I have noticed hydrangeas starting to bloom, just in time for Mother’s Day. They are a great gift for moms and are good in the landscape also.

Families have special events that they get together for annually. At our house those events spill over into the back patio and lawn when the weather is good. One way to make those events more enjoyable is to plant flowering plants that will be in bloom for those annual special occasions.

Hydrangeas like to grow in a partial sunny location or one that provides filtered sun. I would look for an eastern exposure that gets morning sun but avoid direct afternoon sun exposures.

An old southern plant, hydrangeas provide coarse texture leaves and large mop head blooms. The older varieties bloom once in the early summer, starting in May, but some of the new varieties will bloom in the fall. One example would be Penny Mac which was a 2012 Louisiana Super Plant selection.

Blooms on hydrangeas can be either pink or blue depending on soil pH. You can also change the bloom color by changing the soil pH. Soils that have a low pH are considered to be acid and will have blue flowers. If you want your blue blooms to be pink then add two to three tablespoons of lime to the soil around your plant.

Those plants that produce pink flowers are in a more alkaline soil with a higher pH. In order to change those blooms from pink to blue, you would add one-half cup of aluminum sulfate to the soil around those plants and then repeat again in 6 months.

The results are not instant but you can change the color of your blooms for next year by making the appropriate applications this summer.

If you like to use natives, then hydrangeas offer you another option. Oak-leaf hydrangeas are native to Louisiana and are commonly found in southeast Louisiana near sandy streams and in shady spots. They have coarse textured lobed leaves and white flowers in the spring. Be aware that oak leaf hydrangeas are very sensitive to heavy clay soils that are poorly drained.

All hydrangeas blooms will dry and stay on the shrubs for months. They are still attractive after they turn brown and many people will cut them and use them in dried flower arrangements.

Since the dried flowers stay on so long and the newer varieties will flower into fall, some people have trouble pruning hydrangeas. If you wait until the end of the fall and prune them back, you will cut off a lot of the flower buds for next year, and then you will not have blooms for Mother’s Day next year. If the plant size is getting too large then cut hydrangeas back right after they bloom. Only cut back about half of the growth this year and side shoots will develop for flowers next year. When fall comes and you want to cut off the dried blooms, just cut the old blooms and leave the stalks and shoots.

Daylilies give you another lower growing choice of color for this time of year. The yellow flowers are hard to beat but there are more color choices. Also notice southern magnolias are blooming now. Little Gem flowers early in life and is a smaller variety that can be planted closer to your outdoor living space. Althea is another old fashion small flowering tree that is starting to bloom now and is small enough to plant right up to your patio or home.

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Kenny Sharpe is county agent with the LSU Cooperative Extension Service in Livingston Parish. For more information on these or related topics contact Kenny at 225-686-3020 or visit www.lsuagcenter.com/livingston.

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