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How to Turn Hydrangeas Pink or Blue

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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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80 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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).