How to Grow Hydrangea Flowers in Containers

Have you ever dreamed of planting and caring for your own hydrangeas with their glorious clusters of color and vibrant leaves?

These old-fashioned yet utterly stylish plants are a colorful addition to borders and beds, can be planted as a hedge, and are easy to grow in containers as well.

In our guide to growing hydrangeas, we discuss everything you need to know about cultivating these beauties in your garden.

A close up vertical image of a large blue hydrangea growing in a black pot outside a residence with foliage in soft focus in the background. To the top and bottom of the frame is green and white printed text.

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But maybe you don’t have tons of space for hydrangeas, which have three main growth habits: shrubs that grow between three and nine feet tall, tree-like types that grow from eight to 15 feet tall, and lianas (woody vines) that can climb up buildings and grow up to 100 feet long.

Shrub hydrangeas are the best type to grow in a container, and we’ll cover some of our favorite container-friendly cultivars below.

No matter which type you grow, make sure to keep it out of reach of pets and children, as the plants are toxic to humans and animals alike.

Getting Started

Many cultivars of these long-blooming shrubs produce flowers during the spring, summer, and fall. “mophead”

The popular “bigleaf” varieties (Hydrangea macrophylla) grow large, rounded clusters of pink, blue, purple, and even bright green or red flowers, depending on the variety and growing conditions.

A close up horizontal image of a large blue flower growing in the garden surrounded by foliage.
H. macrophylla

In addition, some H. macrophylla varieties feature tiny lacelike flowers surrounded by larger blossoms – these are commonly known as lacecap hydrangeas.

H. macrophylla flowers on either old or new wood, depending on the cultivar, and are highly sensitive to the pH of the soil.

The ideal pH is between 5.2 and 5.5, and plants grown in these conditions will typically produce blue flowers. More alkaline soil, in the range 6.0 to 6.2 will turn the flowers pink or mauve.

Bigleaf types typically thrive in USDA Hardiness Zones 6 to 9, and sometimes 5.

Panicle hydrangeas (H. paniculata), another popular species, are usually white. Their flower heads are shaped like plump ice-cream cones, and the blossoms will often fade to a pleasing pink color over time.

A close up horizontal image of a large panicled bush hydrangea with white flowers growing in the garden outside a stone house.
H. paniculata

These extra-hardy hydrangeas thrive in Zones 3 to 8 and sometimes 9.

Panicle varieties bloom solely on new wood, and can be cut back in winter. And unlike bigleaf types, they’re not picky about soil pH and will thrive in a range between 5.0 and 7.0.

Shade-tolerant smooth hydrangeas (H. arborescens) are a lot like mopheads in terms of the shape and size of the flower head. But the individual flowers are smaller, and they always grow on new wood.

These tall shrubs are native to the southeastern United States but they grow well in Zones 3 to 9. Their cream-colored blooms fade to green over time.

A close up horizontal image of large white flowers growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background.
H. arborescens

Mountain hydrangeas, H. serrata, feature “lacecap-style” blooms, with a center of tiny blooms.

This species grows best in Zones 6-9.

A close up horizontal image of the blue flowers of a lap cap hydrangea growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background.
H. serrata

As with H. macrophylla, a lower pH will turn H. serrata flowers blue, and in more alkaline soil, they’ll be pink.

The final species suited to container growing is the oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia).

A close up horizontal image of Hydrangea quercifolia with white flowers, growing in the garden.
H. quercifolia

As its name suggests, this type has foliage that resembles oak leaves and it turns crimson in the fall. The white flowers grow in a cone shape and are less “full” than they are in other species. Oakleaf varieties thrive in Zones 5 to 9.

Why Grow in a Container?

Lack of space is one reason why you might want to grow your hydrangeas in containers.

I like to place containers of long-blooming flowers on my front porch every summer – it gives me a lift to look at them each time I leave and come home.

With their compact height and full, rounded look, hydrangeas in pots are ideal on balconies, patios, or as a focal point in the garden.

A close up vertical image of a large pink hydrangea shrub growing in a terra cotta pot outside a stone residence.

Another factor to consider is the cold. If you live in Zone 4 or 5 and wish to grow classic bigleaf types, keeping them in containers allows you to bring them indoors or move them into a sheltered area during the winter, where they won’t die from exposure to the cold.

You can also more easily adjust the pH of the soil in containers for H. macrophylla varieties that change color.

Choosing the Right Container

The most important consideration when you’re choosing a container is its size.

The roots need plenty of space in order to thrive, so you will need a pot that’s around two feet wide and deep, with drainage holes in the bottom.

You also need to take into account the mature dimensions of the variety you choose. Make sure the pot is big enough so that the shrub doesn’t risk becoming top heavy and toppling over in the wind.

Sunnydaze Anjelica Polyresin Planter

This 24-inch planter, available as through Amazon, is an excellent choice.

While this pot looks extremely heavy, it’s made of a double wall of UV-resistant polyresin, and it actually weighs just 13.2 pounds.

This makes it sturdy enough to hold up those lush blooms but not so heavy that it’ll be impossible to move.

The double walled construction helps protect and insulate sensitive roots during temperature swings.

A large terra cotta container works well, too, although it’s heavier to move, so you may wish to invest in a wheeled base.

You can also use a cultured stone, concrete, or wooden container, so long as it has adequate drainage holes in the bottom and a wide base.

Learn more about the different container materials in this guide.

Preparing Your Container

Whichever container you choose, if it’s been used before, make sure to clean and disinfect it thoroughly before planting to avoid the spread of disease.

Fill your chosen pot with high-quality potting soil, leaving two inches of space between the soil and the top of the container so that when you water, it doesn’t overflow.

I use a mixture of regular potting soil with Miracle-Gro’s Nature’s Care Organic Incredible Expanding Planting Mix, available from Amazon.

Nature’s Care Organic Expanding Planting Mix

Or, you can use a mixture of topsoil, well-rotted compost or manure, and perlite for drainage.

However, it’s advisable to use a fresh potting mix to prevent introducing any pests or disease from the garden into your containers.

A close up horizontal image of a gardener with white gloves preparing a terra cotta pot for planting.

If you’re planning to plant any pH-sensitive H. macrophylla varieties and want to use garden soil, consider conducting a soil test first.

If you need to lower the pH of the soil, you can add some soil acidifier according to package instructions.

A close up vertical image of the packaging of Espoma Organic Soil Acidifier on a white background.

Espoma Soil Acidifier

I like this one from Espoma, available from Home Depot, as it’s designed especially for hydrangeas.

How to Grow

Hydrangeas are most commonly sold as young plants in small pots from a nursery.

When you bring yours home or receive it in the mail, dig a hole as deep and wide as the original pot, remove the plant, and place it inside.

A close up horizontal image of a a shrub with blue flowers growing in a terra cotta container set on a concrete surface.

It should be as deep in the soil of the new container as it was in the old one.

After planting, water the plant thoroughly, until it drains out the bottom of the pot.

Place the container in a sheltered area that receives morning sun and afternoon shade for best results. If they are in a full sun location, you’ll need to be extra vigilant about watering.

Thoroughly water the shrub a few times a week, or whenever the top inch of soil begins to dry out.

These thirsty plants will quickly start to droop if they don’t receive enough water, so check them daily, particularly during hot or dry spells.

You can also apply a layer of mulch to aid water retention.

A close up horizontal image of a selection of flowers growing in containers on a sunny patio.

Fertilize the plants once in the springtime using a balanced 10-10-10 (NPK) fertilizer.

As for pruning, you don’t need to prune mophead hydrangeas, which bloom on old wood. Pruning can actually cause the plant to produce fewer blooms the following year.

Just deadhead old flowers and remove dead or diseased branches when needed. If the shrub is getting too large for the container, consider transplanting it to a larger one.

Hydrangeas that bloom on new wood, such as H. paniculata, can be cut down to one to two feet tall after their leaves shrivel and die each fall.

A close up vertical image of a gloved hand from the right of the frame holding a pair of pruners deadheading flowers in the garden.

In the winter, mulch the container with straw to help the roots stay insulated during the cold months. Or, consider moving the pot into a garage or shed.

Bring it back outside when temperatures consistently move above 15 to 20°F.

Growing Tips

  • Put your container in a sheltered, full to part sun location (morning sun is best).
  • Water a few times a week, or daily if needed.
  • Fertilize once a year, in early spring.
  • Cut hydrangeas that bloom on new wood down to one to two feet tall in the late fall.

Cultivars to Select

Here are a few of our favorite varieties of hydrangeas, chosen with an eye for successful container growing:

Cityline Paris

There’s nothing quite like the sight of the Eiffel Tower at sunset. I’ve been lucky enough to see this sight twice, and one day I hope to return with my son.

But in the meantime, we’ll console ourselves with the lovely ‘Cityline Paris,’ a H. macrophylla that blooms green and red and then matures into a bright pink color.

A close up square image of a shrub with bright pink flowers growing in a large pot on a patio pictured in bright sunshine.

‘Cityline Paris’

‘Cityline Paris’ grows and spreads just one to three feet, which makes it an excellent choice for container growing.

Even better, this cultivar is resistant to mildew. Like other H. macrophylla varieties, it’s hardy to Zones 5 to 9.

You can find plants available at Burpee.

Fire Light

For a long-lasting display of flowers that reliably change color over time, try ‘Fire Light.’ This H. paniculata variety blooms in panicles of crisp white that turn a deep pink color over time.

Hardy in Zones 3 to 8, ‘Fire Light’ is an excellent choice for gardeners in cooler locations.

A close up square image of a potted 'Fire Light' shrub set on a concrete surface with a lawn in the background.

‘Fire Light’

It grows four to six feet tall and wide at full maturity, but adapts well to container growing and can be pruned lightly to maintain a compact size.

Unlike other hydrangeas, though, ‘Fire Light’ loves the sun and needs at least eight hours a day in order to produce its most radiant flowers.

Find quart-sized, three-inch, or five-inch containers available at Nature Hills Nursery.

Tiny Tuff Stuff

With alluring pink or blue flowers (and sometimes both), ‘Tiny Tuff Stuff’ is a gorgeous H. serrata cultivar that grows just two feet tall and wide. The perfect size for container growing!

A close up square image of a pink 'Tiny Tuff Stuff' shrub growing in the garden.

‘Tiny Tuff Stuff’

This cultivar thrives in Zones 6 to 9, but it can withstand Zone 5 winters with protection.

You can find a quart-sized container available at Nature Hills Nursery.

Managing Pests and Disease

As they do with most plants, aphids can target your hydrangeas, and they can infest new growth on a plant quite quickly.

If you notice these pesky sap-suckers, spray them off with a hose and apply insecticidal soap or neem oil to the plant.

A more insidious pest is the black vine weevil (Otiorhynchus sulcatus), which can kill a hydrangea if infestation goes undetected. The weevil larvae eat the roots, causing the plant to turn brown and die.

Adult black vine weevils are half an inch long and black with yellowish speckles on their back.

A close up horizontal image of a black vine weevil eating a leaf pictured on a dark background.

They feed on the edges of the leaves during nighttime.

If you spot feeding adults on the container or see the telltale chewed leaves, spray the plant with BotaniGard ES, available from Arbico Organics, which uses the beneficial fungus Beauveria bassiana to control infestations.

A close up square image of the packaging of BotaniGard ES on a white background.

BotaniGard ES

Common diseases that plague hydrangeas include anthracnose, powdery mildew, botrytis blight, bacterial leaf spot, and more.

For a full breakdown of how to protect your lovely shrubs from these diseases, see our guide to identifying and treating hydrangea diseases.

Best Uses

Aside from dazzling your yard, porch, or balcony with their elegant displays of color, hydrangeas make ideal cut flowers.

A close up of a large pink hydrangea growing in a wooden pot outside the window of a stone house.

To help them last longer, cut a long portion of flower stem, bring it to a vase filled with water and your favorite flower food, and cut again at a 45-degree angle before placing the stem in the vase.

Make sure the cut is clean, because an injured stem will heal itself – in other words, it will seal up – which prevents water from reaching the thirsty leaves and blossoms.

A close up horizontal image of a metal vase with white cut flowers set on an outdoor table, pictured on a soft focus dark background.

Change the water every few days, using the same method to re-cut the stem. Mist the blossoms with water daily to help keep them fresh.

Hydrangea Heaven

Now that you know how to create your own little container garden of dazzling hydrangeas, which cultivars will you plant first?

If you add pots of marigold, lavender, and geraniums in hues of pinks and purples, you’ll have a collection of blooms to make even the hardest heart soften with joy.

A close up horizontal image of a dark gray planter with bright blue and pink flowers pictured in bright sunshine on a soft focus background.

Do you grow your hydrangeas in pots? Let us know in the comments below, and feel free to share a picture!

And for more information about growing hydrangeas in your garden, check out the following guides next:

Photo of author
Laura Ojeda Melchor grew up helping her mom in the garden in Montana, and as an adult she’s brought her cold-weather gardening skills with her to her home in Alaska. She’s especially proud of the flowerbeds she and her three-year-old son built with rocks dug up from their little Alaska homestead. As a freelance writer, she contributes to several websites and blogs across the web. Laura also writes novels and holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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Leida Buscaino
Leida Buscaino (@guest_14560)
2 years ago

It is very educational.

Sarah Ray
Sarah Ray (@guest_16239)
2 years ago

Thanks for the information on how to grow hydrangeas in containers. Very helpful!

Rose Kennedy
Rose Kennedy(@rosekennedy)
Gardening Writer
Reply to  Sarah Ray
2 years ago

Thanks for reading, Sarah Ray!

diane (@guest_16480)
2 years ago

I found this very useful thank you.

Rose Kennedy
Rose Kennedy(@rosekennedy)
Gardening Writer
Reply to  diane
2 years ago

Thanks for reading, diane!

Amelia (@guest_16814)
2 years ago

Great info thank you. I’m just getting ready to give it a go:)

Rose Kennedy
Rose Kennedy(@rosekennedy)
Gardening Writer
Reply to  Amelia
2 years ago

Wishing you all the best, Amelia. It would be great if you’d give us an update on how the project works out.

Luz (@guest_17676)
2 years ago

Thank you for your knowledge and sharing it with others! Will move my plant to a container instead of my garden to keep an eye on them.

Rose Kennedy
Rose Kennedy(@rosekennedy)
Gardening Writer
Reply to  Luz
2 years ago

Hello Luz. So glad you found Laura’s info helpful, and best of luck with growing your hydrangeas in containers! Would love to see photos at some point…

Sandra (@guest_18001)
2 years ago

Thank you for sharing this information and in such detail. This year for the first time I have containers with hydrangeas in my garden. Information for Winter care is very helpful.

Brandy (@guest_18178)
2 years ago

My husband bought home a big leaf hydrangeas and no soil or pot and we don’t get paid till next month how do I keep it alive till then it starting to droop and I also live in Michigan I’ve been giving it morning sun and water almost everyday I love them there a beautiful flower and it’s my first flower there not whole lot of information on the web about a situation like this but what I’ve read that I could do I have done I’m a night person but I’ve been getting up every morning to take it… Read more »

Last edited 2 years ago by Brandy
Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu(@allison-sidhu)
Reply to  Brandy
2 years ago

When you say there’s no soil or pot, is this a rooted plant or just cuttings? How big is it? What is the plant growing in currently? Bare root plants should never be allowed to dry out completely once you’ve brought them home, and it’s best to transplant into soil as soon as you’re able to. Cuttings may be better off in the summertime in a brightly lit location indoors, until they’ve rooted. You may be able to find free or low cost soil and pots at yard sales, or if you know of any online gardening organizations in your… Read more »

Julia Auzenne
Julia Auzenne (@guest_26897)
1 year ago

My son bought my daughter a hydrangea plant for her February birthday. We (I) planted it in a pot and at first it was doing quite well. Now, some of the leaves are drying out and it’s not looking as good. I am not over watering, yet I am not letting the soil go completely dry. I have it inside, by a bright, morning sun window. Temps in SC have been 30* or less in the mornings, so I haven’t put it outside yet.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu(@allison-sidhu)
Reply to  Julia Auzenne
1 year ago

What a nice gift! Are the leaves just drying out, or showing other potential signs of disease? Potted hydrangeas, especially those shipped in bloom from a florist, tend to suffer a bit indoors. They should be kept in a cool indoor location with plenty of light, and though they do not need much water in the winter, they also tend to be prone to drying out and wilting. Potted plants do take some time to get acclimated to their new surroundings after transplanting and even when they’re grown indoors, a dormant wintertime hydrangea may lose some leaves. Indoor sun through… Read more »

Sue Lionetti
Sue Lionetti (@guest_29081)
1 year ago

Hi there, This is great information. I just received a plant for mother’s day and I would love to get it to thrive outside. I’ve tried in the past with no luck, but I think maybe using a container would be my best bet since I can start it with new soil. I’d love to put it in front of my house which receives full sun for a good part of the day and doesn’t get shady until later. Would that be too much sun?

Elizabeth (@guest_29176)
Reply to  Sue Lionetti
1 year ago

I bought one exactly like the one you have posted. Mine gets morning sun and I’m hoping to keep it alive. Mine looks a little sad. Not sure what I’m doing wrong.