PlantFiles: Bigleaf Hydrangea, French Hydrangea, Mophead Hydrangea macrophylla 'Nikko Blue'
It's time to read and vote for your favorite article in the 2013 Write-Off Contest! The four finalist's articles are featured in the May 13 newsletter and can be found through this link. Hurry! Voting ends May 18.
Hardiness: USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F) USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F) USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F) USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F) USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F) USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F) USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F) USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)
Sun Exposure: Sun to Partial Shade
Danger: Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested
Bloom Color: Medium Blue
Bloom Time: Late Spring/Early Summer Mid Summer
Other details: Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Soil pH requirements: 5.1 to 5.5 (strongly acidic) 5.6 to 6.0 (acidic) 6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic) 6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
On Jun 19, 2012, braun06 from Peoria Heights, IL (Zone 5b) wrote:
I remember seeing these all over when I lived down south. Locally in central Illinois these can only be planted as an occasional ornamental. Suprisingly this last winter was so mild, I see deep blue Nikkos blooming all over this spring which for here is a site to behold. Many notherners dedicate a spot for this plant even if they only get flowers once every so many years. If I had the room I would do the same thing. One house nearby goes an extra mile to protect them in winter and has flowers every year.
On Jun 18, 2012, jazzy1okc from Oklahoma City, OK wrote:
I've had my Nikko Blue for about 7 years and my now 5 foot tall, 5 foot wide lovely specimen has bloomed reliably when protected from late freezes. It grows half under our carport on the south side of the house, I solved the watering issues by encircling it with recycled rubber soaker hose and mulching deeply on top of that with fine pine bark mulch. Pecan shell mulch attracted mice! I water it deeply once a week during drought. Great show this year after our mild winter!
I several of these in my yard that I planted from 3 gallon containers a few years ago. Ive planted them over the years at every house Ive ever owned. They are, to me, the Flagship of the Hydrangeas; and rightfully so. Easy to grow, gorgeous, maintanence free (no need to ever prune), blue or pink (i prefer blue), and also they are extremely easy to propogate. I have taken cuttings last year and successfully transplanted a couple plants this spring. I plan on propogating many more this year and transplanting them this fall to the shady side of my house in the fall.
On Jul 24, 2011, blueballs from Montreal,Quebec Canada wrote:
Hydrangeas "Nikko Blue" This is the king of my garden and it is so easy to grow.The trick is to leave this plant alone,its basically maintenance free.Also,never prune this plant after july 29th because you will lose next year flower crop.In the winter time,make sure the plant is completely covered with snow to protect it from the cold.Good luck!
On Jun 28, 2011, teamcrawford from Bristow, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:
I hired a landscape architect who is a certified botanist to design a master plan for my landscaping. I love hydrandeas and specified blue. Phase 1 included planting three Nikko Blues. Right off the bat there was trouble. First, the blooms were pink when they arrived in the containers. I asked the landscaper about this and he said they start out pink and then turn blue. Well, I've scoured the internet and have not seen anything that confirms this. They are blooming profusely--in pink!
Second problem--within less than a week all three developed unsightly rusty blemishes on the leaves. The leaves are covered in them, as well as the new-growth stalks. Not one leave is left unscathed. I am hearsick! Landscaper says it's just shock, but I'm convinced they were diseased in the containers. They are looking worse and worse as each week passes.
Contrast those to the hydrangea we planted a few years ago, purchased at the grocery store. It's thriving, with beautiful big blue blooms with really no care at all. I don't know what kind of hydrangea it is, but it truly outshines the so-called Nikko Blues.
Has anyone ever heard of these starting out pink and then turning blue? I don't know what to do about the unsightly rust stains except collect the fallen leaves and dispose of them as was recommended. Any advice? I am in zone 7A. Thanks!
On Jun 11, 2011, annie63 from Bloomingdale, NJ wrote:
I bought one of these about 10 years ago and stuck it on a hillside that was barrent except for a very large oak and some small shrubs. I do absolutely nothing to it and it flourishes like crazy in the most gorgeous blue. My neighbors can see it from their window and comment on it every summer. It does get filtered shade and I did notice a lot of wilting last year in the horrible summer heat, but it held up. I don't cover in winter, although, I never get to rake the leaves over there till spring, so I suppose the oak mulches the hydrangea.
This year I don't have as many blooms on it (yet) and the ones I do have are all on one side for some reason; I'm wondering if I should divide it or just wait and see if the other part of the plant produces. It could be the weeping cherry next to it has gotten too big and shaded it too much.
oh, and to dry blooms that stay blue longer, cut and put in a vase upright without water. When I've done it upside down, they lose color and turn brown. :)
On Jul 17, 2010, jleesgarden from West Chester United States wrote:
Nikko and other hydrangeas do very well in zone 6, my area. The thing about hydrangeas in general is that they do love direct sun but in the heat of the afternoon they like some dappled shade. I have mine near a pine tree so that it gets plenty of morning sun and the acidic pine needles that fall around are great for hydrangeas, especially if you want them blue. The more hot afternoon sun they get, the more you have to water them. Don't prune them until you see the blooms starting so you can tell which are dead stems. It is virtually impossible to tell before that. Some stems look dead, then you go back and sure enough there are some buds or leaves started. Most, if not all of them are like that.
On Apr 17, 2010, gardeningfun from Harpersfield, OH (Zone 5a) wrote:
I bought 6 of these from Michigan Bulb and only 3 survived at all after the first winter. They never mentioned covering them in winter, so I had no idea. They are advertised as being for zone 5a. The 3 that survived only had several leaves and no flowers at all last year. They look awful and only get 6 inches high at best. I did put straw over them this winter and am waiting to see how that did? I had no idea to cover them with cardboard and such. A friend said to cover them with straw. They are also in full sun and die back completely each winter. All that is there in spring, are several sticks coming out of the ground. I don't recommend them for this area.
On Nov 24, 2009, stormyla from Norristown, PA (Zone 6b) wrote:
This is definitely a high maintenance plant. It does bloom for me every year. However, it is necessary for me to protect it in the winter with a wire cage full of leaves. In the summer, it wilts everyday in the afternoon sun. Sometimes, it is necessary to water it twice daily or the blooms will wilt and not recover. I have it planted on the north side of the house under a large conifer.
On Jul 9, 2009, JoniJumpUp from Grand Rapids, MI (Zone 5a) wrote:
I got four of these plants in 1997 when doing some re-landscaping. I have moved them around the yard trying to find a spot they would be happy in. They seem to like bright shade. They grow well but flower poorly in my zone 5a. I dump a bag of peat moss on them each winter and it helps, but they still only put out a few flowers. and the leaves are often chlorotic which is a bother to deal with.
I love this plant! I bought it in spring 2008 not knowing it will not flower in my area (Akron, OH, Z5) without protecting in in winter. After reading many sites I decided I wasn't going to dig my 5 plants out. I read about tying up the branches and then covering with burlap and mulch but the problems many people report are that the ends that carry the buds could be damaged or broken off even when inside the bag.... the snow could also put pressure on them or the wind could rub on them through the wrapping. I decided to go with a method I found on http://www.hydrangeashydrangeas.com
This was on the website:
[AN UNUSUAL WAY TO PROTECT HYDRANGEAS - FLATTEN THEM !
NOTE: As with several techniques on this site, I can neither recommend the following technique nor take credit for it. But it is such a wonderfully creative and unusual idea, that I wanted to share it with the visitors to this site. This is a highly unconventional way to protect hydrangeas sent to me from a Canadian visitor to this site (Maria).
I can give you no more information other than what you will read below. Basically, Maria describes how she flattens her whole hydrangea plant beneath sheets of cardboard and bricks. Maria writes:
"I live In Ottawa, Ontario Canada, and have been a very crazy hydrangea fan. In my very large previous garden I had quite a large collection of them. I was told by an old German lady that owns one of the nurseries here to cover hydrangeas this way, and it does work.
Find a middle of the shrub, gently push down each side of the plant (groups of branches) towards the ground, cover each with cardboard. (hunt for large TV boxes). When they get larger, I need help to hold them down. I use bricks to hold down the cardboard, then I put leaves over it all, and then white insulating cloth, and finally more brick to hold it all down. Later, the snow helps to push the whole thing down,.. and it has worked for me in this climate. love your site, Maria"]
Well I tried this method by staking all stems down to the ground and covering them a layer of leaves and cardboard in October and uncovering them on Mothers day (last day of frost for my area). Besides losing a few buds at the tips (remember they are very fragile) when I was uncovering them it looked like the old wood and buds would make it. They looked very white from being covered for so long. When I unstaked the stems they all bounced back... you could never tell they were flattened at all!
Well it is June 8th now and I have two huge blooms on one plant already in great pink color and many, many more to come on all the rest!
I will post picture as soon as I can!
On May 25, 2009, AliceinCT from Northfield, CT wrote:
This was given to me as a gift 10 years ago...purchased AT White Flower Farm which is in our home town so it should bloom here, right? (NW CT zones varies from road to road).
I heard that I should gently tie the stems all together so that the weight of the snow and ice doesn't flatten them and harm any buds. Did that and covered it with burlap. Moved it to a snug little corner to get nearby driveway and house heat....
This is the first year I've seen new growth on old wood but I don't see any signs of bloom buds...is it too early? Maybe I'll try a "cage" of leaves next winter and pine bows. Thanks!
On Oct 11, 2008, jengarden from Excelsior, MN wrote:
I have had success in MN with 5 mature beautiful plants. They are quite large, approx. 4' high and bloom on old wood every year. The blooms are pink because I have not attempted to fertilize for the blue color. However, this zone requires that the plants are well mulched in winter. I cover the plants with straw and leaves (mostly maple and ash) all the way up to the top. They are located on the edge of my driveway so they also get covered with a good layer of snow from the clearing of the driveway which provides good insulation from our severe MN winters. I have not lost a plant in 10 years. They do tend to fade in the summer afternoon heat and sun, but perk up after sun moves away. This plant is well worth the extra care in winter and spring.
I was surprised to find this in a pot that I saved from the bulk trash pick up. It was in one of three huge pots. It looked pretty dead. I've never had a hydrangea before so I'm just gonna wing it and hope I get a deal out of it. I pruned it back a good deal because it was a mess, and added some acidic plant food. Funny enough I found a plant tag on one of the dead branches. Good thing or I might have just chucked the whole mess. And now I know what it is and how to prep it. Hopefully, I didn't prune it back too much to get a bloom this year.
On Oct 11, 2006, Rikkashay from West Portsmouth, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:
I have a Nikko Blue hydrangea and finally found a way to mulch it enough to get a minimal amount of blooms this year. I weaved what seemed to be dozens of pine boughs through the bare stems of the hydrangea last fall being careful of the flower buds forming and then added almost a bale of straw intermingled with the pine boughs and tucked the straw underneath it to the base of the plant. My bush is about 4' tall and 5" across. I had 9 blooms this year. However, I found another gardening website that shows a cage that you can construct and then fill with oak leaves or insulation materials that won't pack down. I think I might try that one, too. Until it all becomes a massive chore, I'll try anything to get more than just a few blooms.
On Jul 29, 2006, alddesigns from Saint Cloud, FL wrote:
I have four of this variety, two blue and two with more of a pinkish lavender cast. They aren't totally wild about the heat here, they get a bit droopy in the afternoon heat, but bounce back to normal after it cools a bit. They are beginning to settle in and seem to be satisfied with watering every other day.
On Jul 10, 2006, Leslie_Pz from Amherst, NH wrote:
This hydrangea is one of the happiest growers in my garden. Great new growth during the first year and very well established by Spring of third year.
This year however, we had the need to move it to another location where the plant receives morning light. Previously, the hydrangea received 4 hours of direct sunlight during the hottest time of the day and really caused the flowers to droop.
Wish our hydrangea and us luck with our new location!
On May 8, 2006, boneyween from Shawnee Mission, KS wrote:
In my experience, an important key to success with Nikko Blue is the location in which you plant it. I planted some on both the north and south sides of my house. The north side receives some sun until about noon, and the south side receives no sun, thanks to some very large trees. I expected they would do better on the south, due to the increased shade, but to my surprise, the north side plants were MUCH more successful. I believe this is due, in part, to the protection from the hot, summer winds that blow from the south.
Also, I believe that if you live in a cold winter area (I'm in zone 5b), it is important to provide winter protection by piling leaves over the plants in the fall. I first did this in the fall of 2004, and was shocked in the spring. The plants sprouted from the previous year's stems and went on to produce triple the number of blooms I had seen in the past.
On Jul 8, 2005, sksimonsen from Omaha, NE (Zone 5a) wrote:
Planted in 2003 it did well from the nursery and in the following year; a late killing frost this spring killed back all the new buds on the old growth. But the plant survived and started to regrow from the base. By the end of June we had a half dozen large blooms. So it will definately bloom from new growth.
On Jun 10, 2005, cissyb from Woodbine, GA (Zone 8b) wrote:
I originally planted a couple of these plants under an oak tree. No matter what I did, I could not get it to thrive among the oak roots (as said earlier by another member). But this year, I built up a large raised bed around this oak tree, and this plant is just going wild, loads of beautiful blooms.
On Jun 9, 2005, 33libra from Winnipeg, MB (Zone 3a) wrote:
I am in Zone 3 and I planted Nikko Blue in 2002. Everyone told me it would never last in our climate but I planted it on my south side between my house and my neighbour's where I have a little microclimate. I love the blooms. I also have Pink Diamond, Unique, Annabelle and planted Endless Summer last summer.
On Apr 7, 2005, nikkoblue from Davidson, NC wrote:
I bought 2 Nikko Blue in 1 gal containers 10 years ago. They have bloomed more beautifully each year, and continually self layer and create more plants. I now have at least a dozen plants from the original 2, and have moved them around many times, and have never lost one to transplant shock. I have just started intentionally layering to increase the number of plants and will have several dozen soon! I have always been enchanted with these huge true blue blooms and delight all my neighbors with huge sprays of flowers as gifts thoughout the summer. The flowers last at least a week in a vase.
On Nov 22, 2004, lmelling from Ithaca, NY (Zone 5b) wrote:
I purchased a Nikko blue hydrangea and planted it in spring of 2002. Unfortunately, receiving bad information, I over-fertilized it with aluminum sulfate during the summer and almost killed it. It was touch and go for a while, but it survived. I mulched it well for winter 2002 but in 2003 did not have any blooms whatsoever. I thought perhaps it was still recuperating from the trauma the year before. It was suggested to me (fall 2003) to cover the bare stems with leaves over the winter in our area for extra protection (Zone 5b), so I did.
In late summer,2004 - just when I'd given up hope of it blooming - it suddenly sprung a small but very beautiful blue bloom - just one. Of course one of my friendly deer population ate it before it ripened to be cut. But I am hopeful that with good mulch, and a covering over the winter this year, I will have many blossoms next year.
Notes on winter covering: I was told originally to cover my hydrangea with fallen leaves in fall 2003. In addition to my bigger Nikko blue, I had also been given several 1-year-old plants by a friend that I also mulched this way. While this covering probably allowed the larger plant to come through one of our most severe winters on record (2003-2004) with prolonged temps of -25 to -20, the smaller plants died due to some type of cut worms eating right through the main stems. So I would not suggest this type of overall mulching for young plants. I am trying an alternative approach of using evergreen boughs placed among the bare hydrangea branches this winter instead of leaves. I had great success with placing the branches of our discarded Christmas tree over several small hydrangeas last year - they came through the severe winter wonderfully. If cut late enough (and with snow cover) the needles stay green most of the winter.
On Oct 17, 2003, TerriFlorida from Plant City, FL wrote:
I was given H. m. 'Nikko Blue' as a rooted cutting many years ago from a distant friend. It flourished and gave me cuttings and bloomed well and grew to nearly 4' tall and wide. It responded well to cutting back (needed to keep a path clear) and definitely blooms on the same season's growth. In a place with short summers, I would advise pruning in fall.
When I moved, I brought a rooted cutting with me of course. It did not like being in lots of oak roots, but it sure likes the move to a more open soil!
On Jan 16, 2003, lupinelover from Grove City, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:
This shrub, sold by the thousands in cold climate areas, is not reliably winter-hardy in zone 4 or 5. It blooms on old wood, and therefore will not flower in the North, even though it is root-hardy through zone 4.
This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:
, (2 reports) Gallion, Alabama Haleyville, Alabama Memphis, Alabama Beverly Hills, California Los Angeles, California San Diego, California San Fernando, California San Francisco, California Vallejo, California Ocean View, Delaware Alford, Florida Boyette, Florida Haverhill, Florida Jacksonville, Florida Plant City, Florida Saint Cloud, Florida Atlanta, Georgia Cumming, Georgia Mountain Park, Georgia Norcross, Georgia Patterson, Georgia Woodbine, Georgia Hampton, Illinois Nilwood, Illinois Quincy, Illinois Westmont, Illinois Evansville, Indiana Petersburg, Indiana Fairway, Kansas Barbourville, Kentucky Raceland, Kentucky , Manitoba Golden Beach, Maryland Dracut, Massachusetts Holliston, Massachusetts Mashpee, Massachusetts Detroit, Michigan Mason, Michigan Roseville, Michigan Traverse City, Michigan Excelsior, Minnesota Byram, Mississippi Gloster, Mississippi Madison, Mississippi Howardville, Missouri Murphy, Missouri Omaha, Nebraska Amherst, New Hampshire Bloomingdale, New Jersey Buffalo, New York Cayuga Heights, New York East Hampton, New York Elba, New York Southold, New York Davidson, North Carolina Raleigh, North Carolina (2 reports) Stallings, North Carolina Glouster, Ohio Mansfield, Ohio Montrose-ghent, Ohio West Portsmouth, Ohio Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Cedar Hills, Oregon Oregon City, Oregon Salem, Oregon East Norriton, Pennsylvania Mercer, Pennsylvania Morrisville, Pennsylvania (2 reports) Penn Wynne, Pennsylvania West Goshen, Pennsylvania (2 reports) Chapin, South Carolina Conway, South Carolina East Sumter, South Carolina Goose Creek, South Carolina Tega Cay, South Carolina Belle Meade, Tennessee Clarksville, Tennessee Knoxville, Tennessee Manchester, Tennessee Memphis, Tennessee Middle Valley, Tennessee Middleton, Tennessee Appleby, Texas Broaddus, Texas Dallas, Texas Eagle Mountain, Texas Hurst, Texas Lumberton, Texas Mexia, Texas Pine Forest, Texas Bluffdale, Utah Gloucester Courthouse, Virginia Linton Hall, Virginia Manassas, Virginia Reston, Virginia Virginia Beach, Virginia Kalama, Washington Olympia, Washington Shoreline, Washington Vancouver, Washington Amma, West Virginia Falling Waters, West Virginia Bayfield, Wisconsin East Troy, Wisconsin