Nikko Blue Hydrangea. Growing, Propagating and Making them Bloom.

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Nikko Blue Hydrangea.  What is the secret to making them bloom?

Nikko Blue Hydrangea,

Nikko Blue Hydrangea.

I think I’ve discovered the secret to making Nikko Blue Hydrangea bloom like crazy.

Up to $93.60 in One Square Foot in your Backyard.  Amazing!

Leave them alone!  Really.  Quit tinkering with your plants trying to give them every little thing they need.  What they really need is good soil, and adequate amount but not an over abundance of water and some sunshine.  That’s about it.   Quit fertilizing them and pouring all kinds of concoctions on them.

They know what to do.  They are genetically wired to do one thing and only one thing.  Make leaves and make flowers!  Okay, so that’s two things.  But they know that.  They don’t need you sticking your nose in their business.  If you give them the three things mentioned above and leave them alone they will grow and bloom.

Nikko Blue Hydrangea with Great Blue Color.

Nikko Blue Hydrangea with Great Blue Color.

 

When Should I Trim or Prune my Nikko Blue Hydrangea?

Nikko Blue is in the macrophylla family of hydrangeas and therefore most people say to prune it right after it blooms.  That’s great advice and you should follow it, but this spring I discovered something that has me a little perplexed.  I bought about 50 Nikko Blues this spring.  They were in the field and were dug just a tad late.  On top of that I think they got tazed by a little frost.  That’s a new gardening term, Tazed.  In other words, they didn’t look so good, and were pretty much unappealing.

So I decided to prune them really hard, even though it was the middle of May.

What happened?  After they were pruned they flushed out with beautiful new growth and then started blooming like crazy!  Not only did I prune them in the middle of May, I cut them back really hard.  I’ll show you.

Heavy Pruning of Nikko Blue Hydrangea.

Heavy Pruning of Nikko Blue Hydrangea.

Can you believe that?  Look at all of the cuts that I made.  Look at how low I cut the plant back.  When I was done pruning all I had left was a pot with a stump in it.  I had to cut off all of the flower buds right?  I’m pretty sure when I was done pruning there were no flower buds left on the plant.  Probably weren’t any before I started pruning.

Nikko Blue Hydrangea growing in a container.

Nikko Blue Hydrangea growing in a container.

I cut all 50 plants back exactly the same way.  This is how they look now in mid July.  And they all bloomed with great big flowers like this one.

Why isn’t My Nikko Blue Hydrangea Blue?

That’s another thing.  If you look at the photos in this post you will see a variety of different color flowers.  These plants were all treated exactly the same way.  Nothing was added to the soil to make them bloom or change or enhance the color of the blooms in any way.  They were all dug bare root out of the field in April then all potted in exactly same potting mix.  No fertilizer was applied when they were potted.  We didn’t get around to adding fertilizer until June and the fertilizer that we use is super slow release so it had little if any effect on these plants.

Which raises a Really Interesting Question about Fertilizing Your Plants.

Nikko Blue Hydrangea Blooming in Various Colors.

Nikko Blue Hydrangea Blooming in Various Colors.

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it many,  many times in the future.

Quit tinkering with your plants!

They don’t need all of those store bought concoctions to make them do this or do that, sing and dance and jump over the moon.  They just don’t need it!  They need good soil that drains well, water on a regular basis, and sunshine.  That’s what they need.  That’s all they need.

Mike!  Liar, liar Pants on Fire!

You just said you fertilized these hydrangeas in June!  You’re telling me not to fertilize and you are fertilizing.  You tell me one thing and then you do something else yourself.  What gives Mike?

Great question!  You caught me.  This is really important for you to understand.  The plants in my landscape do not get fertilized ever.  Except maybe the roses because if and when I remember to do so I spray them with Bayer 3-1 Rose and Flower Spray and that does contain some fertilizer.  All of the other plants in my landscape do not get fertilized ever.  They haven’t been fertilized since I bought them, and you’ve seen pictures of my landscapes. 

Why no fertilizer for the plants in my landscape?  They just don’t need it.  They do absolutely fine without it.

Why Do I Fertilize Plants in Containers?

Plants that are grown in the nursery in containers are grown in what is called a soil-less growing mix.  In other words, the soil in the pot is not soil at all and it does not contain any soil.  It’s usually a combination of bark mixes.  There are a lot of reasons for this and a big one is drainage.  These bark mixes drain really well.  But that means that a lot of nutrients are getting washed away before they can be absorbed by the plant.  And these soil-less mixes are really low in nutrients to begin with.  So plants grown in containers have to be fertilized.  Plants in a landscape do not have to be fertilized.  I hope that makes sense.

Nikko Blue Hydrangea in Bloom.

Nikko Blue Hydrangea in Bloom.

How Do I Make My Nikko Blue Hydrangea Blue?

If your Nikko Blue is not Blue, or Blue enough you can add Aluminum Sulfate to the soil and that should make the blooms more blue in color.  You can get the Aluminum Sulfate at any full service garden center.

How Do You Propagate Hydrangeas?

Most hydrangeas are easy to propagate if you do them in the summer using soft new growth.  Not spring, but summer.  Mid June or later.  Information on exactly how to root softwood cuttings can be found here.

So . . . What Did We Learn from this Post?

Quit tinkering with you plants.  Just let them be plants.  They know what to do.  In order for plants to make a flower bud they have to slow down or almost quit growing all together to work on flower buds.  But if you are dumping all kind of performance enhancing concoctions on them they can’t slow down and make flowers.  It’s like you holding the accelerator peddle all the way to the floor then trying to turn the corner.  It just not going to work!

Questions?  Comments?  Mean things to say?

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Comments

  1. Judy Thompson says

    Hello I appreciate you down to earth teachings. It is great to learn from you
    I am going to retire and hope to have time and strength to have a beautiful
    flowering yard. Thanks for the info you give
    You and your family stay well and enjoy all that you do

    Judy Thompson

  2. Julie Turman says

    I just wanted to say how much I appreciate all the work you have put into helping people like me who love flowers (and donkey’s) but don’t know a thing about growing plants. as soon as I can I hope to purchase your book. thanks so much and keep up the great work.

    Julie Turman

  3. Shelby Britt says

    Mike,
    When you say wait until my hydrangea quits blooming, how soon after it quits blooming and how much do I trim them back? I s there a specific time and what season? Do I wait until the blooms turn brown?

  4. Sandy Barnes says

    Mike, I have a hydrangea that hasn’t bloomed since I moved it 2 years ago. How long do I have to wait to see a bloom? Also, I have a red bud tree that grows up against my house, and my husband wants to cut it down. Can I take the seed pods and regrow another tree or two?

  5. Kelly says

    Well through more research I find that my snowballs are bush. I need to hold them over spring. We will retail them when the mother is in bloom. I live on a mountain of lime. I need to put them in a raised bed. Is it best to put them in 1 gallon containers or should I put them directly in the soil? We will retail in 4 in terra cotta.

  6. Laura says

    Hi Mike,
    I want to know when do I need to transplant hydrangeas from propagation box? Wait till it shows real leaves in the spring, or should I leave later in the spring. Thank you.

    • Mike says

      Laura,

      Really as soon as they start to make buds in the spring would be ideal. In the spring be careful not to damage roots as you remove them from the box.

  7. Laura says

    Mike, Thank you for your respond. One more question for you. Should I leave covered my propagation box for winter or uncovered? If uncovered(which I saw you mentioning that for hibiscus plants) when should I remove the cover. Is that applies to all plants?
    Thx again

    • Mike says

      Laura,

      I think it’s best to leave it uncovered. I pretty much uncover all of my cuttings by mid November here in Ohio. After that just keep them watered when it’s hot and dry. Put some soil up around the flat so the wind isn’t drying it out. They should be fine. If you’re cuttings are rooted you can take them out and plant them in your garden before winter.

  8. Linda says

    Since we bought a few Nikko blues, I had to do a bit of research on your suggestion to cut them down to the base in the spring. I think you only cut 1/3 of the plant to the base, and the blooms occurred on the old wood that didn’t get cut? I read a few stories about others who did the same thing to the entire plant, and got no blooms at all. :( Just thought id mention that. :)

  9. Betty C says

    Mike, I have two raspberry colored mop-head hydrangeas purchased a long time ago and the first two years they were both raspberry in color. They are planted in the same bed about ten ft. apart. Then one turned blue in color so I put lime around the base of the blue one and am getting pinkish blue flowers. Do you have an answer for this or something I need to try?
    I live in Montgomery, Alabama.

  10. RACHEL says

    I HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT CRYPTOMERIA JAPONICA
    DOES THIS PLANT HAVE ANOTHER NAME?.
    MY TREE IS PROBABLY 20 YEARS OLD, IS GORGEOUS AND I WOULD LIKE TO BUY
    ANOTHER ONE, BUT A LOCAL GARDEN STORE SAYS IT IS CRYPTOMERIA YOSHINO — NO IT IS NOT–AND DOES NOT LOOK LIKE A YOSHINO
    CAN THIS BE ROOTED? DO YOU KNOW OF A SOURCE FOR PURCHASE?
    I APPRECIATE YOUR KNOWLEDGE AND YOUR ANSWER.
    THANK YOU,
    R
    .

  11. Jane A. Ward says

    Greetings Mike,
    I love your site and advice. Which brings me to you today. I have 2 beautiful bushes planted about 3 or 4 feet apart. One has huge Blue blooms with big green leaves. The other one has yellow sickly leaves with small almost colorless blooms. Now this second one is near my main sewer pipe. It started off great and has declined this year. If I am to move it when is the best time? I live in NW TN near KY

    • Mike says

      Jane,

      The best time to transplant just about anything is late in the fall, after you have seen at least one hard freeze where the temps dip below 30 degrees for a few hours. That triggers the plants into dormancy and they can be safely moved.

  12. Susan says

    Hi mike I live in nj & my beautiful hydraendas were pruned in spring . It is mid July not one flower. Should I fertilize? & when. & also should I prune them again in fall which I heard u supposed 2 do. Any info much appreciated.

    • Mike says

      Susan,

      Best thing you can do for them is to just leave them alone and let them get back on track. Then they’ll bloom. If you fertilize that could undo the process.