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Transplanting Hydrangeas: A Homeowner’s Guide

One of the most common problems of gardeners is the incorrect placement of plants in the garden. Very often, after purchase, the plants are placed too close to each other, and sooner or later, there is a need for replanting.

Hydrangeas are no exception, the young plant looks very compact, but after a while, it can grow into a large bush or small tree.

Transplanting hydrangeas is not very difficult, but you need to know a lot of subtleties. If you do not transplant correctly or if you do not choose the right time for transplanting, you risk losing the plant, or the plant will take a long time to establish and recover.

When To Transplant Hydrangeas?

The best time to transplant hydrangeas is in early spring and early fall. These seasons have both advantages and disadvantages. Also, the time of planting will depend on the climate (hardiness zone) in which you live.

So let’s dig a little deeper into this.

Transplanting in spring

The advantages of spring transplanting are obvious. First of all, it is that the plant has just begun to come out of hibernation, and it will be easier for her to get used to the new conditions. The second is that at this time there is no strong heat and humidity is usually quite high.

You need to choose a period when the ground has already thawed, but new leaves have not yet begun to form. It will be a different time for different states.

In hardiness zones 4-6 (Massachusetts, Vermont, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, etc.), the best time will be late April or early May, depending on the weather. However, it is possible faster if the temperature is high, and the plant begins to grow.

In hardiness zones, 7-8 (New Mexico, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, etc.) transplant your hydrangeas in the second half of March or early April.

Some species of hydrangea can grow in hotter climates in the southern United States. In this climate, transplanting is best done in early March or even late February if the weather is warm.

In spring, the best to transplant limelight or oakleaf hydrangea.

The disadvantage of spring transplanting is that often at this time, the sun shines too brightly, and moving to a new place for plants is difficult. What to do to avoid this, I will write below.

Transplanting in fall

The second favorable period for transplanting hydrangeas is autumn. At this time, the climate is quite mild, and the plant is easier to tolerate transplanting.

As in the previous case for different hardiness zones, planting time will be different.

For 3-5  hardiness zones, the best time is late August or early September, at least 4-6 weeks before the first frosts.

For warmer states (7-8 zones), the best period of transplanting will be the second half of September or even early October in the case of warm autumn.

For the southern US  (9-10 zones), you can transplant a hydrangea in October, but you need to have time until the plant completely moved to hibernation.

The advantages of autumn transplanting are the fact that the earth is warm from the summer heat. Also, the sun is not too strong as in summer. In such conditions, the hydrangea will be able to take root faster.

The disadvantage is that you can transplant hydrangea too late (or the first frosts will come too early), and it doesn’t take root to the first frosts.

Can you transplant hydrangeas in the summer?

You can transplant hydrangeas only in early or late summer. Do not transplant hydrangeas in mid-summer, because they may not withstand the summer heat and wilt.

For some northern states, it will not be too late to transplant in early June, although this will require some additional work.

The shift in the timing of transplanting is because the further north, the sun has less power, so there will be less impact on plants.

For the same reason, in the north of the United States, you can transplant a hydrangea in the second half of August. Usually, at this time, the climate there is more gentle.

I do not recommend transplanting in mid-summer when the sun is too strong, and there is heat. In most cases, this will lead to the loss of the plant, yes, there are exceptions, but they are rare.

How to properly transplant hydrangeas in the summer we will consider in the next chapter.

Do not transplant in the winter

A few words need to be said about whether it is possible to transplant hydrangeas in winter. There are examples of successful transplants in winter. Some even recommend doing it in the winter months, so let’s see.

Indeed, you can transplant a hydrangea from one place to another in winter if the ground is not frozen. In most cases, nothing terrible will happen.

However, I do not recommend doing this because during the winter transplant, the plant will be difficult to survive, and it will continue to lag in growth.

Besides, there is a small risk of losing the hydrangea because when transplanting, you will damage the roots, which can begin to rot during the winter. This is because the plant is dormant and cannot heal the wounds inflicted on it during transplantation.

The only exception may be the end of February for the southern states. Usually, at this time, there is enough heat, and the transplant should be successful.

Move the hydrangeas correctly

Before transplanting, you need to prepare for quality soil and planting site. It is these two factors that will ensure further success.

Transplanting soil

Soil for hydrangeas plays a key role in its cultivation. Because thanks to the soil, lush flowers are formed, if you transplant the plant into poor and dry soil, you may lose the beautiful appearance of flowers.

Hydrangea requires moist and nutritious soil. However, it does not mean that it can be planted in the swamp.

Most gardens usually have clay soil, so you need to make it looser and more nutritious. To do this, take two-thirds of the garden soil and mix with a third of good compost.

You need to choose compost from proven manufacturers, and it will be good if there are reviews about it on the Internet. Otherwise, you can buy bad compost that can harm hydrangeas.

If your yard has sandy or stony soil, then the soil mix should be slightly different than in the previous case.

Take 60% of your garden soil add 40% compost, then mix it all well. As a result, you get a great substrate for areas where fast-drained soils predominate.

Choose the right place

For lush flowering hydrangeas, you should choose a place where they will get enough sun, but excess light will adversely affect these plants.

In general, all types of hydrangeas need morning sun and afternoon shade. To achieve this, you need to plant them on the other side of the house or fence. It is also possible to plant from the east of trees or large shrubs.

Some species need more sun. For example, Hydrangea paniculata can withstand a lot of sunlight. If you live in the north, you can plant it in full sun all day.

For species such as Climbing hydrangeas or Mophead hydrangeas, 4-6 hours of the morning sun will suffice. Exaggerating this limit can cause some difficulties.

Oakleaf hydrangeas have special lighting requirements; one of the most popular varieties is Annabelle Hydrangea. These plants do not need much sun, 3-4 hours of direct sun in the morning, and then they need shade. In the southern states, they can be in the shade all day, such as in the shade of a not very dense tree.

How to transplant?

I recommend transplanting when there is no sun, and the weather is cloudy. The beginning of the day is best for this.

Also, try to choose a time with light rain the day before in the absence of rain, water the hydrangea several times before transplanting. Due to this, the plant will be saturated with moisture, and it will be easier to withstand all this.

The next thing you need to do is dig up a hydrangea. Do it very carefully, try not to damage the plant.

Step back from the center of the plant at least ten inches or more depending on how big your hydrangea is.

Dig up the plant, try to keep the maximum number of roots. Do not shake the soil from the roots.

Move the hydrangea to a new place. The planting hole should be twice the size of the roots of the plant you are transplanting.

If you have a high groundwater level in the yard, then dig a hole three times the size of the rhizome. At the bottom of the hole, put stones or other material that is easily permeable to water. Fill the hole a third with this material.

Next, place the hydrangea bush so that the place where the stems connect with the roots was on the same level (or slightly higher) with the surface of the garden.

Fill the entire free space in the hole with soil. Water once and when the water comes down, pour more soil if voids or pits are formed.

Transplanting from a pot into the ground is the same, just follow the tips written above, and you will succeed.

Young plants tolerate transplanting easily; however, for mature hydrangeas, it will be a bit harder.

What to do after transplanting?

After transplanting the plant may wither, this is called transplant shock. This most often happens if you transplanted a hydrangea in the summer or the plant is already mature, and you have damaged many roots during the transplant.

To ease the conditions, you need to perform several actions that we will talk about now.

Give more shade

The first thing I recommend is to give the plant maximum shade—the reason why the hydrangea withers is the strong sun and lack of moisture.

By providing full shade, you will do your hydrangea a great favor. Do not worry about the lack of light; in the first year after transplanting, the hydrangea will most likely not bloom, so it will not need direct sunlight.

You can shade in different ways. The most convenient is to shade the bush with a patio umbrella. It’s quick and easy, but you’ll have to leave the umbrella over the hydrangea until the plant takes root.

The second way is to arrange a simple frame. This can be done by sticking four sticks in the ground around the hydrangea and covering it all with a shading net. If desired, you can create a more reliable and complex framework.

When the plant begins to grow new leaves and shoots, it is a sign that it has been established, and then the shade can be removed.

Sometimes the rooting process can take a whole year, and you can remove the shade only in the fall (if you transplanted in the spring).

No additional shade is needed for the winter.

Give enough water

The next thing you need to do is water the hydrangea properly.

After transplanting the hydrangea, water it well, the soil around should be moist but not swampy. For shrubs of different sizes, the amount of water will be different.

In the future, you need to constantly moisten the ground near the plant. In dry and hot weather, this may have to be done daily or every other day.

If there is a little rain, check the soil moisture, and if it is not completely wet, then lightly irrigate the surface. It is not worth watering a hydrangea in heavy rain.

This watering schedule should last all season until the end of the year.

Watering should be stopped for the winter. Exceptions may be areas where there is a drought in winter. In this case, you need to slightly moisten the ground near the plant from time to time.

The best solution is to arrange drip irrigation. This will allow you to slowly saturate the soil without forming a swamp under the plant. Here it is important to set it up correctly so as not to overwater the plants.

Mulch the plant

Mulching plants have many benefits.

First of all, mulch protects the soil from drying out, thus reducing the risk of wilting plants from lack of moisture.

Secondly, the earth heats up less in summer, so the plant will be more comfortable.

All these benefits are very relevant for newly transplanted hydrangeas. Therefore, be sure to mulch the plant as soon as you transplant it.

For hydrangeas as mulch, I recommend using compost or pine bark.

The advantages of compost are that it will also feed the plant. The disadvantages are its relatively short shelf life, and it does not protect against weeds.

Pine bark lasts longer than compost and protects the surface from weeds. However, it brings almost no nutrients to the soil.

Pour a layer of mulch around the plant 3-4 feet (1m) in diameter. The thickness of the mulch layer should be 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm). It is not worth pouring too thick a layer of mulch because then there will be no access air to the soil surface.

There should also be a gap of at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) between the base of the stems and the mulch. In other words, you should not cover the place where the branches come out of the rhizome with mulch or soil. Otherwise, the plant may be damaged by the crown rot.

Give fertilizer

When restoring the root system of the hydrangea will spend a lot of effort. Besides, if you prune it, the number of leaves will decrease. It is known that the leaves produce chlorophyll due to which the plant grows. Therefore, after transplanting, the plants will be deficient in the necessary substances.

To provide the plant with trace elements, you need to fertilize it.

I do not recommend giving hydrangeas a liquid fertilizer that will give a lot of nutrients at once. Because as a result of this plant can begin to grow rapidly before forming roots.

When transplanting, add a slow-release fertilizer to the planting hole. This type of fertilizer will gradually enrich the hydrangea with everything you need. And you will not worry about overfeeding.

There are many good products on the market. You need to follow the rules on the label. Usually, one feeding per year is enough.

Key points

Time Transplant hydrangeas in early spring or early fall.
Place The best place you can transplant a hydrangea is where there are morning sun and afternoon shade.
Soil Soil should be rich and moist.
Transplanting Do not deepen crown and branches.
After transplanting Create additional shade; water properly; cut branches on one-third; mulch the plant.