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Protecting Hydrangeas from Winter Weather

November 22nd, 2009

Hydrangeas are beautiful shrubs, I’d have to say my favorite flowering bush. I have 12 hydrangeas in my gardens, 11 different kinds. I don’t know if I can pick a favorite, I really love them all.
I have a few that have never bloomed because they’re the kind of hydrangea that only blooms on old wood. They aren’t hardy to this zone and the buds freeze out on the stems each year. I also have some hydrangeas that bloom on both old and new wood, these varieties are nice for our zone because if the buds freeze out you still get some blooms.
This was my hydrangea ‘Endless Summer’ in 2008, it’s 2nd year in the garden. This past winter was tough on the hydrangeas, we had some very cold weather. Because of all the snow on the ground, the local deer decided hydrangea buds made for delicious winter eating. My ‘Endless Summer’ hydrangeas didn’t bloom all summer long because the deer ate all the early summer blooms. They bloomed this fall, but they weren’t nearly as pretty as last summer.
I have “Nikko Blue’ hydrangea that has only bloomed 3 years of the 8 we’ve lived here. This one needs crated to bloom because it only blooms on old wood. I have a few other varieties like this, a variegated hydrangea, another red one (can’t remember the name) and one that gets wintered over in the garage in a big pot.
This year I finally decided to protect a few of my hydrangeas from the harsh NE Ohio winters and the nibble deer. My efforts should be rewarded with beautiful blooms all summer long!
There are several different methods for protecting hydrangeas. I’m going to use 2 of them. The first method will be used on my large mature hydrangeas. I’m wrapping them with burlap and stuffing the burlap with leaves. This should insulate the stems from the cold and keep the deer out.
I used red yarn to tie off the burlap because it’s easy to see. Next spring it will make it easy to unwrap the hydrangeas, I’ll be able to spot the ties easily. It also makes for easy spotting of your needle in case you drop it.
I put stakes around the shrub, 3 spaced in a triangular shape. I used 3 instead of 4 because I only have 6 nice wooden stakes and I have 2 very large hydrangeas that require heavy stakes. I’ll use smaller bamboo stakes around the smaller bushes.
I wrapped burlap around the stakes (it’s 4 ft tall) and filled the area inside with leaves. I finished wrapping one and I still have another large one to wrap. I’ll fill you in on the second method I’ll be using next week when I have some photos to show.
It’s not the prettiest thing, but I think in the snow it will look nice. I think it’s worth looking at burlap all winter to see beautiful hydrangeas all summer long. One hydrangea down, 11 more to go.

Do go to any great lengths to protect any specific plants in your garden?

17 Comments to “Protecting Hydrangeas from Winter Weather”
  1. Chris Tidrick on November 22, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Interesting post. We don’t have deer problems here (central IL), but some hydrangea can be a little touchy if we get really cold. I’m currently growing Annabelle and an oakleaf. Other friends in town have Endless Summer and it was amazing this year. Good luck with the new strategy!
    .-= Chris Tidrick´s last blog ..All Bark, No Bite =-.

    Reply to Chris Tidrick's comment

    • Susy on November 22, 2009 at 10:38 am

      Annabelle and Oakleaf are the two best for cold weather areas! Annabelle seems to bloom prolifically no matter what conditions you throw at it and oakleaf seems to be very very hardy as well.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  2. Susan on November 22, 2009 at 10:33 am

    What an interesting post with lovely photos. Shrubs so pretty should not be so finicky!

    I love Hydrangea also but am quite unlucky with them. My Endless Summer never bloomed this year at all. I never looked to see if buds were eaten by dear, which may have been the problem.

    Your winter protection info and images are great.

    Reply to Susan's comment

  3. melanie watts on November 22, 2009 at 10:37 am

    Wow, amazing that you go to such lengths to protect them. What zone is Ohio in? how cold does it get? what kind of soil do you have? how much snow to you get? how windy is it ? Sorry for all the questions.
    I hope the deer don’t get them now.
    .-= melanie watts´s last blog ..Gentiana glauca Alpine Flower =-.

    Reply to melanie watts's comment

    • Susy on November 22, 2009 at 10:45 am

      Here in NE Ohio we are in zone 5 (which means it can get down to -20). Here in my area of Ohio we have very sandy acidic soil with not much organic matter (which is hard on hydrangeas since they like their soil a little on the moist side).

      We get snow, sometimes not much at all sometimes over a foot. Snow is actually good for plants because it acts as an insulator protecting them from the cold. So it would be better to get snow than just have a cold winter without snow.

      We live on top of a big hill so we get a lot of wind here at Chiot’s Run. That’s one of the reasons I think my hydrangeas suffer.

      We also have a huge deer population in our area of Ohio. Our property is bordered by land owned by our property owner’s association so there’s no hunting. This makes the deer quite a problem since there are so many of them there’s not enough food for them all. They eat anything edible in my garden, it makes it tough to have fruit trees and edible shrubs.

      We currently have 4 deer that are bedding down about 40 ft behind our house in a thicket. They’ve hit the jackpot, tasty shrubs, garden plants, who wouldn’t want to eat from the gardens of Chiot’s Run:)

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • nancy edden on July 13, 2010 at 8:51 pm

        Our property backs up to Green Acres – (no hunting zone) which makes a wonderful home for the deer. We have been spraying every night with a mixture of egg, garlic, hot pepper and water. Bingo – so far it has worked. We have beautiful flowers and shrubs.

        to nancy edden's comment

  4. Mangochild on November 22, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    One of the things I most like about your blog is how you give insights into both food-based gardening and your shrubs/flowers, etc. I always learn something new about flowers – so many kinds of hydrangeas.
    .-= Mangochild´s last blog ..Spotlight: 2009-2010 Dark Days Week One =-.

    Reply to Mangochild's comment

  5. Craig Seip on November 11, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    Thanks for the great post about wrapping hydrangeas. I’d read about this before, but it was your blog and great photos that got me up and going! Just wrapped mine today, will wait until the cold really sets in to fill them up with the leaves I’ve been saving all autumn long. Here in Chicago we’ve had such a warm autumn, so still waiting around for the cold and gray to set in. Thanks again!

    Reply to Craig Seip's comment

    • Susy on November 11, 2010 at 9:24 pm

      Yes, I often wrap them and then wait for all the leaves to fall off then fill with leaves.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  6. Friday Favorite: Spring Cleanup | Chiot's Run on March 18, 2011 at 4:46 am

    […] the sky. It sure was nice to feel the sun on my back as I cleared the leaves out of the flowerbeds, unwrapped the hydrangeas and weeded the raised beds. I especially love peeling back the leaves that mulched the beds […]

    Reply to Friday Favorite: Spring Cleanup | Chiot’s Run's comment

  7. Liz on March 10, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    How did this work for you? This is my second winter with the Endless Summer hydrangea here in cold Central NH. We’ve protected our plant in exactly this manner for both of the winters we’ve had it. We have lots of deer, but the “deer issue” never occurred to me… I was instead concerned about insulating the plant. Last spring when I uncovered it, it had died back to almost nothing, but it was clearly still alive because it had developed new leaf buds (beginning to unfurl) even while it was covered in the dead leaves. And, it all grew back quickly and bloomed profusely. I considered not covering it this (second) winter, because I THOUGHT that we have reliable snow cover, and the snow itself will insulate it. But this is a freakish almost snow-free winter in zone 4b! So, good thing we covered it again! This time some of the tallest stems remained uncovered, and they appear to be in good shape (even have buds) so I am confident that this year it will come back even more quickly, and maybe end up bigger this year (which will be its third summer, or second full spring/summer season.)

    Reply to Liz's comment

    • Susy on March 11, 2012 at 7:04 am

      I don’t always insulate my endless summer, they’ll bloom regardless. The deer are also an issue here and the burlap protects them. You can also drape some pine boughs over it for protection as well, I tried that with one hydrangea that isn’t winter hardy here in my zone and it seems to have works well. You don’t even have to fill them with leaves, the burlap itself will protect the stems from some of the dry cold winter wind which is what is really tough on plants.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  8. Patty on February 19, 2013 at 1:05 am

    Hi I am planing on getting some pretty pink ones(The Endless Summer) My mother told me how my Grandmother would place nails in the whole before she planted hers to turn the color. But I forget which ones. ^.^ Yours are so pretty. Wish I could already get some. No money yet to buy anything. :( Thanks for the advice and pictures.

    Reply to Patty's comment

  9. Margaret on October 11, 2014 at 11:34 am

    Came home from vacation and the deer ate all the leaves off my hydrangea and it isn’t ever winter. Can you help me as to how to take care of it so it will bloom next year?

    Reply to Margaret's comment

  10. Hazel on March 12, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    When should I take the burlap off my Hydrangea

    Reply to Hazel's comment

  11. chris on March 25, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    When should we unwrap hydrangeas? Detroit area. Weather usually goes below freezing at night. Still waiting for that spring weather!!

    Reply to chris's comment

    • Susy on April 1, 2015 at 2:55 pm

      Anytime after the snow melts is a decent time.

      Reply to Susy's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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