When to plant hydrangeas - choose the right time for vibrant blooms that last

It can’t be too hot or too cold. So, when is the best time to plant hydrangeas?

Purple hydrangeas
(Image credit: Future PLC / Colin Poole)

They’re big, they’re bold, and they’re beautiful, and hydrangeas can be found in countless gardens across the country. But while admiring these blooms is easy, knowing when to plant hydrangeas is a little more difficult. 

Of course, it’s not hard to understand why hydrangeas are so popular. As well as increasing the value of your house, hydrangeas are incredibly easy to grow, and flower clusters can last for months before the winter months inevitably force them into dormancy. 

However, if you’re ready to add hydrangea to your brood or take hydrangea cuttings, you might want to take a breath before donning your gardening gloves. Planting these blooms at the wrong time could spell disaster for even the most seasoned gardener. But if get the moment just right, you can expect bigger and better flowers year after year. 

Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight' | £24.99 at Waitrose Garden

Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight' | £24.99 at Waitrose Garden

If you're looking for a hydrangea plant that will reliably produce blooms all year round this is the one. It has an RHS garden merit award and tops the list of their best hydrangeas to add to your garden.

When to plant hydrangeas

'Hydrangeas are one of the most diverse and spectacular of deciduous garden shrubs in cultivation,' says Mark Lamey, Head Gardener at Belvoir Castle. And while they’ve been a popular choice for both novice and expert gardeners alike for decades, it’s important to know when to plant hydrangeas, no matter whether you’re planting shrubs or growing hydrangeas in a pot

Generally speaking, it’s best to wait until early spring or late autumn to plant hydrangeas, as this will ensure moderate weather that’s not too hot or too cold. Gardening expert Sally Allsop from All That Grows suggests, 'If you can wait until the chance of an overnight frost has passed, it will give your hydrangea the best chance to flourish.'

But while extreme temperatures could cause unnecessary stress for your hydrangea, they can still handle a little uncertainty if you’re a little too early or late to the planting game. 'Hydrangeas are quite robust and generally tolerate being planted out at any time of the year,' says Sally.

White hydrangeas

(Image credit: Future PLC / Colin Poole)

Where to plant hydrangeas

Hydrangeas aren’t too fussy when it comes to where they are planted, but they still have basic requirements that need to be fulfilled. 'Hydrangeas prefer a sunny or semi-shaded position, which is sheltered from drying winds. Ideally, if you can find that spot that gets morning sun but afternoon shade, your hydrangea will thank you for it,' says Sally. 

With this in mind, hydrangeas are perfect for those with north-facing gardens. But that doesn’t mean that south-facing garden owners have to be left hydrangea-less. As long as you have somewhere in your garden that offers a break from the blazing midday sun, your hydrangea should thrive.

Seating area in the garden surrounded by trees and flowerbeds with white and green hydrangeas. Interior designer Susan Hoodless and Erskine Berry's renovated four storey terraced west London home.

(Image credit: James Merrell/Future Publishing Ltd)

How to plant hydrangeas

Gardening expert Calum Maddock from HomeHow has shared his best tips for planting hydrangeas.

'Give the plants lots of water before planting. The hole should be the same depth as the root ball and more than three times as wide. Once planted, firm the soil around the root ball by pressing it down. Then, put down some mulch with soil improver, leaving a gap of 4 - 6 inches around the base of the plant. Water in well and keep the soil moist in the coming weeks.'

And it really is as simple as that. 

Purple hydrangeas

(Image credit: Future PLC / Lizzie Orme)

How to care for hydrangeas

With a myriad of beautiful hues and sizes to choose from, it would be easy to assume that different hydrangeas require different conditions. But thankfully, that isn’t the case, and they’re all relatively easy to care for.   

For starters, you don’t need to worry about them during the winter months. 'Hydrangeas are hardy shrubs, they don’t need to be moved into a greenhouse in the cold weather. The only danger from cold weather is late frosts damaging the young developing shoots in the spring. Avoiding frost pockets when planting is the best defence against this,' says Morris Hankinson, director and founder of Hopes Grove Nurseries

For the best blooms, however, it’s good practice to deadhead your hydrangeas on a regular basis and maintain a healthy watering schedule. You can try a smart irrigation system if you struggle with this. 

Pink hydrangeas

(Image credit: Future PLC / Matt Sweeting Photography)

In fact, how often you water your hydrangeas - and the type of water you use - can seriously affect your blooms. 'Hydrangeas will grow on any soil type, but the pH will determine the flower colour,' explains Tom Clarke, Head Gardener at Exbury Gardens.  For example, if you want your hydrangea plant to have blue blooms, it needs to have a pH level of between 5.2 and 5.5. 

Because of the potential for pH variance in tap water, Clarke suggests regularly using rainwater to water your hydrangeas. 'They do best when they receive regular watering throughout the growing season but do not like to be waterlogged.'

Try harvesting rain water with a water butt to benefit from the current downpours for watering your hydrangea plant. 


What month is best for hydrangeas?

Technically, you could plant a hydrangea any month of the year. However, hydrangeas prefer to be planted during milder months, where the chances of extreme temperatures are lower. Because of this, it’s best to plant your hydrangeas in early spring or late autumn. 

What type of soil do hydrangeas like?

Hydrangeas like rich, fertile soil that’s kept moist but not waterlogged. It’s important that these plants get the nutrients that they need to thrive, as a lack of nutrients - or a change in pH - can change the colour and the size of your flowers. 

Lauren Bradbury

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.