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Early Blue Hydrangea Care Guide

Early Blue Hydrangeas produce some of the most gorgeous blue to violet flowers. Compared to other hydrangeas they are quite small and compact. It’s categorized as a lace cap hydrangeas. This is because they produce rounded flowers rather than cone-shaped flowers.

Early Blue Hydrangeas last a really long time so it’s important to take a bit of time before planting them to figure where to put them and what they’ll need. But, this article will also help you if you’ve already got some Early Blue Hydrangeas in the ground and they’re struggling for some reason. Here’s a summary of the key points about caring for Early Blue Hydrangeas

Early Blue Hydrangea Care Tips

  • Water them for 5 minutes 1-2 times a week
  • Hot climates plant them partial shade, cooler climates plant them full sun
  • Use fungicide, and insecticide to treat fungus and pests
  • Soil should have the consistency of garden compost, pH 5.0 to 7.0
  • Give them (10-10-10) fertilizer in spring and summer
  • Cut off dead branches in early spring
early blue hydrangea care

Early Blue Hydrangea

Plant profile

Care/requirements Early Blue Hydrangea
Hardiness: USDA zone 5-9
Size: Height 4 ft and width 4 ft
Shape: Rounded with upright stems
Type: Perennial, deciduous, shrub
Light requirements: 4-6 hours of direct sun per day, full sun, partial shade
Soil: Loam or amended soil
Soil pH: 5.0-7.0 Grow best in slightly acidic to little alkaline soil.
Watering: 1-2 times per week in drought. Don’t water in the winter.
Growth rate: Medium
Blooming: Late spring and early fall. On old wood.
Flowers color: Blue
Leaves color: Bright green
Fragrance: Low scent
Pots: Needs a large pot and frequent watering.
Best time for planting: Early spring and early fall
Pruning: Deadheading after flowering and removing deadwood.
Reblooming: In early fall
Spacing: 4 feet apart (center to center)
Transplanting: Early fall or early spring
Winter care: In zone 5, hydrangeas need to be covered.
Spring care: Uncover hydrangeas when there is no risk of late frosts and remove all plant debris.
Fall care: Keep the soil around it slightly moist. Avoid the use of fertilizer. Remove all deadwood and fallen leaves.
Fertilizer: Balanced NPK formula, once per year.
Propagation: By cuttings in early spring.
Deer resistant: No
Problems: Pests, diseases.

Planting

Early Blue Hydrangeas grow to a height of 4 ft (1.3 m) and a width of 4 ft (1.3 m). Because they don’t grow very tall don’t need to be too concerned with how high they’ll grow. But, leave 2 feet (0.6 m) of space between the base of the plant and any plants or other things. Such as rocks, fences, or the wall of a building.

The ideal time to plant them is in late winter, but with that said they can be planted at any time of year. They are dormant and lose all of their leaves in late autumn and winter. This means if you plant them during this time they will hardly grow at all except for the roots. In spring conditions are more ideal for them, and they will suffer less from transplant shock.

Light requirements

Early Blue Hydrangeas are unique compared to other hydrangeas. They don’t need full hot sun but do best in partial shade to full sun depending on your climate. If you live in a hotter region it’s best to give them partial shade. But, if you live in a temperate to the colder climate you can plant them in full sun.

The main reason is that in full sun in a hot climate they will dry out, and will droop even if you give them more than enough water. Therefore, to keep them looking their best in hot climates give them partial shade. They do need a good amount of sunlight, about 6 hours, so don’t plant them in full shade as they will really struggle.

Soil

The soil that Early Bird Hydrangeas to best in has the consistency of garden compost you buy from a garden supply store. Or, potting mix, which has an almost identical texture to garden compost. This type of soil is loose, free-draining, and has the right pH for Early Bird Hydrangeas.

The soil pH is important but if you use garden compost or potting mix it will be the right pH automatically without any effort on your part. But, if you’re choosing to use garden soil and it is quite good quality it’s worthwhile testing the soil using a cheap soil testing kit you can get from a garden supply store.

Your local extension center (if you’re in the US) also has them. The pH of the soil should be 5.0 to 7.0. Any lower or higher and your Early Bird Hydrangeas will be nutrient deficient. And you should take steps to lower or raise the pH. 

To lower the pH you add sulfur which you can buy at your garden supply store, and to raise the pH you add limestone-based products known as lime. Which is also available at your garden supply store.

early blue hydrangea care

Early Blue Hydrangea

Watering

You may be aware of what is called ‘deep watering’. This is where you leave a hose at the base of a plant for 15 to 20 minutes. This gives them so much water that it will soak down into the deepest parts of the roots.

Early Blue Hydrangeas like the soil quite moist, so you should do deep water 3 times a week. If you have a significant amount of rain, you can skip deep water. Once they’re fully established you can cut it back to one deep water a week, but monitor the leaves to see how the plant is responding. 

Early Blue Hydrangeas need 40 gallons (150 liters) of water per week. Provided you’re doing deep water 3 times a week this gives them this amount of water. The easiest way to tell if they need more water is the leaves and stems will droop, and you want to watch out for this as it will stress the plant. 

When this happens add another deep water to your watering schedule. The other thing to watch out for is to make sure the soil does not become waterlogged for more than a few days. This can happen if you’ve planted them in a slight depression in the ground. When it rains all the water will flow to this spot and you can see puddles of water that remain for quite some time on the surface of the soil. 

It will generally soak down on its own and evaporate. But, if it stays there for more than a few days root rot can set in which will cause stunted growth. If you’ve accidentally planted them in a spot where this happens, your best bet is to replant them on a slight incline, or a flat to the slightly raised part of the garden.

Pruning

There is an important distinction which you should be aware of when pruning: this is old growth versus new growth. New growth is growth that occurs in a season. Whereas, old-growth is the stems that are from the previous season.

Early Blue Hydrangeas only produce flowers on old growth. Any new growth that occurs in the spring and summer of the current year won’t produce flowers. Old-growth is generally more firm rigid and has a light layer of bark. Whereas, new growth is green and floppy. But, it’s important to note that new growth in one season will be old-growth by the next season.

Therefore, when pruning you want to be careful not to cut back too much, otherwise your Early Blue Hydrangeas won’t produce as many flowers. This is different from other hydrangeas that will produce flowers on growth that occurs that spring or summer.

Generally, you don’t need to prune them because they grow fairly small. But, if you want to shape them a certain way you should prune them. The ideal time to prune them is anytime before spring. But, the earlier you do it in the autumn-winter, the more time the plant will have to recover from the small amount of stress and damage caused by pruning.

In autumn and winter, they will have flowered and dropped all their leaves, and the flowers have turned brown and crispy. At this time you don’t need to be worried about the stress caused by pruning because there will be about 3 to 6 months until spring when it’s best that they’re at full strength to produce the best and most flowers.

Problems

Some seasons Early Blue Hydrangeas won’t bloom. This occurs if the temperature is uncharacteristically cold before spring and summer. When this happens the buds freeze which kills them. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything that can be done to stop this from happening as it is weather-dependent.

Leaf issues are caused by not enough or too much water, as well as, pest insects, mold, and diseases. If you water them following the guidelines in the watering section above, any leaf issues as a result of watering will resolve themselves.

Insect and mold damages can be treated with insecticide, fungicide, or neem oil which is both an insecticide and a fungicide. Diseases are uncommon and typically require a unique solution. And will persist after applying fungicide or neem oil. These need to be treated on a case-by-case basis.

The best time to spray them with insecticide, fungicide, or neem oil is after sunset and your best bet is to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on the bottle. Typically a week or two of spraying them every day or every second day will remove any insect or fungus issues.

early blue hydrangea care

Early Blue Hydrangea

Fertilizer

The best time to apply fertilizer is in early spring, this will give them a boost as they put on new growth. If you wish you can apply it again in early summer – 3 months later. This will generally cause them to produce more flowers in the latter part of the growing season. It can also speed up the time it takes for them to grow to full size.

The ideal fertilizer to use is 10-10-10 fertilizer. For each application use 2 cups for each of the 2 applications, you do in the year. Don’t apply any more than 2 applications of fertilizer each year as it can change the pH of the soil.

Lisa

Monday 6th of November 2023

Thank you for this article. Theres a lot of good info in it. I'm in NE GA mountains. I bought an early blue in the early summer. I keep it in a large pot that has been on my covered front porch with late afternoon sun for maybe 3-4 hours. The 2 flowers that I bought it with have been green (im thinking was blue when i bought ut, but i cant remember for sure). I just moved all my potted plants to my garage since we had our first frost last week. The flowers are starting to turn a deep purple. What can I do to get the blooms blue for next year?

Igor Viznyy

Tuesday 7th of November 2023

Hi, Lisa. To get the blue color you need to use aluminum sulfate. You can easily find this product on sale.

Dolores K

Tuesday 25th of April 2023

Hi, I'm in zone 4, South central Minnesota. I just acquired an Early Blue in a 5 inch pot. It has flowers and at least one new one coming. Should I re pot and put outside? Should I plant it outside and take it in before frost, to overwinter in a 40 degree garage? thank you!

Igor Viznyy

Wednesday 26th of April 2023

Hi Dolores, you have two options. The first is to cover Early Blue for the winter. Here you can see how that can be done. The second is what you are talking about, transplant it into a pot and move it to an unheated garage for the winter.

Lacey

Monday 17th of April 2023

This is such a great info! I purchased a few of these and got them into the ground this weekend. One of them is looking pretty droopy and sad and the blooms are mostly done, look a little brown and kindof falling apart. I initially thought maybe it was getting too much water while it was in the pot but now I'm wondering if maybe it wasn't getting enough. Is it safe to deadhead these being newly planted?

Igor Viznyy

Monday 17th of April 2023

You may want to avoid pruning your newly planted hydrangeas as this can cause additional stress. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. Provide more shade for the hydrangeas. All of this should help.

Jean Reed

Friday 14th of April 2023

can you keep indoors in a pot?

Igor Viznyy

Friday 14th of April 2023

You can keep Early Blue in a pot, but not in the house. It will probably not get enough light indoors. In addition, it will be severely depleted during the winter because it will not be able to go into a dormant state. All this can lead to a loss of the hydrangea.