How to Fertilize Hydrangeas

How to Fertilize Hydrangeas


Hydrangeas are beloved flowering shrubs known for their vibrant and abundant blooms. To keep your hydrangeas healthy and thriving, proper fertilization is essential. In this guide, we will explore the best practices on how to fertilize hydrangeas, including when to fertilize, what type of fertilizer to use, and how to apply it effectively. Whether you have newly planted hydrangeas or established ones in your garden, this comprehensive guide will help you provide the nutrients they need for optimal growth and beautiful blooms.

Understanding Hydrangea Nutritional Needs 

Before diving into fertilization techniques, it’s crucial to understand the nutritional requirements of hydrangeas. Hydrangeas have specific needs for macronutrients like nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), as well as micronutrients like iron, manganese, and zinc. These nutrients play a vital role in promoting healthy foliage, strong root development, and vibrant flower production. By meeting these nutritional needs, you can encourage robust growth and stunning blooms in your hydrangeas.

How to Fertilize Hydrangeas

When to Fertilize Hydrangeas?

Timing is crucial when it comes to fertilizing hydrangeas. The best time to apply fertilizer is in early spring, just before new growth begins. However, different types of hydrangeas have varying growth habits, so it’s important to consider the specific variety you have in your garden. For example, if you have hydrangeas that bloom on old wood (last season’s growth), such as the Bigleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla), it’s recommended to fertilize after they have finished flowering in summer. On the other hand, hydrangeas that bloom on new wood, like the Panicle hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata), can be fertilized in early spring.

How to Fertilize Hydrangeas?

Choosing the Right Fertilizer 

Selecting the right fertilizer is crucial for the health and vitality of your hydrangeas. Look for a balanced, slow-release fertilizer specifically formulated for shrubs and flowering plants. Ideally, choose a fertilizer with a nutrient ratio of 10-10-10 or 14-14-14, which indicates equal proportions of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. This balanced blend will provide the necessary macronutrients for overall plant growth.

Applying Fertilizer Effectively

To apply fertilizer to your hydrangeas, follow these steps:

  • Measure the recommended amount of fertilizer according to the package instructions.
  • Spread the fertilizer evenly around the base of the plant, keeping it at least 6 inches away from the stem.
  • Gently work the fertilizer into the top layer of soil using a hand rake or cultivator.
  • Water the area thoroughly to ensure the fertilizer reaches the root zone.
  • Avoid over-fertilizing, as this can lead to excessive foliage growth and fewer blooms.

Additional Care Tips for Healthy Hydrangeas 

In addition to proper fertilization, hydrangeas benefit from other care practices, such as regular watering, mulching, and pruning. Ensure your hydrangeas receive adequate moisture, especially during dry periods, and apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the plant to retain moisture and suppress weeds. Prune your hydrangeas according to their specific pruning requirements to maintain a desirable shape and encourage healthy growth.

How to Fertilize Hydrangeas


How often should I fertilize my hydrangeas?

Hydrangeas typically benefit from fertilization once a year. Apply fertilizer in early spring before new growth begins. However, some varieties, such as Bigleaf hydrangeas, may benefit from a second round of fertilization after they finish flowering in summer.

Can I use any fertilizer for my hydrangeas?

It’s best to use a balanced, slow-release fertilizer formulated for shrubs and flowering plants. Look for a fertilizer with a nutrient ratio of 10-10-10 or 14-14-14, which provides equal proportions of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Avoid using high-nitrogen fertilizers, as they can promote excessive foliage growth at the expense of blooms.

Should I fertilize newly planted hydrangeas?

It’s generally recommended to wait until the second year to fertilize newly planted hydrangeas. During the first year, focus on establishing a healthy root system by providing adequate water and proper care. Once the hydrangeas are established, you can begin fertilizing in the following spring.

What if my hydrangeas are not blooming despite fertilization?

Several factors can affect blooming, including incorrect pruning, insufficient sunlight, improper pH levels in the soil, and excessive nitrogen fertilizer. Ensure your hydrangeas receive the appropriate amount of sunlight, follow proper pruning techniques, and check the soil pH to ensure it is suitable for your specific hydrangea variety.

Can I use organic fertilizers for my hydrangeas?

Yes, organic fertilizers can be beneficial for hydrangeas. Options like compost, well-rotted manure, and organic plant-based fertilizers provide slow-release nutrients and improve soil health. They can be used in combination with or as an alternative to synthetic fertilizers, depending on your preference and gardening practices.

Should I fertilize my hydrangeas during the winter months?

It’s generally not necessary to fertilize hydrangeas during winter when they are in their dormant phase. Fertilizing during this time can stimulate new growth that may be susceptible to damage from frost or cold temperatures. Stick to fertilizing in early spring or as recommended for your specific hydrangea variety.


Fertilizing your hydrangeas correctly is key to promoting lush foliage and abundant blooms. By understanding their nutritional needs, fertilizing at the right time, choosing the appropriate fertilizer, and applying it effectively, you can provide your hydrangeas with the essential nutrients they require for optimal growth. Combine proper fertilization with regular watering, mulching, and pruning, and you’ll be rewarded with healthy, thriving hydrangeas that brighten up your garden with their beautiful, eye-catching blooms.

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