2010 has been an exceptional year for big leaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla), also called “hortensia” hydrangeas. Consecutive year blooming rarely occurs here in the southern Appalachian region (USDA zones 6 and 7). ‘Nikko Blue” hydrangea, which has not bloomed for over 15 years, has been beautiful in my garden this summer.
Why have big leaf hydrangeas been so “on” this summer? I asked Dr. Sandra Reed, USDA hydrangea breeder at the TN State University Nursery Crops Research Station in McMinnville. Sandra’s response… “the weather”. The 2009 autumn was unusual. October and November temperatures gradually declined. The winter was cold and temps stayed cold, not fluctuating wildly. Across most areas a perfect spring followed with no severe freezes or frosts.
Finally, new hardier cultivars are available such as Endless Summer®, ‘Penny Mac’, and ‘Pia’ (lacecap type). These varieties are remontant, able to bloom on either old or new wood.
If your hydrangea(s) did not bloom this year, check the plant’s light exposure and nutrition. Hortensia types want a minimum of one-half day sunlight, preferably in the morning. Feed shrubs in early spring with a water soluble or slow-release fertilizer according the manufacturer’s package directions.