There are very few plants that you, the gardener, can actually choose the color you want them to be in your garden. Hydrangeas happen to be one of them. With some simple amendments to your soil, you can choose between making the blooms blue or pink. And while it doesn’t happen overnight, the magical blooms are well worth the wait!
The most important thing that influences the color of hydrangeas is soil pH—that’s the level of soil acidity. That means you may want to start with a soil test. You can either get a soil test kit from your favorite garden center or you can send your soil to your local cooperative extension office.
In general, more acidity makes hydrangeas turn blue, less acidity (or more alkaline soil) promotes pink—that is, unless we’re talking about white hydrangeas, which alas, are limited to white.
Take a look at our pH color guide to get closer to the color you prefer.
Hydrangea Color Preference
Okay, so how do you actually change soil pH?
To lower pH and turn hydrangeas blue, we recommend adding Espoma Soil Acidifier to the soil. It’s safe, long-lasting, and approved for organic gardening. Use 2 1/2 cups around the plant’s drip line every sixty days, until you reach the desired shade of blue.
Prefer pink? Then use Espoma Garden Lime. Sprinkle about 2½ to 5 lbs. per 100 sq. ft. in the Spring or the Fall.
5 Colorful Tips
- Consider container gardening for hydrangeas as an easier way to control soil pH. Some of the newer varieties of hydrangeas feature huge flowers on compact plants which are ideal for containers.
- Feeding hydrangeas well results in healthier plants with more saturated color.Espoma Holly-tone is an excellent choice for blue hydrangeas since it contains sulfur to lower pH. Espoma Plant-tone is ideal for feeding pink hydrangeas since it does not contain the additional sulfur.
- Water hydrangeas steadily, especially in the hottest part of the summer to keep them from wilting. Mulch to keep roots cool and conserve moisture.
- Hydrangea color can be affected by lime leaching out of concrete walkways or patios nearby, making blue a real challenge. Keep this in mind when considering where to plant.
- A word of caution: not all plants like acidic soil. Be careful about what’s growing near your hydrangeas. Not sure which plants like acidic soil? Click here to see a list of Acid Loving Plants.
Hanging Baskets, flats, Specialty annuals and more! Continue reading All the Annuals and Perennials are ready!
Since garden impatiens, Impatiens walleriana, have been severely impacted by a new downy mildew disease (and will likely continue to be impacted in future years), growers, landscapers, and homeowners are seeking
alternatives to this ubiquitous garden plant. Impatiens have been a reliable garden plant for many years due to their color choice, growth habit, price point, and shade tolerance. While it might seem challenging to find plants that will be a suitable replacement, there are many great plant selections that are viable substitutions. The tables below list some options for shade tolerant plants, along with information on crop time and garden size. Don’t focus on the negative… use this opportunity to grow and promote different and exciting plants!
−It’s important to remember and to communicate that New Guinea impatiens are NOT susceptible to impatiens downy mildew.
−It is sometimes assumed by some that New Guinea impatiens is a sun plant. Yes, New Guinea impatiens perform better than garden impatiens in the sun, but New Guinea impatiens generally perform equally as well or better in the shade.
−Also consider hardy plants such as ajuga, heuchera, lamium, lysimachia, as well as various grass and grass-like plants.
−Don’t plant shade plants in the sun! For sunny sites recommend annual vinca, angelonia, petunia, geranium, marigold, zinnia, celosia, pentas, gazania, portulaca, and so on!
The summer of 2012 will be known as the end of impatiens on Long Island — at least for a few years at best. As the airborne disease of “Downy Mildew” passed over our gardens, it decimated Long Island’s impatiens within a couple weeks. As homeowners stood in bewilderment as their beautiful gardens were diminished, they tried to find out what happened. Some blamed their spouses for watering too much or too little, some blamed their lawn maintenance service for “blowing the leaves” right off their flowers, some blamed their house sitters and swore never to go on vacation again, and some didn’t know who to blame. It was no one’s fault. It was just mother nature exercising her right to throw in these diseases once in awhile to keep us on our toes. Maybe we were getting too comfortable with the ease of impatiens. Well, that’s no longer the case. As this airborne disease has hit Long Island in 2012, it is time to find alternatives.
Your garden for 2013 will be even more beautiful with new varieties of other old time favorites that are very reliable, as well as magnificent. There are many choices of New Guinea Impatiens that are completely not affected by Downy Mildew. They can be planted in the same areas where you once planted your impatiens. And don’t think that you need only flowers to add color to your garden, the development of Coleus varieties has resulted in spectacular foliage that brings your garden to life. Another favorite of mine is begonias as they do wonderfully in sun or shade. They are very low maintenance and keep blooming until a hard frost — much longer than the regular impatiens. If you have lots of sun, the vinca flower has a petal formation that is practically identical to the impatiens, but can withstand much more drought. No need for overwatering Vincas.
As gardeners, we may have experienced a setback in our garden designs for 2012. But as gardeners, we know that our gardens are never stagnant. They are always ever-changing and growing — like we all should be. We are not discouraged by this disease. But more importantly, we hope that our customers and all gardeners are not discouraged. At Albert H. Schmitt Family Farms, we were known for having the best selection of impatiens on Long Island. Now, we will now be known for having the best alternative choices for impatiens on Long Island. We are excited for Spring 2013 as we plan our greenhouse planting schedule. Our customers will be pleasantly surprised of what awaits them beyond impatiens.
Click here to read more on impatiens from Jessica Damiano at Newsday (must subscribe to Newsday to be able to view full online article)
Another Impatiens Article by Jessica Damiano for Newsday (must subscribe to Newsday to be able to view full online article)