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Hydrangeas are beautiful flowers, and they represent a wide range of emotions in different cultures. Yes, they can be tricky to grow, but they are relatively low-maintenance with the right care! In this episode, you will learn everything you need to know about hydrangeas from Ryan McEnaney aka @ryanplantsplants, your new best plant friend. I bumped into him in Seattle during the Northwestern Flower Show a few weeks back. We grabbed dinner and it was crazy how much we clicked!

Ryan is a fifth-generation member of Bailey Nurseries, which is known for their Endless Summer hydrangeas, Easy Elegance Roses, and First Edition shrubs. His lifetime spent with hydrangeas has given him a strong grasp on their care, and he’s willing to share these tips with us!


In this episode, we learn:

  • [06:13] What has Ryan’s plant parent journey looked like?
  • [09:54] What are the 4 main species of hydrangea?
  • [13:42] Understanding bloom cycles for pruning
  • [16:56] Say goodbye to balcony watering stress this summer with self-watering planters!
  • [17:23] Learn how to create the perfect cutting garden for bouquets with The Cut Flower Handbook
  • [18:25] What is the blooming cycle of hydrangeas?
  • [20:09] When should you prune hydrangeas?
  • [22:40] How does soil affect the color of Hydrangea macrophylla blooms?
  • [28:58] What should you know about planting hydrangeas in the ground?
  • [30:12] What’s the general light guideline?
  • [30:42] Common mistakes people make with planting hydrangea
  • [31:23] Get everything you need, from containers to raised beds, with Gardener's Supply Company
  • [32:40] Check your hydrangeas’ soil acidity with Espoma Organics
  • [34:30] Why is it important to choose hydrangeas with flower buds?
  • [42:42] How to extend the length of hydrangea blooms
  • [48:26] Where can you find Ryan on social media?
  • [48:43] Where can you get Ryan’s book ‘Field Guide to Outside Style’?



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The 4 Main Types of Hydrangea

Here are the main 4 species of hydrangeas that Ryan mentioned:

  1. Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) – The big “snowball” blooms like Annabelle.
  2. Panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) – Cone-shaped flowers that change color in fall.
  3. Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) – Oak tree-like leaves, more woodsy, and bloom earlier in the season.
  4. Bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) – The colorful blue, pink, purple round blooms we all love.

Each type has some slightly different needs, but overall, hydrangea care is pretty straightforward once you know the basics.


Sunlight, Planting, and Watering

The key is giving your hydrangea enough sunlight (bigleaf and smooth types are more shade-tolerant though). Ryan says most hydrangeas like at least some morning sun to really maximize those blooms.

When you are planting, dig a hole that is twice as wide as the nursery pot and plant it at the same level. Mix in some compost or manure if your soil is dense clay. Then water it in really well because hydrangeas like very moist soil. I know its name has the word “hydra,” but they really don’t like to be soaked to the point of drowning!


All About Pruning Hydrangeas

Pruning is where a lot of us go wrong with hydrangeas. Some varieties bloom on old wood (last year's stems). Others bloom on new wood (this year's growth).

For smooth hydrangeas and panicle types that bloom on new stems, you can prune them back in late winter before they start growing again. This encourages fuller growth with more blooms.

But be careful with oakleaf and bigleaf hydrangeas! Since they bloom on old wood, you don't want to prune off any stems with those little fat buds (or you’ll risk cutting them off!). Just clean up dead branches after they bloom.


Changing Up Those Bloom Colors

For the colorful bigleaf hydrangeas, you can change the bloom color based on your soil pH! Acidic soil with aluminum = blue/purple blooms. Alkaline soil = pink/red blooms.

To go blue, add a soil acidifier like Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier. To go pink, you can use their Garden Lime. It can take a year or so to see the full color change.


Growing Hydrangeas in Containers

I love that you can now grow some hydrangea varieties in containers! Look for compact reblooming varieties labeled as great for containers. Examples are Popstar, Little Lime, or Little Hottie hydrangeas from Endless Summer.

Simply make sure you use a big pot with holes in it for water to efficiently drain. You'll need to bring it inside for the winter and store it in a cool, dark place like a basement or garage.


Fertilize for More Flowers

Ryan recommends fertilizing most hydrangea varieties once a year with a basic fertilizer in early spring.

For bigleaf types, use a bloom booster fertilizer higher in phosphorus in spring and again in July. This gives them the energy to keep reblooming and reblooming!


How to Get Maximum Blooms

When shopping for hydrangeas, Ryan’s suggestion is to look for plants with little buds that look like baby broccoli heads—not ones already in full bloom. Those buds mean it will flower for you that same season.

Make sure you give your new hydrangea plenty of water during its first year to avoid any transplant shock. After that, just make sure the soil doesn't dry out completely, especially in hot afternoons when hydrangeas tend to wilt.

Those incredible reblooming Endless Summer hydrangeas are your best bet for an all-season-long flower show. As one set of blooms starts fading, a whole new flush will pop up and keep going until frost!


Common Hydrangea Mistakes

The biggest mistakes Ryan sees when people grow hydrangeas are:

  • Over-pruning and accidentally cutting off all the blooms
  • Planting in too much shade (not enough sun)
  • Overwatering
  • Overfertilizing

He says most of the time, hydrangeas just need you to walk away! Just make sure they’re well-watered and that's most of the work.

I hope these hydrangea tips have you feeling confident to grow these bloomers. For even more tips, check out Ryan's book Field Guide to Outside Style (not just about hydrangeas but also has great design advice).



Mentioned in our conversation:


Thank you to our episode sponsors:

Gardener's Supply

From containers to raised beds, seeds to plant supports, Gardener's Supply has everything to create your dream garden oasis. They even sell edging and walkways! Gardener's is an employee-owned company run by passionate gardeners for over 40 years, and they are committed to catering to all kinds of gardeners. Whether you've got acres or just a balcony, you're sure to find everything you need for successful indoor and outdoor gardening.

Discover your garden favorites and exclusive innovations at and use code GROWINGJOY for free shipping.

Quarto: The Cut Flower Handbook by Lisa M Ziegler

One of the most joyful things you can do in the garden is to grow flowers! If you are interested in upping your cut flower game, make sure to grab The Cut Flower Handbook by professional flower farmer Lisa M Ziegler. It is the bouquet-building bible gardeners have been waiting for! Included in The Cut Flower Handbook are 50 extensive flower profiles, planting tips, instructions, and images on how to pinch plants, how to make your cuts, how to dig a planting bed, and more. Plus, there are over 200 photos of the best cut flowers for home gardeners to grow and advice on caring for a cutting garden.

Pick up The Cut Flower Handbook at your favorite local bookstore,,, Barnes & Noble or

Crescent Garden

Say goodbye to balcony watering stress this summer with Crescent Garden TruDrop self-watering planters! For 25 years, Crescent Garden has been a beacon of blending beauty and function. Their TruDrop planters are sleek, lightweight, easy to plant up, and effortless to maintain, with a smart patented water level indicator for foolproof watering. Plus, they come in various shapes, sizes, and chic colors to match any home aesthetic, all while saving water and fertilizer usage.

For a limited time only, head to and use code GROWJOY15 to curate your dream garden today.

Espoma Organic

If you want hydrangeas with the most beautiful blooms, set them up for success with high-quality soil, fertilizer, potting mixes and more! Espoma Organic is dedicated to making safe indoor and outdoor gardening products for people, pets, and the planet. They have an amazing variety of high-quality, organic potting mixes, garden soil, fertilizers, and pest control products that are organic and eco-friendly. To top it all off, they have a huge sustainability commitment with a 100% solar-powered plant, zero waste manufacturing, and eco-friendly packaging.

Visit to find your local Espoma dealer or check my Amazon storefront.




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