(not so) Endless Summer - help needed

gt182August 26, 2010

Let me say that I have been trying to grow these plants for like 5 years. Every year I would pray they would come back after winter and usually would have to replace a few of them using the guarantee of the nursery. One year I got no blooms at all due to a late frost. Even when they come up, it seems they are not growing very vigorously and not getting very full or tall. My 3 healthiest ones are about 2.5-3 feet tall. I have 7 now in total. The 3 best ones flowered nicely but have not bloomed again since early summer? I even cut off the old blooms to promote new ones. The other 4 are just puny and sickly looking and look more like little flowers than shrubs? They flowered a little also, but are just so pathetic looking. i used a slow release fertilizer in may and again in early August (for acid loving plants). I also used aluminum sulfate to make them blue. anyway, how can I get these to grow big and lush and secondly how do I get them to flower repeatedly? When you buy these at the nursery they are lush and full of huge blooms. I had read not to expect those full blooms and lush plants for a few years after planting because it is a marketing ploy of the nurseries. This past Fall I cut the stems to about 6 inches and then buried them in mulch and leaves, and that helped to ensure all of them at least came up and didn't die. As a result I also got talled shrubs this year than last. It seems that if they do not get a jump growing in the spring before the summer hits they just stunt their growth. That is tough when we get these late frosts up until May (central ohio).

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Some people have complained on the forum about ES in Zone 5 and have had to winter protect it; I bring that up for you to consider. When winter protecting, wait 2-3 weeks after your avge date of last frost before removing the winter protection. Also, review how the shrubs are doing in the middle of winter. If winter protecting with leaves, add more if settling has occurred by mid winter.

ES is remontant. It will bloom, take a break (4-6 or more weeks) and bloom again if the weather cooperates. If the weather becomes hot, the shrub may put off blooming until the temperatures go down. Deadheading should trigger ES to bloom again; it just does not occur right a way though. Over here, most shrubs stop blooming when the temps are regularly above 100 so expect ES to take a break should things get hot in Ohio too.

I would do a soil test to see if your soil is too alkaline or if it is low in some minerals (check nitrogen and phosphorus). Acidify the soil further if necessary. Add phosphorus if defficient. Remember that you will need to apply soil acidifiers regularly per the product label.

Go easy on fertilizers. Once in June is probably fine provided your soil has no mineral defficiencies. Some sun is also nice; about 2-3 hours would work well and help produce quite a few blooms. Too much shade will result in fewer blooms.

Maintain the soil moist as best as you can. Not dry, not wet. Dry and wet cycles can result in browned out blooms and leaves. The root ball can also dry out and bad things happen if it dries out. Windy locations may dry out the soil quickly so consider a wind break or transplanting if the area is windy. Maintain mulch, 3-4", up to the drip line or a little further. We get some wind during the hot the summer months so I like to extend the mulch further around all shrubs. Overwatering can also be bad for the roots so use the finger method to help you determine when to water.


    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 3:34AM
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dublinbay z6 (KS)

While overwatering can be a problem, I find that most beginner hydrangea growers fail to water enough and water regularly. So, yes, check near the rootball as Luis suggests, and if the soil is not moist, WATER! You'd be surprised how much better hydrangea perform with sufficient water.


    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 12:56PM
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I am not an ES expert and have only been growning ES for 2 years. Based on my experience, location and sun exposure are the primary reasons for the robustness in growth and blooming. For my ES (all orginals), The more shade (particularly afternoon shade) they get, the more flowers and robust growth they have. Here are my locations:

Location 1: mostly shade with only ~ 1 hr morning sun. Two ES have been doing great and bloom started in mid june, and still going strong with average 6-8 huge flowers and several young blooms at any given time. These two were planted last fall (late August). no winter protection. no prune until late May to remove dead stems only. This year I only need to water them once a week during the hot/dry August.

Location 2: Shade in the morning, but ~ 2 hr afternoon sun. Two ES planted in early May this year. needed to water almost every 3 days. have a few flowers and new blooms, but not as robust as in Location 1. Growth is lower too.

Location 3: shade in the morning, ~ 3-4 hrs afternoon sun. Boy!. ES do not like this location. need to water every other day. Get only a few blooms early in the season, a few on going now. very slow growth. flowers fade quickly into the green/brown-red color typically seen in the fall.

So in my experience, definely location and sun exposure are very important. In your Zone 5, you need to avoid afternoon sun as much as you can,

Good luck with your ES,

    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 6:10PM
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