Category Archives: Home and Garden

Tips Growing Blueberries that Outshine Store

Growing blueberries takes planning, but it pays off with yummy, good-for-you fruits. Learn how to grow juicy, delicious berries no matter where you live.

Choose the Right Blueberry Bush

Some people call them blueberry trees, but blueberry plants grow as bushes. Variations of wild North American natives can grow in a wide variety of climates and conditions.

When you grow blueberries, begin by choosing the right plant. Consider its chill hours, the number of hours it takes for plants to stay in cold dormancy below 45 degrees F; how cold/heat tolerant it is; how you want to use the berries (fresh, baking, landscaping, etc.); and how many days it takes to set and mature fruit.

Although most people grow blueberries for the fruits, the bushes are terrific landscape plants with outstanding red fall leaf color.

Here are the four basic types of blueberry shrubs, with many choices within each type.

Highbush Blueberries
Vaccinium corymbosum plants grow 4 to 12 feet tall and wide, depending on the type. Many cultivated varieties accent specific traits, such as how many days the fruits need to mature, size of the fruits, and size of the mature bush. They’re generally less cold-hardy than lowbush blueberries but are more heat-tolerant.

Northern highbush blueberry plants grow best in colder climates and need 800 to 1,000 chill hours. There are more than 100 named varieties, including ‘Aurora’, ‘Bluecrop’, ‘Bluetta’, ‘Bluegold’, ‘Bluejay’, ‘Blueray’, ‘Chandler’, ‘Darrow’, ‘Draper’, ‘Duke’, ‘Elliott’, ‘Earliblue’, ‘Hardyblue’, ‘Jersey’, ‘Legacy’, ‘Liberty’, ‘Northland’, ‘Patriot’, ‘Reka’, ‘Rubel’, ‘Spartan’, and ‘Toro’.

Southern highbush blueberry plants include breeding from a blueberry species native to the southeast United States. They need 150 to 800 chill hours to set fruits. Named varieties include ‘Emerald’, ‘Jewel’, ‘Jubilee’, ‘Misty’, ‘Southmoon’, ‘Oneal’, ‘Sharpblue’, ‘Star’, and ‘Sunshine Blue’.

Lowbush Blueberries
Vaccinium angustifolium species are native in the northeastern United States. As their name implies, they’re a short groundcover plant that grows from underground rhizomes. They reach 6 inches to 2 feet tall and need 1,000 to 1,200 chill hours. Their petite size makes them a good choice for containers. Named varieties include ‘Brunswick’, ‘Burgundy’, ‘Ruby Carpet’, and ‘Top Hat’.

Half-High Blueberries
Vaccinium corymbosum x V. angustifolium plants are exactly what they sound like: a cross of highbush and lowbush blueberries. They’re also called high-low blueberries. Half-high blueberries are extremely cold-hardy and grow about 4 feet tall. They need 1,000 to 1,200 chill hours. Named varieties include ‘Bluegold’, ‘Chippewa’, ‘Northblue’, ‘Northcountry’, ‘Northsky’, and ‘Polaris’.

Rabbiteye Blueberries
Vaccinium ashei plants are popular selections for Southern gardens as they need few chill hours. They get their name because the early fruits are whitish-pink, like the color of a rabbit’s eye. They’re the largest and most vigorous of blueberry types, growing 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide or larger. Rabbiteye blueberries are more heat- and drought-tolerant than other types and adapt to more soil pH ranges. Named varieties include ‘Brightwell’, ‘Briteblue’, ‘Climax’, ‘Delite’, ‘Garden Blue’, ‘Premier’, ‘Sharpblue’, ‘Tifblue’, and ‘Woodard’.

Japanese Blueberry Tree
Elaeocarpus decipiens is a completely different plant. This evergreen tree grows in warm climates, reaches 40 to 60 feet tall, and produces blue-black fruits that resemble olives. Despite the name, it’s not a blueberry.

How to Grow Blueberries
Growing blueberries has become popular in home gardens. They can be challenging to grow, but you’ll be successful if you meet their needs.

Soil is one of the biggest factors in growing blueberries. Blueberries require a soil that is acidic, with a pH between 4.5 and 5.0. Test your soil first so you know exactly what type of amendments are needed and in what amounts. Test again after you’ve made adjustments. Blueberries need well-drained soil rich with organic matter.

Blueberries should be grown in full sun.

Planting Blueberries
Buy two- to three-year-old blueberry plants from a reputable nursery. Some varieties are self-pollinating, but many need a different blueberry cultivar planted nearby for cross-pollination to ensure a better harvest. It’s a good idea to plant two different kinds even with self-pollinating types.

Spacing between plants varies by type. Highbush blueberries need 4 to 6 feet between plants. Lowbush types are spaced 1 to 2 feet apart. Plant half-high blueberries 3 to 4 feet apart. Rabbiteye blueberries should be spaced 6 feet apart or closer if you want them to form a hedge.

Blueberries have shallow root systems and need 1 to 3 inches of rain or water each week, enough to moisten the soil 12 to 16 inches deep throughout the growing season. It’s best to water deeply less frequently than to water often but lightly.

To conserve moisture and reduce weeds, mulch with a 4- to 6-inch-deep layer of pine needles, sawdust, composted leaves, bark, or other organic materials. If you use sawdust or bark, apply extra nitrogen fertilizer, because the mulch depletes the nitrogen in the soil.

Blueberry Fertilizer
Although you should avoid placing fertilizer in the planting hole, blueberries can benefit from fertilizers suitable for azaleas or rhododendrons. Apply in early spring according to package directions in a circle 15 to 18 inches away from the base of the plant. Or apply half in early spring and the rest four to six weeks later.

Organic gardeners can use cottonseed meal, which has low pH and high nitrogen levels, bloodmeal, or well-composted manure.

Blueberries should not be overfertilized, which can lead to excess growth, or fertilized after spring. Increase the amount of fertilizer used every year until the plant is four years old.

Pruning Blueberries
Blueberry bush care includes pruning. Hold off on pruning the first two years, and — as hard as this may seem — pick off all fruit blossoms. This allows the blueberry bush to put all of its energies into new growth instead of fruit production.

In late winter, just before spring growth begins, prune weak or dead branches. Make the cut where the branch meets a sturdy limb.

Remove any lower limbs that might touch the ground when bearing heavy fruit.

Check the center of the plant and remove vertical upshoots to allow more sunlight and air circulation to reach the center of the plant. It also encourages the growth of side limbs that are easier to reach.

Once plants are six years old, remove the oldest few stems. Avoid overpruning or your harvest will be much lighter. Mature blueberry plants should have a variety of healthy stems (also called canes) varying in age from one to six years old.

Harvesting Blueberries
Blueberries begin to produce fruit in their third year (remember, you are removing the blossoms during the first two years) and increase production every year until they’re five years old. They take eight to 10 years to mature.

Pick blueberries when they’re fully ripe on the plant; they don’t ripen after picking. Watch the ripening fruit carefully, and harvest berries one to two days after they begin to turn blue. Not all of the fruits in each cluster ripen at the same pace, so use care in moving off the ripe berries and leaving the immature ones.

Refrigerate blueberries immediately after picking to keep them at their freshest. Keep the berries dry; to prevent mold, don’t wash them until immediately before eating.

Growing Blueberries in Containers
Many of the smallest varieties of blueberries perform very well in containers, where it’s easy to control the soil pH and water.

Tips to Care for and Choose Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas can generally be broken down into two main groups: mopheads and lacecaps. Each group contains a gorgeous assortment of species and varieties. We’ll discuss some of our favorites and give you ideas about how you can use them in your garden. We’ll also show you some other great selections in the hydrangea clan, including oakleaf, paniculata, and climbing hydrangea so you can pick the best ones for you, and give you tips on how to care for hydrangeas, too.

Learn more about hydrangeas in our Plant Encyclopedia.
Video: More on Hydrangeas
Watch our video on hydrangeas to learn more about these beautiful flowering shrubs.
Mophead hydrangeas offer big dome-shape clusters of flowers in blue, pink, or white. Most mopheads bloom in late spring or early summer but make their flower buds the year before you see them. As you care for this type of hydrangea, know that it is best to prune them is in early summer, right after the flowers fade.

Most mopheads grow best in a spot with moist, well-drained soil and a bit of afternoon shade.

Order mophead hydrangeas now for your garden.
Learn more about getting your hydrangeas to bloom.
Big Daddy
One of the showiest mophead hydrangeas you can grow, Big Daddy Hydrangea macrophylla features huge (14 inch-wide) clusters of blue or pink blooms. The long-lasting flowers are great for cutting because they have strong stems. It grows 6 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-9

One note: Because the flowers are so large, the stems can flop if you grow the plant in extra-rich soil or too much shade.

Pink Shira
A relatively new mophead variety, Pink Shira Hydrangea macrophylla is a favorite for its strong stems, compact habit, and long-lasting blooms. Its flowers start out a lovely shade of lime green then turn pink or lavender (this one doesn’t go blue. It grows 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Zones 5-9

Cityline Paris
Cityline Paris Hydrangea macrophylla is another recent mophead introduction that stands out because of its upright stems and compact habit. It features bright fuchsia-pink flowers that last a long time then fade to a lovely shade of green in summer. It grows 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Zones 5-9

Cityline Berlin
A sister to Cityline Paris, Cityline Berlin Hydrangea macrophylla offers larger flowers on the same tight habit and strong stems. The flowers on this mophead aren’t as brightly colored as its sister, but they last just as long. It grows 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide. 5-9

Black-Stem Hydrangea
Black-stem hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Nigra’) has beautiful mophead flowers, but as its name suggests, the stems are what stand out. They are a dark purple-black color that contrasts against the green foliage and pastel blue or pink blooms. It grows 6 feet tall and wide. Zones 6-9

Sun Goddess Hydrangea
Flowers aren’t the only reason to grow hydrangeas; some have stunning foliage, as well. Sun Goddess Hydrangea macrophylla is one great example; this mophead features bright golden-green foliage that lights up the shade garden. Sun Goddess grows 5 feet tall and wide. Zones 6-9 Other hydrangeas that feature golden foliage include Lemon Daddy and ‘Lemon Zest’.

Lacecap hydrangeas give the garden a more delicate look. Instead of producing a one big rounded cluster of showy florets, they form a flower head composed of a ring of colorful florets surrounding a lacy cluster of small florets. Lacecap hydrangeas have similar cultural needs as their mophead cousins, mainly differing in flower form.

Bits of Lace
Bits of Lace Hydrangea macrophylla features lacecaps of large white florets that are strongly blushed with pink. The large florets surround a lacy group of smaller pink ones. This selection also offers sturdy stems and dark green foliage. As you learn how to care for hydrangeas, make sure to understand their hardiness zone restrictions. This one grows 5 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-9

‘Lanarth White’
Considered one of best lacecaps, Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Lanarth White’ shows off large clusters of white florets faintly blushed with blue or pink. Its stiff stems keep the spectacular flowers standing upright. It grows 4 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-9

Rough-Leaf Hydrangea
Rough-leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea villosa) is a favorite of gardeners in areas of the South and Northwest and is a little more exotic-looking than your average lacecap. It features long, narrow, hairy foliage and blooms in late summer and fall. It’s also much larger, growing to 12 feet tall and wide. Zones 7-9

You’ll love this hydrangea’s beautiful foliage, even if it doesn’t bloom for you. Light-O-Day Hydrangea macrophylla features rich green foliage broadly edged in white. The white lacecap flowers are an attractive complement to the foliage. This shrub grows 5 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-9

‘Mariesii Variegata’ also offers white-edged foliage; ‘Lemon Wave’ features a wide banding of mottled white, cream, and yellow around the leaves.

Reblooming Hydrangeas
A handful of mophead and lacecap hydrangeas have the ability to produce flowers on new growth. Because of this, they tend to rebloom throughout the summer and into fall. They’re a good choice for gardeners in Northern regions because you don’t need to worry about cold temperatures killing the flower buds during the winter.

Learn how to turn hydrangeas blue.
Endless Summer
Endless Summer Hydrangea macrophylla is one of the most famous rebloomers. Introduced in 2004, it allowed gardeners in Northern climates to be able enjoy hydrangeas in their gardens. It features big mophead clusters of blue or pink flowers and grows 5 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-9 Note: There’s also a lacecap version available; it’s called Endless Summer Twist-n-Shout Hydrangea macrophylla.

Spreading Beauty
A low habit and ability to rebloom in summer and fall sets Spreading Beauty Hydrangea serrata apart. This lacecap hydrangea offers pink or blue flowers in late spring or early summer. The blooms are great for cutting. It grows 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Zones 5-9

Blue Bunny
Blue Bunny Hydrangea involucrata shows off blue clusters of lacecap flowers from midsummer to frost. It’s a strong grower with slightly hairy foliage and unique acorn-shape flower buds. It grows 4 feet tall and wide. Zones 6-9 Note: Because it blooms on new wood, the best time to prune this lacecap hydrangea is in late winter or early spring.

Let’s Dance Starlight
Like Endless Summer Twist-n-Shout, Let’s Dance Starlight Hydrangea macrophylla is a lacecap that produces showy flowers for months. It also has rich, dark green foliage and a compact habit. This variety grows 3 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-9

About Flower Color
Mophead and many lacecap hydrangeas are sensitive to soil pH, and the blooms reflect this. In acidic soils, flowers tend to blue; in more alkaline soils, blooms tend toward pink. So if you’d like to change the color of your blooms as you learn how to care for your hydrangeas, know that you have to add soil sulfur to make them more blue and lime to make them more pink.

About Fall Foliage
Mophead and lacecap varieties of Hydrangea macrophylla typically feature attractive fall foliage in shades of red and burgundy. The coloration varies from type to type, so if a fall show is important to you, shop in autumn or research which selections color up the best at the end of the growing season.

‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea
A cousin to mopheads and lacecaps, ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’) is one of the hardiest types. It blooms in summer, producing large snowy-white clusters of showy florets. For that, it’s sometimes called snowball hydrangea. ‘Annabelle’ is also one of the best hydrangeas for deep shade. It blooms on new wood, so the best time to prune it is late winter or early spring. It grows 4 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-9 Note: Hydrangea arborescens is native to areas of North America.

White Dome Hydrangea
A unique variety, White Dome Hydrangea arborescens features flowers that look like fluffy clouds floating above dark green foliage. Like ‘Annabelle’, it blooms in summer on new wood. It grows 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Zones 4-9

Oakleaf Hydrangea
Another beauty native to areas of North America, oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) offers cone-shape clusters of creamy white flowers in summer. But the show goes on — the lobed leaves create wonderful texture in the garden and the peeling, cinnamon-color bark provides winter interest. It grows 6 feet tall and 8 feet wide. Zones 5-9

Snowflake Oakleaf Hydrangea
A standout among oakleaf types, Snowflake Hydrangea quercifolia shows off large heads of double flowers. The flowers often turn rosy-pink before maturing to a rich brown in fall. It grows 6 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Zones 5-9

Vaughn’s Lillie Oakleaf Hydrangea
Bold only begins to describe stunning Vaughn’s Lillie Hydrangea quercifolia. This selection features exceptionally full flower heads. It also tends to bloom more profusely than the average oakleaf hydrangea and has a compact habit. It grows 4 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Zones 5-9

Fall Color on Oakleaf Hydrangeas
Oakleaf hydrangeas tend to be the most spectacular types for putting on a brilliant show of late-season color. In autumn, their leaves turn shades of crimson, burgundy, and purple. They seem to glow when backlit by the sun.

Discover other plants with beautiful fall foliage.
Hydrangea Paniculata
Have sun? Don’t worry — Hydrangea paniculata doesn’t mind. In fact, it blooms better in full sun. It also tends to be large; some varieties can grow 25 feet tall. This summer-flowering hydrangea blooms on new wood, so it’s best pruned in late winter or early spring. Zones 4-8

‘Limelight’ Hydrangea Paniculata
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ is unique because its cone-shape flowers open a lovely shade of chartreuse then fade to rich pink in fall. It’s a vigorous shrub that’s great for informal hedges, as well as a top-notch cut flower. It grows 8 feet tall and wide. Zones 3-9

‘Tardiva’ Hydrangea Paniculata
A fast-growing selection, Hydrangea paniculata ‘Tardiva’ features pointed clusters of white flowers that fade to pink as they mature. It’s great for cut flowers, and the blooms hold up well if left on the plant in the winter. It grows 12 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Zones 3-8

PeeGee Hydrangea Paniculata
One of the largest hydrangeas, you can grow PeeGee (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’) as a small summer-flowering tree. It grows to 20 feet tall (or more, if really happy) and 8 feet wide. The large clusters of blooms appear in summer and often fade to pink in fall. Zones 4-8

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Pinky Winky Hydrangea Paniculata
Pinky Winky Hydrangea paniculata bears large clusters of white flowers in mid- and late summer that quickly fade to a rich rose-pink color. The strong stems hold the flowers up, even in heavy rains. It grows 8 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-8

Don’t miss out! Buy Pinky Winky from our Garden Store.
Fall Color on Hydrangea Paniculata
Most types of Hydrangea paniculata offer attractive fall color. Their leaves usually turn shades of gold (often suffused with purple) at the end of the season

Climbing Hydrangea
Most hydrangeas are shrubs, but climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris) is a large vine with clusters of fluffy flowers in summer. This variety establishes slowly, so be patient. It may take a few years, but once it’s ready, the vine puts on a big show. It climbs to 50 feet. Zones 4-9

Best Small Garden Ideas

Create an Outdoor Room
Turn a tiny patio into a gorgeous outdoor room by adding a freestanding pergola. Here, a small wooden pergola was constructed over a gravel patio and enhanced with a teak seating arrangement. The pergola creates a sense of enclosure and makes the patio seem a lot larger then it actually is.

Go Gravel
Crushed brick or gravel is a beautiful and low-maintenance paving option for small gardens. It’s also easier to use and less expensive than brick or flagstone. Just be sure to spread a layer of landscape fabric underneath the gravel to keep weeds from popping through. On this California hillside, the gravel also allows rainfall to percolate through to the soil instead of running off down the hillside.

Capitalize on Trees
If you have large trees with bare spots underneath them, why not put the barren ground to use by creating an outdoor living space? In this small garden, several trees made growing a lawn or flower border impossible. So, the homeowners paved part of the area with flagstone and added a table and chairs.

Add a Pond
You don’t need a huge backyard to have a water garden. In fact, installing a water garden is a great way to handle low or wet spots in your garden. Just dig out the area, add a pond liner and pump, and you’re on your way. Even a tiny oasis will attract a wide range of colorful butterflies and birds. In this garden, Water Snowflake, Nymphoides humboldtiana, a small relative of water lily, provides color in tight quarters.

Learn how to create a small container water feature.
Double Your Pleasure
Get twice the flowers and vegetables in your small garden by adding a trellis or low fence behind every planting bed. That way, you can grow vine crops vertically so they don’t sprawl over their plant neighbors. In this narrow garden bed, a trio of rustic wooden trellises support flowering vines at the back of the perennial border.

Trees for Small Spaces
A small yard doesn’t mean you can’t have a gorgeous tree. See these shade-providing beauties that can squeeze into small spots.

Welcome Wildlife
Even a small garden can become a haven for birds and butterflies when you choose flowers they prefer. For example, this square bed is packed with bird and butterfly favorites, such as black-eyed Susan and phlox. A bird feeder and birdhouse add to the garden’s wildlife-friendly features.

Add a Mowing Strip
Keeping turf grass from encroaching in your garden beds is a lot easier when you install a mowing strip at the border’s edge. This mowing strip was specially designed to keep weeds at bay and act as a low-maintenance garden path. It also provides easy, mud-free access to the garden for wheelbarrows, mowers, and other equipment.

Eliminate Lawns
Put every square inch of your backyard to work by removing the sod to create useable outdoor living spaces. In this small courtyard, the turf was torn up and replaced by a gravel base that supports a gorgeous dining table and flower-filled containers. Plus, the homeowners have a lot more time to enjoy the space because they no longer have to mow.

Add Drama
Give small gardens a big boost of style by adding an oversize gate or arbor at one end to act as a focal point. It will draw the eye in and make the space seem larger. Here, a large-scale ornamental entry arbor gives this tiny side yard some visual heft. Plus, it supports a crown of climbing roses. White lilies in the center bed mirror the white roses and arbor.

Curve Walkways
One way to create a sense of space in a small garden is to put some curves into your garden paths. A slightly meandering walkway is always better than a straight path because it will give visitors the sense that they are traveling through a large landscape. Just be sure to make your path wide enough for two people to walk side by side comfortably. This curved concrete path is especially appealing because a ribbon of tile separates each slab of concrete.

Rely on Pots
Enjoy your own corner of paradise by packing your small garden with pots and planters overflowing with flowers and fragrant herbs. In this luxurious backyard, pots of geranium (scented and standard) and marguerite daisy provide the bulk of color surrounding a welcoming teak bench. A large terra-cotta bowl acts as a reflecting pool and birdbath.

Consider the Seasons
When you plan your garden, think about how it’s going to look in all four seasons. Many gardens look terrific in the spring and early summer, but by fall they fade. Choose perennials and annuals that offer late-season color and shrubs and trees that bear colorful berries or interesting bark in the winter. In this tiny front border, a bevy of tulips provide plenty of spring color. After they fade, they are replaced with summer beauties such as geranium and verbena. Holly shrubs, which flank the front door, develop showy red berries that keep the landscape looking good after frost.

Rehab a Shed
If the view from your backyard faces an ugly shed or garage, think about incorporating it into your garden design. On this narrow lot, the only view was of the homeowner’s ugly garage. But with a can of paint and an inexpensive French door, they turned an ugly duckling into a swan. In fact, they were so happy with the transformation, they added a Mediterranean style patio right up against the new garage doors.

Color Your World
Shady backyards are a great place to spend a hot summer afternoon, but too often, they can be a bit dark and dull. Brighten the view with colorful pillows, fabrics, outdoor rugs, and pots in a variety of colors and patterns. This shady deck is now a colorful spot for family fun.

Camouflage Trash
Nothing ruins the view in a small backyard faster than a set of garbage cans blown over in the wind. Instead of having your garbage in plain sight, build a wooden surround to keep them contained. Here, a set of stylish wooden panels camouflages the homeowners garbage with a little space left over for bags of potting soil and extra garden tools. When the gate panel is closed, everything is completely hidden.

Tips To Choose the Top Hydrangeas for Your Garden

Hydrangeas for Sun

While most hydrangeas do best in shade, varieties of Hydrangea paniculata prefer sunny spots. Most selections have large clusters of white flowers in summer. The showy blooms fade to shades of pink or red before drying to beige. In many areas, they dry right on the plant in fall and stay looking good through most of the winter.
Learn more about specific hydrangeas in our Plant Encyclopedia.

While Hydrangea paniculata likes full sun, it also does well in part shade. It prefers moist, well-drained soil rich in organic matter, so it’s helpful to amend your soil with compost, peat moss, or other similar materials before you plant it. Hydrangea paniculata is one of the hardiest varieties; it thrives in Zones 4-8.

Because this hydrangea blooms on current year’s growth, the best time to give it a trim is winter or early spring.

Standout Varieties
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bombshell’ is a dwarf selection that grows 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide. It bears clusters of white flowers from midsummer to autumn.
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ is sometimes called peegee hydrangea. It’s a large shrub or small tree to 20 feet tall.

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ bears light lime-green flowers from midsummer to fall. It grows 8 feet tall.

Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea paniculata ‘Rehny’ bears large clusters of white flowers that fade to strawberry pink from midsummer to autumn. It grows 7 feet tall.
Learn more about Vanilla Strawberry hydrangea.

Cold-Climate Hydrangeas

Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens), also sometimes called hills of snow or snowball hydrangea, is an especially easy-growing type that’s native to areas of North America. It has clusters of pure white flowers from midsummer into autumn; the older flowers often fade to green before they turn brown and dry.

Grow smooth hydrangea in part shade and moist soil that’s rich in organic matter. It’s not very drought tolerant, especially if it’s in a spot that gets afternoon sun — so be sure to water it during dry spells and apply a 2- to 4-inch-deep layer of mulch on the soil. This extra-hardy hydrangea thrives in Zones 3-9.

Smooth hydrangea blooms on new growth, so if you need to prune it, the best time is in winter or early spring. Some gardeners cut it back to 6 or 8 inches tall every year to keep it dense and compact.

Standout Varieties
Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ bears extra-large clusters of white flowers. It grows 5 feet tall.

Hydrangea arborescens ‘White Dome’ bears fluffy clusters of creamy-white flowers. It grows 6 feet tall and is hardy in Zones 4-9.

Easy-Care Hydrangeas

Majestic oakleaf hydrangea is one of the easiest types to grow. It’s also one of the showiest thanks to its big clusters of white summertime flowers, attractive peeling bark, and textured foliage that turns brilliant shades of purple-red in fall. Oakleaf hydrangea can be a big shrub (it grows 8 feet tall) that’s great for providing summertime privacy or as a backdrop in the shade garden. Like smooth hydrangea, it’s native to areas of North America.

Give oakleaf hydrangea a spot in shade or partial shade and moist, well-drained soil. It stands up to dry soil a bit better than most other types, but still appreciates moisture during drought. Like any other hydrangea, it will perform best if there’s a lot of organic matter in the soil. Oakleaf hydrangea is hardy in Zones 5-9.

Oakleaf hydrangeas bloom on last year’s branches, so the best time to prune them is right after the flowers fade in late summer. Because the bark is interesting as it matures, many gardeners do not prune their oakleaf types.

Standout Varieties
Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Alice’ offers extra-large blooms and more spectacular fall color. It grows 10 feet tall.

Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Little Honey’ shows golden-yellow foliage and clusters of white summertime flowers. It grows 4 feet tall.

Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’ bears clusters of double white flowers. It grows 8 feet tall.

Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Vaughn’s Lillie’ displays spectacularly dense clusters of white flowers. It grows 4 feet tall.
Hydrangeas for Season-Long Color

It used to be that the beautiful blue- and pink-blooming hydrangeas would bloom once a year, usually in June. But plant breeders have been hard at work, and their efforts are paying off in a new type of hydrangea: rebloomers. Series such as Endless Summer and Let’s Dance offer big, colorful blooms every few weeks in summer and fall. Many of these varieties offer beautiful fall color.

Reblooming hydrangeas do best in a spot that gets morning sun and afternoon shade. Like other hydrangeas, they prefer moist, well-drained soil that has a lot of organic matter in it. The plants aren’t very drought tolerant, so you’ll probably need to water them during dry spells.

Here’s a hint: The level of acidity in the soil affects the flower color of blue and pink varieties. The more acidic the soil is, the bluer the flowers will be; the less acidic, the pinker the flowers will be. Add soil sulfur or aluminum sulfate for bluer flowers and add dolomitic lime for pinker flowers. Both of these products are available from your local garden center — read the packaging directions to determine how much of the product to use in your garden.
Rebloomers produce blossoms on both last year’s branches and this year’s stems, so you can prune them at any time without significantly affecting their flowering cycle. Many gardeners find the plants grow and bloom best if they only cut off parts of branches that died over winter.

Encourage your hydrangea to produce more blossoms by cutting off the flower heads as they start to fade.

Standout Varieties
Hydrangea macrophylla Endless Summer bears mophead clusters of pink or blue flowers. It grows 5 feet tall. Zones 4-9

Hydrangea macrophylla Endless Summer Blushing Bride bears white flowers flushed with light pink. It grows 5 feet tall. Zones 5-9

Hydrangea macrophylla Endless Summer Twist-n-Shout bears blue or pink lacecap-type flowers. It grows 5 feet tall. Zones 4-9

Hydrangea macrophylla Let’s Dance Moonlight bears rich blue or pink mophead-type flowers. It grows 5 feet tall. Zones 5-9

Hydrangea macrophylla Let’s Dance Starlight bears rich blue or pink lacecap-type flowers. It grows 5 feet tall. Zones 5-9

Hydrangea macrophylla Mini Penny bears blue or pink mophead-type flowers. It grows 4 feet tall. Zones 5-9

Hydrangea macrophylla Penny Mac bears blue or pink mophead-type flowers. It grows 6 feet tall. Zones 5-9

Learn about Wedding Gown hydrangea, a double reblooming lacecap.

Hydrangea for Shade: Mophead

Mophead-type hydrangeas — the ones with the big, puffy balls of flowers — lend a grace and old-fashioned elegance to the garden. They’re beautiful cut flowers and dry well, too. Many offer outstanding fall color, to boot. Most mopheads bloom in June and July on last year’s branches. This makes the plants susceptible to winter damage (the flower buds freeze and die). Late-spring frosts can also kill buds before they open.
Mophead hydrangeas typically thrive in morning sun and afternoon shade. They prefer moist, well-drained soil that’s full of organic matter. Keep them looking good by watering them during periods of drought. Otherwise the leaves may turn brown and crispy.

Here’s a hint: Like many other blue or pink hydrangeas, the soil pH will make the blooms appear more blue or pink. The more acidic the soil is, the bluer the flowers will be; the more alkaline it is, the pinker the flowers will be. Use soil sulfur or aluminum sulfate to make the soil acidic for blue flowers or add dolomitic lime for pinker flowers. Look for these products at your local garden center. Read the packaging directions to determine how much of the product to use in your garden.

Because these hydrangeas bloom only once a year, the best time to prune them is right after they finish flowering. By late summer they’ve already started making next year’s blooms.
Standout Varieties
Hydrangea macrophylla Big Daddy produces huge clusters of blue or pink flowers. It grows 5 feet tall. Zones 6-9

Hydrangea macrophylla Buttons ‘n’ Bows bears clusters of pink or lavender-blue flowers edged in white. It grows 4 feet tall. Zones 6-9

Hydrangea macrophylla Cityline Venice displays clusters of bright pink or lavender-blue flowers on strong stems. It grows 4 feet tall. Zones 6-9

Hydrangea macrophylla Color Fantasy shows clusters of rich red flowers over shiny, dark green foliage. It grows 3 feet tall. Zones 5-9

Hydrangea macrophylla Forever Pink offers clusters of rich pink or lavender-blue flowers. It grows 3 feet tall. Zones 6-9

Hydrangea macrophylla Lemon Daddy has golden-yellow foliage and clusters of blue or pink flowers. It grows 4 feet tall. Zones 5-9

Hydrangea macrophylla Nikko Blue offers clusters of rich blue or pink flowers. It grows 6 feet tall. Zones 6-9

Hydrangea for Shade: Lacecap

These beautiful hydrangeas have a more refined appearance — they have a cluster of tiny blooms ringed by starry, bigger ones. Like mopheads, they bear flowers on last year’s branches and are also good picks for adding fall color to the garden.

Lacecap hydrangeas prefer morning sun and afternoon shade. They like moist, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Water them during dry spells to keep them looking good, otherwise their leaves may turn dry and brown.

Here’s a hint: You can influence the bloom color of blue and pink lacecap varieties by changing the pH of your soil. Acidic soil creates blue flowers; alkaline ground makes the flowers pink. Use soil sulfur or aluminum sulfate to make the soil acidic or add dolomitic lime to make it more alkaline. Find these products at your local garden center and read the instructions on their packaging to determine how much to use in your garden.

Standout Varieties
Hydrangea macrophylla Bits of Lace produces pale pink flowers on a 5-foot-tall shrub. Zones 6-9

Hydrangea macrophylla Lady in Red offers red flowers, burgundy stems, and beautiful purple-red fall color. It grows 5 feet tall. Zones 5-9

Hydrangea macrophylla Lanarth White bears white flowers on a compact, 3-foot-tall shrub. Zones 6-9

Hydrangea macrophylla Lemon Wave offers foliage boldly edged in cream, white, and yellow. The blooms are light blue or pink. It grows 6 feet tall. Zones 6-9

Hydrangea macrophylla Mariesii displays pink or blue flowers over white-edged leaves. It grows 5 feet tall. Zones 6-9

Climbing Hydrangeas

The most majestic member of the clan, climbing hydrangea is a slow-growing vine that matures at about 50 feet. In summer, it bears lacecap-like clusters of white flowers over its rich green foliage.
Give climbing hydrangea a spot in part to full shade and a sturdy support to climb on. This vine is great at scaling walls and other structures because roots grow from the stems and cling to a surface. Be sure to give climbing hydrangea moist, well-drained soil that has a high organic matter content.

Here’s a hint: Be patient. Climbing hydrangeas are notorious for taking a few years to get established. It may not appear to grow at all for three or four years. But when it does, it more than makes up for it.

This hydrangea typically doesn’t need pruning. Remove wayward shoots any time between winter and midsummer.

Standout Varieties
Hydrangea petiolaris ‘Firefly’ bears green leaves edged in gold and clusters of white flowers. Zones 4-8

Hydrangea petiolaris ‘Kuga Variegated’ displays green leaves stippled in cream and gold. Zones 5-7

Hydrangea petiolaris ‘Skylands Giant’ bears extra large flower clusters. Zones 4-8

Top Plants That Will Grow Better in Your Bathroom

There’s a trick to keeping houseplants thriving in dryer climates: It’s the bathroom. The typical low light, high humidity, and warmth of the bathroom is exactly what most tropical plants are missing in their lives. So if your houseplants are struggling, gather them up and put them in the tub.

1. Orchids

Orchids, while a tad bit on the temperamental side, pack so much tropical punch — after all, they keep their gorgeous flowers for months on end. The damp, warm conditions in most bathrooms are a perfect environment for these pretty plants, which grow in bark instead of soil and prefer for that material to be damp but not wet. Some easier-care varieties of orchids include Dendrobium, Phalaenopsis, and Paphiopedilums, which will all do well with bright, filtered bathroom window light.

2. Golden Pothos

One of the most popular indoor vining plants is pothos, or Epipremnum aureum. It comes in a variety of leaf sizes, colors, and variegations. As long as it stays out of direct sunlight and its soil doesn’t dry out (it doesn’t care for overwatering either), it is a low-maintenance beauty that is exceptionally pretty in a hanging basket or on a high shelf where it can trail to its heart’s content.

*All types of pothos can be toxic if ingested, to both children and pets.

3. Neon Pothos

This variety of Epipremnum aureum is such a bright burst of color that it almost hurts the eyes to look directly at it. Bonus: All varieties of pothos are known for their air-purifying abilities. They are excellent at filtering out formaldehyde and carbon monoxide.

4. Spider Plant with a China Doll Plant

Houseplants don’t get easier than the no-fuss spider plant (Chlorophytumcomosum). They tolerate low light like champs, enjoy a little humidity, and their baby shoots (which can be detached and propagated) are just so darn cute. Here a repurposed old ladder serves as an ingenious hanging plant rack suspended over a soaking tub, with a lush spider plant specimen highlighted in front (did we mention they are fantastic in hanging baskets?). Tucked behind is a dark green China Doll plant (Radermachera sinica). China Doll plants need bright, indirect sunlight and moist, well-drained soil, and must be protected from drafts. Both plants will thrive in the warmth and humidity of a bathroom.

5. Grape Ivy

Sometimes referred to as oakleaf ivy, Cissus rhombifolia is a low-maintenance beauty that delivers a lot of plant for very little effort. It prefers a bright window and evenly moist soil and is a vigorous climber. Let that baby trail along a windowsill or off the top of a cabinet for some bathroom drama.

6. Bromeliads

These bright tropicals are in a family of plants that consists of thousands of different species. Though they vary in care depending on the specific species, most bromeliads grown as houseplants will have similar needs: filtered light, plenty of moisture in the air, and a temperate indoor climate. Most are prized for their incredibly colorful, variegated foliage and long-lasting color. Some common, easy-to-care-for varieties include Scarlet Star (Guzmania lingulata), Blushing Bromeliad (Neoregelia carolinae, shown), and the incredibly prehistoric-looking Urn Plant (Aechmea fasciata).

7. Tillandsias

Also part of the bromeliad family, these beauties are commonly referred to as air plants. The specimen that fall into the Tillandsia genus (we’re talking hundreds and hundreds of species) are beloved for their ability to grow without soil, or without necessarily being planted at all. In the right environment, they hardly require any care wahtsoever. What’s the right environment beyond the jungles of South America? You guessed it, the bathroom. If you have a shower with a bright window, even better. They’ll love to have occasional shower overspray, and they’ll soak up all that trapped humidity. If your air plant doesn’t quite get enough moisture from the air, you can mist it, or give it a good soak every few weeks (depending on how dry your climate is). Some common varieties include Tillandsia xerographica (shown), Tillandsia bergeri, and Tillandsia ionantha. Bonus tip: The more silvery the foliage, the more drought-tolerant it is.

8. Peperomia

This small-growing, low-light-loving plant comes in a variety of colors and adorable leaf shapes. Its compact size makes it perfect for tight quarters, such as narrow windowsills (but it doesn’t like direct sun). This particular striped variety is watermelon peperomia, or Peperomia argyreia.

9. Tropical Pitcher Plant

Also sometimes adorably referred to as monkey cups, Nepenthes (shown here, Nepenthes alata), are a widely diverse genus of tropical plants that all display some variation of the distinctive pitcher apparatus (filled with a liquid that attracts and helps digest insects as food). Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to “feed'” insects to these plants — the average household has enough to tide one specimen over. Pitcher plants like their soil to be kept moist, and they love humidity — so they will be quite at home in the bathroom. They will also tolerate low humidity but will produce fewer pitchers under those circumstances. Their vining habit makes them a captivating windowsill addition.

10. Snake Plant

This plant, also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, viper’s bowstring hemp, or St. George’s sword, is nearly impossible to kill. Sansevieria* varieties tolerate almost any growing condition, from nearly no light to bright light to direct light. They require little to no water, and if you keep them in a humid bathroom, you might never have to water these hardy West African natives at all. And we just love the modern lines of those gorgeous variegated leaves.

*This plant is considered mildly toxic to people and animals, when ingested.

11. Heartleaf Philodendron

Philodendron scandens* is a South American native that doesn’t require much light to thrive. It likes its soil to be kept damp, and while it will tolerate dry conditions, it loves humidity, making it the perfect plant to keep in a low-light bathroom. Best of all, you can train it to happily vine along a windowsill or shelf.

*Philodendron are toxic to pets and children, if ingested.

Top Furniture Choices For Your Home

Are you setting up your first home? If you don’t know what you’ll really need, read our list of Top Picks for first-time furniture buyers.
1.  A Bed to Last a Lifetime

You’ll spend about 1/3 of every day in bed, so you should one that’s comfortable and well constructed. Choose the best quality one you can afford. After all, you’ll probably have it for 10 years or more. And keep in mind that the most expensive bed might not be the best bed. If you can’t invest in a great bed right away, buy an air bed for a short time. It will go into your guest room later. When you’re shopping for a bed, think about the proper size, firmness, and surface.

2.  A Table to Eat On

Most dining tables are round or rectangular, but you might start out with a square or round that extends to seat more. With leaves installed, your table might stretch through a doorway. Before you invest in a table, you might get a plywood tabletop on top of a sturdy base and cover it with a decorative floor-length tablecloth.

3.  Classic Dining Chairs

Choose your dining chairs to add beauty and color to your dining area. They should be comfortable enough so that you can sit for a long dinner and visit with friends. Wooden chairs are inexpensive, but upholstered chairs would be more comfortable. You can always put a slipcover over an upholstered chair to change the look for seasonal touches. Arm chairs are luxurious and can be moved into the living area when you need extra seating.

4.  A Great Sofa

Sofas come in many shapes, styles, fabrics, and costs. Select the best one you can afford. Next to a bed, it will be your most important upholstered piece. Don’t settle for anything less than a solid hardwood frame and 8-way hand-tied springs and attractive, durable fabric. Loose-backed cushions look casual while tight-backed sofas require less maintenance. You won’t have to keep adjusting and straightening the pillows. You’ll have to select length, arm shape, skirt or no skirt, how many cushions, plain or patterned fabric, down or synthetic cushions.

Tips to Learning Basic Home Decorating

Not everyone has the time to go to school to learn the basics of decorating. And depending on what you’d like to do as a decorator, not everyone has the need. But for those of us who have the eye, but not necessarily the know-how to design the interiors that we’d love to live in, there are numerous online resources that can give you more than enough information to get you on your way. With these great online sources, anyone can learn about the basics of decorating while finding wonderful inspiration for their first design project.

If  you have no clue about choosing furniture, selecting color, or what style of decorating you like, help is at your fingertips.

If you know just what you like but not how to bring the look to your home, you’ll find photos, tutorials, and helpful advice about decorating for just the right look.

Sitting at your computer, you’ll find loads of information without ever setting foot inside a classroom.

Whether you need ideas, color suggestions, or instructions on ways to do things, just get “web surfing.”

  •’s site for Interior Decorating
    Of course, we think you’re already at the first stop. Here at’s site for Interior Decorating we’ve tried to put together a lot of information to answer just about every question you might have. And we add more information all the time. But if you’re not finding what you need, check out some of these other sites.
  • Style Guides
    Our own site has a section on Style Guides for Home Interiors. Learn what goes into making a comfortable Shabby Chic® bedroom or a French Country dining room. You’ll have fun deciding what style you like and learn how to bring the different elements into your rooms on any budget.

Make Your Favorite Decorating Style

Do you have any idea about what decorating style you like? It’s a simple enough question, but the answer isn’t always so easy to come up with. Of all the things that we learn while going through so many years of school, what decorating style we’d like to see in our living room or what era of furniture would best complement the layout of our bedrooms usually isn’t one of them. Go figure. Whether you’ve been to school for design or not, decorating is always a very personal process. That doesn’t change whether you’re doing it for yourself, working with a designer, or designing for someone else. When it’s your home, everything hinges on what you like and in the end only you can say whether the result is something that you’ll be happy living with. It’s always easy to tell whether or not you like something but sometimes it can be very difficult to say for sure what you like or why. That’s one of the reasons why designers emphasize an understanding of different styles when approaching a project.

It’s not that these are hard and fast categories that you have to fit into, but if you can identify the one or two that most strike your fancy, you’ll have a great starting point for filling in the rest of your look. Here’s a short guide from that will steer you to some of the best quizzes and resources to help you determine your favorite decorating style.

Connect to the links here and answer some simple questions. Before you know it, you’ll get information on your decorating style, based on your answers. What could be easier? Use these sources as a guide to creating the interior that reflects your personality.

Then you can really call your house or apartment a home!

  • Better Homes and Gardens has a simple color quiz using attitudes about color to help zero in on your decorating style. You won’t have to wait for results, and you’ll get information about what the answers say about you. 
  • Take a Home Decorating Quiz from Houzz to get style hints as you decide on the style that you like best. 
  • Check out more Decorating, Design, and Style Quizzes. They are a great way to help you define home furnishings you love so you can create your perfect home.

How To Avoid The Decoration Mistakes

One of the things that makes decorating so much fun is the huge amount of resources that we can go to to learn more about how to make a beautiful room. We can readbooks and magazines, watchTV shows, read onlinearticles, and visit decorating showhouses to find all sorts of wonderful advice on things to do to get a beautifully decorated room.

But even with so much advice and inspiration on what to do, it can still be hard to learn what not to do or what mistakes you can avoid even before you even start a decorating project.

So to help fill in a few of those gaps, here is our list of the 20 easiest decorating mistakes to make and the best things not to do in order to get around them.

1. Don’t Let Someone Make Choices for You
Your home is your personal space. Don’t let someone else tell you what you should do. If you need help, ask for suggestions.

But when the time comes to make decisions, they should be yours. It’s your home and you should feel comfortable with the choices.

2. Don’t Paint First
You can buy paint in every color under the sun. In fact, you can have paint mixed in any imaginable color you might want. Choose fabric, carpet, and upholstery first.

3. Don’t Choose Paint From a Paint Chip
A small chip of a paint sample might look great in the fluorescent light in the paint store. But a whole wall of it might be overpowering. When you’ve decided on a color, purchase a quart of the color and paint a small section to see how the color looks in the room with natural light. If you don’t want to mess up the walls, paint a piece of cardboard and tape it on the walls in the room where you plan to use the color.

4. Don’t Decide on Colors in a Store
Never buy fabric, flooring, or paint on your first visit. Ask for samples of paint and carpet and swatches of fabric so you can see what they look like in your home. Check them out in natural light and in the evening with lamps.

5. Don’t Settle for Blah If You Love Bold
A gallon of red paint doesn’t cost any more than a gallon of white.

Home Decorating Project Tips

The thought of starting a decorating project is exciting or scary, depending on your experience, your budget, your taste, or your time.

If you’ve never done any decorating at all, you might feel that you don’t know how or where to start. If this is old hat to you, you might not know where to end. But when all is said and done, you want a new look and want to get started.

There’s very little question about what element to choose last, but there are lots of things you can select first.

Because paint is a very inexpensive part of the project and because paint is available in an almost infinite varity of colors, you should hold off buying the paint until you have other things identified.

But just what should you do first? Should you buy a whole roomful of furniture or choose a rug that you love?

Have you chosen an elegant wallpaper or luxurious fabric that you want to use?

You really can start wherever you want and work it all together into a plan. But it really does help if you start with a plan, an inspiration piece, and a color sheme.

Find your sources of inspiration and work your way through your decorating project. You’ll be happy you spent the time to plan.

  • Put a Plan on Paper
    As with any business plan, you should draw up a written statement for your project. Identify your style and then select a color scheme around your theme. Will you choose a garden style or a sleek contemporary decorating scheme? Put it in writing and stick to it.
  • What’s Your Style?
    Do you like formal or casual? Do you love French Country style or do you long to live in acottage style home? Spend some time to identify the style elements you love, and make plans to bring them into your space.
  • Start With What You Have
    Not everyone (in fact, very few people) can start with a fresh, empty room and begin decorating. Most of us already have some pieces of furniture or the home has carpeting, tile floors or countertops, or architectural features that you’re not ready to discard. If there are things you like, focus on them and make them important. If there are things you don’t like but cannot change, find ways to camouflage or downplay them in your newly decorated space.
  • Do You Have Decorative Pieces?
    If you have a collection of beautiful crystal, delicate china, or rustic birdhouses, these can be the start of a decorating plan. Based on the color schemes, decorative themes, or formality of your collection, you can use them to identify the start of your decorating project.