How To Grow Humongous White Hydrangea

My obsession with humongous white hydrangea blooms started many years ago. I was hooked when a vendor at my local farmers market showed up with tall buckets full of monster-sized white hydrangeas. They were a spectacle – their stems were almost as tall as me, and the flowers that topped them were bigger than my head. With their audacity, they sold out in minutes.

I’d never seen such flowers and I inquired with the farmer about the variety and how they grew them. With a twinkle in their eye, they simply wouldn’t give up their special secret.

I’ve been trying to figure it out on my own ever since.

There has been quite a bit of trial and error over many years. But now, I can confidently tell you (with a twinkle in my eye) that it really comes down to one trick (plus a couple less important side tips).

how to grow huge hydrangeas
Huge hydrangeas can be grown with the same plants as normal sized hydrangea blooms.
how to grow huge hydrangeas
Six regular sized flowers of Hydrangea ‘Limelight’ is smaller than one huge flower.

Step by Step: How to Grow Huge Hydrangeas

  1. My experiments were conducted with Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’.  Limelight is a panicle hydrangea. This technique will likely work with other panicle hydrangeas or smooth hydrangeas. Both are woody hydrangeas that bloom on new wood. If you want to try this, I would start with Limelight and then move on to other varieties as you get confident. Limelights are tough as nails and it is hard to truly mess them up permanently so you can go forth in confidence that you aren’t going to kill them.
  2. Plant your hydrangeas in good well drained soil.  In my experiments, better soil and more regular water does matter to size and will lead to bigger blooms.  The size difference is however negligible when compared to the real trick (I’m getting there).
  3. Let them settle in, establish themselves and grow for a couple of seasons.
  4. Here is the trick – CUT THEM BACK HARD. Very hard. Don’t panic, but the trick is to take every branch down to just a few inches above the soil.  It is scary, but trust me on this one.  Cutting like this is going to make you have a very different plant than what was growing naturally.  Generally, Limelight hydrangeas need very little pruning and they will grow to be a large shrub that fills out nicely if they have even sunlight.  Once you cut hard, you are not going to have a bushy bush. You will instead have long sticks with pom poms on the ends.  I tried this with a shrub to the right of my front door and now it needs to be moved because it kind of looks ridiculous and has a tendency to flop. I will be re-locating it to an area of my garden where things are a little more functional (like the veg/ cutting garden) than beautiful. I love the huge blooms, but they come from an awkward shrub.
  5. If you plan to do this to a shrub that is part of a border or aesthetic planting scheme, then I recommend adjusting the surrounding plants. Choose something that will hide the legginess of the shrub and will help to hold up the humongous flower heads to come.  Your new hydrangea will send up long stems with a single massive blooms on the end.

So there you have it. Be brave and cut the shrub back – basically to the ground, and as a note of good measure, feed them and water them well.  Your reward – blooms that are bigger than a basketball.

 

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About Rochelle Greayer

Hi, I'm Rochelle and for 18 years I have worked as a landscape designer, author/writer, and design teacher. I've designed residential and hospitality (for hotels, restaurants, and spas) gardens across the USA and in the UK, Europe and the Middle East. After many years of teaching garden design topics in person, I launched the PITH + VIGOR Boot Camp series in early 2018. Through my blog, social media, and online courses (Garden Design Bootcamp and Planting Design Boot Camp) I aim to help homeowners learn how to confidently design and create home gardens that reflect their own personal and unique style.

11 Comments

  1. Brenda K Wilcox on September 19, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    Should you do this to hydrangeas in pots?

    • Rochelle on September 20, 2017 at 10:52 am

      I don’t see why not.

  2. Linda Mcshane on September 19, 2017 at 8:16 pm

    I love these too, but when do you cut them back, ????

    • Rochelle on September 20, 2017 at 10:51 am

      I cut them back late in the fall – or very early spring. Either has worked for me.

  3. Freds Andll on September 20, 2017 at 12:44 am

    I love your article& have lots of plants this fall & I am going to get them established& do what u sai- I have plants a new bed of He pink hydranger that was chosen for the women who had cancer (my sister lost a breast to cancer but has been cancer free for over 10 years) this bed is or her

  4. Susana on September 20, 2017 at 10:47 pm

    I have a bushy bush growing very healthy in a large pot. It has not flowered at all. It has sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon . I am afraid to prune it!!what can I do??

    • Rochelle on September 21, 2017 at 10:05 am

      Do you know what kind of hydrangea it is? If you are afraid to prune – do just a bit (maybe 1/3 of a harsh prune) and see what happens. (I suspect it will flower).

  5. Susan G on December 16, 2017 at 1:31 am

    I had bo trouble growing these in ny but in north east Texas have never been able to grow them.Any suvgestions?

    • Rochelle on December 16, 2017 at 4:11 pm

      It is hard for me to say, not knowing anything about your specific conditions. Hydrangeas (depending on variety) can be very sensitive to water – they will be the first to droop and get stressed in hot, dry weather. That said, Limelights (which are the specific variety that were grown for this post) are not so sensitive. I’d suggest talking to a local nursery – they will have much better advice that I can offer from Boston.

  6. Shirley on July 31, 2018 at 10:35 pm

    Can I move my hydrangea? it’s a strawberry vanilla

    • About Rochelle Greayer on August 3, 2018 at 5:45 am

      Of course you can! – take care to move it when it isn’t super hot (so maybe wait until a little later in the season – fall is good) – and then take care to dig it out with a decent sized root ball and water it in very well. Keep watering at least every few days until winter.

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