How to Grow and Care for Shooting Star Hydrangea

This popular holiday shrub has eye-catching white petals

Shooting Star Hydrangea against black background

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Shooting Star Hydrangea are often sold in containers as an alternative to the Poinsettia during the holiday season. They feature eye-catching white star-shaped double flowers that turn pale green after a month or two. These deciduous shrub-like plants can grow to be up to 5 feet tall. Because these plants are often forced to bloom to be sold during the winter season, it means they can be stressed when they arrive with you. As a result, you'll need to provide them with nurturing care to ensure their survival, particularly if you plan to repot them outside.

This unusual lace cap variety of Hydrangea is a cultivar often referred to as Hydrangea macrophylla "Hanabi" or "Fireworks". Although they look markedly different from the traditional bigleaf Hydrangea, they have similar care requirements.

Botanical Name Hydrangea macrophylla "Hanabi"
Common Name Hydrangea 'Shooting Star'
Family Hydrangeaceae
Plant Type Perennial, shrub
Mature Size Up to 5 ft. tall
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Moist but well-drained
Soil pH Neutral to acidic
Bloom Time Summer, fall
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Native Area Asia, North America

How to Grow Shooting Star Hydrangea

These plants grow well in containers indoors with the right care and attention. With a little more attentiveness, providing the climate is mild enough, they can also grow outdoors.

They don't do well in cold, freezing conditions and should be brought inside or covered over if frost is expected. This species prefers a shady position with only partial sun exposure. Not a drought-tolerant plant, they need well-drained, moist soil conditions.

Light

Shooting star hydrangeas kept in the garden do best with a partial sun position. They don't appreciate continuous direct sun and benefit from shade in the afternoon.

Soil

A slightly acidic, well-draining and irrigated soil works well for this plant. When planted outdoors, adding a few inches of organic mulch can help to retain the moisture that they prefer.

Although it prefers moisture, make sure you don't allow the soil to become water-logged or that you press the mulch up against the stem.

Water

Your shooting star hydrangea will appreciate regular watering. In indoor pots, once the very top layer of soil is feeling dry, evenly water until you see the water draining from the bottom of the container.

Even in the colder months when the plant is dormant, you shouldn't let the soil dry out completely when kept indoors. Outdoors, during the dry months, thorough watering once a week is recommended.

Temperature and Humidity

When grown outdoors, this species needs mild weather conditions. Exceptionally hot, sunny conditions can be too much for this plant, and it doesn't cope with a hard frost either.

Fertilizer

Feeding your hydrangea with a slow-release fertilizer in the spring as new growth is starting can encourage a full bloom.

Pruning

Deadheading flowers past their best and pruning back only spent branches after the blooming season will help to encourage new, healthy growth the next season. However, this plant doesn't need harsh cutting back as some shrubs do. Over pruning can result in overly flexible stems.

Propagating Shooting Star Hydrangea

It's possible to propagate this plant by taking softwood cuttings through the summer months. Selecting around 4 to 6 inches from a new growth stem is preferable. Keep the top two leaves on the cutting and then dip in rooting hormone. Pot the cutting in rich, moist potting soil and cover it over with a bag. Make sure you position it out of direct sunlight and that the soil is kept damp. You can expect to wait up to four weeks for roots to be established.

Potting and Repotting Shooting Star Hydrangea

This plant is commonly grown in containers and does well in them in the right indoor or outdoor setting. Because of the level of stress these plants can be under after having been forced to bloom out of season, it can be a good idea to immediately repot them in a new container. Select a large pot—remember these plants can grow to be 5 feet tall. Make sure you choose a rich, high-quality potting soil. You can transfer them out to the garden in early spring to allow them to flourish in a suitable partial shade position.

Overwintering

If you're keeping the plant in a container outdoors, it's a good idea to bring it indoors for fall and winter when the temperatures drop, especially if you're expecting a frost.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

Leaf Spot Disease, which results in brown or purple marks developing, can be common in hydrangea species. It can impact on flowering ability and cause leaf drop. It's particularly common if your plant is exposed to heavy rainfall during the summer months or if you regularly water from above.

Make sure you carefully remove all affected leaves to minimize the chance of reinfection. If the case is severe, you can apply a fungicide once a fortnight. The best ones are those containing the active ingredient mancozeb or chlorothalonil.