hydrangeas to bloom.

Keep reading to learn how to increase how much and how long your hydrangea flowers and for my personal recommendation of fertilizer for hydrangeas to support flowering…

1. Plant Hydrangeas in Morning Sun Followed by Afternoon Shade for More Blooms

For optimal flowering, hydrangeas require a balance of sun and shade.

We all want spectacular flowering hydrangeas; and, whilst some hydrangeas can flower in the shade, most will flower more if located in morning sun followed by afternoon shade or when in dappled light under a tree canopy.

Early morning sun gives the plants energy for flowering and shade in the afternoon protects the sensitive leaves and flower petals from burning in the intense midday and afternoon sun.

Plant your hydrangea in a position where it is exposed to morning sun followed by shade in the afternoon. 4-6 hours of morning sun is optimal. 

Too much sun can scorch the leaves and the hydrangea can also suffer from drought stress during hot times of the day so full sun can actually be to the detriment of flowering hence the importance of balance with shade to provide relief from excess heat. (For more solutions, read my article, why is my hydrangea turning brown?)

Consider the impact of any surrounding tree canopy and whether in Summer (when deciduous trees and in full leaf) it is providing too much shade for your hydrangea which can decrease the number and longevity of blooms and cut back the canopy if necessary.

However if your hydrangea receives dappled light throughput the day then this replicates the typically conditions of the hydrangeas natural woodland environment and should help to promote a good display of flowers.

The most versatile hydrangea species is the Hydrangea paniculata as it can adapt superbly to full sun and shade.

2. Ensure Soil is Consistently Moist for More Flowers

It is essential that hydrangeas have soil that is evenly and consistently moist. A lack of moisture can affect new growth and, subsequently, bloom development and is most often the cause for a dying hydrangea (read my article, how to revive a dying hydrangea).

It is particularly important to keep your hydrangea moist in the spring-time when the new growth is emerging.

If the soil has been prepared thoroughly before planting, i.e. with appropriate organic matter (see point 6) and there has been applications of mulch in the spring, then mature hydrangeas may not need additional watering unless there is drought like conditions.  

Adding mulch helps conserve the moisture in the soil; however, in hot climates and in periods of drought, soak the soil as frequently as necessary to keep an evenly and consistently moisture otherwise new bud formation can be affected.

Less mature or smaller hydrangea root system are less extensive then more mature hydrangea so if they hydrangea is smaller or ha been planted in the last 2 years (and not full established) then consistent watering of your hydrangea is more important to ensure a good display of flowers.

3. Avoid Pruning Hydrangeas Too Often-More Flower Buds

One of the big mistakes in hydrangea care is over-pruning. Most hydrangeas do not require annual pruning as the flower buds develop on old wood rather than on new season’s growth. 

Hydrangeas will flower from mid to late summer, and only emerge from shoots that come from last year’s growth (so don’t cut them off!) Pruning should, ideally, be limited to cutting back dead growth and flower heads. 

If you prune your hydrangea back to heavily, this tends to result in lots of lush foliage growth but without any flowers.

Hydrangeas are hardy, resilient plants that tend to grow back stronger the following year after being pruned, but it may be a year or so before it flowers again to the same extent.

If you need to prune back your hydrangea significantly, then prune straight after it has flowered. This will give as much time as possible for the plant to grow and stimulate buds for the next summer’s bloom!

However you may have to reduce the size of the hydrangea (if it is too large for the space in your garden) in which case you should acknowledge that the hydrangea my not flower for a year or two but with patience the hydrangea should flower well once it’s new growth has matured.

4. Use a Well Balanced Fertilizer to Support Flower Development

It is tempting to apply fertiziler to give our hydrangeas the best possible chance of looking beautiful. However:

Too much nitrogen, in too high a concentration (a key ingredient of fertilizer) can promote lush green foliage, but it can limit your hydrangeas blooms.

The best fertilizer for hydrangeas is a well-balanced, granular fertilizer (such as miracle grow).

Granular fertilizer is best for hydrangeas as it releases nutrients slowly and contains all the nutrients, at the right concentration for hydrangeas to flower.
Granular fertilizer is best for hydrangeas as it releases nutrients slowly and contains all the nutrients, at the right concentration for hydrangeas to flower.

A granular fertilizer releases nutrients slowly and ensures the hydrangea has all the nutrients it requires at the right concentration for flowering.

If you apply mulch regularly, and have properly prepared the soil prior to planting (with lots of compost, leaf mold or well rotted manure) then mature hydrangeas often do not need any fertilizer for flowering, however smaller or potted hydrangeas with a less extensive root system benefit the most from the use of a fertilizer in Spring.

5. Shelter Hydrangeas to Protect Delicate Growth

Plant your hydrangea under a canopy or somewhere that will protect it from the wind and frost (such as by a wall, fence or other shrubs) rather then an open windy area of the garden.

As hydrangeas are woodland plants, they naturally grow under sheltered conditions which reduces the risk of frost and wind damage. Try to replicate this in your garden. 

Both wind and frost can damage new growth and emerging flowers  – thus affecting blooms! 

In addition, keep the old flower heads on your hydrangea as they protect the plant from frosts during the winter. Whilst they may look unsightly, they are a natural protector from the frost. 

If you get frost damage on your hydrangea, make sure you cut the dead off to just above the next bud down the stem.

Those buds on the outside of your plant are the most likely to be frost damaged but the flower buds further down the stem are often more protected and can still display flowers.

6. Hydrangea Flowering- Amend the Soil with Organic Matter

To get the flowers on your hydrangea looking their best, it is important to have fertile soil. Low quality sandy or stony soil has a big impact on the quality of your hydrangea blooms.

Ideally for the best blooms you should prepare the planting area prior to planting; use lots of organic matter (compost, leaf mold or well rotted manure) to help provide the optimal level of soil moisture and nutrients to ensure the hydrangea has all the resources it needs to display flowers.

Hydrangeas are native to woodland environments where they grow in soil composed of leaf litter which has lots of nutrients and holds moisture well, so for your hydrangea to flowers its best, it is important to replicate these growing conditions.

If your garden soil is heavy clay or sandy then it is even more important to prepare the soil before hand to create the right conditions for your hydrangea to flower and thrive.

If you need to move your hydrangea into an area of more fertile soil, transplant your hydrangea in the spring and amend the soil to a depth of 18 inches with compost leaf mold or well rotted manure( all three retain moisture and provide soil nutrients) to accommodate the root system at full maturity.

Preparing the soil beforehand and an application of mulch in the Spring emulate the hydrangea natural environment and ensures you hydrangea has all the recourse it needs to flower its best.

(If you are having any trouble with your hydrangeas then read my article, why is my hydrangea not flowering for the solution).

Key takeaways:

  • Hydrangeas flower more and for longer when planted in an area of morning sun followed by afternoon shade. Morning sun provides the hydrangea with energy to stimulate flowering and afternoon shade protects the sensitive flowers and leaves from heat stress so that the flowers last longer.
  • Hydrangeas require the soil to be consistently moist, particularly in Spring for the emerging flowers to develop. Water as often as required to ensure the soil is moist and add a layer of mulch at the of Spring to help to conserve moisture and create the optimal conditions for hydrangeas to flower.
  • Avoid pruning your hydrangea too often as hydrangeas flower on last years growth. If you prune the hydrangea back too hard you can remove the growth from which the flower buds develop the following year and prevent the hydrangea from flowering.
  • Plant hydrangeas in soil amended with compost to create the moist soil conditions that hydrangeas require for flowering. Plant the hydrangea in an area with shelter to protect the developing flower buds from wind and frost damage. Avoid pruning hydrangeas every year as they flower on old wood rather then new growth.

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