Gardeners who are considering growing a climbing hydrangea, but are unsure how to proceed, take heart. It isn't that difficult and success is fairly guaranteed. Just follow these simple and straightforward steps.
Step 1: Plant In Correct Location
Most often sold in a container, climbing hydrangea needs the solid support of a wall or tall tree. It likes an eastern or westward exposure in either full sun or shade. In hotter Western climates, plant in an area with more shade and moisture.
Step 2: Be Sure Soil Is Right And Plant
Rich, moist and well-drained soil is a must for successfully growing a climbing hydrangea. Add organic matter such as compost, aged manure or peat moss to improve plant growth. Plant at the same depth as the climbing hydrangea was at the nursery, raising the level of the soil several inches and sloping up to the level of the container if necessary.
Step 3: Firm Soil Around Rootball, Water And Mulch
Once the climbing hydrangea is in the ground, gently firm the soil all around the rootball. Water thoroughly to get rid of any air spaces. Add 3 to 4 inches of mulch around the surface to help the plant retain moisture.
Step 4: Expect Slow Growing
It may be several years before the climbing hydrangea really begins to take off, so don’t be disheartened. It takes time for the plant’s fibrous roots to recover after the transplanting from pot to ground.
Make sure to keep the plant evenly moist during the initial growing stage. It is also important that gardeners do not prune in the first year. Excessive pruning will delay the onset of blooms. The good news is that once it is established, the growth will improve with each passing year. The leaves are thick and glossy, with rich brown bark, which is a visual treat for any garden, even without blooms.
Blooms may take 6 to 10 years to appear. The vine has to reach adult stage, at which time it grows multi-branched stems with flattened clusters of white flowers. After flowering, the vine can be pruned.
Step 5: Fertilize Starting In 2nd Year
Aficionados of the climbing hydrangea recommend that fertilizing should start in year two. Use an all-purpose fertilizer, unless nutrients are low. Be aware that nitrogen encourages leaf growth. No fertilizer is required after the plant matures.
Step 6: Cautions About Aerial Roots
Be advised that the aerial roots are very tenacious, clinging to whatever structure is nearby. They also leave a residue that is difficult to remove, which should be considered if planting next to brick, viny siding or wood. Experts caution against planting next to a maple tree, as the climbing hydrangea will compete with the maple tree for moisture.
In summary, choose the right location, amend soil if necessary, plant, water and mulch. Be prepared to wait several years for blooms to appear. Enjoy the strikingly beautiful leaves and bark of the climbing hydrangea in the interim.