Tips for Hydrangeas in Iowa
• Give them light shade to full sun. Hydrangeas are often listed as a shade plant; however, in Iowa we are so far north that our sun isn’t very direct. So these plants can take — and need — more. Full sun is defined as at least six hours of direct sun a day. (Hydrangea macrophylla in Iowa need some sun for good flowering but will wilt in too much.) Most hydrangeas tolerate light shade (three or four hours of full shade or several hours of dappled shade a day).
• Give plenty of water. Hydra is the Greek word for water, and these shrubs do best with lots of it. Position near an outdoor faucet, a low-lying wet area, or at the end of a downspout. Alternatively, plant on top of black plastic buried 2 to 3 feet down, cupped up at the ends to prevent water from draining away.
• Be patient when pruning. Wait until stems are leafing out to cut out any obviously dead wood. Otherwise, cut them back only as needed after they’re done blooming for the season.
• For gardeners missing out on blue flowers, consider wrapping hydrangeas in lightweight superspun landscape fabric (also called floating row cover) in fall after the first hard frost. Remove in late spring after all danger of frost has passed, usually late May. This improves your chances of actually getting flowers. If you’re lucky, they’ll be blue.
Great in the Vase
Hydrangeas are striking in a large vase. They can be mixed with other blooms, certainly, but because the flowers are so big, just a half dozen of them can make an arrangement that will have visitors oohing and aahing.
Cut hydrangeas in the morning after dew has dried and on a day when the plant is well hydrated. (Otherwise, the leaves and petals will be droopy.)
Put in a vase that covers at least two-thirds of the stem (remember, these are water lovers). If kept in cool, not bright, conditions, the flowers will last three to five days.
Hydrangeas dry beautifully — right on the shrub, in fact. Simply cut them in early fall, once they’ve dried to an attractive buff color.
Use as is in vases or tuck into pots and window boxes for fall decorations. Try spray-painting for shimmering, silvery holiday decoration for mantels, vases, trees, and garlands.
Let's Dance (top) photo courtesy Bailey Nurseries (baileynurseries.com)
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