Care of Hydrangea Macrophylla ('Harlequin')

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Care of Hydrangea Macrophylla ('Harlequin')
The colour of hydrangea macrophylla depends on the pH of the soil and the availability of aluminium. (hydrangea image by Annett Goebel from

The bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) is also known as the Harlequin hydrangea, French hydrangea or common hydrangea. The large mophead or lacecap flowers appear in May, lasting through early July. Plants received as gifts can be planted outdoors in the spring, after all danger of frost is past. The best time to plant is in the fall. Don't expect blooms again until the plant is established. Hydrangeas need morning sun and afternoon shade. They tend to wilt in locations with afternoon sun and will need more water. Choose a location that gets adequate water, but is not soggy.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Shovel
  • Organic mulch
  • Fertiliser
  • Pruning shears

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  1. 1

    Plant hydrangea in the early spring or fall. Dig the soil around the planting site and amend the soil with organic compost. If the soil is heavy clay, add one-third the volume of soil in organic material such as pine chips, shredded leaves or compost.

  2. 2

    Plant Hydrangea macrophylla in a hole twice as wide and the same depth as the container. Cut pot-bound roots in several places and break up the roots. Place the plant in the ground slightly higher than soil level, allowing for settling.

  3. 3

    Water the newly planted hydrangea thoroughly until water puddles around the plant. Continue to water twice a week during the first year; hydrangeas need a lot of water and can wilt on a hot day even when adequate water is available.

  4. 4

    Mulch with approximately 3 inches of organic material to conserve moisture and discourage weeds.

  5. 5

    Fertilise in March, spreading 142gr to 170gr per 100 square feet of a balanced fertiliser such as 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 for pink flowers and 12-4-8 or 16-4-8 for blue flowers. Fertilisers with high phosphorus limit the aluminium available to the plant and lead to pink flowers. Spread the fertiliser around the drip line according to label directions. Repeat applications of fertiliser in May and July, or use a time-release formula.

  6. 6

    Remove older branches and dead wood at ground level in the early spring. Hydrangea macrophylla bloom on last year's wood, so too much pruning will limit blooms. Leave the majority of the branches uncut.

  7. 7

    Shape the bush as soon as the blooms fade in July. Remove one-third of the oldest stems each year, cutting them off at ground level with pruning shears. Remove any faded flowers.

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