When to plant in south Alabama

cherylfawnpFebruary 8, 2010

When is the earliest I can safely plant hydrangeas (with blooms) in south Alabama, zone 8b. They are already out in garden centers in this area with blooms on them, but I am afraid it may be too early to plant them in the ground. Thanks for the help!

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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

You don't mean outdoors in the garden centers do you?

Any blooming now would be green house grown plants forced into bloom. They won't be frost hardy, and will need to be hardened off, or gradually acclimated to being outside much like you would treat annuals grown indoors.

If you haven't purchased yet, you'd do better with nursery stock that hasn't been subjected to a regime of fertilizers and growth hormones, special temps and lighting. My guess is what you are seeing are plants grown with Valentines Day in mind, not overall long term plant health.

Regular garden nursery plants (not greenhouse florists types) and those in my 8b ground are just barely beginning to bud out with the promise of foliage - they are a long way from flowers :) If you find those, container grown and outside in a real nursery, you could plant now but only if your soil is not too wet from winter to be spading.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 7:52PM
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I have seen them at the local Home Depot and Lowe's in the outdoor garden center, and I believe they came from a local nursery that only sales wholesale but I'm not sure. However, I figured it was too early to plant seeing as how everything is still brown and the temp at night still gets down to 30 degrees.

Would it be safe to plant (with blooms) in another month? Thanks for the help!

    Bookmark   February 9, 2010 at 11:15AM
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Generally the suggestion for transitioning a greenhouse hydrangea to the landscape is to provide a gradual period of acclimitization to the outdoors. Here, that would be to wait until May or June or when outdoor temperature come close to what the plant was receiving in the greenhouse. And before planting it in the ground, getting it used to the outdoors by placing it outside for a short period of time initially and gradually increasing that duration until it remains outside around the clock.

So the short answer to your question is no, I believe next month is still too early :-) Greenhouse hydrangeas are very tender, pampered plants that will react poorly to cold of any kind. Enjoy it indoors and wait to plant it until spring is firmly ensconced in your area, there is no chance of frost and nighttime temperatures are around 50F.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2010 at 11:43AM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Cheryl, must not have made myself clear. Don't buy the types forced into early bloom unless you want to use them for a dinner centerpiece and are going to treat them as a somewhat long lived bouquet....The forcing process produces weakened plants that may not survive outdoors. Because they are weak and not as hardy as the nursery cultivars, planting outdoors is not recommended .

They are considered florists types and while they may (or may not) do well in a Z8 garden, they haven't been grown with planting into the garden in mind. If you have received one as a gift, it doesn't hurt to try planting it outdoors rather than throw it away after blooming, but don't buy one thinking it will make a reliable addition to your landscape.

If you are investing in plants for your garden, buy nursery stock. Look for plants with well shaped form and if not buying during the bloom season, go by the information on the tag which should be accurate from a reputable nursery. I'm sure bloom time there is earlier than my cooler Z8, but plants flowering before approximately early summer would be blooming out of season....they will have been 'forced', and it's stressful on the plant. No need to buy stressed plants.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2010 at 11:45AM
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Okay, that makes sense. I would much rather wait and purchase healthier plants that I can keep alive (I hope!) Thanks for all of your help!

    Bookmark   February 10, 2010 at 12:39PM
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