Hydrangeas in the North

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Learn Tim's methods for growing hydrangeas in the colder climates.
        Contains hundreds of full color photographs and easy-to-read text.
A must-have for anyone gardening in Zones 3 to 7A.
Click on the Book Cover to view sample pages & to purchase Tim's new book from his e-store.
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Also available at Wayside Garden Center in Macedon, NY; Aman's Nursery in Macedon, NY; Oriental Garden Supply in Mendon, NY; Faddegon's Nursery in Latham, NY; Lockwood's Greenhouses & Nursery in Hamburg, NY; Callander's Nursery, Chatham, NY; Carol Watson Greenhouses in LaFayette, NY; Hadley Garden Center in Hadley, MA; and from Amazon.com


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“How do I get my hydrangeas to bloom?”     


That’s the burning question I set out to answer over 10 years ago now. I’d been a Garden Center Manager in different cities and capacities in the Northeast since 1990, and I swear I’d been asked that question a million times. The problem was that a reliable answer didn’t exist. Everything we knew about growing hydrangeas came from books written in warm climates—the South or Northwest, Europe, Japan, New Zealand. And no one had as yet come up with a way for Northerners to get consistent blooms on these plants. But I couldn’t just tell my customers that, because by the late 1990’s I had personally sold thousands of hydrangeas, and (cheers to Martha Stewart) hydrangeas had become the biggest-selling plant at the garden center! I didn’t just WANT to find a solution to this problem, I HAD to. So I started a collection of hydrangeas on which to experiment that now totals close to 300 cultivars, and after years of tests and trials with these plants, I've come up with a solution for the Northerner who wants her hydrangeas to actually bloom.
Photos: Right - Hydrangea macrophylla 'Blauer Zwerg'
             Below - Hydrangea quercifolia 'Snowflake'
             Below Right - Hydrangea macrophylla 'Freedom'
My first garden center job was in the Buffalo, NY area. I was fresh out of college with a degree in English Education (not that I’m a teacher at 
heart, I was more interested in writing, but trying to keep it 
practical…) and found that quite contrary to the dreams of my advisers, there were precisely 3 English teaching positions available in the entire state! I subbed a bit then went looking for a summer job. I fell in love with horticulture immediately. So much so I was promoted to Nursery Manager by fall. After moving to Central Virginia, I picked up a similar position, and found that even in that mild climate hydrangeas are often reluctant to bloom.

The problem is that they bloom on old wood—at least those of the species most in demand ('macrophylla,' to be exact). Couple that with the inability of their ‘old wood’ to survive winter temperatures under 10F or so and you begin to feel the frustration of us who know what wind chills of -20F feel like. And how those hydrangeas love to tease us by being root-hardy enough to shoot back up every spring with such lush, dark green foliage. So to come up with a method for getting 
these plants to bloom in the North, I had to find a way to:


    1. Get them to set flower buds close to the ground
    2. Protect those buds for the winter
    3. Ensure those buds express their blooms




The video below demonstrates the method I developed, but keep in mind that it is ONLY FOR MACROPHYLLA HYDRANGEAS GROWN IN CLIMATES WHERE THEIR STEMS SUFFER SIGNIFICANT DIE-BACK EACH WINTER. Basically, this is for everyone living in USDA Growing Zones 3 through 7A, which is roughly the top half of the continental United States! I’ve found that this method works for most MACROPHYLLA cultivars, but I must admit that there are a handful which seem pretty much incapable of blooming unless the buds at the tips of their branches survive the winter completely intact. I’ve also found that my hydrangeas give me more blooms with each year that I use this method on them. 

Tim Boebel's Method for Macrophylla Hydrangeas in the North

For a NEWLY UPDATED printable handout of these steps, click here.


Wayside Garden Center in the Rochester, NY area has had me at the position of Nursery Manager since 1997 (that’s right, since the last millennium). I’ve gradually built up our hydrangea inventory over that period so we now carry over 200 hydrangea cultivars each year. And no, we’re not related to the catalog company, or any other Wayside for that matter. See our website at www.waysidegardencenter.com if you’re interested. Our search-able hydrangea price/cultivar list can be viewed there.



Follow this link to see some of my favorite Hydrangea macrophylla cultivars for growing in the North. I’ve chosen these not only for their ability to bloom well in the North, but also for their vibrancy, the uniqueness and longevity of their blooms, as well the overall form the shrub takes in the North. A lot of strong bloomers didn’t make this list because of the weakness of their stems. There are many promising newer cultivars that I’m tempted to add to this list, but I find I can’t effectively evaluate a hydrangea unless it’s been in my garden for at least 3 years. 
Follow this link to see some wonderful Hydrangea serrata cultivars which are very easy to grow in the North.


Check out some promising introductions below:















Hydrangea macrophylla 'Blauling'                                  Hydrangea macrophylla 'Everlasting Revolution'















Hydrangea macrophylla 'Expression'                         Hydrangea macrophylla 'Forever & Ever Together'















Hydrangea macrophylla 'Let's Dance Starlight'                           Hydrangea macrophylla 'You-Me Emotion'    















                   Hydrangea serrata 'Fuji No Taki'


And check out these 3 picks of the relatively new 'Pistachio' hydrangea progressing through its changes: