Do Hydrangeas Like Clay Soil? (How to Grow)

Prominent for its colour blossoms, hydrangeas can be grown in almost all soil types. These ornamental plants thrive when provided consistent moisture.

But, do hydrangeas like to grow in clay soil or they prefer sandy soil?

Hydrangea plants enjoy deep watering at regular intervals. But, as a gardener you should avoid water logging at root level. Excess water accumulated in the plant pit can result in yellow leaves and root rot.

Being said that this flowering plant isn’t too picky about the kind of soil. You can plant and grow hydrangeas in clay soil. However, not all varieties can tolerate soggy soil.

You can improve drainage ability of your clay soil with soil amendments.

As clay soil is known to hold moisture for longer time, you should regulate watering frequency accordingly.

To avoid overwatering, you’re recommended to check the moisture of clay soil before watering.

Problem with clay soil is, when not watered top layer of the soil dries out. But, inner layers will be moist. You shouldn’t water your hydrangeas by inspecting top layer of clay soil.

Take a tooth pick and insert more than 1 inch in the garden soil. If you find the stick is moist, then hold on. When the clay soil is dry by 1 inch, your plant can be watered.

Hydrangeas and Soil: What is best soil?

Massachusetts Amherst State University states that Hydrangea plants prefer well-drained and consistently moist soil that has moderate nutritional levels.

These ornamental plants aren’t drought tolerant and can’t survive in sandy soil.

If you’re growing hydrangeas in heavily compact soil, then unnecessary water logging can result in root rot. Similarly, sandy soil that can’t hold moisture for long time can results in underwatered hydrangeas.

When coming to soil, you must consider soil composition, drainage ability and pH to grow hydrangeas.

In some cases, if you’re not looking for different coloured blossoms, you can ignore pH. Hydrangea plants can grow in alkaline and acidic soil.

With change in soil pH, Bigleaf hydrangea plant variety can produce different coloured flowers.

Soil must be well-drained and should be able to retain moisture for longer time.

And according to your soil composition, you must reduce watering hydrangeas.

Do Hydrangeas Like Clay Soil?

Unlike other indoor plants, hydrangeas aren’t too picky about growing soil.

Not all hydrangea plant varieties like clay soil. But, there are few prominent varieties like Smooth Hydrangea, Climbing Hydrangea and Bigleaf hydrangea plants that can be grown in clay soil.

But, without proper care and soil amendment, even these varieties can’t survive in clay soil.

Hydrangeas need well-drained soil to be able to drain excess water. If your garden consists of clay soil, you can prepare by adding soil amendments like organic matter to improve soil composition.

Later in this article I’ll discuss about steps with which you can improve soil texture and draining ability.

Before that, take a look at required soil pH to grow this ornamental plant.

Hydrangeas and Clay Soil pH

Ideal soil pH to successfully grow hydrangeas ranges from 5.2 to 5.5. However, whatever can be the soil pH hydrangeas will grow.

Depending of acidic soil, alkaline or neutral soil pH, hydrangea blooms different coloured flowers.

If the soil is acidic, then you can expect blue blossoms. Similarly, pink and white coloured flowers appear when pH is alkaline or neutral.

Anyway, it takes months to see different colored flowers.

Though most clay soil is alkaline in nature, there can be acidic soil. You must conduct soil test to determine the pH.

Clay Soil Amendment: How to Improve?

When clay becomes dry, it turns rock hard. Wet clay soil will be sticky and you can’t even walk with your shoes in the garden.

Having finely textured clay soil is one of the biggest challenges for home gardeners.

Along with cons, clay soil has its advantages. Linda Brewer from Department of Soil Science says this soil can hold nutrients, pesticides and fertilizers effectively.

Further Brewer says you can improve soil texture of clay soil by adding organic material.

For instance, sawdust, manure, leaf mold, peat moss, compost and bark are few organic soil amendments that improve drainage ability of your clay soil.

Dug 6 inches of clay soil in your garden bed and add 2-3 inches of organic matter (leaf mold, manure or compost). Rototill the soil mixture or you can use fork to till the soil.

Note: Don’t add sand to clay soil to improve its texture. Largest clay particle is 1000 times smaller when compared with smallest sand particle. If you add sand with clay soil and expect to do wonders, then you’ll have to deal with more difficult soil.

Organic matter in the soil will be breakdown by microorganisms and eventually nutrients will be released into the soil.

At regular intervals you must keep on adding organic matter to the soil. This addition will help to keep the soil porous and well-drained.

Important Tip: You can just add compost to clay soil to improve its texture. Raised garden beds are big saver for clay soil gardeners.

Also Read: Can You Mix Epsom Salt With Fertilizer?

How to Plant Hydrangeas with Clay Soil?

You can either a dig hole, add soil amendments to it and grow plants or just plan raised garden beds filled with high quality soil.

Building raised gardening beds can be time taking and expensive. However, your clay garden soil problem will have a quick solution.

  1. Dig a hole that is 2-3 times deeper and wider than hydrangeas root ball.
  2. Add prepared soil amendment to the hole and plant your hydrangea.
  3. As mentioned, you can add well-rotted manure or lead mold to clay soil and put it in the hole. Remember organic material should be not more than 10 percent of clay soil.
  4. Now, cover the surface of the soil with sawdust, bark and ground wood chips. These materials will also acts as mulch and with time it will get decompose into the soil.

While planting in clay soil, choose sunny spot, as the fine texture of clay soil can hold moisture for longer time, exposing it to full sun will allow evaporating extra moisture into the atmosphere.

Don’t choose low lying spot to plant your hydrangea plant. With heavy rains, all the water in the garden gets accumulated to your plant pit.

This gardener created new garden bed for clay soil, its worthy have a look.

Check this out: Are eggshells good for hydrangeas?

Building Raised Garden Beds in Clay Soil

It is one of the most effective ways to put full stop for all your clay soil gardening problems.

Caution: It can be expensive to build raised garden beds.

  • Choose a spot that gets enough sunlight. Hydrangeas like to grow in partial sun.
  • First step is going to be removing the turf. This will remove weed or grass roots off the garden.
  • Dig 2-3 inches down the clay soil, this will avoid any weed growth in the garden bed.
  • You can use pipe boards, wooden blocks or any other hard material to build your raised garden bed.
  • Spread 2 inches of mountain granite, this will help with drainage of your raised bed and avoid weed growth. Instead, you can also spread organic material like straw grass or bark.
  • Now, fill the raised garden bed with quality soil bought from store.
  • Plant hydrangeas and cover the plant with organic mulch.

How Much Water Hydrangeas in Clay Soil Need?

Clay soil with its fine soil texture is known to hold moisture longer time. So, you can reduce watering frequency of hydrangeas in clay soil.

As mentioned above, top layer of clay soil may look dry, but inner layers of the soil can be moist.

To avoid overwatering or underwatering, you must inspect the moisture by inserting a stick more than 1 inch into the soil.

Deep water the plant if you find the soil is sticky.

Water hydrangea plant once in 10 days, you can increase or decrease based on the climatic conditions in your region.

How Mulching Benefits Hydrangeas in Clay Soil?

Cover hydrangea plant with organic material like bark and leaf mold, this will act as mulch and preserve moisture. Also with time this mulch will be decomposed to add nutrients to growing soil.

As the top layer of clay soil dries quickly, mulching will avoid this problem.

Mulching with hay grass or other organic material, will regulate temperature and reduce moisture escape into atmosphere.

While mulching make sure to leave one inch of gap between the stem of the hydrangea plant and the mulch, else constant moisture and lead to stem rot.

Hydrangeas Colour in Clay Soil

Most clay soils are alkaline, so your hydrangeas blooms pink flowers.

For change in colour, you can acidify the soil by adding compost or using elemental sulfur and aluminium.

With lower pH, hydrangea plant produces blue coloured flowers.

However, the change will not be instant. It may take months to produce new coloured blossoms.

Bottom Line

Hydrangeas can be grown in clay soil.

But, you must mix soil amendments with organic material like bark leaves, compost or leaf mold. Earth worms in the soil help to decompose this organic material and add nutrients to the soil.

Regular addition of organic material to clay soil will improve its ability to drain.

By, this can you conclude hydrangeas like clay soil?

As said, this ornamental plant is not too picky about soil. It just needs consistent moist and well drained soil to avoid water logging.

Else, you can just build raised garden bed on your clay soil. This might be expensive but you’ll not have to work regularly around the garden.