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Hydrangeas: A Coastal Delight for Cape Cod and Rhode Island Gardens


Hydrangeas, with their vibrant blooms, add an enchanting touch to coastal gardens in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. These captivating plants thrive in the unique climate and soil conditions of this region, showcasing a kaleidoscope of colors and textures.

A Floral Tapestry of Variety

Cape Cod and Rhode Island gardeners are fortunate to have access to a wide range of hydrangea species, each with its own distinct characteristics. The most commonly grown type is the mophead hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla), renowned for its large, rounded clusters of flowers that resemble the head of a mop. Mophead hydrangeas come in a dazzling array of hues, from soft pink and blue to rich purple and even green.

Another popular choice is the lacecap hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla 'Lacecap'), which features flat-topped flower clusters with delicate, lace-like edges. The panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) boasts upright, cone-shaped blooms in shades of white, pink, and purple, offering a unique and showy display.

Adaptability to Coastal Conditions

Hydrangeas thrive in the coastal climate of Cape Cod and Rhode Island, where they benefit from the moderate temperatures and ample rainfall. The sandy, acidic soil of this region provides an ideal environment for their shallow root systems. These plants also tolerate the salty air and occasional salt spray, making them well-suited to the coastal setting.

Cultural Tips for Success

To cultivate healthy and vibrant hydrangeas in coastal gardens, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind:

  • Site Selection: Choose a planting site that receives morning sun and afternoon shade, as this will help prevent the blooms from fading or burning. Ensure good drainage to avoid waterlogged soil, which can lead to root rot.
  • Soil pH: Hydrangeas prefer acidic soil with a pH range of 5.0 to 6.5. If your soil is too alkaline, you can amend it with sulfur or aluminum sulfate to lower the pH.
  • Watering: Hydrangeas require regular watering, especially during hot and dry periods. Water deeply and allow the soil to drain well before watering again.
  • Fertilization: Feed your hydrangeas with a balanced fertilizer in the spring and again in the early summer. Avoid using fertilizers with high nitrogen content, as this can promote excessive leaf growth at the expense of blooms.
  • Pruning: Prune mophead and lacecap hydrangeas in late winter or early spring, removing old or dead wood and cutting back last year's growth to a pair of healthy buds. Panicle hydrangeas can be pruned in late summer or early fall, after they have finished blooming.

Color Control: A Magical Touch

One of the fascinating aspects of hydrangeas is their ability to change color, depending on the acidity of the soil. In acidic soil, the flowers of mophead and lacecap hydrangeas tend to be blue or purple. As the soil becomes more alkaline, the flowers transition to pink or red hues.

This color-changing ability adds another layer of excitement to coastal gardening. By carefully adjusting the soil pH, gardeners can create a vibrant tapestry of hydrangeas in their landscapes, with blooms ranging from ethereal blues to vibrant reds.


Hydrangeas are a true delight for coastal gardens in Cape Cod and Rhode Island. Their adaptability, diverse varieties, and ability to change color make them a must-have for any gardener seeking to create a stunning floral display. By following the cultural tips outlined above, gardeners can enjoy the beauty and charm of hydrangeas for years to come.

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