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How to Keep Hydrangeas Upright?

As popular flowering shrubs, hydrangeas are resilient and hardy plants with high versatility in landscaping and garden design.

One important thing to consider, however, is keeping them growing upright, or preventing them from flopping over.

Because of the large blooms and the tall growth of this shrub, it often flops over under its own weight. To avoid this, you need to keep hydrangeas upright.

You can do this with the help of various support systems that I’m going to cover below, so you can stop your hydrangeas from taking a heavy beating in case of a storm or strong winds.

Stop Hydrangeas Flopping Over

Hydrangeas can’t always naturally support themselves, especially the varieties that grow tall and especially when they’re allowed to reach their mature size.

Hydrangeas that grow on new wood are especially prone to broken stems and flopping during the blooming season.

When packed with large, heavy blooms, stems can give up under their weight. The problem is even worse is there’s heavy rain or strong winds.

Here are some of the easiest ways to make sure your hydrangea stays upright:

– Pruning

Pruning your hydrangeas correctly means you grow them to a manageable height and help them produce stems that are strong and don’t easily bend under their own weight.

How does this look like in practice?

Certain hydrangea varieties can be pruned back all the way down to the base. But pruning the plant incorrectly or in a season when you’re not supposed to do excessive pruning, can cause the growth of weaker stems.

It’s best not to prune hydrangeas all the way down to the base and allow for a framework of old wood of about 18 to 24 inches. This will offer strong support when the plant grows back in the spring.

Not all hydrangeas should be pruned back, especially those that bloom on old wood. Those hydrangeas only require some tidying up at the base such as removing dead or diseased canes.

Moreover, deadheading spent blooms is also important not only to keep extra weight off the stems but also to help promote repeat blooming and help aerate the shrub.

– Tomato Cage

Smaller hydrangea plants can be helped to grow upright with a tomato cage. You can create a tomato cage yourself or use other wire cages, especially if your hydrangea requires a sturdier structure to help it grow upright.

Cages and fences can work splendidly for hydrangea trees to train them to grow upright until the supporting stem of the plant is strong enough to support the weight of the tree.

Whether you’re using a tomato cage or other wire cage, if your aim is to grow your hydrangea as a tree, you also need to remove any side shoots or shoots that grow at the base to further strengthen the stem you’ve chosen as the trunk of your hydrangea tree.

– Bamboo Stakes

Bamboo stakes are another way you can help hydrangeas from flopping over. It’s best to stake your hydrangea way before it produces flowers.

This is so that when the blooming period comes, you’re prepared for the outpour of potentially heavy blooms your hydrangea shrub may produce.

– Wooden Trellises

My favorite way to keep hydrangeas upright is to use wooden trellises. Of course, you must adjust for height, that is, buy trellises that are tall enough to make a difference in the support of your hydrangeas.

Wooden trellises can be highly ornamental, so if they fit into the decor of your garden, you should definitely consider them as an option.

Trellises need to be sunk into the ground but without damaging the roots of your hydrangeas.

Pro Tips

Hydrangeas may fall over after heavy rains, during excessive bloom production, or if there are heavy winds. Likewise, some hydrangeas simply have softer stems, so they’re more likely to flop over compared to other hydrangeas.

The following pro tips can help prevent hydrangeas from falling over:

– Choose hydrangeas with stronger and thicker stems

Hydrangeas that bloom on new growths like the H. arborescens “Annabelle” can struggle to support the weight of their blooms, so staking and using fences or trellises may be needed to keep them from flopping over.

If that’s not something you want to spend time and effort on, you might want to consider hydrangeas with sturdier stems like those that bloom on old wood.

Once hydrangeas that bloom on old wood like the oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia) or mophead hydrangea (H. macrophylla) are given a chance to mature, they will have woody stems that are structurally sounder than that of the Annabelle, for example.

– Plant hydrangeas where are protected from heavy winds and storms

Heavy winds and storms can do a number on your hydrangeas, especially those that don’t boast thick or sturdy stems.

Planting them in an area of your garden where they can be near structures that offer wind protection will prevent flopping over caused by heavy rainfall.

– Plant hydrangeas at an appropriate distance from each other

Don’t pack hydrangeas too close to each other but also not too far from each other that they can’t offer each other support.

When planted at a distance of 3-4 feet, they can naturally rely on each other for support, but without being too crammed together.

It’s important to account for the natural spread of your hydrangea at maturity. If your hydrangea can get 8 feet wide, don’t plant it very close to other hydrangeas.

It’s important to allow room for aeration of the shrub to prevent a host of foliage problems including fungal leaf diseases.

Wrap Up

Hydrangeas that bloom on new growths may have trouble supporting the weight of their blooms, especially during heavy winds or a sudden downpour of rain.

While a hydrangea that’s kept upright with fences, bamboo stakes or wooden trellises can still take a beating from a heavy storm, there may be fewer broken stems and woods if your hydrangea has a sturdy structure around.

You can circumvent this weakness of hydrangeas by practicing good pruning methods, correct planting distance and choosing hydrangea varieties that are more resilient in carrying their own weight.

Updated: March 10, 2021

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