Newly Planted Hydrangeas Wilting

kitkatt7777(8)May 5, 2010

So, when my husband and I first decided to plant hydrangeas (my favorite flower), we were discouraged over and over by everyone we talked to. Finally, a friend said, "Try them out. If they die, they die, but at least you know for sure." And we are trying! We planted 6 Endless Summer Hydrangeas about 10 days ago, and two of them look great! Four of them are getting more sun than we originally thought: early morning sun and late afternoon sun. The past few days, those 4 have looked very wilted in the evenings. So, we water and they come back. But, last night we watered and this morning two of them still look wilted. Should we water these every morning right now? Would anyone recommend fertilizing? It may be that they're just getting too much sun, but we'd like to try and keep them alive! Thoughts?

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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

No, don't fertilize, fertilizer would only correct low fertility and that isn't your problem. You may have them in a site that has too much sun for your climate...but providing some temporary shade (as well as regular water) while they recover from transplanting may help.

Did you loosen the rootballs when you took the plants from their containers - if that was tight and rootbound, you may be moistening the surrounding soil and not the actual rootball.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 12:56PM
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We will skip the fertilizer for now. When we planted them, we did loosen the rootball, but being novice gardeners, I can't say if we did that properly or not.

We normally use our automatic sprinkler system to water the plants, but I'll try to water them with a hose and make sure the roots are getting adequate hydration.

I'll let you know how this turns out . . . .

    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 1:12PM
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ostrich(3a AB)

Oh no, the automatic sprinkler system is hardly going to water these plants. You need to water them DEEPLY and THOROUGHLY yourself. Use a drip line for this.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 8:05PM
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LISTEN TO OSTRICH! Years to come they will not require as much once established, but will require more than most other plants. Don't worry they will be well worth it!

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 12:46AM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

As much as one is tempted to water when they look so sad wilted, water them only if the wilting episode looks extreme when compared to previous ones or water them when the soil feels almost dry or dry (insert a finger to a depth of 4"). As soon as nightfall comes, the amount of moisture loss by the leaves and the amount of moisture absorbed by the roots should equalize. At that point, the shrub will look ok. If the soil feels moist when the wilting episode occurs, let the shrub recover on its own at night.

In Texas, we often have clay soil and watering often in response to wilting episodes creates a fungal disease called root rot. This fungus can kill a plant is it is allowed to sit in soil that is wet to the touch. If your soil is caliche, you may need to amend the soil a lot with compost; or consider raised beds so you do not have to iron chlorosis episodes many times a year.

Use the finger method to tell if you need to water. If the soil feels wet or moist when you insert a finger to a depth of 4" then do not water; otherwise do (1 gallon for a new shrub). Make sure that the shrub has 3-4" of mulch and add mulch past the drip line. I start new hydrangeas here with mulch about 6" away from the drip line due to the drying summer winds. Winds promote wilting and you could water in advance the night before the weather service forecasts wind advisories. Many newly planted hydrangeas start having wilting episodes near and during the summer but, as they get established in your garden, these episodes will diminish. But because of our hot summers, the number of episodes will usually never go to zero. It is simply difficult to do that when the temperatures are in the 100s so many times.

Should the location of your shrub be in an always windy location, consider adding a wind break -anything that will protect the plant- or consider transplanting it elsewhere.

Lastly, watch those leaves. In the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, the leaves will suffer from sun scorch during the Texas summer months. That is from May through late August or early September. I have to plant some hydrangeas around Crape Myrtles so the shade from the trees will protect the hydrangeas starting around 11am-12pm starting now. But during the early Spring, the sun is not as intense and hydrangeas get full sun until the Crape Myrtles leaf out.

If you see that the leaves turn light green and then very yellow (including the leaf veins) or if they start bleaching white, the leaves are getting too much sun. The 2nd half of May is when I find that problem as temperatures in the mid 90s and the sun begin to get nasty. Should this happen, you can transplant it elsewhere or erect some structure to provide more shade. I had to do that one year when a storm nipped parts of one Crape Myrtle. It looked silly but it was a cheap homemade solution that worked.

You can fertilize the hydrangeas in April/May and late June (only) with a cup of cottonseed meal, compost, manure or a general purpose chemical fertilizer like Osmocote (follow the label directions). Sprinkle some coffee grounds during the growing season but stop in July, approximately. For one, July is too hot here (even roses tend to hibernate a little in July-August) and you also want to prevent tender new growth from getting zapped by early frosts.

Hint: your potted plants probably came with those round fertilizer pellets. In that case, they will not need any additional fertilizer on their first year so feel free to not fertilize until 2011. For more information, see the link below.


Here is a link that might be useful: Fertilizing hydrangeas

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 4:44AM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

In addition to watering directly onto the rootball, rig temporary shade, especially for those in the sunnier area.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 12:46PM
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When I got home on Wednesday night, I checked the rootballs as instructed and boy were they dry! So, we manually watered them with a hose, deeply and thoroughly, and they were full of life within a few hours. Amazing plants! We have not put down any mulch yet because we still have a few more plants to add to our flowerbeds, but we will do that next weekend.

I certainly don't want to over-water because I keep hearing about root rot. I will check the moisture level of the soil and water accordingly. Thanks for all of the advice!

Luis: We live in Frisco, so you're right on with the growing conditions. Like I said in my original post, people discouraged us over and over not to plant the hydrangeas, but I just had to give it a try! It's nice to know that it is possible to grow them here. I can't wait for all of them to flower! A few have started, and that has made the work of planting and watering and researching all worth it so far!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 11:14AM
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