Hydrangea dead branches?

ATekk(6nj)March 25, 2012

Hi all,

So last fall I was able to snag a great deal on four large hydrangea from HD for $10 a piece. They weren't in great shape but I figured at that price what could I lose.

Since these were my first hydrangea I was not aware that it is advisable to winter protect (now after reading on GW I do!).

So now as you can see in the pictures I am getting lots of leaves blooming from the bottom but the top looks sluggish. I see buds going all the way up the stems but they are not even turning green yet. Did these buds freeze? Should I prune the branches down to the last successful bud?

I am not sure what type of hydrangea these are but I am assuming a mophead variety from the dried flower that were on it last year. I normally would not consider pruning these right now but based on what I have read, if these branches have been damaged it may be smart to prune now? I am aware that I will not get blooms most likely on these branches this year if I do.

Thank you all for your help.

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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

I would wait a while, ATekk. After leaf out occurs, wait until late May to determine if the stems are really dried out. Newly planted or transplanted shrubs have been known to delay leaf out until quite late.

An alternative is to prune off each stem in one or two inch increments. Then stop when you hit green or get to the bottom of the stem.

Some of the shrubs sold out there now include reblooming hydrangeas. These rebloomers are useful in cold climates because their first Spring flowers do not survive but the stems that grow again from the crown will bloom after a a few months and still provide bloomage. Additional bloomage may occur -for example- in June and again closer to the the Fall.

If these shrubs turn out to rebloom, you have the option of not winter protecting them as you will have blooms, just later than normal. But I would probably try to winter protect them anyways so you can get earlier bloomage. Winter protecting can become a hassle some years, especially when the plants get large and one does not have an adequate supply of leaves, hay or mulch.

This year, I expected to have a lot of dried out stems due to the exceptional drought and high temperatures that we had last summer. The shrubs have been leafing out for a month or slightly longer now. I am observing that the damage may have been to the top of the stems as the bottom half or so is leafing out. Only one shrub is leafing out all stems from the bottom 2-3" only so far.

I too will wait until May to prune. I may even need to prune some lonely stems that leafed out all the way to the top if the others around it did not; that may not look aesthetically pleasing otherwise.

The broccoli stage of the plants will help me make pruning decisions greatly. It should be starting soon over here and it will indicate where blooms will be generated. Your broccoli stage may be a month away or so.

Enjoy the new shrubs. And always maintain 3-4" of mulch year around up to the drip line. You got them at a good price!

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 3:17AM
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springwood_gardens(6B Pittsburgh)

I If you are lucky you got David Ramsey hydrangeas which are sold generically but have similar blooming capabilities to endless summer. A good size root ball should get you some gangbuster growth and blooms on new wood. On the other hand they could be nikkos and take a couple seasons to get established. Either way if you are in zone 6 I would skip winter protection for a couple years to see how well the plants come back, then use as needed. As I recall HD was also selling Sister Theresa and Charm generically, as well as some lacecaps.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 3:39AM
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Wow. Thank you luis_pr and Springwood Gardens for your excellent feedback. Answers like these is why I always use GW as my #1 source for info.

I will definitely hold off on pruning if any until at least late May.

Since you were both so helpful figure I might as well put out some other questions I have as a newb to hydrangeas:

1) So my decision to place these in their current location was based on the ideal lighting of this area. Some morning light but then mostly protected from the afternoon sun by the shade of the tree you see in the background. They liked this location last year as long as I kept up on watering once a day/every other. Although the location works well, I did not plan too well aesthetically. When these grow in the backdrop will be invisible and there is a lot of room back there.

I was thinking of transplanting them further back along the fence line but this would put them in almost full shade all day, with a variety of Hosta up front.

So will full shade/dappeled sun not be as good for growth and blooming? Orrrr if I were to keep them in their current location any recommendations for a nice tall backdrop in the full shade?

2) If I do decide to transplant, I know spring is a good time, but what should the plant look like? Wait for full leafing to not stress new growth or is it better when the plant looks how it does now, leaves just emerging.

Thanks again for all the help. I plan on adding a nice hedge of Limelights this spring as well after seeing so many beautiful pictures here!

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 12:07PM
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