Need guidance before I buy

shady_10b(10b)August 17, 2014

Greetings hydrangea-heads!

I've recently begun a modest container garden on my apartment patio in Southern California. I would really like to add a hydrangea to my collection, but I feel I could use some guidance before making any decisions. I would really like my hydrangea to grow fairly large and bushy, but I know that represents a long-term commitment. I feel like I have a lot to learn, but I also want to get started fairly soon because my long-term goal could take years to reach.

I've attached a picture of the left side of my patio. Over the summer it's been getting 2-3 hours of morning sun, at least when the morning have been sunny (we've had an unusually humid season for this region). I imagine that over the winter it gets little or not direct light at all, but I've never checked before. The area just past the daylilies is bright and well-lit, reflecting some modest additional light.

I swooned over this Hydrangea macrophylla "Blue Danube" (the link is below); the transition from deep indigo on the edge of the petals to the cyan color on the inside is something I don't think I've ever seen in a flower before. I'm a little nervous abut mail ordering live plants, however, but it seems like the best option for me. No one at any of the local garden centers really inspired my confidence in their advice or their products. And Hydrangeas Plus has excellent reviews on the Dave's Garden website.

Do you think this is a suitable spot to grow a potted hydrangea, and is this "Blue Danube" a suitable variety? Are there any special precautions I should take when mail ordering hydrangea? Also, is timing important? I've read some advice that suggests it's best to mail order these in the fall or early spring (although our falls often bring Santa Ana winds that might be worse than if I were to get one over the summer).

The other set of issues that concern me have to do with soil, pot size, and how often I should re-pot. If I want my hydrangea to grow out to be two or three feet in diameter, what size pot should I plan on eventually needing? (Just for personal reference).

I've been learning a lot by reading discussions in the container gardening forums on what kind of soil to use, and I think the case for using a "5-1-1" mix as a starting point (5 parts partially composted conifer bark, to 1 part potting soil or peat, to one part perlite) makes a lot of sense. If you'd strongly recommend something else entirely, I'd certainly like to hear your case for it. Otherwise, how would you suggest modifying this mix to suit a hydrangea? (I will probably ask this question in the container garden forums as well). It seems like a good idea to try and make this mix more acidic if I want blue flowers (I know I will also need to water with a bit of aluminium sulfate). Ideally I'd like to build a soil that will last a few years, but my top priority is to encourage the plant to get big and bushy as soon as possible.

I know I've written a lot, and I know I'm asking a lot. I've looked for discussions that might get into some of these issues, but it's difficult to get through the 95% of topics that just seem to be "my hydrangea is sick help!!!1". I'm not asking anyone to figure this stuff out for me. If you've bookmarked discussions or links that answer some of my questions, or even just could suggest what I should keep an eye out for while browsing the discussions here, that would be good help. I'm an industrious autodidact, but sometimes I just need to be pointed in the right direction.

Many, many thanks in advance,
Nik

Here is a link that might be useful: Hydrangea Macrophylla Blue Danube

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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Hydrangeasplus is an excellent choice. You have started well. In time, visit local nurseries too as they should receive stock from the NWern states too. These surprise me sometimes with their available plants. Sometimes the local selection is eh; other years it is wow. So make a habit to visit in future regardless. Hydrangea stock will vanish early in some areas; I visit thru May, when hydrangeas left are put on sale. This time of the year, I can only count one or two places that would still carry hydrangeas here.

Mail order wise, tell them when to mail the plants. It is way too hot to send plants so many places will delay shipping until September. Or until Spring if the one that you want is not in stock or you are concerned about the Santa Ana winds..

By its description, the area seems good to me. Windy locations can make it easier to soil to dry out but if this was a problem, I think you would have already noticed with the other plants.

Start pot size can be between 18-24 inches. Pull the plant out yearly (or so) and replace the potting mix about every 2-3 years. If you notice that the roots are circling, it is time to prune the roots vertically every 1-2" and pot to a larger size. Or stop at whatever size you think is best for you.

I am not too picky about potting mix; I just go to organic stores and ask for some for acidic plants so choose whatever you prefer. The potting mix (yours or a commercial one) needs to have aluminum if you are going to try to maintain the blooms blue. I was not sure if you wanted to maintain Blue Danube blue or pink. If blue, obtain locally some aluminum sulfate to add or add more more as time passes because the frequent pot watering makes some of the minerals drain down the holes. Commercial ones carry a label and I read the ingredients looking for the word aluminum or an abbreviation there of like "AL". If the potting mix is for acidic plants per the label, it may or may not have aluminum so check for that IF you want blue blooms.

Enjoy and watch out for the drying that comes with the Santa Ana winds. Adding mulch on top may help alleviate those drying problems.

This post was edited by luis_pr on Sun, Aug 17, 14 at 16:51

    Bookmark   August 17, 2014 at 3:58PM
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