Overwintering Hydrangeas

Credit: iStock / Jim Tardio Photography

Q: I have a number of hydrangeas that I had on the patio in containers (to keep them away from the deer). Now that winter is coming, I’ve removed the heads and brought them into the garage. What additional care should I give them? Watering? Light? etc. Or should they be left outdoors? My location is Port Alberni, B.C., on Vancouver Island. Thanks for any information. —Ken

Hydrangeas, as you probably are well aware, are a great container plant for the patio. You’ll be also very happy to hear that winter care will take nominal effort. Now that you’ve moved them into the garage, you can move them back out again because that is the best place for them over winter. Leave them on your patio unprotected, as they are very cold hardy. Ensure that the containers that they’re planted in have adequate drainage, as poor drainage can do damage to the plants.

Fall is also the time to consider pruning. Remove to one-third their original size the stems with a blossom attached. You should also prune out any weak or very thin stems. Remove about one-third from the top of each remaining stem. This should leave you with a thinner but symmetrical finished product and a sturdy base for great success next year.

Generally speaking, hydrangeas need to be in a relatively large container, as they require enough soil mass to retain enough moisture during the growing season to support an abundance of foliage. They are also very heavy feeders, so regular feeding in-season is important.

Over winter, the containers can be placed in a shady or sunny area, but during summer they prefer mostly shade. As the hydrangea is a deciduous plant, consider inserting cedar boughs, berries and lights through the holidays for a festive holiday patio treat.