Tuff Stuff hydrangea

Tuff Stuff hydrangea is a compact variety of mountain hydrangea grown for their graceful flower clusters. While the flowers are usually pink, this type can also have purple-blue flowers in certain soil conditions. This low-maintenance plant is quite small, growing only 3′ tall by 3′ wide. Tuff Stuff is the perfect hydrangea for tricky spots in the garden.

Tuff Stuff hydrangea basics

Tuff Stuff hydrangea (Hydrangea serrata ‘Tuff Stuff’) is one of the most popular small hydrangea varieties. These are reblooming lace-cap hydrangea plants called mountain hydrangeas, which originally grew in mountain valleys in Japan, China, and Korea.

Tuff Stuff hydrangeas look similar to big leaf hydrangeas but are more tolerant of less-than-perfect growing conditions. Tuff Stuff hydrangea is sometimes referred to as Cotton Candy hydrangea or Blueberry Cheesecake hydrangea.

Tuff Stuff hydrangeas grow to be 2-3 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide. A miniature version called “Tiny Tuff Stuff” grows only to 18″-24″ tall and wide. The flowers bloom in the late spring and early summer, and the blooms last until fall or when things start to frost over. These hydrangeas bloom once every year.

The Tuff Stuff hydrangea blooms can be found in pink, purple, and blue. You can change the color of the blooms by changing the acidity or alkaline level of the soil that your hydrangeas are planted in. You can even change the color of the blooms every year before the spring season begins. If the soil is acidic, the blooms will be purple or blue. if the soil is alkaline, then the blooms on your Tuff Stuff hydrangea will be pink in color.

Tuff stuff hydrangea flower

Planting & soil requirements

Hydrangeas are best planted in early spring or early fall. They have an easier time getting established when temperatures are mild, and conditions are not harsh in any way. You can plant hydrangeas any time of year (as long as the ground isn’t frozen), but be careful to keep them well watered if you plant during the heat of summer.

Plant your Tuff Stuff hydrangeas in soil that drains well, and plant them in a sunny area that also gets some shade. If you have multiples, plant them 3-4 feet apart so they have plenty of room to grow out and up without interfering with another hydrangea plant. You can plant them closer for a dense hedge-like look.

After you plant your Tuff Stuff hydrangeas, cover the topsoil in a shredded 2-3 inch layer of organic mulch. This will prevent moisture in the soil from escaping easily and will also keep weeds down by minimizing the light that reaches weed seeds.

“An adaptable garden plant, it is compact and tidy enough to thrive in a decent-sized container while also holding its own near the front of an herbaceous or shrub border. It only really needs pruning when there is old wood to be thinned out and in temperate areas it will grow happily in both partial shade and full sun, but it will be grateful for afternoon shade in a really warm climate.”

Hydrangeas: Beautiful Varieties for Home and Garden Hardcover, by Naomi Slade
Tuff stuff hydrangea

Sunlight requirements

Mountain hydrangeas need at least 6 hours of direct or indirect sunlight to grow and thrive, so make sure you plant yours in an area with plenty of sunlight. They will grow if they are in a partially shady area of the garden, but if they get too much shade, growth can be restricted.

Watering Tuff Stuff hydrangeas

Tuff Stuff hydrangeas need to be watered a few times a week when first planted, depending on how much mulch is on the topsoil and how much sunlight it gets daily. It prefers having consistently moist soil, so go out into the garden and check the topsoil to see if it is dry. When the topsoil is dry, add water until the soil is moist. Make sure that it drains well.

Water your Tuff Stuff hydrangeas more frequently during the hot summer months than you did in the spring. If your plant isn’t getting enough water, you will notice the leaves starting to turn brown, and if it is spring or summer, the edges of the flowers will also start to turn brown. When this happens, you must add water to the soil, and the brown edges should go away within a few days.

Tuff stuff hydrangea

Fertilizing Tuff Stuff hydrangea plants

Fertilizing these plants generally isn’t required, but it can help your plant thrive if planted in poor soil. Add fertilizer that is formulated for woody plants. Fertilizers made for roses or flowering shrubs will also work well, and you can find these types of fertilizers at any gardening or hardware store in your local area. Fertilize your hydrangeas in the early spring before the blooming season begins.

Tuff stuff hydrangea

Pruning Tuff Stuff hydrangea

Tuff Stuff hydrangeas don’t need to be pruned unless there are branches that are dead or sick, and this type of hydrangea is resistant to most diseases that typically affect hydrangeas. If your hydrangea has dead or sick branches, trim them off throughout the year.

Tuff Stuff hydrangeas are compact and won’t typically grow past 3 feet wide or 3 feet tall. They will grow until they are too large for their roots to support the entire plant. If you want to control the growth, only cut away old or dead branches and stems, or you will hinder the growth and blooms of your Tuff Stuff Hydrangea.

If you choose to prune your Tuff Stuff hydrangea, do so early in the spring, before the blooming season begins. The blooms on Tuff Stuff Hydrangeas grow on new and old stems and branches but mainly grow on new wood.

Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a quintessential Canadian gardener. An engineer by trade, she tends to an ever-expanding collection of plants. In her world, laughter blooms as freely as her flowers, and every plant is raised with a dash of Canadian grit.

Mary Jane is a certified Master Gardener and also holds a Permaculture Design Certificate. She's also a proud mom of three, teaching her little sprouts the crucial difference between a garden friend and foe.

When she's not playing in the dirt, Mary Jane revels in her love for Taylor Swift, Gilmore Girls, ice hockey, and the surprisingly soothing sounds of bluegrass covers of classic hip-hop songs. She invites you to join her garden party, a place where you can share in the joy of growing and where every day is a new opportunity to find the perfect spot for yet another plant.

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