How to Care for a Maple Leaf Hydrangea

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Maple-leaf hydrangea is the common name for Viburnum acerifolium. It belongs to the honeysuckle family and is a native plant common in Eastern woodlands. Flowers are white and appear May through July, followed by dark blue berry-like fruits. The fruits may remain through winter, adding color to the snowy garden. The leaves resemble small maple leaves and turn shades of red, pink and purple in fall. Maple-leaf Viburnum spreads mainly by suckering and grows in clumps of stems up to 8 feet tall. Purchase this native plant at a reputable nursery; never remove plants from the wild. Attractive to a variety of birds and butterflies, this native Viburnum variety will flourish in the home garden with very little care.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil test kit
  • Dolomitic lime
  • Peat moss
  • Compost
  • Pruning shears
  • Loppers

Care When Planting

  • Site your maple-leaf hydrangea in full sun or filtered shade, but do not plant it in deep shade. Colony-forming plants like maple-leaf hydrangea will spread widely. Plan your planting site accordingly if you are using one specimen in a home garden rather than naturalizing them.

  • Dig in a layer of compost at planting time to provide nutrients and drainage. Growing under almost any conditions, maple-leaf hydrangea prefers loamy, moist soil. Spread a 3-inch layer of compost on the planting site and 2 feet out in all directions; dig it in well.

  • Test your soil for acidity. Maple-leaf hydrangeas prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH of 5.5. Raise or lower the soil pH as needed by adding amendments like peat moss or dolomitic lime. Buy the additives from a nursery or garden center and follow the manufacturer's directions for applying.

Watering, Feeding and Protecting

  • Water maple-leaf hydrangeas by soaking deeply and slowly during long dry periods. After becoming established, maple-leaf hydrangeas require only occasional supplemental watering during normal weather conditions if the planting site has good loamy soil.

  • Fertilizing maple-leaf hydrangeas is unnecessary under normal conditions with good garden soil. If soil is poor digging in compost at planting time and mulching once a year with a 2-inch layer of compost from the base out to the drip line will provide nutrients.

  • Amend alkaline soil for maple-leaf hydrangeas. They do best with soil pH of neutral to slightly acid (7 to 5.5). Adding compost at planting time may not be enough if your soil is highly alkaline. Add peat moss as directed by your local university agriculture extension agent to lower the pH.

Pruning Your Maple-leaf Hydrangea

  • Remove the oldest stems on maple-leaf hydrangea every 4 years. Cut the old stems out at ground level to promote vigorous new growth. Removing older stems also prevents the shrub from becoming too tall.

  • Prune maple-leaf hydrangea branches only to remove dead wood or wildly growing branches that spoil the natural shape. Cut out crossing branches that spoil the silhouette, broken branches and dead wood.

  • Prune for renewal of a severely overgrown plant in spring directly after blooming so new growth can form and harden before winter. Cut one third of the oldest stems back to their bases. Cut top growth back to the desired height at a pair of out-facing leaf nodes.

Tips & Warnings

  • Maple-leaf hydrangea will naturalize easily and can be used as a mass planting in a woodland garden understory.
  • Maple-leaf hydrangeas do well in urban gardens because they are tolerant of pollution and harsh urban conditions.
  • Use maple-leaf hydrangea as a shrub border in a native species garden. The fruit is attractive to a wide variety of bird species. For best fruit production plant at least two maple-leaf hydrangeas.
  • Watch for straight rows of Viburnum leaf beetle eggs laid on twigs in July. Destroy any eggs found and further inspect the plant to find and destroy any others.
  • Shearing should never be done on maple-leaf hydrangea hedges as this will remove flower buds that form on mature growth.
  • Finding brown sunken spots or white mealy material on the leaves of maple-leaf hydrangeas indicates leaf spot or powdery mildew. Take a leaf sample to your local master gardener, botanical garden, or university extension agent to confirm the problem and get a remedy.

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