Hydrangeas add unbelievable beauty to a space. By popping a hydrangea in a pot, you can enjoy that beauty just about anywhere! Porches, driveways, balconies, sidewalks, decks, you get the idea. If your spot has full sun, dappled shade, or something in between, there’s a hydrangea you can display there.
There are a few factors to keep in mind when growing a hydrangea in a container. It starts with your plans. Would you like a hydrangea planting just for this season (temporary) or would you like it to last a few years (permanent). With a temporary planting, you’ll enjoy that big flush of beauty in the summer and perhaps transplant or gift your hydrangea to someone else at the end of the season. With a permanent planting, you’ll want to consider its long term care.
Let’s dig into the details!
Three big things come into play with a years-long commitment to a potted hydrangea:
For temporary plantings, the fertilizer that comes in potting soil is likely enough to support the plant, but for permanent plantings, you’ll need to apply fertilizer each year. It’s best to use an all-purpose flowering shrub or rose fertilizer as these have the correct ratio of nutrients for any hydrangea. In early spring, apply the fertilizer around the base of the plant, without it touching any branches, and water it thoroughly. Be sure not to apply fertilizer after late July as this can promote growth and prevent the hydrangea from going into dormancy correctly.
Consider these factors when choosing a hydrangea:
For a temporary planting, you’ll want to make sure the hydrangea is in your hardiness zone if you plan to transplant the hydrangea into your landscape. If you plan to use the hydrangea like an annual, there is no need to worry about its hardiness zone range.
For a permanent planting, you’ll want to choose a hydrangea that is at least in your hardiness zone and if you plan to leave it in an area that experiences freezing winter conditions, you’ll need to use a variety that is two zones hardier than yours. For example, if you live in zone 6, you would need to choose a hydrangea that’s hardy down to zone 4.
Your hydrangea should receive at least 4 hours of direct sun or all-day dappled light. In warm regions, your hydrangeas would benefit from afternoon shade as this will help prevent the soil from drying out and giving the plant sunburn.
Plant Recommendations for each light situation:
Full sun (6+ hours of direct sun) – Panicle hydrangeas are the most sun-tolerant hydrangea variety. Try Limelight Prime® panicle hydrangea.
Part Sun (4-6 hours of direct sun) or dappled shade – anything but oakleaf hydrangeas*. This includes mountain, smooth, panicle, and bigleaf hydrangeas. Try Invincibelle Garnetta® smooth hydrangea.
* Because oakleaf hydrangeas don’t often look their best when grown in containers, we don’t recommend them for your container gardening, but if you like the whimsical look, go for it!
For a temporary planting, choose a hydrangea that is already the size that suits your needs, as it won’t grow very much during the season. Quart-sized hydrangeas look nice planted with annuals or perennials while gallon sizes are often large enough to fill in a pot by themselves.
For a permanent planting, since the hydrangea will be living and growing in your space for a few years, you’ll want to consider its eventual size. Choose a hydrangea that is well-suited for the space you plan to display it in. Here are a few examples:
1-2.5’ tall and wide – Invincibelle Wee White® smooth hydrangea
2’ tall and 2.5’ wide – Wee Bit Grumpy® bigleaf hydrangea
3-4’ tall and 3’ wide – Let’s Dance Can Do™ Reblooming hydrangea
2-3’ tall and wide – Tuff Stuff Ah-Ha® mountain hydrangea
6-8’ tall and 5-6’ wide – Quick Fire Fab® panicle hydrangea
6-8’ tall and wide – Pinky Winky® panicle hydrangea
There are a few minor things to consider when planting your hydrangea in a pot rather than in your garden.
Potted hydrangeas can often overwinter in place, but if you’re worried your hydrangea might be exposed to harsh wind or get buried under piles of snow, you can move it. A perfect spot would be next to your home, out of the wind, but still exposed to the sun and able to receive precipitation. Hydrangeas benefit from being exposed to the elements, as it helps them stay in their natural rhythm, so it’s best to overwinter them outdoors if possible. If you live in a very cold climate, you could pull them into an unheated space like a garage or breezeway for the winter.
Whether you live in a cold or warm climate, soil moisture is critical. A layer of mulch around the base of the hydrangea will help it retain water in all climates. For warm climates, be sure to check your hydrangea throughout the winter to make sure the soil is moist. For climates that experience freezing winters, give your hydrangea a healthy drink a couple of weeks before winter strikes as this will help it survive the drying winds of wintertime. If you’re planning to overwinter them in a covered area, give them some water throughout the season during warmer spells so they don’t dry out. Try not to get them soggy with too much water.
Ready to learn all about hydrangeas?