Dear Hydrangea Enthusiasts,

Welcome to the May 2005 edition of Hydrangeas Plus® newsletter.  I am determined to get our May newsletter out but so much is happening here at the nursery. We just completed our spring overstock sale and we're right in the middle of the busiest part of the shipping season.  All our midwest and eastern customers are emerging from winter.  Finally.  And ready for the hydrangeas!  We started moving the one gallon hydrangeas up to three gallons this week, too.

Plants are growing so fast here.  Buds are popping out everywhere.  We're even seeing some color.  Not very common for early May.  We're going to start propagation sooner than later as we have begun cutting the hydrangeas back.  The taller varieties are just too tall.

May Hydrangea conference

Kristin will be attending the Center for Applied Nursery Reseach (CANR) Hydrangea conference this year.  For more information, see their website at  It's the first time I've been able to attend.  I'm tearing myself away from the nursery and David will be here all by himself.  Please be patient if you need to get a hold of us.  The conference is May 19-21st in Thomson, Georgia.  All THE hydrangea experts will be there.  I am just thrilled to be able to attend.

Spring Tip - Fertilizer

It’s time to start fertilizing those hydrangeas.  My rule of thumb is when the leaves start showing through the leaf nodes, it’s time for an application of time release fertilizer.  We are now selling fertilizer, aluminum sulfate & garden lime on our website.

What do your hydrangeas need in terms of fertilizing?  The three essential components of fertilizer are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, the N-P-K numbers on any fertilizer.  Nitrogen is for healthy green growth by helping the plant to grow chlorophyll.  Fertilizers high in nitrogen like 25-10-10, is great for greening up your lawn.  Phosphorus helps a plant grow good roots and stems in the early growth season then in flower production.  A mix like 10-30-10 is great for flowers on your annuals and perennials.  The Potassium (K) helps your plants generate and process nutrients.  Other important elements in fertilizers are calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, zinc, and sulfur.  Organic fertilizers are usually very low in these trace elements.

Hydrangeas like a balanced fertilizer- one that can be used on any shrub or tree.  We prefer the granular time-released kind that delivers nutrients to the plant over a 3 or 4 month period.  Water will break down the outside coating of the fertilizer slowly and nutrients won’t dwindle out in the active spring growth season.  Be sure that the soil is slightly moist when applying the granulated variety and keep the fertilizer off the foliage to prevent burn.

For blue hydrangeas, a low phosphorus element (the ‘P’) is important as too much will limit the plant’s ability to absorb aluminum.  The amounts of sulfur (lowers pH) and calcium (raises pH) are important to keep the blue color.  A good soil test from you local garden center can tell you what elements are missing from your soil.

Many gardeners love the Miracle Gro product for Acid Loving Plants.  It's called MirAcid but there are many other varieties on the market.  This type of fertilizer is almost instant acting.  We use it for emergengies only.  Depending on your area, when the hydrangeas begin to show buds and grow very quickly, the hydrangeas are absorbing nutrients out of the soil at their fastest rate.  If your soil doesn't have enough nutrients, the hydrangeas may get yellow leaves.  We recommend using the instant fertilizer when this occurs.  If  you fertilize too much with this potent nitrogen based fertilizer, you'll get lots of green leaves but the plant will be so focused on growing green insteads of blooming.

Commonly Asked Questions

Q:  I'd like to add a 40' hedge of blue hydrangeas in my back yard, in a mixed sun/dappled high shade area.  I very much want blue plants, but my soil is testing alkaline (6 and 7 on the meter).  Are there any hardy big-leafed hydrangeas that will bloom blue despite my soil?  I wanted deep blue/violet, but I'll settle for pastel/cornflower blues and pale purples.  I will obviously amend the soil, anyway, but I thought I'd try to stack the odds for blue plants in my favor.  Or should I just settle for white?  Thanks.

A:  There isn't a blue big leaf hydrangea that will stay blue no matter what the soil.  The soil needs to be acidic (at or below 5.5) to get the really blue varieties to stay really blue.  There are two components to getting blue hydrangeas.  The pH is most important but your soil must also have some aluminum in it for the plants to absorb.  It's the aluminum that makes the pigments in the petals turn blue.  To get blue hydrangeas, you must have both aluminum & acidic soil.  In the low pH, the aluminum absorbs the most efficiently.

Aluminum is toxic in large amounts so use it sparingly and always water in well.  Natural ways to amend the soil are rusty metal shavings, rusty pennies, coffee grounds to some extent.

Most the macrophylla hydrangeas (mopheads & lacecaps) will be blue in acidic soil.  The degree of blue-ness depends on the variety.  Some are deep dark in color (Altona, Europa, Marechal Foch, Princess Beatrix, Teller lacecaps Taube, Nachtigall, etc).  Some are a paler color (All summer Beauty, Amethyst, Nikko Blue, Otaksa, Kluis Superba, Frillibet, etc).

I hope that helps.  Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Q:  How much aluminum sulfate do I apply to my hydrangeas?
A:  It really depends on the concentration of the aluminum sulfate.  You don’t want to over do it because aluminum is toxic to plants in large doses.  Aluminum occurs naturally in most soil.  If you can get the pH lower, the plant may absorb some on its own.

My general rule is ¼ cup per foot of hydrangea.  This means that for an established 4-foot hydrangea, 1 cup of aluminum sulfate spread around the base of the plant should be adequate.  This assumes a 15% concentration mixture of aluminum sulfate, the most commonly sold concentration.  You may mix the aluminum sulfate in water and dissolve or apply straight to the plant then water in well.  Be sure that the plant has established itself before application.  We don’t recommend aluminum sulfate for new plants.

Apply in the early spring when you see the first leaf.  Apply again six weeks later.  If color isn’t as desired, add a fall application too.

Q:  How big are your hydrangeas (Nikko Blue) when they are shipped? I know they are about 1 year old, but how big is that?
A:  Most of the one year plants are about 10" tall and 6" wide right now.  The Nikkos are about average size for our hydrangeas right now.  If planted correctly and in a good soil environment, they should triple in size by the end of the year.  We grow them in one-gallon containers but don't ship them in the container.  But they aren't bare-root either.  We keep the potting mix (bark, mulch, pumice, fertilizer) around the root ball and wrap in a plastic bag.  Then, we wrap the whole plant in newsprint like to a burrito to protect the branches.  Some breakage may occur on the more delicate plants.

The three year plants are approximately 12” – 24” right now with three times as many branches.  they are coming from a three gallon container.

We believe that our plants are larger than other mail order companies which send 'one-year' plants in a 4 or 6" container.  I know it's hard to know what you're getting from mail order companies.  We try to be consitent from variety to vaiety and from day to day but plants are not consistent so these sizes we describe are just approximate.  We can't promise a height.  But remember, it's the plant that's important.  A healthy root ball and pruned branches will give you a better plant.

Q:  Your shipping charges are very high.  Why?
A:  This is a constant battle for us.  We are currently using UPS 3-day service to the eastern states.  Cost of shipping has gone up three times in just 6 months.  Not to mention the fuel surcharge that UPS imposes on every package.  We are doing everything we can to keep prices low without changing the size of the plants we ship.  Our plants are extra large this year and believe it or not, the shipping & handling fees are not covering the cost to ship to most customers.

We like using UPS for several reasons.  They guarantee arrival, we can track the package from our nursery to your door, automated updates to our shopping cart online, pickup service right at our nursery, no-cost insurance.  They have their disadvantages too but for the most part, we have very little problem with UPS delivery.

We are considering using USPS Priority service for the smaller orders which can save $5 to $15 on orders less than $50.  We currently use the USPS Priority service for the shipping of our paniculata trees and have had no compaints! Unfortunately, we can't implement our 'small' order plan that until after our busy season when we have time to evaulate and figure out the logistics.  


A:  For orders placed by Sunday night, we can ship the following Monday or Tuesday.  The order will arrive by week's end.  Sometimes, orders placed Monday morning will go out on Tuesday but it really depends on the work load.  This time of year (spring rush), our volume increases and my fingers can't type fast enough so I apologize if you must wait another week for your order.  The plants are not just sitting ready to go.  We must pull them from the nursery, check water, remove debris, prune if necessary, inspect for bugs, apply pesticides, apply moisture lock product and allow to dry.

We are not a plant mill that cranks out poor quality midget plants.  We take great care to provide you the correct variety with great quality.

We answer the phone when we can but when you speak to us, you are speaking to the owners and not some service representative that doesn't know about our plants or operation.  Please leave a message on our call back line (press 4 on the machine).  We try to answer all calls by the next business day but sometimes that may not be possible.  But we will get back to you.  Emails are more easily answered as I can do that any time of the day.  We appreciate your business and we want you to be given the full customer service that our company is known to provide.  But, we're small business owners trying to get it all done in only 24 hours a day.

Privacy Notice
We respect your privacy and want to be sure this is sent to those customers who subscribed to the Hydrangeas Plus newsletter.  Please click the unsubscribe link below if you received this in error or no longer wish to subscribe to our newsletter.  We apologize if you have asked before and we've neglected to take your name and e-mail account off our list.


Kristin VanHoose
Hydrangeas Plus®