‘Best’ tip to ‘guarantee’ your hydrangeas ‘will bloom’ after winter

Alan Titchmarsh shows off his hydrangeas

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Your hydrangeas can be among the most beautiful and plentiful flowers you can have in your garden or landscape. But frost and cold can damage them quickly and without a lot of warning. Thankfully, there are a few steps you can take to help return your hydrangeas to their former glory once spring comes into force. Speaking to All About Gardening, Jill Drago has shared her top tips for getting your hydrangeas to “reach their bloom potential a little faster” this spring.

Be patient 

For gardeners who have noticed that their hydrangeas have healthy green leaves but no flowers, it may just be too early, according to the gardener. 

Hydrangeas tend to bloom from mid spring to autumn. If gardeners take a look at the plant’s flower buds now, they should notice that it resembles “little heads of broccoli”.

Jill said: “Each one of the tiny buds is hiding away the beautiful and colourful petals that will soon be filling your garden.

“If you don’t see anything that resembles these flower buds, be patient. I would not start to worry about a lack of flowers until mid-summer.”

Prune hydrangeas at the correct time

Hydrangeas fit in either one of two categories, either new wood or old wood blowers, the expert noted that this is “important” to be aware of as pruning at the “wrong time” could affect their blooms.

Those that bloom on new wood produce growth from the current growing season. Two examples of these are hydrangea arborescens and hydrangea paniculata. These can be pruned in spring, autumn or even not at all, says Jill.

Hydrangeas that bloom on old wood consist of hydrangea macrophylla, serrata and quercifolia. They should be pruned very shortly after blooming has ended. This is because old wood bloomers will form their flower buds on those same stalks very shortly after the flowers have faded.

Jill added: “Pruning at the correct time is one of the best ways you can guarantee that your shrub will bloom again after the winter.”

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Focus on nutrition 

Hydrangeas don’t rely on intense fertilising, however the gardening expert warned that there are a few situations that could “negatively and positivley” affect their ability to produce flowers.

Jill said: “Aside from spring fertilisation, you don’t need to go crazy fertilising. If you have already overfed them, you may have hindered their flower formation.

“Too much nitrogen will help the plant produce beautiful green foliage, but your plant will be so busy making those leaves that it will not have enough energy or the correct nutrients to produce flowers.”

Fertilisers are made up of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, also referred to as N-P-K. To increase your blooms you will want the middle number, or the P, to be high.

Protect plants from a spring freeze

Once winter is over, there is still a chance of a spring freeze. The expert noted: “These cold snaps have been known to wreck a season of blooms. 

“If you have wrapped them during the winter, you could leave them wrapped until you are sure that the last frost date has entirely passed. Another option is to cover them just for these cold periods.” This can be done by laying a light blanket over the top of your shrubs until the cold weather has passed.

Gardeners can remove the blankets in the morning to allow the shrub to warm up in the sun, and simply replace the blankets in the evening again. For those growing in containers, just bring them inside for the duration of the cold snap to protect the flower buds.

Water when the frost period is up

Once the ground has thawed it is time to start watering these plants. The expert said: “Water is essential for growth to produce healthy leaves and beautiful flowers. If you allow the plant to dry out you will end up with dry and crispy leaves, as well as flower buds that will not open properly.”

Clean garden

Gardeners should be cleaned up in the spring, just like in the autumn. This includes removing any leaves, branches, and other plant debris from the garden. The expert warned: “Leaves and other debris can carry fungal diseases as well as insect eggs from one season to the next.

“Diseases and insects can both negatively affect your upcoming season of flowers. Insects can munch on them leaving them riddled with holes. While diseases can cause the flower buds to rot beyond repair.”

Compost garden beds

Composting can be done in the spring or autumn. Before plants have been mulched and after the garden has been cleared of plant debris, add compost to your garden, advised Jill. She said: “Compost is available in bags at garden centres, but many farms will sell their compost to gardeners. 

“Compost adds organic matter to your soil which helps to enrich it. The compost acts as a natural fertiliser. I have seen the difference an application of compost makes in a garden. It can take struggling or even healthy plants to the next level.”

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