Potted Hydrangea Tree Care: Growing A Small Tree Hydrangea In A Pot

Potted Pink Hydrangea Tree
(Image credit: Gina Gorny)

Hydrangeas are generally considered shrubs. Especially when left to their own devices, hydrangeas tend toward shrubby growth. It is possible to prune and guide one of these natural shrubs into a small hydrangea tree, even in a container. Here’s how to do it. 

Creating a Hydrangea Patio Tree

Hydrangea in pots make lovely patio companions. Most tend to grow large and shrubby, but with the right care and pruning, you can create a pretty little flowering tree. 

You can try any type of hydrangea for this project, but Hydrangea paniculata has the most tree-like growth habit. Also known as tree hydrangea or panicle hydrangea, H. paniculata can grow up to 15 feet (4.5 m.) tall. 

The key to growing a hydrangea tree in containers or pots is judicious pruning. Whether you choose a panicle hydrangea or another type, you will need to prune it into a tree form, selecting a single main branch to serve as the “trunk.”

Choose the most obvious stem for a trunk and stake it so that it grows upright like a tree. As the plant grows, trim away any competing stems at the base and along the lower part of the trunk. 

Let the branches higher up grow and prune them into your desired tree shape. Keep about two to three sets of nodes on each branch to encourage blooming closer to the main trunk. 

Do your pruning in late winter or early spring before new growth emerges. It’s the new growth that blooms, so you don’t want to trim it away. 

Hydrangea Care in Pots

Hydrangeas are large shrubs, generally grown in beds. However, you can successfully grow a tree hydrangea in a pot with the right care: 

  • Choose a pot that is at least 16 to 24 inches (40 to 60 cm.) in diameter. Repot to a bigger container every few years. If you’ll be keeping the plant outside all winter, use a sturdy container that won’t crack as temperatures change. 
  • Use a high-quality potting soil and make sure it will drain well. Consider adding some compost as hydrangeas like fertile soil. 
  • Water regularly, especially during the hottest months. Don’t let the soil dry out too much. 
  • Use a flowering shrub or rose fertilizer each spring. 
  • Give your container a location with full sun or some shade. You can move it around to find the right amount of light for best growth. 

It’s possible to grow a small hydrangea tree in a container, but your plant will need regular care and maintenance to thrive.

Mary Ellen Ellis

Mary Ellen Ellis has been gardening for over 20 years. With degrees in Chemistry and Biology, Mary Ellen's specialties are flowers, native plants, and herbs.