Easter is late this year; it will not be long until we will be focused on outdoor gardening and all the plants that we can grow in our outdoor gardens.
Easter, however, is a time of year when we often give and receive flowering potted plants as gifts; Easter simply would not be the same without the wonderful potted plants that are ever-present at this time.
One of the most stunning of all the Easter potted plants is the hydrangea. The huge mop heads of bloom borne by this plant are nothing less than amazing and the plant will be received with great joy by anyone who receives it as a gift.
Although cut flowers are always a good choice for any holiday gift giving, I think a potted plant has a couple of advantages.
Firstly, a potted plant will easily outlast any cut flowers and will continue to put on a beautiful display for weeks.
Secondly, many recipients of potted plants enjoy the process of looking after the plant after it has been received. A former gardener in particular will relish the task of watering and tending the plant — the effort involved is minimal and yet the person will feel like he/she is gardening again!
The hydrangeas sold as foil-wrapped potted plants for the florist trade are inevitably mop head hydrangeas that are specially bred and grown for the potted plant trade. They are usually not hardy enough for our climate and efforts to plant them into the outdoors often results in disappointment.
These florist hydrangeas are grown to be one-time spectacular plants and are grown and fertilized to provide many large blooms as quickly as possible, often at the expense of the future health of the plant. They are best treated as disposable plants once they have finished blooming.
If a potted hydrangea is cared for properly, the blooms — which consist of tiny flowers and large colourful bracts — will last for weeks until they finally fade. Some plants will have unopened buds as well as mature blooms on them when they are received; by removing spent blooms, the buds will continue to develop and produce blooms to replace the ones removed.
What is the proper care for a potted hydrangea in the home?
The first requirement is to keep the plant in as cool a location as possible. If the indoor environment is unduly warm, try to locate the plant in a cooler spot overnight.
Hydrangeas are large plants with a high rate of transpiration; in other words, they use a lot of water so never allow a hydrangea dry out. Even so, they do not like to sit in water and should not be left sitting in a saucer of excess water after being watered.
The best practice is to remove the foil sleeve so that this will not happen. Any excess water will be able to drain into the saucer, which should then be emptied.
Another choice is to take the plant to the sink whenever it needs to be watered and either let water run through the soil or let the pot sit in a sink of water until the root ball is thoroughly wet. Then allow the pot to drain thoroughly before being put back into its jardinière/saucer.
Because the hydrangea will be discarded after its blooms have faded, there is no need to fertilize the plant. There will be enough residual fertilizer remaining in the planting medium from the greenhouse where it was grown to last the plant until it finishes blooming.
Since hydrangeas will last several weeks if they are well cared for, keep a watch for insects.
Aphids and spider mites are the two most common pests to attack these plants and the precautionary practice that we often take to deter insects — the periodic shower — is difficult to do because of the size of both the plant itself and the blooms.
Hydrangeas like bright light but too much direct sun will hasten the blooms going past. Because there is no need to worry about the future health of a disposable plant, light levels are not so important; display a hydrangea where it will be enjoyed the most.
The hydrangea that you received for Easter will give you great joy. With their delicate hues of blue, pink, or white, the large mop head blooms of a hydrangea are indeed a spectacular sight.
Albert Parsons is a consultant for garden design and landscaping who lives in Minnedosa.