The Covington News - - Front page -

ydrangeas can be found in white, pink, pur­ple and blue — and shades in be­tween. But where do those col­ors come from? Un­der­ground, in the soil. Depend­ing on its pH, the soil will tell you if your flow­ers will be blue, pink, pur­ple or other vari­a­tions. And there are ways to change the color of your hy­drangea if you are hop­ing for a deep pink or bright blue.

“It’s not hard; the prob­lem is you have to do it early in the sea­son,” Lisa Bartlett of the Amer­i­can Hy­drangea So­ci­ety, which is based in At­lanta. The or­ga­ni­za­tion has about 350 mem­bers.

“You do it when the buds are su­per tight and when they are form­ing,” she said. “To make them blue it’s alu­minum sul­fate, and to make them pink it’s lime.”

Alu­minum sul­fate comes in pow­dered and liq­uid forms, al­though Bart­less said it’s the liq­uid form that’s eas­ier for the plant to pick up.

Blue hy­drangeas come from soil with a low pH, rang­ing from about 4.5 to 5.5. Pur­ple grows in about 5.5 to 6.5, and pink can be found in a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. So, blue hy­drangeas grow in a highly acid soil and pink hy­drangeas are pro­duced in a neu­tral or slightly acid soil.

“I just think it’s one of those very com­fort­able plants that re­mind us of be­ing with our grand­par­ents, be­ing with our moth­ers,” she said. “It’s the first plant peo­ple see in a land­scape, I think. It’s a nice, sweet plant.”

“If you want a pur­ple hy­drangea there are cul­ti­vars that are re­li­ably pur­ple,” Bartlett said. “Mer­rit supreme, is prob­a­bly one of my top five fa­vorite hy­drangeas. It is dark and in­tensely pur­ple, has ex­cel­lent dark green fo­liage, re­ally a beau­ti­ful, strong plant.

To get this blue color, alu­minum must be avail­able to the hy­drangea. The pH of the soil needs to be low and typ­i­cally adding alu­minum sul­fate will lower the pH of the soil. An­other way to lower the pH is to add or­ganic mat­ter like cof­fee grounds, fruit and veg­etable peels and grass clip­pings, ac­cord­ing to www.hy­drangeashy­drangeas.com.

Adding lime sev­eral times will help pro­duce a pink hy­drangea. Ac­cord­ing to www.flow­er­sand­bulbs.com, a pH of about 6.0 to 6.2 will pro­duce a nice pink, but if you go above 6.4 your plant may have an iron de­fi­ciency.

The beau­ti­ful white hy­drangeas’ color can­not be changed.

“They are just white hy­drangeas,” Bartlett said. “This is go­ing to be one of the best sea­sons for hy­drangea,” Bartlett said. “It was a nice steady cold this win­ter, one of the best sea­sons I’ve ever seen.”

For more in­for­ma­tion about hy­drangea col­ors, visit www.amer­i­can­hy­drangeaso­ci­ety.org.

Ashley Bates and Scott Rogers are staff mem­bers of The Gainesville Times, a sis­ter paper of The Cov­ing­ton News that is pub­lished daily. They may be reached at abates@gainesvil­letimes.com or srogers@gainesville-

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