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Changing the Color of Hydrangeas

Category Flowers
Photo of a purple Hydrangea.
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.
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By 2 found this helpful
April 6, 2006

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.

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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.

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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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Comment Was this helpful? 2
By guest (Guest Post)
April 9, 20061 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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By 3 found this helpful
May 22, 2013

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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By 0 found this helpful
June 15, 2006

Question:

How can I turn my hydrangea blue? I am hoping it is something that I would have on hand.

Hardiness Zone: 4b

Thanks,
Helenw from Ontario Canada

Answer:

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.

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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!
Ellen

Comment Was this helpful? Yes
May 12, 20060 found this helpful

The color is determined by the "Ph" of the soil. your extension agent will test for you free. In my case(and with-out test) I had pale blue and added diluted lemmon juice got deep blue as result.Good luck.

jerryno1 Yorktown Va.

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By guest (Guest Post)
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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By guest (Guest Post)
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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By guest (Guest Post)
June 12, 20070 found this helpful

What happened?

Thanks,

Patsy

Ennis, Tx

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Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

By 1 found this helpful
October 3, 2016

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.

Answer Was this helpful? 1
February 6, 20170 found this helpful

What I was reading is that changing the acidity levels of the soil, as well as manipulating the plant's access to aluminum can change the colours of the hydrangeas. If eggshell can change or repel/attract aluminum, it would work.

"Generally, an acidic or low pH will induce 'blueness'; whereas, a higher or alkaline pH will induce 'pinkness or redness'. Work in England seems to indicate that higher aluminum content influences blueness more than pH levels."

http://www.hydr  colorchange.html

eggshells are considered alkaline and here's an actual study saying whether they could be useful for liming: http://www.agro  ggshell-lime.pdf

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February 6, 20170 found this helpful

Frog HGTV com:

Generally speaking, acidic soil, with a pH lower than 6.0, yields blue or lavender-blue hydrangea blooms. Alkaline soil, with a pH above 7.0, promotes pinks and reds. With a pH between 6 and 7, the blooms turn purple or bluish-pink. To lower your pH, add garden sulfur or aluminum sulfate to your soil.

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By 0 found this helpful
May 20, 2007

There is a purple hydrangea bush in our neighborhood. How was that effect achieved?

Hardiness Zone: 8a

Nana from Hattiesburg, MS

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
By guest (Guest Post)
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

Reply Was this helpful? 1
By guest (Guest Post)
May 20, 20070 found this helpful

My grandfather use to put rusty nails in the ground around his hydrangeas. I am guessing the iron is what changed the colors. He had pinks, whites, blues and purples. It was one of my treats to get to help him do that.

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May 20, 20070 found this helpful

I have a blue purple hydrangea in our backyard, it's just the variety. But I do know you can tweak the colors by adding things to the soil. I would google it on-line.

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May 22, 20070 found this helpful

It's usually due to genetics. Why not just ask the owner? A little flattery will go a long way.

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By guest (Guest Post)
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!

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
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

maybe one of these links will help

http://www.hydr  mages/purple.jpg

http://forums.g  62142249169.html

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August 15, 20120 found this helpful

How do I turn a pink or white hydrangea blue?

By Joy

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
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!

Reply Was this helpful? 2
August 19, 20121 found this helpful

Changing the PH of the soil. If you put fertilizer with more iron the color will get blue or purple, mean if you reduce the iron this will be pink.

I add coins, nails to the soil and the color of my flowers are really bright and beautiful.

Reply Was this helpful? 1
August 18, 20120 found this helpful

Check out this website. http://www.hydr  colorchange.html

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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 23, 20120 found this helpful

An easy and no cost way to get highly acidic soil is to simply save your coffee grounds. You don't have to do fancy stuff like mixing the grounds into the soil; just dump them on top in early to mid spring.

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By 0 found this helpful
May 5, 2011

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

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
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
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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By 0 found this helpful
May 6, 2009

How do you get blue hydrangeas?

Hardiness Zone: 8a

By tf1 from GA

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
May 6, 20090 found this helpful

My grandmother always said to put a rusty nail in the ground next to your plant, that will change the color.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
May 14, 20090 found this helpful

Rusty nail is for iron deficiencies. I think you add aluminum sulfate to the soil to get the blue color.

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July 20, 20110 found this helpful

Hydrangea blue or purple blooms come from highly acidic soil. You don't need to buy some chemical additive; you can get acidic soil by dumping your used coffee grounds on top of the soil.

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By 0 found this helpful
April 18, 2007

How do hydrangeas get their color?

Hardiness Zone: 8a

Martha from Cherryville, NC

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
By guest (Guest Post)
April 20, 20070 found this helpful

Check here

Cooperative Extension

Address: 115 W Main St, Lincolnton, NC 28092

Phone: (704) 736-8452

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By guest (Guest Post)
April 20, 20070 found this helpful

Contact your local county extension office for details, but I was told that it has to do with the level of ph in your soil. I bought one years ago because it was white and after transplanting it became a light blue.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
April 20, 20070 found this helpful

I think I read somewhere that they get their color based on how acidic the soil is. If the soil is more acidic, the flowers are more pink in color. If it's more basic they are more purple in color. I think I read about it in Better Homes & Gardens. They have an excellent website where you may be able to find further info. Good luck!

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By 0 found this helpful
March 22, 2016

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, 20161 found this helpful

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

Reply Was this helpful? 1
September 16, 20161 found this helpful

does coffee grounds turn hydrangea blue?

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By 0 found this helpful
February 22, 2013

Ii brought a red hydrangea on my holiday in Daylsford. I brought it home and sat it on my bench in its original pot and watered it the very next day. It turned purple why?

By Jess D.

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
February 25, 20130 found this helpful

Hello!

The change of shade is natural but traveling is not something plants really enjoy so maybe it aged the flower a bit quicker than usual. Anyway with maturity the red flowers of hydrangea fade to shades of purple. They always do.

All you have to do now is wait for a new flower and check how long its red shade will last. This changing of shade is what makes hydrangeas so interesting if you cut them and make dry bouquets.

Hope this help!

Catherine

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By 0 found this helpful
June 11, 2012

I have a hydrangea I got from my daughter last year for Mother's Day. It's taking root, but I need to know how to add the ash and in what quantity, and where to place it. Dry on earth? Dilute in water in root area? Teaspoons or tablespoon? Thanks ahead of time.

By Sharon

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
June 11, 20120 found this helpful

Why are you adding ash? Are you trying to change the color of the bloom? The color of the bloom is determined by the ph of the soil, and you would have to first test the ph, then determine what color you wanted the bloom to be to know how much ash to add...BUT, add to much and you will kill your plant.

http://www.gard  efault%2Cpg.html

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August 11, 20130 found this helpful

I started out with pink and blue hydrangeas in pots and they have now turned green. What can I do to get them colorful again?

By Rose

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May 6, 20090 found this helpful

By Charlotte Harris

Do you have a blue mophead hydrangea that you would like to be pink? Or, do you have a pink hydrangea that you want to turn blue?

Hydrangea Macrophylla, also known as French Hydrangea, or Mopheads because of their large clusters of flowers, are beautiful and easy to grow, and you can "play with" their colors.

You can change the color of their blossoms by changing the acidity of the soil in which they are growing. The color is actually determined by the availability of the aluminum in the soil to the plant. If the pH is low (pH 5-6, acidic) the blooms will be blue. If the pH is high (pH 6.8-7.2, alkaline) the blooms will be pink. If your hydrangea has both pink and blue flowers at the same time, the soil is at, or near neutral.

So how do you change the pH of the soil?

For pink blooms:

For blue blooms:

Be patient. It sometimes takes a year or two to see the results, and you will need to continue the treatment, or the plant will revert back to the color it was.

Have fun with your hydrangeas. The white varieties, such as Peegee, Silver Leaf, and Hills of Snow, DON'T respond to the pH change, they stay white.

About The Author: Charlotte Harris is the author of "Charlotte's Garden", a Monthly Gardening website. For more information about growing Hydrangeas and other flowers visit her site at http://www.charlotteswebb.biz

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