General gardening topics

When and how to move and transplant my hydrangeas?

Last updated on September 21st, 2021

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The best time to move an established hydrangea is when it’s dormant. That’s when the flowers have died and the leaves have all dropped. This ‘sleeping’ state the hydrangea is in lessens the shock of being lifted and moved to another location. It’s a different story if you’re transplanting hydrangea cuttings for the first time though. We cover when and how to do each of these in this brief article.

When do I transplant hydrangea cuttings?

In contrast to the dormancy you need of mature hydrangeas, you need your cuttings to be alive and strong before you transplant them. This means that their roots should be showing strongly through the bottom of the pot you’re propagating them in.

Turn the pot over and look for any roots coming through. If there’s many, you’re OK to go ahead and transplant. If there’s a few, carefully remove the plant from the pot and take a close look at the root ball. If it’s filling up the pot, the plant is strong enough to transplant. If you see only a few roots, put the plant back in the propagating pot and give it more time and care.

Hydrangea cutting ready to be planted with strong roots and plenty of foliage

Transplanting hydrangea cuttings is the same whether you’re moving them into a bigger pot for further growing, in a planter or out into the garden. Here’s what to do.

  • Dig a hole in the soil slightly bigger than the soil ball around the root of the plant you’re transplanting.
  • Work gently to loosen the root ball slightly so the roots separate a bit.
  • Place the soil/root ball into the hole and cover it with more soil.
  • Water well to moisten all the soil.

What’s the right time to transplant hydrangea plants?

The best time to transplant established hydrangea plants is in the autumn and the winter. You need to wait for the flowers to die and the leaves to fall. This is the dormant state in which the plant spends the winter, conserving its energy. But you should also select a time before the ground freezes, so you don’t need to pry the roots out of solid soil.

Hydrangea in winter the perfect time to move them to new positions in the garden if needed

November is usually a good time for transplanting hydrangeas in the UK. If you live in one of the warmer regions where the ground doesn’t freeze, your transplanting window extends to around February. However, if there is an emergency that requires you to move your hydrangeas at other times of the year (perhaps you’re putting in a driveway over the flowerbed or the plant is really doing badly), as long as it’s not in the peak of summer and you’re very careful, the plant should survive the move.

Read next: How to grow hydrangeas from cuttings

How do I transplant hydrangeas?

Transplanting hydrangea

To successfully transplant your hydrangea bush, you need to do the process steps in the right order.

  • Choose the new location or planter. Hydrangeas need shade in the afternoon, especially so if you’re moving a poorly plant.
  • Dig the hole in the new location or put dirt in the planter. Make the hole bigger than you think you need – you can always backfill it rather than dig it larger while your hydrangea bush is waiting out in the open.
  • Prune your hydrangea bush back to the smallest size you can handle (physically or visually). The root ball will need to establish itself in the new location and that’s best done with the minimum of foliage and stems to support. You may need to even lose next year’s flowers.
  • Only now do you dig up your hydrangea. Dig with your shovel straight down in a circle around the bush. Expect the root ball to be very large. Check that you’re freeing up the root ball and adjust your digging if necessary.
  • Lift the root ball carefully out of the ground. Mature plants have very large and very densely compacted root balls so they become extremely heavy. If this is the case for your hydrangea, please get one or more people to help you lift and transport it.
  • Put water in the bottom of the hole. Place the root ball in the hole and thoroughly soak it. Fill the hole with soil and water the soil so that it’s moist.
  • Place a fairly thick (5cm or so) layer of compost on top of the soil around the plant to feed it in the spring the nutrients it needs to establish itself successfully.

That’s it. If you’ve transplanted your hydrangea in the autumn or winter as we recommend, you don’t have to water it again until spring. But keep an eye on the moisture in the soil in case it does dry out. If you’ve moved your plant at any other time, water it as you do other plants in your garden.

In spring and beyond, take care to keep the hydrangea thoroughly watered and fertilised to give it the best chance of being its best self.

Will moving hydrangeas effect the colour of the flowers?

Hydrangea that changed colour when moved to new position

You may notice that the colour of the blossoms on your pink or blue hydrangea changes when it’s established in its new location. This may occur if the pH (acid/alkali) of the soil is different to its original location. You can restore the original colour by matching the pH of the new location to the original pH. Read How to change the colour of hydrangeas to learn how to do this.

You can also learn more about growing hydrangeas here

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