They can start as indoor plants before being planted out
bouquet of red roses and hydrangea fresh flowers in white bucket on dark wooden table. retro filter, copy space.
The festive season countdown has started and Christmas roses (Hydrangea macrophylla) are leading the charge with flower heads that are huge, festive and dramatic. For years I had a hydrangea in a large container in the garden, but mostly forgot to water it.
The leaves drooped accusingly, it sulked and withheld its flowers. Then I repotted it, moved it to a shadier place, watered more regularly and suddenly it produced huge snow-white blooms. Now that hydrangeas are back in favour (with me), it is easier to give them credit as one of the showiest solutions for shady gardens. They’re fast growing and develop into a good-sized shrub within a season (if treated well).
Even when not in flower the large, deep green leaves can be appreciated for their texture and shape, creating a lush backdrop for shade-loving flowers with smaller leaves. For the water-wise gardener, the solution is to zone them with other shade plants that have the same requirements, such as impatiens, arum lilies, coleus, cyclamen, fuchsia, hellebores and rhododendrons, as well as indigenous shade-loving plectranthus.
Hydrangeas can start as indoor plants and stand in as a long-lasting flower arrangement before being planted out into the garden or a large container.
A new introduction is All Season’s hydrangea, which is a single-head hydrangea that produces a long-lasting spectacular bloom in pink or white. There are also the normal multi-flower pink or blue flowering hydrangeas available as indoor plants. The indoor requirements are at least four hours of bright, indirect light a day. The flowers last longer if the plant is kept cool. As pot plants, they
like evenly moist but not soggy soil. If the pot has a water wick, check the levels of the tank.
Plants prefer lime-free water. If the indoor air is dry, place the pot on pebbles. After flowering, the plant can be cut back and planted in the garden, but the single-head variety will revert to its natural state of producing more than one flower head. If there is root competition from trees or shrubs, plant it in a large pot and sink the pot into the ground, but treat it as a pot plant by watering regularly. Lift the pot every six months to make sure that the roots of other plants haven’t grown into the pot.
Caring for hydrangeas:
As garden plants, hydrangeas do best in dappled or semi shade. They can take morning sun but will require more watering. Protect them from midday sun. in fertile soil that is rich in humus and drains well. Add a mulch of compost twice a year, in spring and in autumn.
Hydrangeas do not like dryness at root level and need regular, deep watering to develop good flowering stems. Lack of water during hot, dry spells makes them susceptible to red spider mite. On extremely hot days the leaves may wilt, even if they have had plenty of water, but that is just their way of saving water. They will revive with the evening coolness.
If the leaves don’t revive, they should be watered. Special hydrangea food can be used. Hydrangea flower heads are rich in iron.
Don’t throw old flowers away. Strew them around the plant so the iron returns to the soil. This helps to intensify the colour of the flowers. Prune at the end of winter. Remove dead stems and spindly growth. Cut down old woody growth to as close to the ground as possible.
Cut back last season’s flowering stems to the first pair of healthy, fat buds. One reason why hydrangeas might not flower is that they have been pruned down too far and in the process the flower buds have been cut off. The stems produce both leaf buds and flower buds, but the flowers buds are fatter.
For more information visit www.plantimex.co.za
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