Large umbels of flowers in numerous colors make the hydrangea an extremely popular plant for the garden and balcony. In order for the decorative hydrangea, as the hydrangea is also called, to survive even harsh winters, it needs a little extra care. And the right winter quarters. If the flowering plant is offered these amenities, it will reward the effort next spring with dense growth and breathtaking colors.

Choose hardy species

Hydrangea is not just hydrangea. Some species are somewhat more robust than others when it comes to cold temperatures. If it is already clear before you buy that the hydrangea should spend the winter outdoors, it is of course advisable to choose a particularly hardy and hardy species. These include:

As a rule of thumb, hydrangea species that prefer shade and do not need a sheltered location generally tolerate frost without any problems. More sensitive hydrangeas that prefer sun should not overwinter outdoors if possible.

Outdoors or in a bucket?

Hydrangeas can spend the cold season both in tubs and planted freely in the garden. In both cases, however, the hydrangea should be prepared for falling temperatures in autumn and adequately protected in winter.

The right care in autumn

So that the hydrangea is as well prepared as possible for the winter, a few precautions should be taken before the frosty times. Regardless of whether the hydrangea was planted freely in the garden or is in a bucket on the balcony.

Stop fertilizing
The supply of fertilizer in the fall is well intentioned. After all, the hydrangea should receive an extra portion of nutrients. But in fact, fertilizer in the fall can do a lot of harm. Due to the more energy, the plant will sprout again during the first mild phase and thus become more sensitive to minus temperatures. Frequently, not only the young shoots freeze to death, but also older parts of the plant.

Pruning, but don’t cut it radically
The careful removal of dried or protruding flowers and stems in autumn makes the hydrangea less susceptible to snow loads. The plant parts then no longer run the risk of breaking off due to the weight of ice and snow. However, the hydrangea should not be pruned so shortly before the cold season.

Water correctly
Hydrangeas tolerate neither waterlogging nor drought. Proper watering is therefore crucial, especially in autumn. Plants in the garden rarely need additional watering. Potted plants that do not get any rain, on the other hand, should be monitored closely and watered if necessary.

The best winter quarters

House, conservatory, garden or balcony, hydrangeas do not make great demands on their winter quarters. In any case, it is advisable to move the plants to a sheltered place or at least to protect them from strong winds and frost.
For larger buckets, it is sufficient to place the containers on a house wall that is as wind-free as possible. Large plants in the garden benefit from protection from brushwood or fleece.

However, hydrangeas in pots that are less than 40cm in diameter should be completely frost-free. It is best in the basement, garden shed or well-insulated garage. As well as very small or very young plants. If the hydrangea is planted freely in the garden, but has not had enough time to grow or is very vulnerable, it should be dug up and overwintered indoors in a pot or bucket.

  • Protection for large plants is not absolutely necessary but useful
  • During winter rest indoors, temperatures of 3°C to 5°C are sufficient
  • In areas with extreme winters, little snow and very low temperatures, pay attention to additional insulation
Tip: The better the hydrangeas are protected, the less time they get, the faster and more magnificent the inflorescence will be the following year. So the extra effort is worth it.

Light requirements in the cold season

Hydrangeas get by with relatively little light during the cold months. But only as long as they are outdoors or exposed to temperatures up to a maximum of 5°C.

However, they should not be left completely in the dark in winter. So they don’t like spending the winter in completely lightless basement corners. Bright, cool places near the window are ideal.

Tip: Unlimited space is only available to the few. If numerous plants have to spend the winter indoors, bright locations are all the more scarce. An alternative to this is lighting with special plant lamps. In conjunction with a timer, these can turn even the darkest basement into the ideal winter quarters. Dim lighting for two to five hours a day is perfectly adequate for hydrangeas.

Overwintering hydrangea in the garden

Overwintering hydrangeas in the garden is basically possible without any problems. Provided the plant has had enough time to develop roots and grows with some protection. Nevertheless, additional insulation against the effects of the weather is recommended. With several layers of brushwood or garden fleece and fir branches inserted to support it, even hard winters are better tolerated. The hydrangea loses less vigor and will sprout faster and more densely in spring.

The plant in the bucket

Hydrangeas, which are kept in tubs all year round and also overwinter in them, usually show a larger bloom. If they are adequately protected against wind and cold. Placing the tubs in warmer corners and covering them with fleece protects the plants. Also protect the plants from below against penetrating frost.

Tip: Only leave tubs outside with a diameter of more than 40 cm. Smaller soil balls freeze through too quickly. Here the roots could be irrevocably damaged.

Can the hydrangea overwinter in the heated room?
Hydrangea species, which are basically designed for an evenly warm location, can of course remain in the room all year round. They do not need any special precautions in winter to stay healthy.

The situation is different with hydrangea breeds for gardens and tubs. These should be granted a cool hibernation. If they end up in heated rooms instead, diseases and increased susceptibility to pests are often the consequences.
Protection against diseases and pests in winter


Hydrangeas that are too warm, too dark and too humid during the hibernation often suffer from mold, mildew and spider mites. The roots rot, the plant loses its leaves and withers.

The best prevention for this is optimal winter quarters, correct watering and regular checks. The hydrangea should be bright, cool and dry and only watered when necessary.

Tips: A weekly visual and odor check helps to identify pests and diseases at an early stage.
Watch out for exceptions. Some outdoor cultivars tolerate higher temperatures even in winter. Always pay attention to the care instructions.

Move outside in spring

When the days get longer and warmer again, the hydrangeas that have hibernated indoors can also be slowly prepared for the time outdoors.

Gradually increasing the amount and frequency of watering, together with increasing the lighting time, will gradually strengthen the hydrangea and ensure healthy growth.

Potted plants that were completely frost-free in winter should not be put outside too quickly in spring either. A sudden cold snap could wipe out all winter care.

Beware of late frost
Whether the hydrangea was allowed to hibernate indoors or was protected outdoors – spring is often more dangerous for these plants than winter. Because once the hydrangea have started to develop young shoots in mild phases, they are much more sensitive to low temperatures. The protection should therefore not be removed before the end of the ground frost.
If late frost is still to be expected or if the thermometer drops below 0°C at night, the plants should only be left outside unprotected when the temperatures are sufficiently high. It is ideal if they are exposed to the sun’s rays during the day, but fleece or brushwood are closed again in the late afternoon. Potted plants should also continue to be protected from frost, especially from below. When winter sets in again, they should even be brought back inside to their sheltered quarters.

spring care

In contrast to winter, spring is a very high-maintenance time for hydrangeas. The generally undemanding hydrangeas don’t expect too much at this time of year either.

  • Apply organic fertilizer around the plant, if possible before the first shoots appear – it is not necessary to bury the fertilizer
  • Remove dead, dried out parts of the plant
  • If necessary, about every three to four years, prune the plant radically
  • Repot container plants about every two years or when the roots fill the container
Tip: Carry out all care measures as early as possible so that the hydrangea still has enough time for new shoots and flowers between winter and summer.

The hydrangea makes few demands on its care despite the strikingly large flowers. This also applies to winter. However, hydrangeas should not hibernate completely unprepared. At least not if they are to sprout vigorously again in the following year. The necessary measures are so easy and quick to implement that even garden novices can easily carry them out.

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