Growing Gorgeous Hydrangeas in Utah’s Unique Climate

Hydrangea shrubs are very popular among gardeners, and it’s easy to see why. They have huge, brightly colored flowers that come in white, pink, blue, or lavender. There is nothing else like them in the shrub world.

Luckily, you don’t need to have a green thumb or any special garden tools or supplies to plant and take care of hydrangea shrubs. These beautiful outdoor plants are easy to cultivate, and they tolerate a range of soil conditions. Almost anyone can grow these flowering shrubs in good health and enjoy their fluffy, beautiful blooms year after year.

Hydrangeas are absolutely stunning shrubs that can bring gorgeous, colorful blooms to any Utah garden. With their big, showy flower heads, hydrangeas are a quintessential flowering shrub that thrive in many climates. But can these beauties grow successfully in Utah’s arid environment? The answer is a resounding yes!

While hydrangeas do require some special considerations to flourish in Utah, they are well worth the extra effort. By following some simple tips and tricks, you can have healthy, thriving hydrangea shrubs that will be the envy of your neighborhood.

Why Hydrangeas Can Struggle in Utah

Utah presents some unique challenges for hydrangeas that can make them struggle compared to other climates Here are the main issues

  • Low Humidity: Hydrangeas prefer more humid environments, and Utah’s dry air can stress them.

  • Insufficient Water: Hydrangeas need consistent moisture, and Utah’s low rainfall can lead to drought stress.

  • Harsh Sun Hot, direct sun will scorch hydrangea leaves and blooms They prefer morning sun only

  • Alkaline Soil Hydrangeas prefer slightly acidic soil, and Utah’s naturally alkaline dirt can affect their health

  • Cold Winters: While hydrangeas can handle some cold, Utah’s frigid winter temps may damage or kill them.

  • Late Spring Frosts: Hydrangea buds and blooms can be damaged by Utah’s late frosts in spring.

Choosing the Right Hydrangea Varieties

Luckily, plant breeders have developed some exceptional hydrangea varieties that can overcome Utah’s challenges. Here are some of the best types to try:

  • Endless Summer: These re-blooming hydrangeas bloom on both old and new wood, so you get flowers even after harsh winters. They feature gorgeous blue or pink blossoms.

  • Limelight: A panicle hydrangea that is unfazed by Utah’s low humidity and alkaline soil. It has bright lime-green blooms.

  • Little Lime: A dwarf version of Limelight that’s perfect for containers. Maxes out at just 5 feet tall.

  • Incrediball: Huge 12-inch blooms on strong stems make this hydrangea a real showstopper. It reblooms reliably and is heat tolerant.

  • Cityline: An urban series bred to be extra cold hardy and rebloom vigorously. ‘Paris’ has white blooms while ‘Vienna’ has red or blue.

  • Smooth Hydrangea: A native oakleaf hydrangea with excellent cold hardiness to -40°F. White cone-shaped blooms.

Providing the Right Growing Conditions

The key to success with hydrangeas in Utah is providing the ideal growing conditions to keep them thriving. Here are some tips:

  • Morning Sun: Plant in a spot with morning sunlight but afternoon shade to protect from intense summer sun. East facing locations are ideal.

  • Protection from Wind: Shield hydrangeas from harsh winds which can damage the blooms and dry out the shrub. Use fences, walls or hedges as windbreaks.

  • Consistent Water: Hydrangeas need lots of water. Deep soak the root zone 1-2 times per week during summer. Mulch to retain moisture.

  • Acidic Soil: Lower the soil pH to the ideal range of 5.2 to 5.5 by incorporating organic material like peat moss into the soil. Use an acidifying fertilizer.

  • Winter Protection: In cold climates, wrap or insulate hydrangeas over winter to protect from dieback. Remove coverings by early spring.

  • Delayed Pruning: To avoid removing next year’s blooms, prune in summer after flowering rather than during dormancy.

Planting and Maintaining Hydrangeas

Follow these tips when planting and caring for your hydrangeas:

  • Plant in spring or fall, avoiding summer’s heat. Space plants 3-6 feet apart depending on variety.

  • Dig a wide hole and mix in compost or peat to enrich the soil. Set the plant at the same depth it was growing in the nursery pot.

  • Water deeply 2-3 times per week for the first summer to establish an extensive root system.

  • Apply 2-3 inches of organic mulch around the base to retain moisture and reduce weeds. Replenish as needed.

  • In early spring, apply an acidic fertilizer formulated for hydrangeas following package directions.

  • Prune immediately after flowering by removing dead stems and cutting oldest stems down to the ground to encourage new growth.

  • To boost blue flower color, apply aluminum sulfate fertilizer to lower the soil pH. For pink, add lime to raise the pH.

  • In fall prepare for winter by mounding soil or mulch over the base of the plant for insulation.

Enjoying the Rewards

With the right care, Utah gardeners can be rewarded with the same gorgeous hydrangea blooms that you see in more humid climates. The variety of hydrangea colors, shapes and sizes means you can find just the right ones to complement your garden’s style. The effort to pamper these divas is well worth it when those lush flower heads appear in summer. With some simple adjustments, your hydrangeas will not only survive Utah winters, but thrive for years of outstanding beauty.

When & Where to Plant Hydrangeas

Ideally, you should plant hydrangeas in either the spring or fall. When you plant these flowering shrubs in the summer, they need a lot of extra water to get their roots healthy.

When deciding where to put things in your garden or planting beds, stay away from open spaces where strong winds could damage them. Pick spots that get full sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon. Leave at least three feet of space between each shrub.

Before planting, amend the soil with compost or other organic matter.

How to Keep Hydrangea Shrubs Healthy

Hydrangeas need a lot of water for the first year or two after they are planted and when there is a drought. To keep the leaves from wilting, never let the soil get too dry.

In addition, native Utah soils need amendments to keep hydrangeas healthy. Shrubs planted in light or sandy soil need to be fertilized in spring or late winter. For best results, have a soil test done before feeding your flowering shrubs. Adding too much fertilizer may boost leaf growth while diminishing the hydrangea blooms.

Growing Hydrangeas in Utah

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