Two pots of Hydrangea ready for the spring ...

jujujojo_gw(6b 7a)February 6, 2014

These are one year old Hydrangea macrophylla 'Merritt's Supreme'. I placed them in ground last year. I think our soil and weather were really cool and they did not seem to grow much at all. I placed them back in pots. I leave them out if the temperature is not too much below freezing. I put them back when the Polar Votex was here. Now, in February, I notice they start to sprout, indoors. As you can see, the tips of the branches have died due to freezing.

My question: I plan to let them grow in doors. I will somewhat control water. Then, in late March, I plan to put them out in transparent plastic bags. I hope this will speed up their growth a little. Is this a good plan?

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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

I would leave them indoors during the winter months and take them outside during the rest of the warmer year (no in-out-in cycles). They are quite picky and difficult to grow if you keep them indoors as in "forever".

But wow... they should not be sprouting leaves now in Zone 6. I think that the "variable weather" caused by bringing them inside and putting them outside has confused the plants. Plus who knows what the wholesaler made them do before you bought them. They are probably confused. I would try placing them in a location that is more shaded like a garage to make them go dormant and stay that way longer. Otherwise, they could leaf out, go dormant, loose leaves; and repeat the cycle several times.

On a 1-year old plant, I would not be looking for growth until years 3 or so. The best thing that they can do on year 1 outside is to develop a good root system (which we cannot initially see). So assume that they are slow but working on developing a good root system; then let them start growth above the ground once they are established. Make sure you fertilize in Spring and maintain the soil as evenly moist as best as you can with a goal of not having periods of dry soil, followed by periods of wet/moist soil and so forth. Mulch them well too.

Sometimes, a specimen will grow a lot on year 1 planted outside but other times they may not. It depends on how much of a root system the plant has when potted and when you get it/plant it... amongst other things. I had two that produced growth on year 1 and one that did not do much on year 1 (all were planted outside).

Good luck, Luis

This post was edited by luis_pr on Sat, Feb 8, 14 at 14:44

    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 7:05AM
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jujujojo_gw(6b 7a)

Posted by luis_pr z7/8 Hurst TX (My Page) on Fri, Feb 7, 14 at 7:05

I thought they would grow like roses. But the first year, they did not grow anything, just a couple leaves and flowers. I thought it was caused by cool soil.

Now, after your sharing of knowledge, it probably was preparing roots. But, I had dug it up last fall and set them in pots. The pictures may not show, the first pot is really huge.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 1:52PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

No, few shrubs grow like roses. Most shrubs take closer to three years before they would be established and bloom to their full potential, you wouldn't expect much if any in the way of visible growth their first year planted.

If you are going to have them in the ground, plant and leave them there. You may want to provide winter protection in a Z6.

If you are going to grow them in containers, you would move those into an unheated space like garage or the protection of a porch after frosts have begun, protecting only during the coldest weather. Not indoors.

You could fry plants with even cool Spring sun on a clear plastic bag, I wouldn't enclose them in those like you had planned.

There really is no healthy way to speed growth, better to grow them well and at their own rate.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 7:51PM
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jujujojo_gw(6b 7a)

Even in dark and cool like 15 C 60 F, they still continue to grow bigger. The leaves look very green and beautiful.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 8:29PM
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jujujojo_gw(6b 7a)


    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 10:06PM
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vasue(7A Charlottesville)

Jujujojo, your hydrangeas are looking great! Sounds like you brought them indoors after they'd naturally gone dormant, and the warmth & light by your window simulated Spring conditions in the garden, so they responded by putting out new growth. If you'd done this in a greenhouse rather than your home, would be considered pretty much standard procedure. That it's difficult to do successfully in home conditions shows just how green your thumb is!

Agree you'll need to harden them off now so they can gradually adjust to garden condtions without missing a beat. Chilly or sunny too fast can be shocking & damaging. Begin taking them outside on warm days (no cooler than 10 degrees from their inside spot) when there's no more than a light warm breeze & leave them in the shade for up to an hour before bringing them back inside. Weather permitting, keep doing this daily for slightly longer periods. Full shade for the first week, dappled shade the second, morning sun the third is a pretty good rule of thumb. Slowly condition them to the same amount of light they'll have where you want them in the garden. By the time all danger of Spring frost is past in your area, they can stay outside. That's probably about 3 weeks from now. Forget the plastic enclosure idea...much more downside than any advantage from that one.

You've done a great job - congrats! Your roses are looking very fine, too. Keep us updated on your progress. Bet these will be beautiful in your garden.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 11:21AM
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jujujojo_gw(6b 7a)

•Posted by vasue 7A Charlottesville (My Page) on Sat, Apr 19, 14 at 11:21

Thank you for your encouragement. Since February, everyone who sees them loves them, especially their stately and soft green leaves with those beautiful veins.

The leaves of the mini-roses were burnt. On a warm day, I brought them out in full sun. That was the burnt from sun and wind.

So, I fully understand your emphasis on transition. To begin with, they need protected warm spot and deep shade outdoors. After 2-3 weeks, they can be moved to dappled shade and a slightly more open location. After 6 weeks, I move them into open location receiving direct sun until 11 to 12 am, usually in June. The pots are big so I could not move them in and out too frequently.

I must clarify that my house is comfortably heated, but the ground level under big windows could be cool.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 12:11PM
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vasue(7A Charlottesville)

The 3-week start to finish time frame for hardening off plants grown indoors is fairly conservative & longer than the timetable many use. Seven to ten days is common. For woody perennials, like hydrangeas & roses, I like to hedge my bets and do the slower process over the course of 3 weeks. By the end of that 3 weeks, the plant is spending its nights as well as days in the garden full time. Sorry I didn't explain that very well. This is how I do it.

The first 2 days, I'll leave the plant out of direct sun in shade - often under the overhang of an outdoor roofed porch - for an hour. The third day, I'll leave it an hour & 15 minutes or so, and the fourth, an hour and a half. Then I'll advance the time each day by half an hour more, so the 5th day it spends 2 hours outdoors & by the 7th day it's out 4 hours a day. Then I'll put it in dappled shade - often under a tree that's leafing out - and leave for 2 hours in this brighter exposure. The next day, 2 hours & 15 minutes and 2 & a half the 2nd day. If it's doing well & taking this in stride, the 3rd day it gets 3 hours, 4th day 4 hours, so the last day of that second week it's out 7 hours in dappled shade. If the nights are warm enough by then, it stays overnight in the garden. The transition to full morning sun takes a bit more attention for placement. If it's been shaded by a tree in leaf-out that 2nd week, the tree is often in full leaf by then. I'll usually place it close to the edge of the tree canopy, so it will get the early sun for an hour & then the dappled shade for the rest of the day. Each day it gets positioned for more time in the sun. When I haven't had a convenient tree, have used various juryrigs to create similar conditions, including a pale umbrella secured & tilted, a lightweight trellis with a sheet, lawn chairs - whatever came to hand. Sounds more involved than it actually is, and just gets worked into my day, rather like keeping an eye on a load of laundry or pets outside. All the timing depends on the weather, the plant's response, your own schedule & how frisky you feel on any given day. Pull the plant back inside or otherwise protect if frost or storms threaten - keep an eye on the sky. By the end of the 3 weeks, the pot can go where you mean to plant it.

We all get to learn from others' experience or from trial & error - most typically a mix of both. Sorry your first lesson with sun & wind scorch was a tough one. As gardeners, we're trying to give our charges the best start before they must brave the elements mostly on their own. My grandma used to "tickle" her plants with her open palm to mimic a breeze when they were inside, to make them sturdier & stronger.

Appreciate that big pots can be tough to move without help. Wagons, wheeled saucers (I've actually "walked" those like a dog with a bungee around the pot rim as a leash), pot lifters & creative imagination can offer assistance here. Once the potted plant is spending most of its day in the garden, nighttime protection can be managed with empty pots upended over the top, or sheets safety-pinned to supports, whatever. Remember critter protection, too. Putting the pots on tables or stacks of other pots can guard them from rabbits. Where there's a will there's often a way. The outline here is just one way - you'll suit your own to yourself & your plants.

The link is to an article that explains the physical changes of plants in response to hardening off in the Spring. I keep watering the same as inside (accounting for showers outdoors), especially when the plant is already in bud & bloom, but that's me. We have another 10 days left in April, so if you could begin hardening off next week (weather cooperating), you could have the pots ready for their garden spots by the middle of May or soon thereafter.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hardening Off

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 4:49PM
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