Spring is finally here–officially, anyway–and the long daylight hours have you itching to put on your gardening gloves and get your hands in the dirt. Seeing those first green sprouts poke up out of the ground as your perennials wake from their winter naps is one of spring’s most joyful hallmarks. But doing the wrong thing with your perennials, or doing the right thing at the wrong time, can stunt them instead of helping them. Your heart’s in the right place and your hands are ready to garden, so use these essential tips to bring your garden to the next level and help your perennials grow bountiful blooms!
Key Hydrangea Care for Beautiful Blooms
Hydrangeas produce large balls of gorgeous blooms in colors ranging from pink, to white, to blue; you can even change the color of some varieties by adjusting the pH of the soil. But if your hydrangeas are under stress, they may not bloom at all. Proper pruning and protection from late frost are essential if you want to see those gorgeous balls of color this year.
- First: protection. With the unusually cold spring we’ve been having in much of the country, the first thing to think of is protecting your hydrangeas from late frost. Like many perennials, your hydrangeas will respond to spring’s longer days by awakening and preparing to bloom, and this puts them at risk for frost damage during a chilly spring like this one. If a hard frost has been forecast for your area, take a careful look at your hydrangea plants. If they are still dormant and you see no bud growth, don’t worry–dormant hydrangeas can weather a frost just fine. However, if the buds have already begun to swell, a hard frost can cause them to drop off and reduce or even eliminate this year’s blooms. To protect the delicate buds, cover your hydrangeas with a cloth sheet or blanket before the frost arrives.
- Next: pruning. Pruning will help keep your hydrangea healthy and gorgeous, but pruning at the wrong time can do more harm than good. Different types of hydrangeas need pruning at different times, so knowing which type you have is key. If you aren’t sure which type of hydrangea you have, the National Gardening Association’s online plant finder is an excellent reference with photos of different hydrangeas.
Here’s the breakdown:
- Hydrangea Macrophylla, or “big leaf” hydrangea, and Hydrangea quercifolia:
If you have these hydrangeas, which bloom on old wood, do not prune them in the spring or fall, or you could end up with no blooms at all. Prune these varieties of hydrangea in the summer after the blooms have faded and new growth has started at the base of the plant. Prune out dead and weak stems, but leave the old wood intact. This will encourage plenty of healthy new growth for next season.
- Hydrangea paniculata, also called “grandiflora”
The name “grandiflora” says it all: these hydrangeas are known for producing huge blooms. Pruning is essential for grandiflora hydrangeas, which need new growth in order to bloom well. Prune these hydrangeas in late winter or early spring. So, if you haven’t pruned yet, now’s the time! Click here for detailed pruning instructions, and check out the video above, courtesy of the University of Illinois Extension.
- Hydrangea anomala petiolaris, or “climbing hydrangeas”
Climbing hydrangeas require little or no pruning. If your climbing hydrangeas are starting to grow out of bounds, clip them as needed during the summer.
The Best Tulip Care for Healthy Flowers
Tulips come in many vivid colors and produce tall, graceful stalks with beautiful trademark blooms. Tulips will come up year after year with very little work needed, but a little TLC from you will help them really thrive. In the spring, cleanup and feeding are what your tulips need as they prepare to wake up and grow.
- First: cleanup. Tulips need the sun to bring them out of their slumber, so remove any protective winter mulching as soon as the snow melts. Also clear away any dead plant matter from last year. If any of the bulbs have heaved out of the ground, re-cover them with soil.
- Next: feeding. As soon as the leaves start to pop up, apply a good liquid fertilizer to give your tulips a boost. Dead-head your tulips as soon as the blooms have died. You can also remove the stalks at this time, but let the leaves remain where they are.
Pamper your Daffodils and Love their Cheery Colors
Sunny daffodils are one of spring’s first blooms, so they deserve a place of honor. Daffodils are also pretty hardy and low-maintenance. They don’t ask for much, so show them some love! As with tulips, a little cleanup and feeding will have your daffodils ready to bloom.
- First: cleanup. Remove any winter protective mulch as soon as the snow has melted, and clear away dead plant matter. Re-cover any bulbs that have heaved out of the ground.
- Next: feeding. Apply some fresh compost to add nutrients to the soil. Cut the flower stalks back as soon as the daffodils are finished flowering, but let the leaves stay where they are.