Wanting to buy a plant..need help!

lostinthe90sMay 7, 2013

I have been looking around recently at some plants I might want to go in my garden. Hydrangeas are just beautiful and would love a big plant next to my porch. I've been reading a few different things but I'm new to this and need some clarification. All the plants I see already have establish "balls" on them. Is that a no-no? I would buy it and then immediately plant it into the ground. Is there anything special that needs to be done? I don't know the alkalinity of my soil or anything like that and I live in Western KY. Either in 6a or 6b. Very close, hard to tell. Any advice would help.

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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Wholesalers prefer to sell plants that are flowering so it is ok (probably preferable) to buy them when in bloom. That way you will not end with a mislabeled plant. The blooms will last thru the Winter months but the color will change as the blooms fade. They prefer shade in the afternoon and well draining, acidic, moist soil. They will tolerate some alkalinity but, if yours is high enough, it would be best to amend the soil with something to make the soil more acidic. I amend my alkaline soil always in Spring and sometimes again in August with either Garden Sulphur, greensand, iron sulfate, aluminum sulfate or iron chelated liquid compounds. At least one of these should be available in most plant nurseries. Your nearby local nurseries (and maybe some neighbors) might be able to tell you if your soil is acidic or alkaline. There are kits sold at nurseries that will give you a cheap way (not terribly exact reading) of your soil pH. If your soil is acidic, your blooms should turn a shade of blue; if alkaline they should turn a shade a pink. Then after several weeks, as the blooms fade, they will change colors, eventually turning brownish by the Fall. You can keep them thru the winter or deadhead them (not the same thing as pruning!).

They need moist soil but the root can suffer if allowed to be in wet soil for long periods of time. If the soil feels almost dry or dry when you insert a finger to a depth of 4" then water it with about 1 gallon of water per watering. On year one, they will not need to be fertilized as the potting mix contains those round fertilizer pellets but, in future years, in the Spring, apply 1/2 cup to 1 cup of cottonseed meal, compost, composted manure or use a general purpose slow-releasechemical fertilizer like Osmocote 10-10-10. Then add some coffee grounds, liquid seaweed or liquid fish thru the growing season. Stop fertilizing around the start of July so the plant will go dormant at the proper time where you live.

Just one last important thing to check... some of these hydrangeas that produce round blooms can be a problem to grow where winters get very cold so review the plant label, if there is one, to make sure the plant is winter hardy where you live. Some varities that produce mophead blooms can have trouble in zones below 7 so, double check that the label says it can be grown outside in your zone. If you do not see a plant label or the plant label does not even list winter hardiness (say, it just says "blue hydrangea"), assume it is going to need winter protection in Z6.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hydrangea Information

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 5:02AM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

I also remove blooms/flowers/fruit from anything I am newly planting. I want the plant to put energy into the root system, stems and leaves initially. (It is soooo hard to remove fruit from citrus, but I do for the first 3-4 years.) So I would also cut off the blooms before putting the plant into the ground.

Carol in Jacksonville

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 12:00PM
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springwood_gardens(6B Pittsburgh)

I agree with Carol from Jax. The more roots and canes you can grow will help you a TON in the short run. In other words, unless you've bought a 5+ gallon shrub with a good root system 20-30 canes already on it, I would hesitate to plant. In zone 6, a "starter size" hydrangea will struggle with size and hardiness for quite a long time (this goes all the way up to Endless Summer - my former 1-gallons are just starting to achieve size and hardiness after four years). Roots I've found are especially important since the canes can easily dry out in winter.

If you'd like to enjoy this year's blooms, grow it in a large pot for the first 1-2 years, and then put it in the ground. Pot growing in a good mix will let roots develop fast. And, when you overwinter the pot in a cold place (unheated garage, porch) or temporary hole/ditch, the old-wood buds will survive, which will help with overall size. In a 5-gallon decorative pot, most hydrangeas can easily grow to 3x3' - at that point, I'd plant it.

There are plants I've tested that simply WILL NOT do well if you put them in the ground at a young age. They will grow 1-2 feet and die back to the ground each year. The Merritt's series is one of them. F&E Red and Fantasia are others.

The one thing I've learned: buy bigger or grow bigger, then plant - and you'll be rewarded.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2013 at 12:13PM
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