Feed For hydrangeas
Hydrangeas are one of the easiest plants to grow, and provided you give them enough water and don’t make a mistake when pruning; they should reward you with plenty of flowers and lush green foliage that will last for months, not weeks.
However, as with any plant, if you provide extra fertiliser at the right time, your hydrangea will produce more numerous and even larger blooms that last for longer.
I’ve been growing hydrangeas, both in borders and pots, for years, and here I’ll explain the best feed and when to apply it.
I’ll also show you my feed regimen and which products I think you should avoid.
The Best Fertiliser Ratio For Hydrangeas
NPK stands for Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium, and these are the three key ingredients in any plant feed product or general fertiliser.
Nitrogen encourages overall plant growth and, in particular, leaf growth and colour.
Phosphorous helps with root growth, stem strength, flower development and fruit yield.
Potassium helps with overall plant development and strengthens the plant’s resistance to diseases and pests.
Every plant has slightly different requirements, but hydrangeas prefer a balanced feed or one that has higher potassium levels.
Our preferred hydrangea feed is Vitax slow-release pellets, and their NPK ratio is 8-4-12, meaning this feed contains more potassium than nitrogen or phosphorous.
Westland hydrangea liquid feed is a competing product that you’ll need to apply more frequently but it also contains a similar NPK ratio at 4.5-2-7.
Why You Should Use Vitax:
- Made from slow-release pellets.
- Hydrangeas only require 2-3 applications per year.
- Perfect NPK ratio of 8-4-12.
- Added magnesium to produce larger blooms.
- 1kg bags with discounts for bulk buying.
- It won’t change the colour of the flowers.
- Won’t burn the plants as some liquid feeds do when spilt.
Buying different fertiliser products for each species of plant in your garden is costly and hardly practical. You can use products with similar NPK ratios so check your existing fertilisers and feeds for anything close to:
If you want to use a more natural product, check out these typical ratios of products suitable for feeding hydrangeas:
Blood fish and bone feed: 6-6-6 or 6-4-6
Well rotted sheep manure (mustn’t be fresh): 0.7-0.3-0.9.
Homemade compost: 0.5-0.27-0.81.
Hydrangea Feeds To Avoid
Most gardeners who grow hydrangeas do so for the large blooms, so fertilisers to avoid are those with high nitrogen content.
Too much nitrogen can cause plants to grow leggy, tall and big with lots of foliage but often at the expense of flower size and quantity.
Hydrangeas should be fed either a lower nitrogen feed or a balanced feed.
One product to avoid is Miracle-Gro All-Purpose fertiliser, as it contains more nitrogen than any other ingredient: 24-8-16.
My Hydrangea Feed and Maintenance Regimen
Here’s how I care for my hydrangea macrophylla shrubs:
Spring (after last frosts):
Deadhead flowers I left on over winter for frost protection. Prune out any dead or ill-looking stems. Remove any leaves or debris from the crown of the shrub. Rake out an inch or so of soil under the plant and top up with fresh compost and Vitax slow-release fertiliser.
Top up compost and add another dose of Vitax hydrangea feed.
Mid to Late Summer:
Depending on the hydrangeas appearance, I may give them a jolt of liquid feed to encourage more blooms. However, there’s no point in putting down a slow-release feed in late summer/autumn, so this is when I usually stop feeding the shrub.
A Final Point on Hydrangea Health
While the best hydrangea feed is important for plant health, it’s not as crucial as watering.
Hydrangeas thrive in moist but not waterlogged soil, and they struggle in dry ground conditions.
No amount of feed can make up for the lack of watering and dry soil.
Many gardeners claim that hydrangeas should be located in dappled or partial shade, but the truth is, they can thrive in full sun provided the soil is kept moist. If that isn’t possible, the best place for hydrangeas is a spot offering protection from the midday sun.
Many hydrangea plants thrive without the need for extra fertilisers and feeds, but few do so if located in the wrong place and are underwatered.