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Caring for hydrangeas involves several key steps to ensure they thrive and produce beautiful blooms. Here are some tips for caring for hydrangeas:

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1. **Planting**: Choose a location that receives morning sun and afternoon shade, especially in warmer climates. Hydrangeas prefer moist, well-draining soil with plenty of organic matter. Plant them in the spring or fall, and space them about 3 to 6 feet apart, depending on the variety.

2. **Watering**: Hydrangeas need regular watering, especially during dry periods. Water deeply once or twice a week, depending on weather conditions and soil moisture levels. Avoid overhead watering, as wet leaves can lead to disease.

3. **Fertilizing**: Apply a balanced fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants, such as 10-10-10 or 12-4-8, in the spring before new growth begins. Avoid fertilizing in late summer or fall, as it can stimulate new growth that may be damaged by cold weather.

4. **Pruning**: Prune hydrangeas to remove dead or damaged branches and to shape the plant as desired. The timing and method of pruning depend on the type of hydrangea:

   - For bigleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla), prune after flowering in late summer or early fall.

   - For smooth hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens), prune in late winter or early spring before new growth begins.

   - For panicle hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata) and oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia), prune in late winter or early spring.

5. **Mulching**: Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as shredded bark or compost, around the base of the hydrangea to help retain moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature.

6. **Protection from frost**: In colder climates, protect hydrangeas from late spring frosts by covering them with a frost cloth or bedsheet overnight when frost is forecasted.

7. **Changing flower color**: The flower color of some hydrangea varieties can be influenced by soil pH. Acidic soil (pH 5.5 or lower) produces blue flowers, while alkaline soil (pH 6.5 or higher) produces pink flowers. You can change the flower color by adjusting the soil pH or using aluminum sulfate or lime.

By following these care tips, you can enjoy healthy, beautiful hydrangeas in your garden for years to come.
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