Is Clay Soil Good for Hydrangeas?

Clay soil is one of the most common types of soil. However, it is difficult to grow many plants in it. Can you grow hydrangeas in clay soil?

Yes, you can grow hydrangeas in clay soil. Hydrangeas can tolerate clay soil that retains moisture. This is not the ideal type of soil for hydrangeas, but they will grow well in clay soil as well.

Risks associated with growing Hydrangeas in Clay Soil

Clay soil retains moisture, which means that you don’t have to water the plant often. There are not a lot of issues with growing hydrangeas in clay soil.

However, if you have clay soil filled with a loose substrate like peat, moss, etc, then during the rains it can lead to an issue called the “bathtub effect”.

If the soil where you planted Hydrangea is less dense than the rest of the garden owing to the substrate, then water could accumulate during prolonged rains and lead to root rot.

One of the main signs of root rot is the yellowing of leaves.

However, this is not seen often. The situation where it could happen is if your hydrangea is planted at the foot of a slope. Water will flow down and collect in a place where the soil is looser.

Tip – Check if the water accumulates and becomes stagnant in your garden. Here are the steps that you can take.

  • Dig a hole 20 inches wide and 10 inches deep and fill it with water.
  • Check after 6 to 7 hours.
  • If there is no water in the hole, the soil absorbs the water and nothing is wrong with the soil.
  • If not, there is a problem that you can solve with drainage.

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Amending clay soil for hydrangeas

Amending the clay soil before planting hydrangeas is a good idea according to many gardeners. There are some things to remember if you are going to improve your soil so that suits your hydrangeas better.

Size of the hole you are digging to plant your hydrangea matters

If you are planning on planting your hydrangea in a hole that is the same size or slightly larger than the root ball of your plant, it does not make sense to amend your soil.

This is because, during the first year, the roots will not be able to penetrate through the clay soil and will be wrapped in a ball.

If you really do want to amend the soil, it will benefit only if you dig a hole that is at least 2 to 3 times larger than the root ball of the plant.

When you do it this way, the roots can develop easily during the first year. Then, after the plant is established, the roots can easily penetrate the clay soil.

Components that you use in the soil mix

Potting Mix material for improving your clay soil should not be more than 5 to 10% of the soil.

This is because if it exceeds that number, the soil will become too loose and the water will gather around the roots of the plant.

Further, there are a lot of materials available in the market, but a good quality compost can make all the difference.

This is because compost not only loosens the soil but also has a lot of nutrients that it adds to the soil. For hydrangeas, rich soil is always going to be beneficial.

The compost works best if it is made from one or two-year-old branches of young and healthy trees.

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Planting and care in clay soil

Here are a few tips to take care of your Hydrangea while growing in clay soil.

  • When you plant hydrangeas in moist soil like clay, you can plant it in a sunnier location, as the clay will hold enough moisture that it does not fade even in a lot of sunlight.
  • Fill the hole that is twice as large as the rootball of the hydrangea with the amended soil and then plant your hydrangea in such a way that the place where the roots and shoots meet are not buried in the ground.
  • Plant your hydrangea slightly above the surface of the garden, maybe half an inch. Eventually, the plant will settle to the same surface level.
  • If you plant it at the surface level initially, over time, a small pit can form where excess water will get collected and can lead to crown rot. Then fill up the free space in the hole with the substrate you have prepared and make it compact.
  • Water the hydrangea. If you see any pit forming after the water is absorbed, add more soil to the hole.
  • Shade the plant for one or two months after planting. This will help the plant get established and reduce the effects of transplant shock.

Watering hydrangeas in clay soil

Hydrangeas need to be watered very carefully especially during the first year after they are planted. Clay soil holds moisture very well, so it is not difficult to maintain it.

Check the moisture of the soil regularly. The problem with clay soil is that when there is no rain, the surface of the soil dries out and forms a crust, however, the soil underneath is quite moist.

To know whether or not your plant needs to be watered, you need to insert a stick into the ground more than 1 inch deep and check the moisture.

If the soil is dry even more than one inch under the ground, water it immediately. The amount of water you will need to provide to the plant will depend on its size and type. Hydrangeas need 1 to 3 gallons of water on average.

One year after planting, the frequency of watering can be reduced. In clay soil, if the weather is dry, your hydrangea will need to be watered every 10 days or even more if the heat is too much.

Also, avoid watering the plant too much or too often as clay soil can absorb a lot of water and the roots can become waterlogged. This can lead to a lot of issues.

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Mulching helps

The problem with clay soil is that when the surface of the soil dries, it forms a crust through which it is difficult for water to get absorbed. To avoid this problem, you can mulch your hydrangeas. It helps in the below ways.

  • Mulch helps keep the soil moist.
  • It helps to reduce the frequency of watering.
  • Mulching also helps control the temperature of the ground. It prevents the heat from overheating the roots.

You can get a lot of mulching materials in the market. Pine bark is one of the best materials for mulching. It lasts longer than most other materials.

Once you get the mulch, spread it on an area that is equal to the size that the hydrangea extends. The mulch should be applied in a 1 to 2-inch thick layer.

If the layer is thicker, it will prevent any air from reaching the soil, and if the layer is too thin, it will not be of any use in protecting the soil from drying out quickly.

Do not apply any mulch on the stem of the plant, as it can cause the stems to rot. Keep a gap of at least 1 inch between the crown of the plant and the mulch.

Colour of hydrangeas in clay soil

The color of the hydrangeas depends completely on the acidity of the soil, so it can be difficult to say what the color of hydrangeas in clay soil will be.

Clay soils can be alkaline or acidic depending on the other components that are in the soil. However, clay soils are usually alkaline in nature, so the color of hydrangeas will most likely be pink.

If there is any organic matter around the hydrangea plant, the soil can become neutral, as a result of which the color of the hydrangeas will be purple.

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What soil is best for hydrangeas?

Hydrangeas grow best in soil that is loamy and soil that is high in organic content. The soil needs to be able to hold moisture well while being light enough that it can drain water properly.

If the soil is rich in nutrients, you will not need to add any external fertilizers to it.

Hydrangeas can grow in both acidic and alkaline soils. However, if it is Hydrangea Macrophylla, the pH of the soil will influence the color of the hydrangea blooms.

Other species that have white or green flowers will not be affected and the color of the flowers will remain the same.

If the soil is acidic, that is if the pH is 6.5 or less, then the hydrangea blooms will be blue in color. If the soil is alkaline, the color will be pink, and if the soil is neutral in pH, the color of the flowers will be purple.

You can control the color of the flowers by adjusting the pH of the soil.