endless summer...dead?

cnjnesteAugust 11, 2012

We have two ES hydrangeas and both of them have not bloomed since the the year they were planted. The first was planted in partial sun/shade and did not do well, so it was moved to a sunnier area. It has not bloomed or done anything in two years. The second one was planted a year later, according to instructions, continued to bloom the rest of that year, and did not come back this year. Can anyone give us some advice? I have tried other help forums, all to no avail...all I have are ugly brown sticks left of what used to be two beautiful blue hydrangea babies. Please advise!!!

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Do not feel bad; you are not the only one complaining about lack of blooms with ES in cold regions. There are many causes and they depend on whether the plant produced flower buds or not.

For example, if the plant produced flower buds and you got no blooms, something obviously happened to the flower buds. Possible causes include such things as late frosts, pests like bunnies and deer who just love to eat the flower buds, lack of water killed the buds, etc.

If you got no flower buds then maybe the plants got too much fertilizer, winter dried out and killed the flower buds or again, it could be that the plant is suffering from periods of dry soil followed by moist soil followed by dry soil and so forth. Too much nitrogen keeps the plant producing nice green leaves at the expense of flowers so just fertilize it once around June and leave it at that. The first thing to be aborted when there is not enough moisture will be the flower buds so try to keep the plant well mulched (3-4" of organic mulch thru the drip line) and the soil evenly watered.

While the plant is dormant and the ground has not frozen, do water the plants because the roots are still growing. You can reduce waterings to once a week or once every two weeks (try giving the plant one gallon of water per watering).

In the summer months, check the soil more often to make sure the soil is not drying out. You should have to water more frequently now than you did in Spring but then again, you will need to reduce the watering when temperatures go down in the Fall.

To determine if you need to water, try using the finger method early in the morning for 2-3 weeks: insert a finger into the soil to a depth of 4". Then water when the soil feels dry or almost dry; also, make a note in a calendar when you watered the plant. After 2-3 weeks of doing this, review your notes in the wall calendar and determine every how many days did you have to water. Then set the sprinkler to water 1 gallon of water on the same frequency (every 3 days or every 4 days or....). If the temperatures change a lot up/down and stay there, use the finger method again.


    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 6:36AM
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Springwood_Gardens(6B Pittsburgh)

If you're in Minnesota, it's possible that in winter, the ground is actually freezing to a depth that has harmed or killed your ES.

To have any success with hydrangea macrophylla in your area, I would strongly suggest using an open-top shroud of some sort going around the circumference of the plant (tarp, plastic sheeting, burlap) filled with straw/hay or leaves. In addition, heavily mulch the crown of the plant with something heavier like manure or bark. I'm not sure if you've taken any steps like this already, but they should definitely help. Remember, decomposing organic material retains and generates heat, so it could prevent the crown from freezing during some pretty extreme cold snaps.

After that, as Luis said, you also have to make sure the ground is not drying out completely during winter months (I don't have to worry about it where I am, for example, because the ground remains moist all winter due to fall rains and winter snows).

Not sure which pot size you started your plants when you bought them, but the larger/deeper the root ball, the better chance it has of rebounding next season. ES 3-gallons (and larger) go on clearance all over the place in July. My local HD had 7-gallon David Ramseys on clearance this past week for $20! They are very close to ES in genetics but are a lot cheaper.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 3:26PM
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If all you have at this time is brown sticks, then yes, they are dead. Even lacking flowers, a hydrangea should be in full leaf at this time of year.

Follow the advice given above with any new hydrangeas you choose and you should have better luck.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 1:14PM
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Thank you all for the help....live and learn, right?

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 9:26PM
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I'm in Northeast Ohio with terrible winters and this is my third year with ES. There doing great. The first year they had great blooms from the nursery and when those faded that was it. I did nothing the first winter. The following summer I had a sparse bloom here and there, but the plant was generally healthy, although i do have them on a drip irrigation system. Last winter I took 1x1 stakes and made a square around each, wrapped the frame with burlap, then filled with straw. This year they bloomed like crazy!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 3:35PM
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Luis, Do you deal with Plant Shed? They have ES in 5 gallons 75% off.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 2:49PM
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