positivecreationsMarch 21, 2009

Wanted to plant hydrangeas in front of my house, and from what I read they will like the minerals from the foundation and sidewalk, and they need sun. So I have sun until mid to late afternoon, red clay dirt, and hydrangeas. The first week every day I came home they were wilted, I watered them, and they perked up by the next morning. The second week they could last a day or two between waterings without being wilted. Do they just need time to adjust, or am I setting myself up for failure here? Do they need better dirt, less sun, more water, or is Mobiel AL too much sun since this is only March!

Any advice is great!

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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Planting near the foundation makes the hydrangeas subject to alkalinity from the cement. This can cause iron chlorosis if they are REAL close to the foundation. But it would not cause wilting.

In the South, hydrangeas need shade in the afternoon to prevent the leaves from getting sunscorch and/or from loosing moisture. I placed my shrubs such that they start getting shade at 11am or 12pm during the summer. It may possible to grow them in the South in places where they get more sun but you need to supply more water. It is a bit of balancing act as you want a little bit more water, not too much water.

Newly planted hydrangeas will often wilt a lot until they become established, even if provided with shade during the afternoon. This problem usually starts during the summer and stops when temperatures go down in the Fall. It can also occur when the plant gets a lot of wind on windy days. Established hydrangeas will weather the storm better. After one or two years, they will only wilt when it is really very bad out there.

I suggest that you transplant them where they get some relief from the sun around 12pm and keep them mulched with 3-4" of mulch up to the drip line. Mulch makes the soil moisture last longer. Since winds can also dessicate the leaves, choose -if you can- a location that is not windy. Add organic compost to reduce the amount of clay in your soil; this makes the soil drain better.

Since these are new plants, expect them to continue wilting during the warmest/windiest part of the year. Usually, you do not have to do anything since most hydrangeas will recover on their own when the sun goes down or throughout the night. Suggestions if you discover them wilting:

* if the wilting episode looks extremely bad, apply 1g of water immediately

* if it looks like a "regular" wilting spell, check the condition of the soil. Insert a finger into the soil to a depth of 4". If the soil feels almost dry or dry, water 1g of water. Otherwise, see if the plant recovers overnight. If still wilted and the soil is moist, provide half as much water as usual. Make sure you still have 3-4" of mulch.

Why so much checking? You do not want to overwater when the plant has these episodes because too much water causes root rot. Root rot prevents the roots from absorbing water and a plant with root rot shows the same signs as if it was not getting any water (because it is not). If enough damage is done to the roots by root rot, the plant will die.

You can view many hydrangeas in Mobile homes or go to Bellingrath Gardens in Theodore, AL (20 miles SW of Mobile). See the link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mobile Gardening Column from 2008

    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 11:16PM
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Hi, when you said "red clay" I cringed. I don't know any plants that can do well in that. Hydrangeas really like rich amended soil. The amended soil will retain the water better than red clay which will just cause the water to run off. Adding a good amount of compost or Nature's Helper soil condtioner and mixing it in well can be a great improvement. If you can dig up the plants and do this it will certainly pay off the in end. After that is done if you put 3-4" of mulch on the soil the water you put in will tend to stay there and not dry up so fast, plus keep the weeds down.
Mary/Gainesville, GA

    Bookmark   March 22, 2009 at 7:51PM
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