Several questions about new hydrangea bush.

delia5588April 17, 2014

Hi all. This is my first post here (many more to come, I'm sure!). I'm a new homeowner and I've been spending lots of time in the yard trying to fix it up. I know the very basics of gardening, so I'm learning as I go.

Anyways, my mother gave me a hydrangea bush several weeks ago. I planted it last week and it seemed to have been doing fine... Up until 3 days ago when we had a big drop in temperature and it rained constantly for an entire day. (I'm in NJ) Now the blooms have started to turn color, like they are dieing. Does it appear that way? Also, could someone please tell me what kind of hydrangea this is, as the tag was missing.

I want to mention that where the bush is, is at the bottom of a slight decline in my yard. There is a tiny creek right behind the fencing. The soil tends to be more moist in that area. Also, the soil is very clay-like. I've just read that the hydrangea should be in a more shaded area, which I didn't realize. My house faces East. So, after around 10am my entire back yard where the bush is, is in full sun. Would you recommend I move he bush to the front of my home?

I would love your thoughts and help. Thank you in advance!! :)

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jujujojo_gw(6b 7a)

Sigh, I think it is frost damage. Mine suffered similarly. The flowers are gone. Did you plant them in a protected area, like near the wall of a heated house.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 12:05AM
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I did not unfortunately. I'm quite new to gardening and know little about hydrangeas. We've been having strange weather here in NJ and the one day at the beginning of the week it became very cold and the low temp in the night was below the freezing point. I had covered my herbs and tomatoe/pepper plants, but didn't think to cover the newly planted hydrangea bush.

Should I cut off the dead blooms? Do you think it is from too much water? Is there hope it will not die completely? Should I wait to move it to a more shady location in my yard? I'm clueless on what to do for it.

Also, here is a picture if what it looked like before. Any idea on what kind of hydrangea bush it is?

Thank you. :)

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 7:31AM
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what zone are you in? A lot of the florist-y hydrangeas for sale this time of year are not meant for all climates. They are forced for gorgeous bloom for Easter and don't always make for permanent plants.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 10:02AM
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jujujojo_gw(6b 7a)

•Posted by delia5588 none (My Page) on Fri, Apr 18, 14 at 7:31

Do not cut off anything as for now. Some of the stems will revive. The plant will not die for sure. Please tolerate it for being ugly for a few months.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 10:31AM
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Let's be quite realistic here - the plant could very easily fail to revive and die completely. Hydrangeas in bloom at this time of the year - out of season - have been grown in greenhouses under rather specialized conditions. As stated above, many of these are not fully hardy in the ground in colder zones and ALL need a long period of acclimation to the outdoors before they can be planted directly in the ground. The abrupt change in environment from a warm, humid greenhouse, to a cold, wet, windy outdoor situation can put the plant in shock. Possibly one it might not recover from.

Cut off all the flowers. Keep the plant well watered but not overly wet. If any cold weather threatens again, cover the plant with sheets or harvest cloth to give it some protection. And do not expect any more flowers this season.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 3:08PM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Consider transplanting it to a more shaded location if it will be in full sun starting at 10am. Hydrangeas like morning sun and after shade.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 9:31PM
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jujujojo_gw(6b 7a)

•Posted by gardengal48 PNW zone 8 (My Page) on Fri, Apr 18, 14 at 15:08

Actually, it is the expert opinion to remove flowers before planting them first year. So, delia5588 has nature done the correct thing. I probably should bump up my posts last year when Luis offered generous help :-)

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 9:46PM
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vasue(7A Charlottesville)

The good news is that only the flowers froze. The bleaching of color is typical of frost damage on new blooms seen here sometimes. And those flowers may have protected other bud eyes below them down the stem from freezing as well. So there's certainly hope that you may have new blooms later this year if your plant blooms from old wood formed the previous year. Looks like a good size, more mature plant from the size of it, which should mean it has more root mass & stamina than a younger, more vulnerable plant. The newer stems & the leaves still look green, more good news. If your hydrangea is one that blooms on new wood that will grow this year, as well as blooming from old wood, you will still have blooms later, as long as the plant recovers. Maybe I'm just an optimist, but looks like it's likely to recover given good care.

I can't tell you which cultivar you have, or know if it usually blooms from new as well as old wood. The general rule of thumb is morning sun only, but some cultivars can take all day sun. If it were mine, I'd leave it where it is at the moment. If the sun was too intense, or the temps climbed past 80, I'd shade it with something past noon temporarily. When it began putting out new growth again, I'd be relieved it was going to make it, and dig it a new planting hole in the front of the house where it will be shaded past noon but get sun from dawn till then, not knowing the cultivar & liking a safe bet. Let us know your progress, and welcome to the forum!

Edited to add - As for the type of hydrangea, yours is a Hydrangea Macrophylla mophead (rather than lacecap), commonly known as bigleaf, hortensia or French hydrangea. There are many individual named varieties of this type that can look quite similar but have distinguishing characteristics on closer examination. I'm only familiar with a few, but perhaps someone else can make an educated guess on the identity of your specific cultivar. If you still have the pot it came in, you may find the ID written there.

This post was edited by vasue on Sun, Apr 20, 14 at 12:40

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 6:00PM
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There is a huge difference in transitioning greenhouse or florist hydrangeas to outdoors in VA than in NJ. Many varieties of Hydrangea macrophylla may only be marginally hardy in NJ and all will need winter protection. Because of the atypical growing conditions of greenhouse hydrangeas many of these are even less hardy than landscape nursery grown plants. Planting them outdoors directly without a gradual acclimation period can be seriously damaging, if not fatal, when frosts are still possible (as they are until the end of the month).

The simple fact is that bigleaf hydrangeas are not normally in flower in mid April. The fact that they are and are then planted directly outdoors puts the plant at much greater risk than if it was one grown outdoors in a nursery setting (therefore accustomed to the weather conditions) and at the proper proper stage of growth.

FWIW, greenhouse or florist's hydrangeas are often - but not always - nameless.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 2:41PM
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vasue(7A Charlottesville)

Gardengal, didn't realize we were discussing transitioning a plant from greenhouse to garden. Delia didn't mention how the shrub was treated for the 2 weeks in her care prior to planting, nor whether steps were taken to acclimate it to open garden conditions. Completely agree on the importance of hardening off for the health & success of the plant! (See Jujujojo's thread "Two pots of hydrangea ready for spring" for one method.) Figured that horse was already out of the barn, since cold damage prompted the post. Even if the hydrangea had been adequately conditioned, the response to frost would have likely been the same, as it was unprotected. This often happens with even well-established plants in natural growth nipped by Spring frost & freeze if left to fend for themselves. An experienced gardener would have dodged this bullet.

Counting the boards in the fence behind the hydrangea, I'm guessing the plant is already 2-3 years old by its size. Also guessing it was grown potted outdoors for the first year or two & brought into a greenhouse midwinter to force growth & bloom for sales ahead of this season. My guesstimate presumes there was no root damage from the cold, nor damage to the older wooded canes, and the plant has the resources to fully recover & put out new growth, given good soil preparation, good siting & good care.

Cold, like water, flows downhill. Given the slight slope where it's planted & the barrier of the solid fence behind & to the side, the cold probably pooled & settled there, doing more damage than if it had flowed by unrestricted. For future reference, you may want to reserve that location for perennials that leaf out after last frost is past, those known to shrug off temperature swings, or evergreens hardy a zone or two colder than yours in that frost pocket. Because of the downward slope, it's also natural for moisture to drain and accumulate there, so it will likely stay damper than higher ground as well.

Having gardened in two different zones within both VA & NJ, find them very similar in climate. Both states mainly range from 6a-7b, a 20 degree typical low variance in 5 degree increments, with a relatively small area in eastern Virginia along the NC border 8a. So each warms up later, cools off earlier, and stays colder longer. Like most gardens, there are microclimates within this one that vary as much as 10 degrees high & low on any given day. That's where cold & heat hardiness come into play, along with wind & sun exposure. Though the cold never fell below 0 this Winter, the unusual extended freezes were tough on the garden. Even though I hedge my bets by using only plants rated 2 zones colder than mine, a few of the broadleafed evergreens freeze-burned. Heard the same from many on these forums even in the deep South, so many of us are reevaluatng our concepts of cold hardiness in practical terms. Agree hydrangeas should be protected, especially in their early years. Since Delia's variety is currently unknown, good idea to plan to do so.

Interesting that many of the newer hydrangea introductions seem to have originated as florist's cut flowers & pot plants. Suspect we're all providing practical info by growing them in our gardens. The link is to one example of this. Only note one cited for blooming from both old and new wood, a characteristic which seems to have fired up a hydrangea revival of sorts. Although most hydrangeas sold as gift plants are not tagged by name, guessing that many growers who buy them at the plug stage & grow them on for market know what they're ordering.

Delia, how exciting to have a new home & garden! Sure you've been busy as any new homeowner with so much to do & learn. Like all of us, you add to your knowledge by picking the brains of those further on down the track, sifting through their reports, and adapting the info to yourself & your garden. We all learn by doing, often by investigating what went wrong & trying another tack. If you decide to transplant your hydrangea to another location, or have any other questions, come back & ask for advice, and keep us updated on your & your plant's progress. I'm sure you'll reward your mother's thoughtfulness of this beautiful housewarming gift with TLC so it may become a sentimental first in your garden. Spring is calling - grow on!

Here is a link that might be useful: Gift-to-Garden

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 1:13PM
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As a Horticulturist this is my #1 advice for gardeners, new and old: find out what conditions your plant requires BEFORE you plant, not after. Do not plant where you have an open spot, or where you think it will look pretty or where you have an electric meter to hide, etc., and hope for the best. This is an invitation to failure and disappointment.


    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 1:23PM
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I live in NJ also and experienced the same thing with the hydrangea plant i purchased at lowe's. It is a Hydrangea Hortensia Hydrangea MacrophylLA.I planted mine and then we got a cold spell and my plant looks the same. I'm guessing it is in shock since that is what i have been reading. The leaves are still green with some brown spots but it's been perking up since we've had warmer weather. I have the same question. Do I leave it alone & keep watering it when root ball feels dry or should I cut the dead blooms off? I'm hoping it comes back to life.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 6:55PM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

I would keep the soil as evenyl moist -not wet- as you can and mulch it to maintain 3-4" up to the drip line. If you bought it this year, the potting mix probably contains those round fertilizer pellets and they should be good for most of the year. If you bought it last year, I would fertilize it with 1/2 to 1 cup of organic compost or cottonseed meal. Or you can use a general purpose, slow-release chemical fertilizer with a NPK Ratio around 10-10-10 like Osmocote and apply it accoding to the directions on the label. Thru the rest of the year, feel free to add some coffee grounds, liquid seaweed or liquid fish but stop fertilizing by the end of June so the plant will go dormant in time for the arrival of early frosts.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 9:53PM
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It's been a few weeks and we had 5 inches of rain. My question is should I cut off the dead flower or leave them on? I see new growth on existing stems. I'm hoping this plant will survive. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 9:01AM
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Here's another photo with dead flowers. Should I cut them off or leave it alone?

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 9:04AM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

You can cut off the spent flower heads, those won't improve. Just reach down to the first leaf node, or where there once were leaves if those have been lost would be my suggestion.

I understand this was a well meaning gift, but in the future you might do better planting regular nursery stock and not florists choices. The tip there is, is it blooming out of season, at a time other than it would be blooming if grown outside exposed to actual weather.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 10:30AM
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Thanks for the information. I had the same issue as the original poster and appreciate the follow up information. I'm going to cut off the spent flower heads.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 11:02AM
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springwood_gardens(6B Pittsburgh)

H. macs grown in greenhouses/nurseries will almost always shed some (and in some cases all) growth when introduced outdoors.

This is because the plant did not "bother" to originally produce foliage that was resistant to things like:

- direct sunlight
- dry air
- hot air
- cold air
- wind
- pests and molds

As long as the roots are in moist soil your plant will survive 99% of the time

A green, upright, rigid stem will almost always produce new foliage once the flimsy original leaves dry up and fall off. The new replacement foliage will be much thicker, glossier, and resistant to outdoor conditions.

And growing in pot at first is even better, especially for the first few years. A bigger root ball (3+ gallons in volume) when planted will ensure better performance in the short and long terms, especially in the north.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 2:13PM
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I will keep soil moist and hope for the best. This is a wonderful sight thanks for all the information.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 6:48AM
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