How do you turn a blue hydrangea pink?

Prettypetals_GA_7-8January 5, 2011

I have quite a few that bloom bright blue and I would much rather have pink and purple. What do you do to change their color and how much and when? Thanks for any help, Judy

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Well, I went to the hydrangeahydrangea site and got a little info but not really amounts of lime to add so if any of you have any helpful hints please let me know. I know I need to buy me a kit to check the soil too so I will do that also so I won't give it tooooo much. Thanks, Judy

    Bookmark   January 5, 2011 at 2:30PM
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The most simplistic answer is to restrict the amount of aluminum the plant has access to - it is the aluminum in the soil that influences the flower color. Acidic soils allow greater availability of aluminum; neutral to more alklaline soils bind the aluminum, making it less accessible to the plants.

Having said that, let me go further to develop all the issues involved :-)
1) Not all bigleaf hydrangeas (H. macrophylla and closely related H. serrata) will respond to soil chemistry the same way. Some are much more stable in their coloring and are less influenced by the availability of aluminum. IOW, some pink varieties will hold their color very well regardless of soil pH or at most, turn a mauvey-purple color in more acidic soil. And whites will always be white :-)

2) Changing soil pH is not always an easy process. And it tends to be rather temporary, as most soils have a buffering capacity that will resist change and bring the soil back to its normal pH level. Your hydrangeas bloom blue now because you have acidic soil (as does much of the eastern portion of the US). You will need to add lime to effect a change to a more neutral pH and this will need to be repeated periodically, at least several times a year. Typically the recommendations are to add 2.5-5 pounds of dolomitic lime per 100 square feet or 3-4 tablespoons per plant. The exact amount can vary depending on soil conditions. For existing plants, work it into the soil well around the root zone. It takes time for this work, so it is suggested to do this in fall, again in early spring as the plants resume growth and you may need to apply again during the growing season. Be careful not to overapply - too alkaline a soil will result in iron deficiencies or chlorosis. You want to hit right around 7.0.

Irrigation and rain water can also influence coloring. Generally, areas that have naturally acidic soils tend also to "acid" rain water and this will often carry through to well or tap water as well. You may need to adjust this too.

As the hydrangeashydrangeas site suggests, it may be easier for you to grow your hydrangeas in containers to achieve truly "pink" flowers, as container soils are much easier to control with regards to pH and aluminum concentrations.

FWIW, some cultivars that are known to maintain a very pink to purple coloring (and that's always subjective) regardless of pH are 'Alpenglow' (aka Glowing Embers), 'Pia' (aka Pink Elf), 'Kardinal', 'Fasan', 'Mowe' (aka Geoffrey Chadbund), 'Harlequin' (aka Buttons & Bows) and 'Hornli'. You may have better success starting with one of these rather than trying, often unsuccessfully, to turn a true blue pink in your not very suitable soils.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 6, 2011 at 12:24PM
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Wow gardengal you are so sweet. Thank you so much for all the info. I had read that Glowing Embers was a dark pink and was def going to find it this year. I figured I would make sure all my new ones were supposed to be pink/purple and attempt to change the ones I aleady have. Thanks for the list of pink/purple ones. I will go check them out.

I had read that white stays white and thats fine with me but I just can't get my brain to like the blue. lol!

Do you ever order any online and if so where? I have purchased lots of mine at local nurseries but did order some pink annabelle and am soooo anxious to get it and see how it blooms. I have seen pics of glowing embers too and its to die for.

You are so kind to take the time to answer me and I truely appreciate it. I hope you have a great gardening year. Now i'm off to check out those you mentioned. Take care, Judy

    Bookmark   January 7, 2011 at 9:01PM
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It's a good thing we all have different tastes :-) The world - and our gardens - would be pretty boring if we all liked the same thing! I am just the opposite......I don't care for pink anything. Guess that's a good thing as in my area (as in yours), blue flowered hydrangeas are pretty much standard, except for those I referred to that tend to be pretty much always pink.

I do not do much mail order - nurseries here carry just about any plant one could want - but the two big online hydrangea specialty nurseries are hydrangeashydrangeas and hydrangeasplus. Other good sources are Burpees/Heronswood, Whiteflower Farms (a tad expensive) and Forest Farms. I'm sure there are many others as well - those tend to be the big ones. If you know the hydrangea you want, often just searching under that name will pop up various sources. And it is a good idea to check out the reputation of the mail order source before ordering.

You might want to consider some of the paniculatas. These are white flowering hydrangeas that bloom on new growth so quite cold hardy and tolerant of pruning. But their great feature is that many will turn various shades of pink and red as the flowers age - 'Pinky Winky', 'Strawberry Vanilla', 'Quickfire' and 'Mystical Flame' are just a few that offer this coloring.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2011 at 12:25PM
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You are so right gardengal! All our different taste does make life and our gardens much more interesting. One of my sisters loves the blue too. I think the majority of people do but I have always been a pinky purpley girl. lol!

I have mainly ordered roses, lilies and bulbs online, not really bushes. We have some great nurseries close by too that carry tons of different hydrangeas so I will definitely check them out.

I think I said I ordered some pink annabelle online but it was the Strawberry Vanilla. It looks to be soooo pretty. If the limelight is a paniculata then I do have some of them. They do great here. I have some other ones that bloom white but don't have a clue what they are. : ) ! I love all kinds of hydrangeas and have been trying to enlarge my selection with ones that do bloom on new wood since we get so many late freezes and it often keeps the ones that blooms on old wood from blooming. I also have quite a few oakleafs which I absolutely love. I had a few more trees cut down to give them all extra morning sun so I hope they will bloom even better.

Thanks again for all your help, Judy

    Bookmark   January 8, 2011 at 10:08PM
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