Nikko Blue Hydrangea. What is the secret to making them bloom?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 pedal all the way to the floor then trying to turn the corner. It just not going to work!
Questions? Comments? Mean things to say?
Up to $93.60 in One Square Foot in your Backyard. Amazing!
Monica Button says
You are saying to prune the Nikko. Blue and I have watched multiple videos and read articles that are saying not to prune the them. Totally confused. This Nikko Blue is my first ever hydrangea and given to me for Mother’s Day in remembrance of my son Nieko that was murdered in 2011…..so I want to make sure I do whatever I can to make this hydrangea be healthy and beautiful. Please help!
The safe bet is to prune them right after they bloom.
Carla Marie says
Sorry to hear that about your son. I understand why it’s important to you. I have my first Nikko
Blue hydrangea too. It’s my third year with it. The first year I had blooms. The second year I did not….and now I will see what happens this year. It’s growing but I don’t know what to do with the bare old wood branches. I heard Im supposed to leave them. I am confused with the hydrangea.
MOLLY T says
Thanks so much for the info about cutting your Nikkos way back. It’s spring right now; I have two young Nikkos in large containers that I planted last fall. One of them had spindly old twigs for branches, the other had what looked like one small set of buds. I cut them both way back on May 1st, hoping that the spindly one will start producing better and the other will be more or less even with it. Your tale of heavy spring pruning and resultant blooming has encouraged me so much!!!
Rosie Nash says
Mike, I’ve had a couple of Nikko Blues for 14 years. Well, I threw away one, but still have one of them. In all that time, I think it has had only 3 or 4 blooms on it!! What is wrong? It’s in the SW corner of my L-shaped house/garage. So it gets morning, noon, and afternoon sun until about 4:00 when it becomes shaded from the garage. Could the deer be eating the blossoms, I wonder? Or what IS the matter with it? How much water do they need? It’s in an area by my bird feeders, so I don’t often water there….? The foliage is beautiful and green all the time, but no blossoms. I live in SW Michigan, lots of fruit in this area, but none near my subdivision. I do have woods 25′ from it, but the woods is on the south, so doesn’t shade by yard at all.
Nikko Blue is one of the most frustrating hydrangeas because many years they don’t bloom at all. Buds often get damaged over the winter.
River Lady says
Make sure you’re not pruning off the buds the plant will use to produce next years flowers. Don’t prune after the middle of August, no matter what you’re told. If you do prune in the early spring, be careful you’re not cutting off the tender, and small, emerging buds. Good luck.
The deer eat my Nikko Blues all winter thus removing the set buds that produce flowers. I put up a snow fence to block them and that has helped. I also spray the plants with Deer Off when the fence comes down.
Donald G Marshall says
I have heard that different types of hydrangeas bloom on old wood and some on new wood. How can I tell by this when to prune them. Thanks ,Don
Just prune them all right after they bloom and you’ll be fine.
Tinthia Clemant says
Take a good look at your plants when they are waking up in the early spring. Watch what’s happening at the base of the plant. You’ll either see small buds on the old wood, or shoots coming up from under the dirt for growth on new wood. Endless Summer plants bloom on both old and new. In August just snip off the spent blossoms but don’t aggressively prune because you may cut off the buds set for next summer. Happy Gardening.
I love your blog Mike. I do wish you wouldn’t use systemic insecticides, containing neonicotinoids, on your plants. They harm bees and other pollinators. Like you said, “leave them alone and let them do their thing.”
I use as little pesticides as possible in my nursery, which is very little. I rarely spray anything unless required to do so by the state.
I have Nikko blues that turned pink after the first two seasons. I see here that you recommend Aluminum Sulfate, but when should I add it and how often? Also, I like some others, read not to prune until the plant starts to regrow in the spring so that you can identify what wood is dead and then prune the dead wood from the plant. Do you agree?
Apply the aluminum sulfate in the early spring as per the label on the bag. Pruning right after the plants finished blooming is best for Nikko Blue and other hydrangea but to your point there often is dead wood in the spring that needs to be removed. Either way really works just fine unless the plants are just too big, the late summer blooming is bed.
joanne anton says
found your co0l site by accident i have gardened for 70 yes 70 years started at my grandmas side and never looked back i have a wagon full of hydrangeas to move and found your site to be most helpful thank you for your help
I have 2 hydrangeas on the side of my house that haven’t bloomed in 5+ years. I was going to dig them up and throw them out but, I threw some flower fertilizer on them and now they have at least 30 blooms on the one plant. The other doesn’t have any blooms and is 5 feet away. I suspect it may be some old type of hydrangea because the one with blooms only has them on old wood (could have sworn there was new growth on old wood last year, could be wrong though) the other has only new growth and no blooms. I guess I really won’t know for sure until august with the new growth. I’m sure in 5+ years the plants had growth on old wood but no blooms. Maybe the fertilizer high in phosphorus did it this year, maybe not.
Without a doubt a high phosphorous fertilizer will help with flower product. But if the plant blooms on old wood those buds still have to survive the winter. But definitely worth a try.
Mike, can you tell us a bit about incorporation vs top dressing of slow release fertilizers? It seems like you always topdressing. Why do others incorporate?
I and most larger growers top dress so you know exactly how much fertilizer each plant is receiving. Incorporating would be fine, but it would be time consuming for no real advantage. Plants grow like crazy with top dressing.
laura Gaffney says
Just wanted to know how far apart to plant Nikkos if I am looking for a thick 50; grouping/hedge. Thanks you
I’d say 36″. 30″ maybe, but 36″ should be fine. And you could go further to give them some air flow and sun on all the branches.
Lela Luster says
The past several years my hydrangea bushes have brown spots on the leaves. What can I do to correct this? It looks like rust spots.
Hi, I live in charleston, SC. I have 5 hydrangea bushes. 3 Nikki blues and 2 lace caps. I planted them in an area that gets lots of afternoon sun and have learned the hard way. It is now mid March and I would like to transplant then to the side of the house with only morning sun. Can I transplant them now even through they have some green leaves? Plus, they will need to be in pots since I have heaven clay soil. What are your thoughts on transplanting now.
Hydrangeas are fibrous rooters so they transplant better than other things. But this really should have been done while dormant. Cut as few roots as possible and put them in the shade after digging and water well.
Lela Luster says
My hydrangea bushes have a rust looking brown spotted disease on the leaves for the past two years.. What can I do to correct this?
Spray then with any general fungicide from any garden store. If possible increase the amount of air flow and sunlight that they receive. Leaves on all plants should dry quickly after being wet.
zone 5a – My small Nikko Blue bloomed early this year so I cut back the spent blooms. What a pleasant surprise to see new growth and beautiful blue blossoms in late summer that have persisted til I cut them this week.
And that’s my point about hydrangea blooming and pruning, I really think it depends on the plant. I’ve cut Nikko Blue to the ground and still had them just weeks later.
I have successfully rooted some hydrangea cuttings in water. I moved one to a small pot a few weeks ago. It has potting soil and I mist it twice daily. Also, I never used plastic to cover the cuttings. Yesterday, the bottom set of leaves started drying up around the edges (there were 2 sets of leaves, and there is a third small set that is new growth). Should I cut these leaves off or cut them in half? Should I change the conditions? The plant is currently getting indirect sunlight and is inside. I live in Maryland and average temperatures right now are upper 80’s to low 90’s so I was afraid it was too hot to put them outside.
Rooting in water is always difficult to transition into soil. You’re much better off to root in soil then you can just plant the entire root ball, soil and all into the new container. At this point with your cuttings, I’d just leave them be, keep them inside with very little sun until they are more stable.
sandra mullins says
Hello. I am just so outdone with my hydrangeas.They come back out in spring and just kinda sit there. They don’t grow…..By the time they start to grow a tiny bit, it’s time for winter and they never grow up. Do you know what I can do to change that “
I’d add a couple of other varieties to your yard. Annabelle never fails to bloom because it blooms on current years growth. My endless summer bloom like crazy no matter how harsh the winter is.
Gary Kirkpatrick says
Hi Mike I noticed the price of the 5″ potted plant was 4.97 some time ago. Recently you have changed the exact same plant to 5.97, cost of inflation, have I missed something somewhere? Thanks
Starting in 2015 I raised my price from $4.97 to $5.97. By bumping the price just one dollar opened up a ton of opportunities to buy liner and other small plants that I can add to my line and sell at a nice profit. This spring I was able to buy in 500 French Lilacs and sell them at $5.97 and make a nice profit. This isn’t a plant that I typically propagate, I prefer to buy them in and sell them immediately. On the tens of thousands of things we propagate and grow, the profit jumped one dollar a plant and the customers still come in like crazy.
I have a Hydrangea that has not bloomed in 4yrs bush grows beautiful and is very green and healthy but not a single bloom never even tried I have a friend that has told me to feed with HollyTone 2x this season and will bloom next spring I am willing to try What do you think
I’m a big believer in leaving the gardening concoctions on the store shelves. Plants know what to do, when the conditions are right they will do exactly that. However, some varieties of hydrangea are very good at blooming, others not so much. I’d add other varieties to your yard. Endless Summer, All Summer Beauty or David ?????? can’t think of his last name. My brain is saying leach, but that’s the Rhododendron guy. Blank!
Hi Mike. I have a Hugh beautiful hydrangea and it bloomed with beautiful large flowers but this year the flowers that did come out are so small and they look dead and dried out already should I just cut it all back for now. It is the beginning of July already and I miss not seeing those big beautiful flowers
Hi mike. I live in nj. My hydraendas were beautiful last year but this year not one flower. They were pruned in April but my friends who didn’t prune has the same problem. Maybe cause of the harsh winter we had. Heard u should prune in fall but afraid 2 do so. Should I put mulch around them in the fall 2 protect them? Not sure what 2 do. Any info is very much appreciated. Thank u
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.
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.
Jane A. Ward says
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
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.
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.
I am not familiar with the plant, wish I could help.
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.
Try adding Aluminum sulfate, you can find it at garden centers.
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. 🙂
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
You could regrow from seed pods, but it would sometimes take longer than taking cuttings , or by air layering, also a tree grown from seed can sometimes be much different from the parent tree, and when you grow from cuttings , you get a clone (duplicate of parent , since it has the same DNA.
Shelby Britt says
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?
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.
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