Mid-summer scenes part 1: Hydrangea Nikko Blue

by Caroline Brown

I thought I’d document a few of the scenes from the summer yard. Below is a pic of my hydrangea. This is the third summer that we’ve had it. When I bought it in summer 2004, it had 3 blossoms. Last summer, it was down to 2 and I was extremely disappointed. This summer, I counted 31 blossoms! Maybe it’s the large amount of rain we’ve had, or our mild winter; whatever the reason I’m very happy with the bloom quantity and quality!

There are several types of hydrangeas; this one is Hydrangea macrophylla, commonly called big-leaf or French hydrangea. Hydrangeas like acid soil; the more acid the soil, the bluer the flower. Alkaline soil causes hydrangea to produce pink flowers.

There are two groups of cultivars for Hydrangea macrophylla, hortensias and lacecaps. Mine is a hortensia–they typically have large, heavy, showy flowers. The blossoms of lacecaps aren’t as showy and big. This particular cultivar is called Nikko Blue.

French hydrangeas like soil with a lot of organic matter, and they respond well to a few fertilizer applications during the summer. I use Espoma’s Holly Tone, an organic fertilizer for acid loving plants. They like morning sun and afternoon shade; they wilt easily in the summer.

This type of hydrangea typically needs a lot of water, because it has such big leaves. They need plenty of water, so keep it mulched (to help keep the soil moist) and plan to water thoroughly at least once per week. I actually water mine more frequently–on hot afternoons it can look very sad.

If hydrangeas fail to bloom, often it’s caused by winter injury. Maybe that’s why mine had only a few blossoms in previous years and so many this year–we had a relatively mild winter. It also blooms less if its site is too shady, the soil too infertile, or if too much nitrogen fertilizer is used.

Diseases to be on the lookout for include leaf spots and powdery mildew. Insects that bother it include aphids, rose chafers and red spiders.


14 Responses to “Mid-summer scenes part 1: Hydrangea Nikko Blue”

  1. Hey Caroline!! I’m so sorry I haven’t stopped by in weeks. I’m going to read through your blog to see what all I’ve missed. Your hydrangea is gorgeous….it’s my favorite flower. I wanted them in my wedding, but alas, I got married in September. 🙂

    I have a lacecap hydrangea right by my front door, and it looks pitiful this year. It’s HUGE, but I’ve only had about 5 blooms. I think it doesn’t get enough sunlight there because it’s very shady. Do you know when I could move it somewhere else? Should I wait until the fall?

    Oh–yesterday I took Jason to Morehead Planetarium for the first time. He loved it! It’s the first time I’ve ever taken him to Chapel Hill. He and I ate brunch on the front porch at Mama Dip’s. I got sweet potato pancakes (YUM–they were delicious) and he got blueberry. And we had mango peach lemonade. Jason said, “Mommy, this is the bestest place EVER!” 🙂

  2. Hey Kim, Welcome back. You’ve only missed the usual ranting and raving! 🙂 How neat that you took Jason to Dip’s. It took me aback actually to read it, because I can’t believe that we could possibly be taking our children there to hang out. Maybe Jason will fall in love with CH like we did and want to go to school there too.

    As for your hydrangea, you should wait until the hydrangea is dormant to move it. So, I would say late fall after all the leaves have fallen off and it’s settled down for the winter. It’s a catch 22 with those things, they need to have enough sun but too much will be no good either. Can you put it somewhere where it gets only morning sun and afternoon shade? A sunny southern afternoon will make it very sad!

  3. These are just lovely C!!! Almost impossible to grow up here in the Great Green (often White) North…so need to be enjoyed via the florists which is not at all the same. Lucky you. You did a great job with these, it’s obvious they received a lot of TLC. Any other colors? I love the brilliant pink ones too.

    BFN, G 🙂

  4. Hi G., I don’t have any other colors although there is a fabulous reds out there that I’d like to have. My neighbors have a couple of white peegee hydrangeas and also one bigleaf that has blooms that range from pink to purple to purply blue. I guess they have wacky soil over there!

  5. Hi Caroline, I was the runner (from Swansea)who asked for your card. I have a question about hydrangeas. Does it matter when or where on the plant I could cut the blossoms to use for indoors. Mine looks like your hydrangea, I am assuming it is the same type. Thanks, Jane

  6. Hi Jane, glad you came by. I’ve never cut mine, but I’ve read that you can cut 2/3 of the flower stem. You can do it now–I wouldn’t wait past the first of August as that’s when they’re past their peak.

    You must like the boulevard because you come a long way for a run. My husband Curt and I will be out there for a good part of the summer, so I’ll probably see you around!

  7. Hello. I am wondering if you prune your Nikko all the way down to the ground, or leave stems? If you leave stems, how many inches long do you leave the stems?


  8. hi caroline, this is my first time to visit your site, i’ve enjoyed your site it gave me more info on my nikko hydrangea than any other, we planted our’s on the west side of our home. this my first, i’ve loved this plant the most , my husband gave it to me this year for mother’s day, we’ve been babying it like crazy,one day it looks good the next not so good? we planted it just like the label said, and i gave it acid food .and lots of water it get’s morning and alot of afternoon sun, so in the evenings we placed an umbrella over it to give it shade. can you give us any more hints on how to keep my favorite plant growing,and it is close to my heart since my husband gave it to me on a special day? again thank you for your info.donna k. from kentucky

  9. Hi Donna, don’t worry it’s totally normal for hydrangeas to look sad and droopy, esp. your new one that hasn’t established its roots yet. They do better in partial shade than they do full sun, and I bet afternoon sun is pretty strong in Kentucky. I would just make sure to keep watering it and the umbrella is a good idea that I wouldn’t have thought of. Even when it gets older it will still droop in hot weather. It’s just part of its personality so don’t worry.

  10. Hello,
    I have a Hydrangea plant that I acquired when I bought my house but having no skill in a garden do not know where to begin. First I don’t know what Kind I have, It is HUGE, with very large green leafs. They really are enormous. No blooms that I could find but my neighbor found 2 blooms on it hinding under the plant towards the ground. So my question is how or do I need to trim it to get these blooms to show? Is there something I can give it to make it stronger???? Mine does not look like yours abour, my leafs are much closer together and larger and very green. Anyway, thanks, Dr. Steve

  11. Hi Steve, can you send me a picture? email it to:
    earthfriendlygardening @ carolinebrown.com.

    maybe I can help identify it. As for pruning, wait until the fall or spring (depending on what kind it is). You can secretly enjoy the blooms by looking underneath.

  12. Hi Steve, I sent you an email about the pics you sent. Let me know if you don’t get it and GOOD LUCK with your hydrangea!

  13. Your hydrangea is gorgeous… This is one of my favorite plants… Your blog is awesome glad I found it today.


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