If you’re used to your hydrangeas growing tall and stuffy, you might have a hard time imagining how these shrubs can grow in pots. But you can grow them in pots if you know how to take care of them properly.
There are a couple of good reasons why one might want to grow hydrangeas in pots, and one of the most important reasons is that you can better winterize potted hydrangeas, especially if they’re a variety that’s not cold hardy in your area.
If you’re considering growing your hydrangea plant in a pot, read my potted hydrangea care tips below to learn how you can best take care of these plants.
Choosing a Pot
In garden centers, Hydrangeas are usually sold in small pots, which is one of the reasons these plants last only a couple of weeks after you bring them home. Small pots dry out faster and hydrangeas need moist soil.
When you bring your hydrangea home, it’s best to transfer it to a pot that’s several inches larger than the previous one. In larger pots, the soil stays moist for longer, keeping your hydrangea well hydrated.
You can use plastic pots, but as your hydrangea grows and becomes top heavy, it might tip over. To prevent this from happening, I use terracotta pots. These do absorb moisture quicker, but they’re also sturdy enough not to allow the plant to tip over.
Whatever type of pot you use, make sure it’s fitted with draining holes to allow excess water to escape from the pot.
To improve drainage even better, add a layer of stones or gravel to the bottom of the pot. Make sure that you use a potting mix that’s either specifically formulated for hydrangeas or you can create a potting mix that drains fast. Use a soil that’s high in organic matter. Avoid clay and other heavy soils.
Leave a few inches of space between the surface of the potting medium and the rim of the pot, so that when you water the plant the water doesn’t wash out from the top.
Watering hydrangeas correctly is tricky. The weather, the size of the planter, the size of the hydrangea are all factors to consider.
I usually water my hydrangeas 2 or 3 times a week, depending on how warm the weather is and quickly the soil dries out. I fill the pot to the brim with water, then allow it to drain.
One reliable indicator that hydrangeas require water is if their leaves start to droop. If their leaves are otherwise looking good, you can hold off watering until the soil starts to feel a bit dry.
It’s crucial that you use good soil in a pot that drains well to avoid the roots sitting in water. Even if hydrangeas enjoy moist soil, they don’t enjoy sitting in water.
When grown in planters, hydrangeas should be fertilized in late winter or early spring. I usually use an organic slow-release fertilizer at the beginning of the growing season.
Alternatively, you can use a liquid fertilizer once at the beginning of the growing season and once during summer or mid-summer.
There’s no need for constant fertilizing, hydrangeas aren’t heavy feeders. I sometimes add compost to the top soil, this will also replenish nutrients in the soil and improve drainage.
There’s no benefit to overfertilizing your hydrangeas, in fact you risk causing fertilizer burn, so it’s better to keep it at a maximum of 2-3 times per year.
It’s no secret that hydrangeas enjoy a location that gets full sun and partial shade, or diffused light. I avoid letting my potted hydrangeas in full afternoon sun because that will cause the soil to dry out way too quickly and can also burn the gentle leaves of the plant.
I try to find a location that gets full morning sun and partial shade during the rest of the day. This will prevent the soil from drying out as quickly.
Indoors you should follow these same guidelines, although you can place the plant a few feet away from a sunny, south-facing window.
Potted Hydrangea Winter Care
I mentioned that one of the chief reasons why people might prefer to grow hydrangeas in pots or planters is because it’s easier to winterize these plants by moving them indoors.
You can move your hydrangeas in the garage or other cold area in your home, where they won’t be exposed to frost and chilly winds. Keep watering to a minimum.
Do You Need to Repot Hydrangea?
As your hydrangea grows, it will require repotting. I usually repot them at the beginning of the growing season and choose a planter that’s noticeably larger than the previous one.
My largest planter is around 2 feet in diameter, and that’s the biggest I’ll go in terms of how much space I’ll provide my hydrangeas.
Growing potted hydrangeas is a good alternative to garden hydrangeas if your garden is too small to accommodate these plants.
If you see that your hydrangea is getting too big, you can prune it back to a size that’s more acceptable to you.
Just be careful with the pruning!
Some hydrangeas will flower from old woods, others from new woods, so if you’re worried about the blooming season, check how to best prune your hydrangea variety.
If you simply don’t have enough space in your home or patio to house large hydrangeas, you can get dwarf varieties that don’t grow as tall.
The key to growing hydrangeas in pots or planters is to water correctly, choose good quality soil that doesn’t get waterlogged, and find a good location.
Hydrangeas that come in pots don’t live too long, but you can change easily by transferring them to a bigger pot, with better potting medium and taking it upon yourself to offer the plant adequate care.
Once you get down the basics of caring for potted hydrangeas, you’ll be able to grow healthy plants that will bloom just as nicely as your garden hydrangeas.