Changing the Color of Hydrangeas

It is fairly easy to change some hydrangeas from making pink flowers to producing beautiful blue flowers. This is a guide about changing the color of hydrangeas.

October 3, 2016 Flag
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I like your article about changing hydrangeas colours. You talk about lime added to the soil to change the acidity of the soil and plant colour. Could you use a large amount of crushed egg shells instead of commercial lime to produce the same affect on the soil? Thank you for your help.

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March 22, 2016 Flag
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Is it true you can add cold coffee to a hydrangea bush to keep it blue? How much do I use?

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March 24, 20160 found this helpful

It should work. The color of the flower depends on the acidity of the soil.

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September 16, 20161 found this helpful

does coffee grounds turn hydrangea blue?

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April 6, 2006 Flag
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One of the most interesting aspects of growing Bigleaf hydrangeas is the ability to change their color. It isn't easy and it doesn't happen overnight, but if the beautiful pink or blue hydrangea you brought home from the nursery has started to look a little muddy and pale, you can restore its color (or change it) by adjusting the pH of your soil.


A Brief Lesson in Chemistry

The pH scale runs from 1.0 (strongly acid) to 14.0 (strongly alkaline), 7 being neutral. In general, plants grow best in soil with a pH of 6.5-6.8. This range makes for happy worms and microorganisms and generally supports an abundance of readily available soil nutrients. Bigleaf hydrangeas, however, prefer moderately acidic soil with a pH range of 5.0 to 6.4. A soil pH toward the acidic end of the scale (5.0) will change the color of their flowers to blue. On the other hand, a soil pH toward the neutral end of the scale (6.5) will change their flowers to pink. Tip: It takes about 5 pounds of lime per 100 square feet to raise soil pH by 1 point and 2 to 3 pounds of sulfur per 100 square feet to lower soil pH 1 point.

Start With a Soil Test

To get a baseline measurement of the pH in your soil, you're going to need a soil test. Inexpensive test kits are available at garden centers, although you'll get more accurate results if you send a sample to a soil testing lab (ask your county extension office). If you decide to send your sample out for testing, be sure to request organic recommendations for adjusting your pH and ask for an explanation of what each amendment will do. These tests and recommendations can be important because different types of soil (e.g. sandy or clay) will change pH at different rates. If you change the pH too abruptly, plants and soil organisms won't have time to adjust.

If you're just trying to intensify a color you already have, a soil test may not be necessary. You simply need to make your soil more neutral to darken your pinks or more acidic to intensify your blues. The best time to amend your soil is in the fall after the plants go dormant.

You Can't Change the Whites

Mother nature intended for white hydrangeas to stay white and no amount of soil amendments can change that. If your hydrangeas are white, enjoy them. They are going to stay that way. Sometimes as white plants age the flowers take on a pinkish tint, but that is about as colorful as white hydrangeas will ever get. The blue and pink Bigleaf hydrangeas like Mophead hydrangeas ( Hydrangea macrophylla) and Lacecap hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla normalis) are what you need to grow if you want to change colors.

Changing the Pinks to Blues

For a hydrangea to go from pink to blue, aluminum needs to be present in the soil. In one respect, this sounds easy, because you're adding something to the soil instead of taking something away. Most experts recommend applying it in liquid form by dissolving _ oz (1 Tbsp) of aluminum sulfate in a gallon of water. Plants should be watered well with regular water before applying this solution to avoid possible root burn.

Hydrangeas take up aluminum best in acidic soil, so before you apply aluminum sulfate the pH of your soil should needs to be in the 5.2 to 5.5 range. The aluminum sulfate will then work to lower the soil's pH even further. Organic amendments used to lower soil pH include coffee grounds, fruit peels, lawn clippings, peat moss and pine needles. Fertilizers can change soil pH, too. Bone meal, as well as fertilizers high in phosphorus, should be avoided. Instead, use a fertilizer high in potassium.

Changing the Blues to Pinks

If you're starting with blue hydrangeas, your soil naturally contains aluminum and your soil is already more acidic. To change your hydrangeas to pink, you'll need to keep aluminum from becoming available to the plant. One way to do this is to raise the soil's pH by adding dolomitic lime or wood ash several times a year to edge up the scale toward 6.0-6.3. The higher pH will make it more difficult for the hydrangeas to take up any aluminum that is present. Fertilizers high in phosphorus will also help prevent hydrangeas from taking up aluminum.

Genetic Limitations

You may be able to change the color of your hydrangeas, but a pale blue will never turn into a deep red. Intensity is somewhat predetermined by genetics, so if you want to change your pink color to a blue color, expect it to be as pale or intense as the original color.

The Container Advantage

One of the advantages to growing in containers is that you have complete control over the chemistry of the soil because it's contained. If you have naturally alkaline soil and want to grow blue hydrangeas, you can lower the pH of the soil in a container without negatively affecting nearby plants that prefer more alkaline soil. If you live in an area where blue hydrangeas grow naturally, you may want to consider growing pink hydrangeas in containers in order to easily control the amount of aluminum in the soil.

Other Considerations

Weather can also play a role in color intensity, as can plant stress or environmental variables like nearby concrete walls or paths leeching lime. Don't try to change the pH of your soil dramatically over one season. Doing it over the course of several seasons will give beneficial soil organisms time to adapt and you'll get to experience the many shades of color in between your starting point and end results!

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April 9, 20060 found this helpful

You can also change the color of a hydrangea buy simply putting rusty nails next to the roots :~)

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June 15, 2006 Flag
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How can I turn my hydrangea blue? I am hoping it is something that I would have on hand.

Hardiness Zone: 4b

Helenw from Ontario Canada


Hi Helen,

If you're growing Hydrangea Marcrophylla (French hydrangea) you can turn it from pink to blue by lowering the pH level of your soil. The color is determined by the amount of aluminum available to the plant. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of aluminum sulfate to a gallon of water. Apply it 2 times, 2 weeks apart, for 4 to 6 months prior to blooming. You can also add coffee grounds, eggshells or ground-up citrus peel to the soil. You're shooting for a pH of 5-6.

On a similar note, blue hydrangeas can be changed to pink by adding 3-8 cups (depending on the size of the plant) of dolomic lime around the base of the hydrangea. Do this 2 or 3 times between the blooming seasons. As an alternative, you can also try a bit of superphosphate around the base of the plant. Shoot for a pH of 6.8-7.2.

The color change doesn't happen overnight so be patient. It can take as long as a year or two to see the results. The white varieties of hydrangeas (such as PeeGee, Silver Leaf, Hills of Snow, etc.) cannot be changed. They remain while regardless of tampering with the pH of the soil.

Good Luck!

May 12, 20060 found this helpful

The blue comes from acid soil. I have heard that just putting your used coffee grounds under the bush every day will do the trick. It is very good for the soil, anyway.

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May 13, 20060 found this helpful

I have also heard that burying pennies around the roots will help. (Obviously the copper.)

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May 17, 20060 found this helpful

Hydrnageas are one of the few plants that store aluminum. To turn pink/purple hydrangeas blue, add a small amount of aluminum to the soil. White hydrangeas cannot change colour.

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June 12, 20070 found this helpful

May 22, 2013 Flag
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My dad puts dill pickle juice on his hydrangea roots to make them turn purple and pink instead of just white. They are very pretty.

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August 15, 2012 Flag
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How do I turn a pink or white hydrangea blue?

By Joy

August 20, 20120 found this helpful

The website galmud listed is excellent. Just a further note, there are some bred now that will not change colors, no matter what you do.

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August 20, 20120 found this helpful

I tried it one year, clay dirt on one side of plant, ashes on the other side. I can't remember which does which, but that year I had pink & blue on one bush I took pictures to prove it. But that's been so long ago I lost pics & the bush is gone now.

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August 20, 20122 found this helpful

Only your pink hydrangea can turn blue. A white hydrangea or a red hydrangea will never turn blue as only the pink hydrangea contains the delphinidine pigment which can combined with aluminum; aluminum being the secret of the blue colour.

The blue hydrangeas keep their colour if they are planted in an acid soil (pH should be between 5 and 6) and provided with aluminum sulphate. Preferably, they should be planted in full shade (facing the North as Hydrangea do not like the heat)

If your soil is not acid, dig a hole 40 cm wide and 40 cm deep. Fill it with 2/3 of peat soil and 1/3 of potting soil. Add near the roots; a handful of rusty nails and plenty of pieces of crushed slates.

Each year in the spring you can spread at the foot of the hortensia 1 tablespoon of the following products : "France blue" or "Alun Salt" or "Aluminum Sulphate."

The hydrangea will turn blue after it's given time to settle in its new place, which means a year. To keep the soil acid you can put regularly at the foot of the Hortensia: coffee ground, oak leaves, pine needles and most of all pieces of crashed slate.

You should avoid fertilizers containing nitrogen, as nitrogen prevents the uptake of aluminum. Gravels around the foot of the hydrangea (as on the picture) should be removed as they provide the soil with calcium and calcium neutralizes active acidity in the soil.

Good luck!

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August 23, 20120 found this helpful

May 20, 2007 Flag
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There is a purple hydrangea bush in our neighborhood. How was that effect achieved?

Hardiness Zone: 8a

Nana from Hattiesburg, MS

May 22, 20070 found this helpful

You can change the colors of most of the hydrangeas by changing the PH level of the soil surrounding the plant. You can also look this up on this site. I was reading up on it just this week. Good luck!

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May 22, 20071 found this helpful

When we had finished building our home 20 yrs ago i planted a Hydrangea Plant and it came up all diffrent colors its a solid pink on one side and a solid blue on the other side and a two toned pink and blue and some purple in the middle and this is all on one bush i trim it down every yr and it comes up just the same i just take care of it and enjoy it and the Beautiful Blooms

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May 25, 20070 found this helpful

Hydrangeas change color due to the acidic content of the soil. Depending on the soil you may get blue, pink or purple ones. I'm gussing that is why nails in the soil change the color of the flowers. You might ask your neighbor if she adds anything to the soil or if she just has soil that grows the flowers that color.

You may want to add ph to your soil if you want your hydrangas to turn purple.

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May 30, 20070 found this helpful

May 5, 2011 Flag
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I had some hydrangeas that were blue, and now they are pink. What can I do to make them blue again? My grandmother used to dump her coffee grounds on them, but I'm not sure that's what kept them blue.

By Mara from Seattle, WA

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May 6, 20110 found this helpful

Acid content of soil is deciding factor in making Hydrangea blue or pink. Just forget whether it's high or low acid content.

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Anonymous Flag
May 14, 20160 found this helpful

Yes! I dumped my used coffee grounds (along w/ the biodegradable filter) around the base of my hydrangea bush all winter and when they bloomed in spring/summer, they were almost a cobalt blue! Just amazing.

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May 14, 20160 found this helpful

Yes, it's the acid in the coffee grounds. I dumped my used coffee grounds (along w/ the biodegradable paper filter) around the base of my hydrangea bush during the winter months, and by spring the blooms were a brilliant almost cobalt blue. Amazing!

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May 6, 2009 Flag
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How do you get blue hydrangeas?

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