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Shrub Source Blog

  • Specimen Shrubs that Wow!

    What's a specimen shrub? It's a shrub that really packs a punch in the landscape. It's unusual--whether due to flowers, fruits, foliage, bark, or all of the above!

    When you want an even, subdued look, you plant multiples of the same shrub to blend into the background. Foundation plantings (around the house) are mostly made up of the same shrub, but for some Wow! Boom! Bang! at the front door or near the driveway you're going to want a specimen shrub. Here are some of our favorites for you.

    Lemon Lace™ Sambucus

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    This looker is at home in full sun to partial shade. It has lacy chartreuse leaves in the summer and flowers that develop into berries in the fall. It provides three solid seasons of interest and is sure to wow.

    Learn More >>

     

    Sonic Bloom™ Pink Weigela

    Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 11.43.33 AMGosh, we just love these Weigela plants. They're all great, really. Gorgeous foliage, pretty flowers, what's not to like? Sonic Bloom™ starts flowering in the summer and just keeps on going until frost. Butterflies and hummingbirds love it.

    Learn More >>

     

    Sunshine Blue™ Caryopteris

    Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 12.09.01 PMCaryopteris, also called Bluebeard, is probably THE. MOST. UNDERUTILIZED. shrub in the landscape. Sunshine Blue™ has bright chartreuse leaves and gorgeous blue flowers in September. Just when you think the garden is giving it up for the year, Bluebeard roars in with a big show. You want it. Trust me.

    Learn More >>

  • Caring for Shrub Container Gardens

    When you think "container garden" you probably think of annual flowers, maybe some greens, but shrubs are probably not the first things on your mind. You can use shrubs as your "thriller" plant in a container garden, or you can create a true garden of containers with a different shrub in each pot. If you have a lot of specimen plants, a "container garden" or garden of containers is a good way to display your collection.

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    For more about how to design a shrub container garden, read our blog post about container garden design with shrubs.

    Care Tips for Container Gardening with Shrubs

    Once you've designed and planted your garden, you need to keep it healthy! Caring for a shrub in a container over the long run is a bit different than keeping shrubs happy in the ground. Here are some tips.

    Plant Selection: Size and Hardiness

    Happy plants start with proper plant selection. If you know you're going to grow a shrub in a container long-term, select shrubs that have compact growth habits and that stay small. While you can prune back a full-sized shrub yearly, that's not what's best for the shrub or for you. Additionally, shrubs that stay compact on top will stay more compact on bottom (the roots), so you won't have as many problems with the shrub outgrowing the pot.

    Another thing to consider is that shrubs in containers are one zone less hardy than shrubs in the ground. So, if a shrub is considered hardy to zone 6 in the ground, it will be hardy to zone 7 in a container. The roots will get colder over the winter in a container.

    IMG_7887Watering

    Watering can be a bit more complicated if you plant a shrub in a container with annual plants, as the annuals will need more water. The best companions for shrubs in containers are perennials. Once the shrub and the perennials have settled in and grown new roots, they'll need similar amounts of water, which shouldn't be too much. Unlike annual container gardens that will need water every day or every other day in the summer, shrub container gardens can scoot by with once a week, or twice if it's really hot.

    Fertilizing

    Shrubs in containers will require fertilizing once a year. Generally after flowering is the ideal time to fertilize. If a shrub doesn't flower (such as evergreens) fertilize when they're pushing new growth in the spring. There's no need to fertilize more than once a year--that will encourage weak growth. But you will need to give the plants their annual shot of food because, being in containers, they don't have access to the nutrition that they'd find in the soil of a landscape bed.

    Pruning

    If you start with compact shrubs, you shouldn't need to do much pruning. However, if you want to maintain size after the first year or two, prune after flowering or after the flush of spring growth. If you're growing evergreen shrubs, read the individual care instructions for the plant because some evergreens respond to shearing or pruning better than others.

  • Proven Winners Shrubs Combos for the Garden

    Can you plant an entire beautiful garden with nothing but shrubs? Yes! Here are some combinations for stellar gardens planted with nothing but, you guessed it, shrubs!

    ColorChoice® Flowering Shrubs are the star of this show. We offer these great shrubs because they are predictably showy in the garden, whether from flowers, fruit, foliage, or bark.

    Wildlife Garden

    Whether you want to attract birds or butterflies, here are some shrubs to start with when planting a wildflower garden.

    Purple Pearls Beautyberry Purple Pearls™ Callicarpa

    This pretty shrub is a North American native beloved by birds and butterflies. Purple Pearls has burgundy leaves and clusters of purple flowers covering the shrub in the fall.

    Sunshine Blue™ Caryopteris

    Late season butterflies need something to sip and the blue flowers of Sunshine Blue™ Caryopteris deliver. Chartreuse leaves provide interest all summer long and a profusion of blue flowers when everything else has stopped blooming carry the garden well into fall.

    Aphrodite Calycanthus

    Aphrodite Calycanthus

    Fragrant red flowers in the summer are the true beauty of this shrub. Butterfly larvae call Calycanthus home, and more baby butterflies means more adult butterflies!

    Little Henry® Itea

    Can one shrub be perfect? If so, this one fits the bill. It has cascading white flower clusters in the late spring to early summer. In the fall the leaves turn a bright red-orange foliage. In the winter, the mounding branches are bright burgundy-red. Make room for this one.

    Four Season Color

    Arctic Sun™ Cornus

    Four season color can come from the foliage, flowers, or even the branches of a shrub. Here are some of our favorites for interesting color throughout the year.

    Arctic Sun™ Cornus

    Pretty yellow-green leaves on this shrub fall off to reveal bright yellow twigs during the winter. It's gorgeous all year round, with different aspects shining depending on the season.

    Wedding Ring™ Buxus

    This pretty little shrub has green and gold variegated pinky-sized leaves. It can be pruned as a low, dense hedge or as a mound. Grows well in the landscape and in containers.

    White Album™ EuonymusWhite Album™ Euonymus

    An evergreen Euonymus, this green and white shrub grows to a max height of 2 feet, so it won't ever overwhelm the landscape. It's equally happy in sun or shade, so it's quite versatile, too!

    Polar Gold™ Thuja

    Polar Gold is almost more of a small tree than a shrub. This pyramid-shaped evergreen has a gold-green color year-round. It is quite resistant to burn. Responds well to hedging!

    What kind of shrubs are you looking for? Chances are there's a Proven Winner for your garden!

  • How to Design a Mixed Shrub Border

    Mixed shrub border

    Want to know a secret to getting a lush and beautiful garden like the one pictured above (which is, by the way, a private garden somewhere in Seattle)?

    Mix it up.

    It's that simple! Mix trees, shrubs, annuals, and perennials together and you'll get a multi-colored, multi-textured garden that delights the senses at every turn.

    This type of garden is sometimes called a "mixed border." It has a "cottage garden" type of look, and it is always lush after allowed to grow for a few years.

    But surely designing this type of garden is much more complicated than it looks?

    Actually, it isn't!

    Color, Form, Texture

    To design your own mixed border garden, you'll need to learn how to work with color, form, and texture.

    Color: The color of the leaves and the flowers on a shrub impact its place in the design. 

    Form: What is the shape of the shrub (or annual plant or perennial plant)? Is it round? (Most boxwood shrubs are round.) Or is it pillar-shaped? (The Sunjoy™ Gold Pillar barberry has an upright/columnar form.)

    Texture: Texture in the garden is just like texture everywhere else, but generally it is the leaves of the plant that display the texture. Plants with small leaves are considered fine textured. (Boxwood or Hebe are examples of this.) Plants with larger leaves are coarse textured. (Viburnums are generally coarse textured.)

    DIY Design

    Now that you know a bit about what you're working with, you're ready to start designing.

    First decide upon a color scheme. Will it be all warm colors (red, yellow, orange, pink) or cool colors (purple, blue, lavender), or a combination of both? After deciding upon colors, look at leaf textures. Choose some plants with large leaves and others with small, fern-like leaves. Last, tackle form. Pick out some plants with stiff, upright growth habits and others with softer, draping growth habits.

    shrubs and perennials

    One way to make designing a border easy is to pick a group of three or five types of plants and repeat the groupings for the length of the garden. 

    Another is to simply focus on repeating colors, forms, and textures throughout the garden, without worrying whether you're using the same plants.

    In the picture, left, the silvery color is repeated in the brunnera (foreground) and the dogwood shrub (left, back). The shape of the hosta leaves and brunnera are both coarse, while the dogwood leaf texture is finer, matching that of the phlox plants pictured, back right.

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    Working Annuals into the Equation

    Annuals are no different than shrubs and perennials, in terms of a mixed border. One advantage is that they provide a relatively constant show of color throughout the summer, while shrubs and perennials can change throughout the season--moving in and out of bloom, changing leaf colors, etc.

    Choose annuals to mix in that repeat the leaf colors of the shrubs or flowers of the perennials. In the picture above the coleus has burgundy accents that complement the loropetalum shrubs and pinkish hues that mimic the blooms of hyssop blooming in the background.

    The key to gorgeous garden design, though, is to have fun and don't be afraid! Just "grow" for it!

  • Spring Shrub Care

    It's heating up! In northern areas of the country, there's something bordering on spring finally happening. In more southerly climes, it's just about summer--in temperature anyway. Now is the time to perform some basic shrub care to keep plants healthy and growing.

    Here are some tips for proper shrub care.

    How To-H-2218Hand-Pruning vs. Shearing/ Hedging

    There are a few ways to prune a shrub. We're going to focus mainly on shape in this post. (Renewal pruning one type of pruning that you would do to rejuvenate an older shrub, but that's not necessarily a "seasonal maintenance" type of pruning.)

    Spring is a good time to hedge shrubs. You use hedge trimmers (pictured, left) to shear or hedge. With this tool you can clip large numbers of thin branches at the same time. You'd trim an evergreen boxwood hedge with this type of tool. Hedging and shearing works best for evergreens with smaller leaves. It is not an ideal type of pruning for deciduous plants because they end up looking boxy and bare. Evergreens with large leaves can look ratty if sheared because the shears can chop the leaves in half.

    When hedging shrubs (whether with a power hedge trimmer or hand shears), point the shears down and away from you. Never hold them above your head! Hold the shears at a slight angle so that, after trimming, the bottom of the shrub is slightly wider than the top (a pyramid shape). That will ensure that light reaches all parts of the shrub and will prevent dieback from the bottom up. How To-H-2193

    Deciduous shrubs respond better to hand-pruning with loppers (pruners with long handles) or hand pruners (pictured, right). Use hand pruners to keep azaleas looking tidy. Grab a branch that is growing out of bounds and cut it back to the center of the shrub. That will allow the other branches to cover up the pruning cut. You can cut back to almost the center of the shrub or cut back slightly inside the outer leaves--just so you don't leave a shaggy end sticking out.

     

    Here's another picture of hand-pruning for shape:

    How To-D-9836

    Prune any spring-blooming shrubs after they bloom. Azaleas, flowering quince, forsythia, and other early bloomers flower on old growth, which means they will set flower buds for next year this fall. If you want to control the size of these plants the time to prune is now.

    Watering

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    It's starting to get warmer which means you need to pay more attention to watering.

    When you first plant a shrub you'll have to water a little bit every day. That's because the smaller root hairs are regrowing and re-establishing themselves. After a couple of weeks you will be able to cut back to watering deeply a few times a week. Always direct the water at the base of the plant, not on the leaves. Wet leaves are an excellent breeding ground for fungal and bacterial diseases.

    Mulching

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    Put a fresh layer of mulch down around your shrubs this spring to keep their roots cool and protect them from string trimmers and mowers.

    Never make a mulch volcano! Pull the mulch away from the stems of the shrub. A three inch layer of mulch is enough to keep the roots cool and moist.

    Deadheading

    Pruning-roses

    Most shrubs don't require deadheading but if you remove the spent flowers from rose bushes, butterfly bushes, hydrangeas or other reblooming shrubs, you'll get more flowers and the shrubs will stay tidier.

    When deadheading roses always cut back to just above a leaf with five leaflets, ideally a leaf with a bud that is on the side of the shrub facing out.

    Fertilizing

    Spring is also the time to fertilize spring-flowering shrubs such as azaleas and rhododendrons. Those are acid-loving plants that will respond well to fertilizing with Holly Tone or another formulas specifically for plants that grow well with a lower soil pH.

    If you have hydrangeas that you want to bloom blue or pink, this is a good time to add lime (for pink blooms) or aluminum sulfate (for blue flowers). (It can take awhile for the pH to adjust.)

  • Wildlife Gardening with Shrubs

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    You might think that you garden just so that you can enjoy the pretty flowers. Or so that you have nice landscaping around your house. You might plant shrubs for privacy screening or as a focal point next to your front door. When you plant shrubs, though, you're also giving a leg up to wildlife--something that's sorely needed in this day and age of rampant development.

    Whether you specifically intend to create a wildlife garden, or welcoming wildlife is a secondary benefit to your landscaping, when you plant shrubs you do the following:

    • Provide a place for birds to nest
    • Provide food for birds, butterflies, and caterpillars
    • Provide cover for birds and other animals
    • Create corridors through which wildlife can safely pass in urban areas

    Birds with food, water, and shelter will fledge (raise) more chicks to maturity. And it's as easy as selecting the right plants!

    Gardening for Birds and Butterflies

    Water

    Before we get to the plants, let's think about water. The National Wildlife Foundation recommends these types of water supplies for habitat gardens:

    • Birdbath
    • Lake
    • Stream
    • Seasonal Poolilex_berry_poppins
    • Ocean
    • Water Garden/Pond
    • River
    • Butterfly Puddling Area
    • Rain Garden
    • Spring

    Food
    Planting shrubs increases the amount of food available to birds in a variety of ways. Some birds eat berries, and will benefit from holly plants and viburnums in the landscape.

    Butterflies and hummingbirds sip nectar from flowers. If you want to lure these winged wonders into the garden you need to plant nectar plants such as butterfly bushes and abelia.

    Shop All Butterfly Shrubs >>

    Shop All Bird Shrubs >>

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    Shelter

    Another important part of wildlife gardening is shelter. Birds need places to build nests. Small mammals need cover. One of our favorite shrubs for shelter is the Beautybush. This lovely native shrub does double-duty with gorgeous purple berries that feed the birds in the fall.

    Don't forget the evergreen shrubs, too! They work hard for you and for your feathered and furry friends in the winter, providing good cover when deciduous shrubs are bare.

    Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 10.11.28 AMGo Away Deer!

    There's one type of wildlife that pretty much nobody wants in their garden because they'll eat your plants to the ground: deer. And while there aren't any plants that are 100% deer-proof (a hungry deer will eat anything), there are lots of deer-resistant shrubs. These are shrubs that either don't taste good or don't feel good (thorny) for deer to eat.

    Shop all deer-resistant shrubs >>

    (Pictured, right, get deer to steer clear by planting Sunjoy™ Mini Saffron Berberis as a landscape border.)

  • Container Gardening with Compact Shrubs

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    Shrubs might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to container gardening. Once you start using them, though, you'll find that they offer just as much color and interest as annuals or perennials while cutting down on the work required to maintain your containers.

    Benefits of Container Gardening with Shrubs

    • Four-season interest
    • Less "changing out" required
    • Perfect place to "nurse" along smaller shrubs before planting in the garden
    • Unique texture
    • Lower maintenance

    Four Season Interest with Shrubs

    There are two different ways you can use shrubs for four-season interest.

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    1) As the thriller or anchor in a single container planting. You can see in the picture to the right there's a gold and green variegated shrub in the container on the left side. Around the shrub million bells are planted. In the winter those annual flowers can be removed and replaced with pansies for cool weather, which can be switched out again for summer flowering annuals. Instead of needing to replant the entire container, you can just replant the flowering annuals. (The container in the foreground has an ornamental grass performing the same "thriller" function that the variegated shrub does in the back container.)

    "Steal the look" with Wedding Ring Boxwood.

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    2) As color or texture in a multi-container grouping. I like to use the container filled with liriope (pictured, left. Again, not a shrub) as an example of how a plant with interesting form or texture can fill a container all by itself--without needing to be combined with additional plant types.

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    Group a few containers filled with one type of plant together (or, when you're using a shrub, you're usually filling the container with just one plant) and you have a true little garden of containers.

    This grouping (pictured, right) was on display at the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. It includes two containers planted with shrubs or small trees and one container that incorporates a trailing juniper spilling over the edges of the container while colorful coleus plants provide vertical interest.

    Nursing Smaller Shrubs

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    When you order from Shrub Source you can choose two different sizes of shrubs--a landscape-ready (Gallon) sized shrub or 1 qt size.

    Learn more about our shrub sizes here. 

    While you can plant the quart sizes directly into the landscape, a quart sized compact-growing shrub is also a great choice for container gardening. You can plant the shrub in the container and let it grow for a year or two, providing interesting height and color in your container plantings, and then you can move it out into the landscape once it's bigger. You get double for your money--a container plant for a few years and a larger, fuller shrub that plugs right into the landscape once you pop it out of the container and into the garden.

    The elderberry pictured will be right at home in the container for a few years, but can be planted as a specimen shrub next to the front porch or in a landscape bed once it outgrows the container.

     

    Creating a Unique Sense of Style with Container Shrubs

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    This picture shows shrub plantings at the Dallas Arboretum. You might be saying to yourself "Well, of course they can have lovely trimmed boxwood in giant urns. They have a huge staff."

    Well, the great thing about Sprinter™ Boxwood from Shrub Source is that it is compact, slow growing, and has a fine leaf texture. You can steal this look and make it your own on a much smaller scale. The key to this look is repetition of the same shrub and the same container along the walkway. You don't need twelve of these shrubs, but you could plant four or six to create the same formal look.

    Dare to Thrill

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    Planting a hibiscus in a container is a quick and easy way to add drama. You don't have to wait to get the big beautiful blooms.

    In Naples, FL, their "5th Avenue" of shops is planted from end to end with gorgeous container gardens that change with the seasons. Hibiscus shrubs are a staple for the larger containers. They can be underplanted with "fillers" and "spillers."

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     We love Lil' Kim™ Hibiscus for thrilling container gardens.

     

     

     

  • Reblooming Shrubs: Get More Mileage in the Garden

    Shrubs are the foundation plants of the landscape--they're what connects the lawn at ground level to the trees above our heads. They fill the space in between and serve as anchors for foundation plantings around the house. Often they are overlooked or chosen simply because they will top out at a particular size, or because they can be trimmed into a hedge. They're not always chosen for their spectacular blooms or the pizzazz they can add to the garden, which is a shame. If you choose shrubs wisely you can enjoy as colorful flowers all summer long from shrubs as you can from flowering annuals.

    And--bonus--you don't have to re-plant shrubs every year!

    To get the most bang for your buck, plant reblooming shrubs. Here are some of our favorites.

    Reblooming Shrubs from ShrubSource

    Lo & Behold® Blue Chip Buddleia

    Lo & Behold® Blue Chip Buddleia

    This is one of our favorite little shrubs. You can plant it as a border plant in landscape beds or as a specimen plant in the perennial garden. Lo & Behold® Blue Chip Buddleia is small enough to serve as a thriller plant in a large container, or as a stand-alone specimen in a smaller container.  It blooms continuously throughout the summer, attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, and is deer-resistant.

     

     

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    Bloom-A-Thon® Lavender Azalea

    You can enjoy azalea blooms throughout the entire season with Bloom-A-Thon® Lavender Azaleas planted in your shrub border or landscape bed. These shrubs have evergreen foliage and bloom on old growth. You can lightly prune after flowering, but they are rather compact in their growth habits so they need little pruning.

    These are the perfect plants for your shade gardens. They need some sunlight, but prefer not to bake in hot afternoon sun.

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    Let's Dance® Rhapsody Blue Hydrangea

    Let's Dance® Rhapsody Blue Hydrangea blooms with huge pom poms of flowers on a compact plant. The flowers are naturally pink but can be turned blue by lowering the pH of the soil. This Bigleaf Hydrangea blooms on new and old growth, so it's virtually impossible to cut off the flowers.

    It also ensures that you'll enjoy big and beautiful flowers throughout the summer and into fall.

     

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    Sonic Bloom™ Pearl Weigela

    Sonic Bloom™ Pearl Weigela is a gorgeous flowering specimen plant that blooms from early spring through frost. Weigela plants are another shrub that is underutilized in the landscape, and it's a shame because few other flowering shrubs provide such a showy bloom for so long.

    This fast-growing, trouble-free shrub can be pruned back after the first spring bloom to control size and encourage re-blooming.

     

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    Bloomerang® Dark Purple Syringa 

    Bloomerang® Dark Purple Syringa is a re-blooming lilac. Yes-you read that correctly! You can now enjoy the fragrance and beauty of lilacs all summer long. This lilac has a compact growth habit, topping out at 4-5 feet in height, so every garden has room for one (or three)!

  • Understanding Hydrangea Choices

    Hydrangeas are some of the most beloved garden shrubs, but are also among the least understood. Does the Hydrangea bloom on new growth or old growth? Should you prune it in the spring, summer, or fall? Why is it pink when it is supposed to be blue?

    Before we can answer the questions about pruning and color, it helps to understand a bit about the types of Hydrangeas you can buy.

    Hardy Hydrangea

    Limelight HydrangeaMany Hydrangea shrubs set flower buds in the fall for a bloom the next spring. This means that the flowers have to live through cold weather, not be pruned at the wrong time, and survive spring temperature swings.

    The Hardy Hydrangea group is newer but much beloved because these shrubs form flowering buds at the beginning of the summer. It is almost impossible not to enjoy a gorgeous bloom from these shrubs each year.

    These shrubs grow well in full sun to partial shade in zones 3-9 and have flower clusters in shades of pink and white. The popular Limelight Hydrangea is part of this group.

    Lacecap Hydrangea

    Lacecap hydrangeaLacecap Hydrangeas are so named because of their flowers. Typical Hydrangea flowers with large petals or bracts form a ring around smaller lacy flowers to create a unique and beautiful bloom. These plants bloom on old wood, so do not prune after August.

    Plants can be leggy when you purchase them, so spend some time pinching back the shrubs to achieve a full, branching growth habit.

    Lacecap Hydrangeas grow best in gardens in zones 5-9. They are susceptible to cold weather, so take care to plant in a protected spot. Most Lacecaps reach heights of 2-4 feet and flower in shades of pink and white.

    Mophead Hydrangea

    Let's Dance® Blue JanglesEveryone loves Mophead Hydrangeas. In fact, when you picture a Hydrangea flower, you're probably picturing a Mophead. They have the large, pom-pom sized flowers in shades of white, pink, blue, or purple. They're popular as part of bridal bouquets and wedding flowers.

    The flower color of many of these plants is dependent on the pH of the soil where they live. Alkaline or neutral soils will produce pink blooms and acidic soils will produce blue blooms.

    Mophead Hydrangeas grow well in zones 5 – 9 and will produce well in sun to partial shade. They need moist soil and bloom in mid summer through late fall.

    Mountain Hydrangea

    Mountain hydrangeaMountain Hydrangeas give lots of flowers from a little package. These small wonders are 2-3 feet in height and spread with lacy purplish-white blooms. Gardeners with limited space love these petite powerhouse bloomers. The small shrubs are covered in flowers from summer through fall.

    Currently we offer two varieties for sale. They both grow well in full sun to partial shade. They rebloom throughout the summer, including on new growth so you can't possibly cut off all of the flowers.

    Perfect for landscape beds and containers!

    Oakleaf Hydrangea

    hydrangea_gatsby_gal

    Oakleaf Hydrangeas are native summer-blooming shrubs that truly stand out in the landscape.

    Unlike other Hydrangeas, Oakleaf Hydrangeas need drier soil in order to thrive. Do you have a woodland garden? It isn't complete without at least one Oakleaf Hydrangea.

    Oakleaf Hydrangeas are hardy in zones 5 – 9 with average to dry soil. The average height at maturity is 5 – 6 feet while some varieties can get as tall as 10 feet.

    Don't miss the new "Gatsby's" series Oakleaf Hydrangeas. Gatsby's Star™ Oakleaf Hydrangea has truly stunning star-shaped flowers.

    Smooth Hydrangea

    Invincibelle™ Spirit HydrangeaThis large and lovely Hydrangea has pink blooms at the end of erect stems. It is a rebloomer and flowers on new wood, so you can't cut off the flowers.

    Hardy in zones 3-9. Prune after flowering or in the early spring if you need to control size.

    How about Flower Color?

    A big mystery of Hydrangeas is flower color. How do you get blue flowers if you live in the west or pink flowers in the east? Some hydrangea varieties' flowers are not affected by soil pH, but others are. Read the description of the plant you're buying to see if the one you want is affected by pH. Soil pH affects the amount of aluminum the plants can take up and that affects the color. More aluminum = more of a blue color. Aluminum is more available to plants at a pH of 5.2-5.5. You can lower the soil pH by adding Aluminum Sulfate. You can raise the pH by adding garden lime.

    White hydrangea flowers will not turn colors. Only pink or blue flowers can be changed. (And then, only some of those flowers can be changed.)

  • Why Won't My Hydrangeas Bloom?

    Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 8.28.30 PMWe get more questions from people about why their hydrangeas aren't blooming than about almost anything else. When hydrangeas bloom there's nothing prettier. When they don't, there's almost nothing more frustrating.

    The secret to success with hydrangeas is fairly straightforward:

    Know what type of hydrangea you have and care for it accordingly.

    There are many different types of hydrangeas (23 species), including hardy, mophead (also known as bigleaf), oakleaf, smooth, lacecap etc. and so on. It is helpful if you know what type of hydrangea you have so that you will know whether it blooms on old or new growth.

     

    Hydrangea coming out of dormancyOld growth: Last year's growth (that survived the winter). In the picture, right, the old growth is brown and looks like dead twigs. You can just see the green leaves of buds breaking at the tips of some of the stems.

    New growth: This year's growth. The new growth is green. You can see entire new stems sprouting at the bottom of the shrub near the ground.

    A shrub that blooms on old growth will not bloom if you cut off the old growth in the winter or spring prior to bloom.

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    When a shrub looks like nothing but sticks (and everything else has already leafed out), the temptation is great to hack it all back to the new green leaves sprouting from near the ground. DON'T DO IT! Let the plant leaf out. Once it is nice and full and green, THEN you can assess damage.

    The twig pictured, left, most likely has some winterkill on it. The buds on the top of the twig have turned brown and/or fallen off. About four inches down, the buds have started to break.

    I won't prune the dead out of this shrub until is is nice and fully leafed out.

    So, just because you managed to resist the urge to prune your hydrangea back to the ground when the weather warmed up doesn't mean you're in the clear.

    Even if the entire plant isn't killed back to the ground during the winter, the flower buds can be damaged by late spring freezes. Bigleaf hydrangeas (mopheads), in particular, suffer from this type of damage. If the plants break dormancy during a warm spell that is followed by a cold snap, flower buds can be damaged, which will cause the plants to have fewer flowers. (Or no flowers, depending on how significant the damage is.)

    Other Issues Disrupting Blooming

    Let's Dance® Blue JanglesIn addition to cold damage, improper pruning and lack of light can affect hydrangea blooms. The best time to prune any plant is right after it flowers. If you prune right after flowering, you can't cut off the flowers. Hydrangeas are no exception.

    Even hydrangeas that bloom on old and new growth (such as the Let's Dance® series-Blue Jangles pictured, right) are safe to prune right after flowering. If a hydrangea blooms on new growth, it's possible that you could prune in early spring, but it is safer to prune after blooming.

    Sunlight is another contributing factor in lack of bloom. Most hydrangeas grow best in partial to full shade, and need more shade the hotter the area where they're planted. Panicle hydrangeas, such as the Limelight Hydrangea, need more sun in order to flower. They don't like full hot afternoon sun, but plant them in the shade flowering will be greatly reduced.

    Have questions about hydrangeas? Ask them on our Facebook Page!

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