Yes, several hydrangeas will grow successfully in USDA zone 9. Generally speaking, this includes big leaf, mountain, climbing, and oakleaf hydrangeas. At present, the variety ‘Limelight’ is the only panicle hydrangea confirmed to perform well in USDA zone 9.
Shade throughout the hottest part of the day in summer is essential for success with hydrangeas in the South. A bit of cooler morning sun is beneficial, encouraging sturdy stems, increased bud count, and better color of both the flowers and foliage.
Some clues that your hydrangea is in too much sun include foliage and/or flowers with brown tips or edges, flowers turning brown quickly after opening, and frequent wilting. If you see your plant wilting, however, don’t immediately run for the hose. For one, on very hot days, big leaf and mountain hydrangeas will lose water from their leaves faster than their roots can take up moisture and replace it. This can indicate that the spot your hydrangea is planted in might be a bit too sunny, but this happens even in cooler climates. If you find that your hydrangea is recovering later in the evening or by the next morning, you can be confident it was simply heat-related wilting. Second, and this is very important: hydrangeas wilt from too much water the same as they do too little water. If your hydrangea is wilting from excessive water and you water it, thinking it needs more, the issue will be exacerbated and the plant very well could die or be severely set back. If you know you are watering frequently and see wilting, check the soil with your fingers, a trowel, or even a bamboo stake or bbq skewer to see what’s really going on before applying more water.
In warmer climates, early spring and fall are the best times to plant hydrangeas.
Yes! Check out our Growing Hydrangeas in Containers page to learn more about planting hydrangeas in pots.
Generally speaking, hydrangeas will bloom much earlier in warmer climates than they do in colder ones. The bloom can be very long-lasting, but it does depend on growing conditions: if your plant experiences stress while it is blooming, the flower lifespan is usually shortened.
The best way to get a hydrangea through a spell of extreme heat is to maintain a good 2-3″ layer of shredded bark mulch, which keeps the roots cool and conserves moisture. The plants may need more water than normal, but do check the soil moisture level before watering – this is especially important in the humid climate of the South, as plants lose less water when the humidity is very high. This keeps more moisture in the soil, despite the high temperatures and sunshine, so checking first avoids potentially fatal overwatering.
The most common reason a hydrangea wouldn’t bloom in the South is the same one as in the North: improperly-timed pruning. This is particularly true for big leaf and mountain hydrangeas, but fortunately, warm climate gardeners rarely experience winter cold as the reason their plant doesn’t bloom. Get the whole story about pruning on our Hydrangeas Demystified page.
Very often, browning foliage indicates drought stress, particularly if it develops on the edge of the foliage. It can also indicate excessive sun, though that usually looks like a yellow, russet, or brown spot in the center of the leaves.
The idea time to transplant a hydrangea is when it is still dormant (i.e., has not yet leafed out) in late winter/early spring. If you live in an area with mild winters, you can also transplant once the plant has gone dormant in late fall or winter. The goal is to dig and move the plant when it won’t experience stress, and to give it the longest possible recovery period before challenging conditions, like summer’s heat and humidity, set in.
For the largest plants at the best price, we always recommend shopping at your local garden center. Even though there has been a huge surge in online retailers of our plants, it is generally cost-prohibitive to ship the large 3 or 5 gallon plants that you can pick up at your local garden center. Buying at a garden center near you is also the best choice for local expertise and guidance. Hundreds of independent garden centers and box stores sell Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs; click here to find a retailer near you.