How do i keep my endless summer growing taller?

meyermike_1micha(5)May 14, 2009

I have no idea how to this...

Every year my stems turn brown and the only thing that comes back is the new fresh green growth from the ground, or a couple inches up on the old stems...

Will my plants ever get tall and continually grow on the old growth, or do I have to keep cutting back the "dead" branches which I know for sure are dead and dried out, and have a short plant because the new growth always comes up from the ground?

Is there a trick to making them grow tall?


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Well, meyermike_1micha, I suppose you could move to Texas or Zone 8 cities but that sounds -er- hard and problematic. What is happenning to you is "normal" for ES in cold locations (Zone 5). The cold temperatures and the drying winds are too much to protect from so the stems from the prior years dry out. What made the variety such a sales success was its marketing in cold locations and the shrub's ability to flower from new wood. So every year, the plants starts growing from the crown and there is no (or there is minimal) leaf out from the old stems.

In order to maintain the old stems alive through the winter, you will need to apply winter protection techniques in the Fall. The colder your weather is, the more protection you need to apply. Usually this involves using chicken wire in the Fall to surround the shrub and then filling the inside area with tons of dead leaves. The assumption here is that you can obtain sufficient leaves from your garden and/or neighbors. Winter protection techniques are then removed about 2 weeks (+ or -) after your avge date of last frost in Spring. Unused leaves are kept in a safe place/bag to add more during winter as winds and snow tend to make the leaves settle inside the chicken wire.

Another approach uses a cardboard to flatten the shrub all the way to the ground; you then cover it with leaves and remove it when Spring arrives.

See hayseedman's post on the link below for more information.

Does this help you, meyermike_1micha?

Here is a link that might be useful: overwintering Hydrangea macrophylla winter protection

    Bookmark   May 15, 2009 at 7:28AM
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I have the same problem with mine. I'm not too impressed with this cultivar. Glad I only bought one and didn't give in to the buying frenzy a few years ago when it first came out. I do love the paniculatas and will put my attention there.

luis...thanks for the advice on overwintering the ES, though. I guess I can make an attempt to do so and see how it fares. I get plenty of leaves, so no problem there.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2009 at 10:36PM
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mehearty(So ME z5a)

I think especially in this zone, the trick to having a large ES is to buy one that is large. I really think massive rootballs are a big part of the equation. I've been lucky with mine as it's against the house and in a spot that gets dumped on with snow from shoveling the driveway. That baby is always flattened by spring, and it's been pretty hardy. I just bought a smaller ES for another spot and will likely be flattening that with cardboard next winter.

I had a nikko in our old house that flowered every year even though I knew nothing about hydrangeas back then. No winter protection. It was slow to get taller, however. I drove by the house recently saw that after 12 years, that plant finally has a little height to it.

Back to ES: with my new smaller plant, I'm not going to expect it to do much this year. I'll give it a little while for its roots to settle, and then I'm gonna hit that baby hard with fertilizer. I expect very scant flowers first year anyway, so I'm going to concentrate on growing the stems. I want lots and lots of stems heading into winter.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2009 at 10:49AM
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Just wanted to thank everyone for your suggestions!:-)

Enjoy your summer.....


    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 1:24PM
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Give them time to establish a large root mass.

I have seen some of the early plantings at the nursery where this cultivar originated and they are quite large. Much bigger than mine that have only been in the ground for 4 years.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2009 at 7:07AM
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sue36(Z5 Maine)

I purchased 6 ES last summer. Three were purchased earlier in the season, 3 later. All were planted at the same time in my front garden, facing East (morning sun, afternoon shade). The three I purchased earlier were looking sad (leggy and crispy) by the time I planted them. I planted the three good looking (new) ones on the east side closer to the north side and the three older, sad ones on the east side closer to the south side. The difference in the amount of sun they gets seems minimal. This is what I have observed - the three leggy ones looks awesome this year. Large and already budded out. The three newer ones are much smaller, one is so small I may pull it (putting it somewhere else) and replace it with a larger one. I think the giant rootballs in the older plants combined the tiny bit of additional sun they get makes the difference. Unfortunately for me this garden is supposed to be symetrical.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2009 at 11:42AM
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ostrich(3a AB)

I am with mehearty on this one - I am also in zone 5b (maybe 6a now with all this global warming LOL), but then I am pretty sure that planting it against the wall that faces east has created a microclimate that is more zone 6 than 5. Anyway, My 3 ES have grown to be 4-5 feet tall just within a matter of 3 years or so! I did baby them in the first 2 years or so, deep watering once or even twice per day, but that has paid off because I think that the roots are deep and extensive now. Good luck!

P.S. Yes, I did buy the larger 3 gallon pot plants.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2009 at 8:25PM
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Love those blues!

    Bookmark   May 28, 2009 at 9:20PM
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alisande(Zone 4b)

Wow, Ostrich! (And Hi, Mehearty!) I'm so glad I opened this thread.........I can see that I haven't exactly done right by my ES. No wonder it's performed so poorly here. And the poor thing got frozen earlier this month (yes, in May), which killed it to the ground (again). It deserves some TLC, and I'm up for the job.


    Bookmark   May 31, 2009 at 8:03PM
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shpnquen(z5, IN)

Wow! I hope when mine grows up, it will look like that! I realize there is more than one bush here, but still!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 9:54PM
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