Outdoor & Exterior | Summer & Patriotic Decorating

How to Turn Hydrangeas Pink or Blue

I love hydrangeas!

Make-hydrangeas-pink-and-purple

They are my favorite flower. I have hydrangeas planted in my front and back yard. When I first planted them many years ago they were a brilliant purple pink.

Purple-Pink-Hydrangeas

Not quite blue, not quite purple, not quite pink – they were just right.

Imagine how disappointed I was last summer when they bloomed a pale yellow blue color. The blooms looked anemic.  It made me sad that I would not get to enjoy my favorite flower and their vibrant color for the summer.

To make sure this summer that they come back to their colorful glory I did a little research last Fall on how to turn hydrangeas pink or blue.

I knew that the pH acidity of the soil changes the color of the hydrangea blooms, but since mine have always been the color I desired, I never paid much attention.

I read that pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline. Pure water has a pH very close to 7.  

Reading that made my head spin – say what?  I flunked chemistry in high school and any subject that dealt with numbers.   Then I remembered my mother-in-law telling me she buried pennies around her plants to change the color, but I could not remember what color it turned the flowers.  More research was needed. I found that garden lime = pink blossoms. Soil sulfer = blue blossoms.   Since I like purple pink blooms – I think I needed a mix of both.

I had lime in the garage that I bought to experiment with to make DIY chalk paint. Now it was time to experiment again, but this time on the hydrangeas. I sprinkled about a cup all around the plants and watered the soil.

How-to-change-the-color-of-hydrangeas

Fast forward to last week when it was time to start spring cleaning the yard. It was also time to give the hydrangeas another treatment of lime, but I had to get more.

How-to-turn-hydrangea-flowers-pink-or-blue

I went to my local hardware store and picked up a few garden supplies. It was there I found out that there are products that take the guesswork out of the hydrangea color equation for you.  The label on the package simply says Pink Blossoms or Blue Blossoms.  A no-brainer for a visual person like me.   No head-spinning chemistry calculations to make.

I bought Espoma Garden Lime to hopefully turn my hydrangeas pink again.  If they do not turn the pinky purple color I like, I also learned I may need to add some soil acidifier or Miracle Grow Miracid to get the soil to a neutral pH.

Bonide-Color-Me-Hydrangeas

I also learned that Bonide makes fertilizers for each color.  Color Me Blue™ acidifies, the soil to the right pH (5.0-5.8) .   Color Me Pink™  raises the pH of the soil to the right pH (6.5-7.0) for pink-flowering blooms.  A neutral to acidic pH can make these shrubs bloom purple instead of pink – pH (7.0)

I am not exactly sure why, but you can’t buy it in  CA, FL, HI, MN, MO, NV, OR, PA, WA .

Using any of these products takes the guesswork out of figuring out what to add for the color you want your blooms.

Spring-yarn-clean-up-tips

I also bought a shrub rake. I never even knew these existed. I could have saved myself lots of effort as I used to remove the leaves in tight places by just getting on my hands and knees and digging them out with my hands.

Shrub-Rake-for-gardens

This was the perfect tool to get all the leaves out of the dense base of each plant.

Changing-the-color-of-hydrangeas

Once I got all the leaves and junk that settled into the bed over the winter I needed a regular size rake to put all the leaves in piles and then bag them up for disposal.

How-to-clean-up-flower-beds

I cleaned up the small debris and then sprinkled the lime around each plant. After the lime is down you need to wet it.  I used a garden hose to evenly wet the soil.

Spring-flower-planting-mulch

I covered the bed with 2 bags of brown mulch. I like using colored mulch as it does not fade to grey as fast.

Cleaning-up-the-yard-for-Spring

All done…

Mulching-flower-beds-for-Spring-flowers

…now I have to be patient and wait for the shoots to start up the branches. I think the new shoots grow on old wood.  You can see a few of the base shoots have started.

How to Turn Hydrangeas Pink or Blue

They look pretty unattractive right now. The azalea on either side of the front steps are in full bloom, but will be faded in a week. The pink geraniums add color until the hydrangeas start to bloom.

I will keep you posted  – I hope they are pink…

how to turn Hydrangeas Pink or Blue

…so I can  enjoy  them inside the house this summer, too.

UPDATE:

Click over to this post to see if I had success in turning my hydrangeas pink.   Do you have a different type of hydrangea?  If so, you may like to read how to plant white hydrangeas.

How-to-turn-hydrangeas-pink-or-blue-the-easy-way

 

I was one of the bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program as well as my writing about my experience. I have also been compensated for the materials needed for my DIY project. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.

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78 Comments

    1. Hi Rebecca – I loved the color the Miracid gave to my hydrangeas. I watered them once a week with it and they became a beautiful shade of pink/purple. :-)

        1. Hi Terry – I would try using Miracle Grow’s, MirAcid. I used to use it weekly by spraying the plants using the Miracle Grow hose sprayer following the directions on the box of MirAcid. Before I did this, my hydrangeas were pink.

    2. Quiero saber cómo mantenerlas después de la floración, cantidad de agua y abonos

  1. You mean that I don’t actually have to make like the Queen of Hearts and paint my hydrangeas pink? Genius.

    1. las Hortencias son mis preferidas,GRACIAS por los consejos para mantener el color

  2. When you bagged the leaves for disposal, does this mean they went into the trash? Why didn’t you recycle them for use in the garden as either mulch or leaf mold?

    1. Hi ChanellG – I have a compost in my backyard that is overflowing with leaves that we use as garden mulch. We have so many big trees in our yard and along our street that I can’t keep them all. It is way too much. My township allows leaves to be picked up in the brown bags since these break down and the leaves will help compost the landfill.

      1. Hi Michelle – To change the color of your hydrangeas to pink or blue you sprinkle the product in the soil around the plants. It states how much on the package directions. If you want you can also you MirAcid and a sprinkle water can to mix it in and then water the flowers with the mixture.

        1. Hi
          My mother put some rusty nails under the roots when she planted her hydrangea and every year since it blooms in beautiful pinks and blues. That was over 20 years ago and it is still going strong.

          1. Hi Stephen – Yes rusty nails work, my MIL used pennies. Love these handy old tips that really do work. Thanks for taking the time to share. I know other readers will benefit when trying to find a way to change the colors of their hydrangeas.

      2. Hi Diane, thank you for all the hard work you did with your hydrangeas… it gives me incentive to start my own diy… I really like this plant…

        Oh by the way, aren’t you suppose to cut down the long stems in the fall?

        1. Hi Lola – I miss all my hydrangeas, since I moved to a new home, I only have one pink plant. I hope to plant more. As far as cutting back the long stems n the fall. I believe you only do this of your hydrangeas grow on new wood. Some grow on old wood. I had a mix.

  3. I just love the hydrangeas my neighbor gave me one as a gift and it was blue, but when I planted it ….the following year when it came back it was pink I didn’t amend the soil in any way it was nice surprise. Hers are blue and it was just a few yards away from mine!

    1. Hi Lisa – I cut all the old blooms off in the fall or early Spring. I weed the old wood then too. My plants – blooms grow on new wood, so I can really get rid of a lot of the branches. I have another hydrangea in my back yard that grows on old wood, so I have to be careful how I cut it back.

  4. Thanks for the tips .I was always told to use the epsom-salt and I have heard about the rusty nails,but did not know about the products that they have on the market today.

  5. What would you suggest I live in Northern California and am unable to buy the color me pink/blue as a substitute? Thank you for all the great info!

    1. Hi Anna – In Pennsylvania we can’t buy it either. I could buy the Espoma Garden Lime for pink blooms and Espoma Garden Acidifier for blue blooms. I have also found that using Miracle Grow – MirAcid always gave my hydrangeas a pink purple color. I used to use it all the time but then life got busy the past few years and I didn’t add it. I am using it on some hydrangeas in my back yard this summer to see what color they bloom. Still waiting to see what color the plants in my front yard bloom after using the Garden Lime.

        1. Hi Melissa – I tried to buy it on Amazon and it said that it is only available to ship to certain states. I have moved to a different state so I can probably buy it now.

    2. You can buy ordinary garden lime at the nursery. For acidity, throw you coffee grounds and tea bags out there. :)

        1. :)) Glad to share Diane! Now I just need a yard! lol Only so much room on the apartment balcony.

  6. I tried using the product to turn my pink flowers blue. I put it one a few months ago and I was ready to put the next application around the plant June 1 but when I went out to do it I realized the plant was already beginning to bloom….still pink. Thinking it may take more than one or two applications or maybe the Miracle Gro Acid food would be better….I’ll be trying again! I’m looking for that wonderful pinkish, blueish, purplish color too!

  7. What are those two tall bushes on each side of your front porch and what zone are you? Your landscaping looks great.

  8. I also heard about the pennies for the hyhdrengeas so this yesr after transplanting mine which I thought did not like it very much I have put about 12 pennies around the planr buried I the ground because mine had a very pale blus last year and some pink in the same plant!!!!!! so I am anxious to see the results.

  9. Hello Diane –
    Your yard is lovely. Just a heads up to all fellow gardeners out there,
    mulch and wood chips provide a breeding ground for Black Widows !! These are one of the Most dangerous spiders out there (except for the brown recluse) it’s the moist heat they love and water doesn’t faze them ! If you don’t have these in your state of area you are very fortunate. They can be quite a challenge here in CA.

  10. Hi Diane, just a note to your followers, Certain ways of pruning can cause the plant to provide very little blooms. In order to maintain a robust amount, don’t prune all the branches down low. I was advised to only prune 1/3 rd of them low and leave some about half as high each year. The blooms on some or all varieties seem to only grow on the old wood and that allows it to still bloom without diminishing next years crop. PS, when we moved into our home and started gardening around the hydrangeas we found old, rust nails in the soil. We couldn’t figure out why until much later..several seasons later.

    1. Thanks Charlyne – This is good to know. Thanks for taking the time to share about how to prune them. It has always confused me. Funny aboutthe nails. What color did it make the flowers.

  11. I dry the white ones we have, and we have a TON and they come out a neat vintage-looking green. I just leave them in the vase and they dry beautifully… I’ve tried all the methods and this is fine. Then… I spray pain them! Depending on the look you want, they can be solid or tinted and they can be any color. Try it and be prepared to love them even more.

  12. Hydrangeas are one of my favorite plants. This winter was very hard on mine and I have noticed green at the bottom and not much else. Which usually means that they have died off. I am taking a wait and see approach but if they aren’t full green soon I will need to cut them back hard for next year. Please let me know if yours are greening up.

  13. I, too got my mulch in bulk from a nursery. We had fungus growth all over the garden. It was weird to see the shapes of it. we would spray it with bleach and finally just picked it up and threw it out.

  14. Oh Diane your hydrangeas are stunning! I cannot believe the rich, true color and the huge blossom clusters. What I wouldn’t give for just one of those lovely bushes. I live in Missouri. My husband and I have been trying to grow hydrangeas unsuccessfully for a few years. We have amended the soil every which way possible and when our (blue) bushes bloom, the blossoms are big and lime green, every time!

  15. Thank you so much for this! I am working on growing hydrangeas. However, while you left the dead stuff, I cut mine back. I do have growth in the middle, so I hope I didn’t mess them up. Your article was very helpful. :)

    1. Hi Anita –

      I used to cut them back until one year I didn’t and I had more flowers than ever that year. I do pull out the dead stuff, it comes out easy. I leave any branch with buds on it alone. I am never quite sure how they will grow. I have two other bushes – not Endless Summer, but a different type. I bought them at the same time and they are next to each other. They look the same and grow to the same height. One gets lots of blooms, the other only one or two each year. I have tried cutting them back and leaving them alone. I don’t think I will ever know exactly what they want or need. I just know I love them. :)

  16. You give great picture tutorials . . . solid, succinct, perfect . . .
    Not sure why . . . the only Hydrangea I have luck with is the
    Annabelle . . . and I have many, many, many.
    Huge white blooms . . . “mop heads” as they say in the Irish land . . .

  17. Hi,
    Thank you for the tips.
    You have a beautiful yard and home.
    I also love hydrangeas. I have a large bush that blooms white.
    Carla

  18. I have to grow my hydras in pots on my deck to keep them away from the deer. They are so new, I don’t recall all the colors. I’m going to record them this Summer though. Then I can buy the right goodies if they need changing. Thanks for the tips!!

    1. We too have a deer problem but find the deer don’t don’t like hydrangeas.. thankfully . We’re in the UK though maybe our deer have different tastes !

  19. Thanks Diane for all the how-to for hydrangeas. I’ve tried growing them and all the deer just have a wonderful meal. I mean the whole dang bush! Nothing left. Also appreciate you sending info. on using Mad Mimi in place of feedburner. I need to look into that since I use them already for my newsletter. Have a lovely day!

    1. I would be so sad if the deer ate my hydrangeas. We do see them from time to time since where I live is pretty open and is along a creek, but they don’t come to our yard. Maybe there is something they don’t like. I hope it stays that way. Glad I could help with the Feedburner questions.

  20. I have buds on my hydrangeas, and have been waiting (patiently?) to see what color they will be this year. I only got the bush last year. I was disappointed to see that the products you mentioned are not available in CA, so was pleased to read the comments about the pennies and nails. Enjoy your spring!

  21. Hey Diane,
    What a beautiful hydrangea bush you have and a stunning accent to your wonderful landscape. I too love hydrangea and I especially love that you can play around with what color bloom you might get.

    I have several different hydrangea in my garden – macrophylla ( which looks like what you have), lace cap, variegated lace cap, oak leaf, and paniculata.

    Knowing what type of hydrangea you have is essential for pruning and for changing the color. For example, you can not change the color of white hydrangea. Also, if you prune a macrophylla improperly you will not get blooms the next growing season as macrophylla bloom on “old wood.”

    Here is a great web site for your readers about the growing and care of Hydrangea. http://www.hydrangeashydrangeas.com/index.html
    Vikki in VA

    1. Thanks for the link to the hydrangea site. Hopefully I can find out how to get more blooms on my other hydrangeas that are not Endless Summer. I have tried many things, but there still is hope.

  22. Not enough sun at my house for hydrangeas :-( much as I love them. Hostas, anyone? lol. We are basically surrounded by big trees that drop tons of leaves, so I compost some (haven’t bought mulch in years) and hubby attacks the remainder with his mulching lawn mower–fertilize the grass, no raking, win-win in my book!

    1. I am in Australia, but hydrangea do well in shade. I have a bank of them outside my bedroom window and they get morning sun and wilt quickly if not watered when it gets hot. Am in Melbourne which is 4seasons in one day quite often but is reasonably temperate. I normally prune them back to about 18″ and trim and plant the cuttings. I have a huge tub full of them coming into leaf in our Spring. Mine tend towards pink and I like to vary the type of blooms from those in the photos to more mop top varieties,each head has many little flowers. I use Epson salts or bluing tonic to get blue. They also dry nicely if hung upside down and I sometimes pick a vase of the Autumn tones. mine grow around 5’high and more. It is fun to hunt up different varieties.

  23. Thanks for sharing this information. This sure makes it easy to achieve or maintain your desired bloom color. Now if I could figure out if my blue hydranges bloom on old wood or new wood. We inherited a HUGE over grown bush with our house. I chopped it way back last fall and come to find out there were three bushes in that spot and a bees nest! Yes, I got stung a few times. Guess I didn’t hurt the bushes, I have green leaves coming!

  24. Cool tip! I’m wondering if the lime will do anything to my white hydrangea bush? I’m thinking no, because these are only white, not a color but still wondering…

  25. A family I babysit for had these on their dining room table (i’m assuming the mom received them for mother’s day) and I fell in love !! Now, I see your post 2 days later !! I dont’t know anything about gardening, but with all these spring posts, I think I’ll look in to it, just where to begin lol

  26. I hope the mulch you used wasn’t dyed. I just heard from a friend of mine that dyed mulch did bad things to his formerly robust shrubs.

    1. Hi Laura – The mulch I like does have color added. I have used it for years with no problems at all. In fact the shrubs and greenery around my house have never looked better. Perhaps it could be something else in his soil that negatively affected his shrubs. We once got hardwood mulch delivered in bulk from a local nursery. The mulch was the shredded kind and looked great – with no added color. Soon after we put it down we had all sorts of fungus growing all over the mulch and the plants. It was gross…Fungus that looked like ears – no kidding and so many other weird growths. It also faded to grey quickly. The colored mulch does hold its color longer and maybe the added color stops some of the weird fungus from showing up.

  27. I have beautiful white hydrangeas growing off my back patio. Each fall after good hard freezes and the dead wood is left, I cut the dead wood branches down to about 6 inches. I use mulch to build a blanket around the roots and branch stubs for the winter. So far the hydrangeas have returned and grown back each year (3 years). I am not sure if cutting back is recommended, but I like not having to look at the dead wood.

    1. Hi Rhonda –

      I agree that in Winter hydrangeas are pretty ugly. I used to cut one variety I had back every year. I cut right above the woody part of each stem. They always grew back and very big, but with no flowers. I then learned that some hydrangeas grow on old wood, others on new wood. I still have a hard time telling what is old and what is new wood. I look for any stem that has a bud on it. If it does, it stays, if not I remove it. They come out pretty easily.

      There is a hedge of hydrangeas that I drive by frequently. The homeowners never do anything with them and they are full of beautiful blooms every summer. The ones I have in the front are called Endless Summer and they do bloom all summer, I just have to get the color to come back now.

      1. Diane,
        I found this about pruning Endless Summer Hydrangea. I cut mine within inches of the ground after the first frost and I have blooms the next year.
        “Pruning
        To encourage re-bloom, remove spent flowers. Because Endless Summer blooms on new growth, you don’t have to wait until the next season to see armfuls of new blooms.

        Endless Summer Hydrangeas are quite forgiving and will not suffer if left unpruned or pruned at the wrong time. In fact, young, recently planted shrubs are best left alone. Unlike other hydrangeas, your Endless Summer will bloom on both old and new growth, branches that grew last year and the new branches from this year. Another unique feature is that this hydrangea will continue to set buds and bloom throughout the season; deadheading the spent flowers will encourage this.

        Feel free to cut the blooms for drying or fresh cut in vases because you will actually encourage the plant to produce more blossoms. Spring is the best time to prune. Many people like to leave the spent blooms on their plant because it adds winter interest. It may also act to insulate the new buds from frost and cold. They should be removed in spring however.”

        1. Thanks so much for this info Vikki. They do grow well and bloom without me doing much and are the best flowering of all the other types I have in my yard. I usually cut most of the blooms so I can enjoy them inside. Last year I left many on since they were not the color I like. I did remove all of them when I cleaned up the bed and got rid of the dead wood. Keeping my fingers crossed that they bloom pinky purple again. :)

        1. Thanks for the tip Bruna. I have 3 Endless Summer plants. They are about 5 years old now. They usually bloom extremely well. Last year not one flower came out :-( Happy to report that I see blooms starting this year on them.

      2. I have had the hardest time growing hydrangeas. Home Depot just taking my money or is it me planting them in the wrong spot. I need your help!

        1. Hi Tamiko – I smiled when I read what you said about Home Depot just taking your money when you buy hydrangeas. :-) It seems that way when it comes to flowering hydrangeas. I think the problem can be both the variety of plant as well as location.

          I have read that they like moist and well fertilized soil. They also do better in afternoon shade and not full sun. Older varieties do better than newer ones. Newer versions don’t seem to bloom as profusely. I have tried only pruning old wood, and then only new wood. I have taken the whole plant down to just above the woody stem, but it doesn’t seem to matter, they have a mind of their own.

          I have had the best luck with the Endless Summer variety. I feed them with MirAcid every other week in the spring and summer and sprinkle the garden lime over the beds in the winter. I have had success with getting more blooms every year doing this, but they still are not as abundant as I would like. It could be they just don’t like the soil where I live. It is more clay based, even with added peat and hummus over the years they still just don’t grow as abundantly as I would like.

  28. Diane have you ever painted fabric with a faux bois tool? And I am wanting to use latex paint to match my walls in my bedroom I am still, yes still working on. I have the Martha Stewart Paint Finish Tool Kit and some glaze and a little 6 oz bottle of Fabric Medium too. Years ago I saw her do paper…… not sure what else though.

  29. Oh how wonderful you found the easy additives. We in NE Florida so love Hydrangea’s too. Me, I am partial to the blue, but I would love any and all. My neighbor had some and got rid of them…… never even asked me if I wanted them. And I gave her a ton of Lily bulbs that I dug up to bring with me when I bought this house after selling the old one. And I accidentally gave her my Easter Lily bulbs too…. grrrrr. And what is worse, I don’t think she even planted them, if she did, I have never heard about or even seen one….. grrrr again.

  30. Your landscape looks very pretty, Diane. My hydrangeas have started to send up green shoots and I am excited for them to bloom again this year. I planted these three shortly after we moved in because I missed all the bushes we left behind in NY. Only I planted pink this time {rather than the blue I had in NY}.

    At our old house I used regular common nails stuck into the dirt to turn my blue blooms to a purple hue. Of course, it is much easier and more convenient to pick up these products you’ve mentioned, but in the event people on a budget want to change their colors, the old fashioned ways do work. I may do that for the blue one I just planted in the urn by my front door since I do seem to prefer the purple and pink colors.

  31. I’ve always loved hydrangeas but am afraid of what my soil will do to the color… This is probably the one flower I haven’t been adventurous enough to try (yet).