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The Ultimate Guide to Fertilizing Your Hydrangeas

fertilizer for hydrangeas

Fertilizer for Hydrangeas: What You Need to Know

If you're a hydrangea lover, you know how important it is to give them the right nutrients to thrive. One of the most crucial parts of caring for these beautiful flowering shrubs is choosing the right fertilizer. In this guide, we'll go over everything you need to know about fertilizer for hydrangeas.

Understanding Hydrangeas' Nutrient Needs

Before we dive into the specifics of fertilizing hydrangeas, let's first talk about their nutrient needs. Like all plants, hydrangeas require certain nutrients to grow and thrive. The three most important nutrients for hydrangeas are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Nitrogen is essential for healthy foliage growth, while phosphorus promotes root development and flower production. Potassium helps regulate water balance in the plant and enhances disease resistance.

Nitrogen Requirements for Hydrangeas

As mentioned earlier, nitrogen is crucial for healthy foliage growth in hydrangeas. However, too much nitrogen can result in weak stems and fewer blooms. That's why it's important to choose a fertilizer with the right balance of nitrogen.

A good rule of thumb is to use a fertilizer with a higher middle number (or phosphorus content) than nitrogen. A 10-30-10 or 12-24-12 fertilizer is ideal for most hydrangeas.

Phosphorus Requirements for Hydrangeas

In addition to promoting root development and flower production, phosphorus also helps hydrangeas tolerate stress, such as drought or cold temperatures. If your soil is lacking in phosphorus, you may notice stunted growth and fewer blooms.

To ensure your hydrangeas are getting enough phosphorus, look for a fertilizer with a middle number of at least 10. You can also add bone meal to the soil, which is a natural source of phosphorus.

Potassium Requirements for Hydrangeas

Potassium is essential for regulating water balance in plants, which is especially important for hydrangeas that grow in moist soil. It also enhances disease resistance and improves flower color and quality.

When choosing a fertilizer for hydrangeas, look for one with a higher third number (or potassium content) than nitrogen. A 12-12-17 or 15-0-15 fertilizer is ideal for most hydrangeas.

When to Fertilize Hydrangeas

Now that you know what nutrients your hydrangeas need, let's talk about when to fertilize them. The timing of fertilization depends on a few factors, including the type of hydrangea and your location.

In general, it's best to fertilize hydrangeas in early spring before new growth appears. This gives them a boost of nutrients before they actively growing. You can also fertilize again in early summer if needed.

Fertilizing Newly Planted Hydrangeas

If you've just planted a new hydrangea, it's important to give it a good with the right nutrients. You can do this by mixing a slow-release fertilizer into the soil around the plant at planting time.

A slow-release fertilizer will slowly release nutrients over time, providing your hydrangea with a steady supply of nutrients. Look for a fertilizer with an N-P-K ratio of 5-10-5 or 4-12-4.

Fertilizing Established Hydrangeas

Established hydrangeas can benefit from an annual application of fertilizer. As mentioned earlier, early spring is the best time to fertilize established hydrangeas.

When applying fertilizer, be sure to follow the package instructions carefully. Over-fertilizing can cause more harm than good and may result in weak stems and fewer blooms.

How to Apply Fertilizer to Hydrangeas

Now that you know when to fertilize your hydrangeas, let's talk about how to apply it. There are a few different ways you can apply fertilizer to hydrangeas, including:

  • Broadcasting: This involves spreading fertilizer evenly over the soil surface around the plant. You can use a handheld spreader or simply sprinkle it by hand.
  • Banding: This involves creating a narrow trench around the perimeter of the plant and filling it with fertilizer. This method is especially useful for slow-release fertilizers.
  • Foliar spraying: This involves spraying fertilizer directly onto the leaves of the plant. While this method can provide a quick nutrient boost, it's not recommended for regular fertilization.

Regardless of which method you choose, be sure to water your hydrangeas thoroughly after applying fertilizer to help the nutrients penetrate the soil.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Fertilizing Hydrangeas

While fertilizing your hydrangeas is important, there are a few common mistakes to avoid. These include:

  • Over-fertilizing: Too much fertilizer can burn your hydrangeas and cause damage to the roots.
  • Under-fertilizing: Not giving your hydrangeas enough nutrients can result in stunted growth and fewer blooms.
  • Using the wrong type of fertilizer: Hydrangeas have specific nutrient needs, so it's important to choose a fertilizer that meets those needs.
  • Applying fertilizer at the wrong time: Fertilizing at the wrong time can result in weak growth or damage to the plant.


Q: Can I use compost instead of fertilizer on my hydrangeas?

A: Yes, you can use compost as a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers. Compost provides slow-release nutrients and improves soil health.

Q: How often should I fertilize my hydrangeas?

A: Established hydrangeas should be fertilized once a year in early spring. Newly planted hydrangeas can benefit from a slow-release fertilizer at planting time.

Q: What's the best type of fertilizer for hydrangeas?

A: Look for a fertilizer with an N-P-K ratio of 10-30-10 or 12-24-12. This will provide the right balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for most hydrangeas.

Q: Can I fertilize my hydrangeas in the fall?

A: It's not recommended to fertilize hydrangeas in the fall, as this can stimulate new growth that may not have time to harden off before cold temperatures arrive.

Q: How do I know if my hydrangeas need fertilizer?

A: If your hydrangeas are showing signs of stunted growth, yellowing leaves, or fewer blooms than usual, it may be time to fertilize.

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