fertilizing hydrangea question

dgregory_so.cntrl.IL_zone6aFebruary 21, 2013

I have a question about fertilizing in the spring. Please bear with me as I talk this through. Comments and advice are very welcome. I realize the differences in growing zones requires different strategies, so...

I just read jacqueline3's post with her zone 9CA hydrangea questions and it got me wondering. She was given advice to fertilize in the spring with fast release fertilizer, I'm assuming something like an Osmocote variety.

Then thinking about it, a few days ago I read (in a post from melanievvv) advice to use cotton seed meal on hydrangea in the spring because it gives more immediate results. I'm assuming melanievvv's zone was a cooler one that jaqueline3.

Also, I've read a post somewhere that slow release (like Osmocote) needs higher temps to begin working...

With all that said and referring to hydrangea, would it be OK to put down a slow release fert first, scratched into the mulch, then cotton seed meal spread on top? The cotton seed meal would begin working with the spring rain, as the hydrangea leafs out. Then, as summer temperatures climb and the soil warms, the slow release would take over for summer. Would coffee grounds sprinkled over the mulch be beneficial too?

Of course, discontinuing any further fertilization after July as the hydrangea gets ready for fall and winter.

Is this a bad idea or a plan that might work for me? Would the on going fertilization require more than normal watering?

With cabin fever setting in, I may be over-thinking this.
Thanks for reading and, in advance, for any advice,

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Hummm, sorry folks, maybe I should have read the post about "ordering on line" before posing this question.

It seems that luis__pr may have answered my question already, but I'm still wondering about using both types of fertilizer to give my hydrangea a boost next year.

Three are "mop heads" (2 yr old grown from cuttings) last summer was their 1st year in the ground, another is an Endless Summer 1st year in the ground (container grown the previous year bought from Lowes) and the last one is a small noid dug from my Mother's yard last fall.

Pardon me, I feel like I'm rattling on...

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 8:20PM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Hello, Deb. Hydrangeas do not need much in terms of fertilizers provided that the soil already contains adequate amounts of minerals. A single application in the Spring will be sufficient and you would not need to reapply. Once the fertilizer is all "used up", the shrub should be able to obtain minerals from the soil and the decomposing mulch.

Both Osmocote and cottonseed meal are slow release fertilizers (so I would use one of them only). One is an organic meal while the other is a chemical alternative for those who prefer using those or those who already have that product. In years past, I have sometimes switched them back and forth because I had only one of them handy. How long they "last" actually varies but say 3-4 months each. Other organic alternatives are compost and composted manure. Earthwork castings like bat guano and bunny trails in a 1/4 to 1/2 thick layer would also work. You can complement them by using liquid seaweed, liquid fish or coffee grounds throughout the length of the growing season in your area. I even forgot to fertilize one year and noticed no changes so do not panic if you completely forget.

But you could even add both at the same time and there would not be harm done provided that you do not add too much. Too much fertilizer can harm plants or can make the hydrangeas bloom only just a litlle if nitrogen levels remain very high.

Cabin fever is about to break over here. The last two weekends I have started pruning roses a little, a chore usually scheduled around Feb 14th in this area. The weather has been nice and the roses are starting their leaf out, weeks after Flowering Quinces started blooming but oddly, the forsythia has not bloomed yet. A little strange for this area.

Quinces are always the first ones to start blooming in the late part of January. I always think why in the world are those shrubs confused about the blooming time because they do tend to send something like 2-3 early blooms in mid January. God!!! But they start the process of making go outside and break the cabin fever. I guess that happens anytime you see bloomage in those early months. Camellias (C. japonicas) are others that are blooming here.

However, our average last date of freeze is around mis-March so I should keep the fertilizers in the shed. I try to do this about two weeks after the average date of last frost but plants sure have been ahead of that the last few winters.

I am dreading this time of the year somewhat as I will fertilize and I know the pooches will show up dirty noses and smelling of cottonseed meal and soil. Hee hee hee! I will have to apply it in one area only and keep them out of there for a week or so... or monitor them to make sure they do not eat all of fertilizer.

So far the hydrangeas have not sent a complaint letter about me switching chemical and organic fertilizers year after year. By the way, some of the hydrangeas have tiny leaves coming out but not all. ;o) Your time will come in a month or so; enjoy it when it arrives.

Well, I am ranting too. Time to go back to bed. Today's chinese meal woke me up! Did that help you?


PS - Fertilizing will not require more watering per se. It is recommended that one remove the mulch, water, add the fertilizer, water again and put back the mulch (or add if needed). I sometimes do that but other times forget & water afterwards only. To save on waterings, I try to fertilize the day before we expect rain but that does not work well when Mother Nature misses and rains only around me. Then I have to go and water by hand.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 2:33AM
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All terrific info Luis, thank you! I must have gotten confused about cottonseed meal...Since I happen to have some, I am excited to see that it is a beneficial fertilizer for hydrangea.

The blooming, budding and leafing out shrubs in your area must be a wonderful remedy for cabin fever. Your descriptions remind me of visiting my Mother where she "winters" in central Florida. We often take a day trip to Bok Tower and walk the gardens with azaleas and camellias blooming in February. It's wonderful escape from the dreary Midwestern winter and a nice time spent with Mom (she's 92).

The extent of my gardening this time of year is sprinkling some snow on my potted hosta and other perennials stored in our unheated garage. Or I'll take a walk around the yard, lingering over the flower and plant beds looking for signs of life on the way out to the mailbox. These activities help me feel a little more connected to the garden and less confined in winter. Well, that and reading gardenweb for advice, ideas and garden planning, of course.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 1:38PM
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I forgot to ask, does the cottonseed meal attract your dogs because it smells good or bad? I ask because our area is prolific with white tail deer. We don't have dogs so they aren't afraid and get pretty close to the house. I don't want to attract deer to my hydrangea.


A momma deer with her baby about 100 feet from my front door last spring:

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 3:04PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I live in the woods with lots of deer which regularly ravish my garden. They have never eaten my Hydrangeas, must taste bad. Al

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 10:23AM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Yes, the odor attracts the dogs. I can see them licking their chops when the wind blows some of the meals around or when they stop by to smell the ones I spread on the plants.

Oh how lucky you are then Al. This forum is full of posts of people complaining about deer. I am so glad there are no deer in my area but 30 miles away, co-workers have reported seen them in their neighborhoods. So far, I have not noticed a pattern when reading the posts.... suggesting that the deer prefer/dislike one hydrangea variety over another; people have complained about most varieties.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 6:24PM
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Cottonseed meal is made from ground up remains of the cotton industry. Like alfalfa meal, it is essentially a plant product and has no aroma or odor that would attract dogs.........unless you have dogs in your neighborhood that particularly like to munch on cotton bolls :-) Cottonseed meal's big attraction for hydrangea growing is that it is a natural soil acidifier and hydrangeas prefer acidic soil conditions. Acid soils also help to influence flower color on certain varieties.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 4:52PM
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