How to Take Care of Your Hydrangeas in Winter (for Big Blooms Next Summer)

Your hydrangeas will thank you for the TLC!

When it comes to caring for hydrangeas in the garden beds and containers, prep work in fall and winter will help boost blooms when the next growing season rolls around. Help your hydrangeas get through their dormant phase of rest and think of this TLC as an investment in future growth.

How to Protect Hydrangeas in Winter

Many varieties of hydrangeas actively produce their flower buds during the growing season. The buds form in late summer and then remain intact through the winter season weather.

Weather-related issues like biting winds and subzero temperatures can harm these buds. The freeze-and-thaw cycles in winter can also bring permanent damage to the buds. If any of these elements cause harm to the buds that have “set,” it means that hydrangeas won’t bloom in spring and summer.

Winterizing Hydrangeas Outdoors

The goal is flower-bud protection. Start by gathering shredded leaves and forming a mound around the base of the plant. A covering of about 12 inches can be a sufficient amount of protection for what winter will bring. The base of the plant can also benefit from piling shredded pieces of bark or a combination of bark and leaves. The mulch mound can be created late in the fall season and stay in place until the temperatures in spring stay consistently above freezing in your area.

How to Care for a Potted Hydrangea in Winter

If you have the space in the garden, dig a hole and plant the pot in the ground. Be sure your plant is in an all-weather non-decorative container. Digging a hole and burying the pot will protect the roots from the cold and frozen ground.

You can also move potted hydrangeas to a sheltered location out of direct winds. Surround the base of the plant with straw, hay, mulch or other insulating materials.

Hydrangeas in pots can be relocated to the garage or basement. An unheated garage or basement can house a hydrangea for the winter season once the plant is in a dormant phase of rest. As an extra step of precaution, place the pot with other plants or objects to surround them to act as a form of added insulation. You may be tempted to move a potted hydrangea to a heated indoor space for winter, but this plant does not usually do well inside during the colder months.

Give the plants some water every few weeks when the soil looks dry.

Should I Cover My Hydrangeas in Winter?

When making garden preparations for winter, take into consideration what a typical cold weather season is like in your area.

Physical barriers like straw or mulch will help protect hydrangeas in the garden from temperature extremes. Any plants outside will be watered naturally from rainfall or snow. Plants that get moved into a garage or basement will need occasional hydration with water that you provide.

One last thing to be mindful of when taking care of hydrangeas in winter is the accumulation of snow. There is always the potential for significant amounts of snow to slide off a roof or any pitched features of the architecture around your home. Heavy drops of snow can break off branches where future buds are taking a winter rest.

You’re ready for hydrangea blooms to return in all their glory when the time comes!

Alice Knisley Matthias
Alice Knisley Matthias writes about food, family, education, and garden. Her work appears in The New York Times, Washington Post, Food Network, Delish, The Kitchn and Parade. Her book about healthy kid snacks is published by Scholastic. Other work includes Woman's Day, Redbook, Highlights for Children, Boys' Life, Kids Discover and America's Test Kitchen Cook's Country Cookbook.