When to plant hydrangeas – for beautiful flowers that last

Find out when to plant hydrangeas to enjoy their superb structure and color in late summer and fall

when to plant hydrangeas – hydrangeas
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Need to know when to plant hydrangeas? In shady backyards, they are indispensable for providing shape, structure, and color late in the season. 

Learn how to grow hydrangeas and, from July into October, you can enjoy these shrubby stalwarts adorned with generous blooms in shades of cream, lime, pink, or blue. But, to get them off to the best start, you’ll also need to be aware of the optimum time to plant hydrangeas.

Our guide has the information required to brighten the backyard and enjoy flowers for the house by discovering when to plant hydrangeas.

Once you have mastered how to plant hydrangeas it is then important to learn,  when to prune hydrangeas and how to prune hydrangeas, to ensure you plants are looking and feeling their best.

When to plant hydrangeas

Hydrangeas can be planted at any time of year, but the best time to get them in the ground is spring or fall when the weather is mild. 

For many they are an essential among flower bed ideas with enormous flowerheads, each a giant handful in size, remaining on the plant for months, often morphing through a range of colors, before browning in late fall. They can be cut for the vase at any stage, including in fall, when many take on beautiful red, grey, or caramel tones, and they make wonderful dried flowers. 

Thriving in cool semi-shade, their incredible structure makes impact in both traditional and modern borders. ‘I like to rely on the impact of massing many hydrangeas together at once so when bloom season arrives they simply overwhelm the senses in the best possible way,’ says Oregon-based landscape architect and garden designer Bethany Rydmark (opens in new tab)

When to plant shrubby hydrangeas

If you’re wondering when to plant hydrangeas, the shrubs can go in the ground at any time of year, except when the weather is very cold or very hot or if the soil is waterlogged. However, there are optimum planting windows.

‘The best time to plant hydrangeas is in the spring, once the frost is over, and the ground begins to warm up,’ says Anne Greenall, who holds a UK national collection of hydrangeas in her coastal garden in Scotland. ‘Early fall is also a good time before the heat leaves the ground and frosts begin, allowing the roots to establish.’ 

Plant in moist, fertile, well-drained soil in cool, sheltered semi-shade. Dig in organic matter (such as peat-free compost) before planting.

When to plant hydrangeas in pots

Plant compact shrubby hydrangeas (such as ‘Little Lime’) in containers in April or May. Choose a pot with good drainage holes and fill with a mix of organic multi-purpose peat-free compost and John Innes No. 3 compost. Place the pot in sheltered semi-shade and ensure the compost is kept moist, but never waterlogged. 

If you want to try to grow bright-blue hydrangeas and you don’t have acid soil, plant them in containers of ericaceous compost. 

When to plant climbing hydrangea

Climbing hydrangeas (such as gorgeous H. anomala subsp. petiolaris) are wonderful for north or east-facing walls, producing a mass of lacy white flowers above attractive foliage in summer. 

These self-clinging climbers can be planted at any time of year, as long as the ground is not parched, frozen, or waterlogged. However, for the best results, plant in spring or fall. They can take time to establish but are so spectacular and so long-lived, they are worth the wait. 

Plant in moist, well-drained, fertile soil in the cool semi-shade of a north or east-facing wall. The more tender evergreen forms (such as H. seemannii) require a sheltered wall. Dig in organic matter (such as peat-free compost) before planting. 

What month is best to plant hydrangeas?

The months of both spring and fall are best for planting hydrangeas, so long as the weather is mild. In spring, this should be after frost season, and in fall, before it begins again. If you need to plant in other months, avoid those that are very hot or very cold.

When can I plant a potted hydrangea in the ground?

A potted hydrangea can be planted in the ground at any time of the year. However, spring or fall are the best times. Wait until the frosts are over in spring, or plant in early fall when the soil will still be warm and before the frosts.

As editor of Period Living, Britain's best-selling period homes magazine, Melanie loves the charm of older properties. I live in a rural village just outside the Cotswolds in England, so am lucky to be surrounded by beautiful homes and countryside, where I enjoy exploring. Having worked in the industry for almost two decades, Melanie is interested in all aspects of homes and gardens. Her previous roles include working on Real Homes and Homebuilding & Renovating, and she has also contributed to Gardening Etc. She has an English degree and has also studied interior design. Melanie frequently writes for Homes & Gardens about property restoration and gardening.