How to Care for a Shooting Star Hydrangea

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Hydrangea macrophylla "Shooting Star" is properly Hydrangea macrophylla "Hanabi." Nurseries that grow it for sale as an indoor flowering plant have renamed it. It can also be seen on hydrangea mail order sites and at nurseries as "Fuji Waterfall." Used in the garden, Shooting Star will reach 3 to 5 feet in height and can be just as wide. Shooting Star is a lacecap hydrangea that has fertile flowers in the center of sterile white florets. The star-shaped flowers begin as pure white, remain that way for five weeks and then turn a pale green. The flowers will last another four to five weeks in their green phase. With proper care you can enjoy Shooting Star's long bloom period in your own garden for many years.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil pH testing kit
  • Dolomitic lime
  • Peat moss
  • Compost
  • Sand
  • Fertilizer
  • Timer and drip irrigation
  • Pruning shears
  • Loppers
  • Stakes
  • Garden mesh
  • Clean straw

Care at Planting Time

  • Test the soil at planting time for pH. Shooting Stars like a slightly acid soil with a pH of 6.5. Peat moss can be used to lower the pH. Spread a 2-inch layer on the planting site and out to about 2 feet in all directions and dig it in well. Buy and use dolomitic lime according to manufacturer's directions to raise the pH.

  • Incorporate compost into the soil at planting time. Shooting Stars prefer a rich soil and adding compost will also loosen heavy clay soils and provide drainage. Use one part compost to two parts garden soil.

  • Test your soil for drainage at planting time. Correct poorly draining soil by adding one part sand to two parts garden soil and digging it in well.

  • Site the Shooting Star properly at planting time by choosing a site with morning sun and filtered afternoon shade. Do not plant Shooting Star where it gets full sun all day or heavy shade during most of the day.

Watering, Fertilizing and Protecting

  • Water regularly and add an extra watering in the summer. Shooting Stars should not be allowed to go for long periods without water. Slow deep watering using a timer on a drip irrigation system will ensure consistency.

  • Fertilize hydrangeas once in March and once in June. Use a balanced fertilizer like a 10-10-10 and follow manufacturer's directions for application. Avoid feeding during the end of summer or in the fall. Never apply fertilizer during the winter.

  • Check for the cold hardiness of your hydrangea variety and find your zone on the USDA cold hardiness zone map. Protect your hydrangea if it will be exposed to freezing or near freezing temperatures. Drive stakes around around the hydrangea to form a ring and wrap the stakes with wire mesh fencing Fill the cage loosely with clean straw.

Pruning Shooting Star Hydrangeas

  • Prune a young Shooting Star hydrangea in the middle of summer to establish a pleasing branch structure. Summer pruning gives the hydrangea time to harden new growth before winter. Cutting main branches and shortening stems at this time gives you a chance to create a bushier plant.

  • Trim a mature Shooting Star hydrangea only to remove dead wood every 5 years. Cut off one third or less of the Shooting Star's oldest stems down to their bases. Trim any stubs at the base back to the main trunk. Remove dead wood on branches, but do not tip cut all branches as this will remove flower buds.

  • Rejuvenate older messy Shooting Stars in the middle of summer. New growth produced in summer will harden off before the winter frosts. Cut out crossing branches, dead wood, and about one-third to one-half the old woody stems. Rejuvenating means a lost bloom season, so cut back branch tips where required to restore the hydrangea's shape.

Tips & Warnings

  • According to the experts at the United States National Arboretum in their 2009 article, "Hydrangea Questions and Answers," the most common reason for lack of flowering is unfavorable weather.
  • Wait till very early spring to remove old blooms. Leaving dead blooms on over winter looks messy but protects the tender flower buds from cold.
  • Wood ashes can be used to raise the pH of very alkaline soils if you have it available. Use ½ lb. for one hydrangea, scattering it at the base of the plant. A covering of compost will keep it from blowing away and allow it to leach in during watering.
  • Hydrangeas are attractive to deer, so planting in them areas where deer have easy access may result in damage.
  • Avoid heavy nitrogen fertilizers because this promotes shoot growth, not blooms. Use a good 0-2-0 phosphate fertilizer to force blooming.
  • Roots can freeze during unusually cold winters. Prevent cold damage by mulching heavily out to the dripline with leaves, wood chips, or salt hay.

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