help!! brown blooms

rosebloomsMarch 6, 2013

I am new to gardening and need to know what to do with my Mophead hydrangea. I got my plant about 2 months ago. I bought it pot planted with two opening blooms and a few buds. The weather has been 60-70s during to day. Over the last few weeks the weather got hotter and required me to water daily. I found it need water that often because if I didn't water it, at night, the blooms looked wilted. Now I water it nightly and it has 8 blooms. All the new blooms are a beautiful blue except the originals which has a few brown flowers. The plant looks healthy but I don't want all the flowers to turn brown. Was it the fact that I didn't water it often enough or is it something else?? Any advice is greatly appreciated.

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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

It is hard to say. Hydrangea blooms will change colors in time; they do not remain blue for more than a few weeks. They could start -for example- pink, purpe, blue or white and then go thru a progression of color changes that ends in brown. I was not clear on how your blooms got to brown.

A direct shift from the original color to brown would be unusual and could indicate one of several issues such as the plant being exposed to too much sunlight or watering problems (too much or too little).

If this type of hydrangea reblooms, I would simply deadhead the spent brown blooms as that will trigger production more blooms. If it does not rebloom, you will get new blooms probably in Spring 2014.

Flower buds get generated around July-August of every year. They will be invisible until Spring when the plant blooms. But reblooming hydrangeas will then produce new flower buds about a month or more later and these will open in a few weeks so you will have about 1+ month to 2 months (approximate time) of waiting time for more blooms. In the meantime, you can either keep or deadhead the brown spent blooms.

I also suggest adding a little mulch while potted, placing it in an area that is not windy/sunny and watering less, much less. Daily watering can cause the roots to rot. If the soil drains well and the pot has enough drainage holes, this will help prevent rotting but, keeping the roots wet will exact a toll and that could be fatal. As long as the leaves remain looking green, that will suggest that the roots are ok.

Wilting can be a sign of lack of moisture, root rot or of a potting mix that does not retain moisture. When the roots rot, they cannot absorb as much moisture as they once did so the plant reacts like when it does not get enough moisture.

To put things into perspective, I too have a newly purchased, green, potted hydrangea that I am watering about every 5-7 days. I use my fingers to sense when the soil is almost dry or dry. When it feels almost dry, I then water it.

These plants should be on the ground soon (maybe now, in your zone), about 2 weeks after your average date of last frost. I keep mine mulched with a small layer of mulch so the soil moisture will last longer and I will not have to water often. Since I am close to reaching the avg date of last frost and temps have been mild this winter, I take it out for some sun but will bring it inside when it gets close to freezing (or below) at night. The first week outside, I had it in bright shade to let the leaves get used to that. Now it gets full sun (the sun is weak during the winter months but eventually it needs shade at or after 12pm). On windy days, I move it elsewhere or inside as this dries them out fast.

Once the chance of frost has passed, look for a place that gets shade in the afternoon during the summer months. The soil should drain well and be kept acidic although hydrangeas tolerate some alkalinity (this will however make the blooms purple or a shade of pink). You can mix compost or composted manure with the garden soil when planting. Try using expanded shale if your area gets hot & dry during the summer months (this absorbs water and slowly releases it). If the potting mix already contains those round fertilizer pellets, you can skip fertilizing this year. In future years, add about 1/2 cup to 1 cup of compost, composted manure or cottonseed meal. You can also use one application of a general purpose slow release fertilizer like Osmocote 10-10-10. Fertilizers can be applied after danger of frost has passed; do it only once a year as these are not roses. If you want, you can also add weak fertilizers (like liquid fish, liquid seaweed or coffee grounds) during the growing season but stop in July-ish so the plant will not be kept actively growing when it needs to go dormant. Top the soil with 3-4 inches of mulch up to the drip line.

And test the soil moisture often, especially during its first summer: if a finger inserted to a depth of 4" feels almost dry or dry, give it 1 gallon of water. Water very early in the mornings and water the soil, not the leaves.

Does that help you?

This post was edited by luis_pr on Thu, Mar 7, 13 at 5:27

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 5:18AM
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Thank you Luis!!!:-) That was extremely helpful. I will try placing my plant in an area of less sunlight and see if that helps. I may leave the brown flowers on for now.
One last question...if I decide to put the plant in a bigger ceramic pot when do you suggest I do so? Right now it is in plastic. Also, it is booming so beautifully I don't want to shock the plant.
Again, I appreciate your through response!


    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 10:47PM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

You could transplant it at any time anytime. And you can probably do it as soon as you get a few of those gizmos with coasters to help move the new pot. Buy a few as some of them tend to break unexpectedly so it pays to have a back up for those emergencies.

I have had those 'emergencies' when moving the pots outside in the Spring, when moving the pots to a new location or in the Fall but the ones I remember are those that happened when I suddenly realize temps will be plunging to freezing that same night and no one is around to help! And then one of the casters breaks... Hee hee hee! Oh me! LOL!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 1:54AM
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