overwintering Hydrangea macrophylla winter protection

hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)August 15, 2004

More than you wanted to know.

About this time of year, if you look in the leaf axils of new wood, you'll see a very small bud that might just be barely noticable. But, if it hasn't done so already, the ones at the tip of the cane and especially the ones toward the top of the cane will start to swell up and by the time frost arrives, these top most buds will be the size of a small bean. If you should be so lucky to get these buds through the winter and spring, then next year a cane will grow from these buds, a cane that could be a foot long with several pairs of leaves, terminating with a beautiful flower.

This comes from Michael Dirr's book, Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Hydrangea Macrophylla and Serattas.

"HARDINESS: Zone 6 to 9, does not do well in Zone 5 unless extremely well sited, as one goes south and east this becomes a very common plant; however, in the northern states it is rare to see it in full flower; qualification is necessary for I have seen the plant in Urbana, IL withstand -20 F; it never flowered, but did come back from the crown to produce a respectable mound of foilage; since flowers are set (largely) on last year's growth, if the shoots are killed then flowering is history; I have seen the most magnificent flowering specimens on Cape Cod; in Zone 8, Athens, where the plant should prosper, 2 flowering years out of 3 might be considered good; the plant is soft and succulent and does not harden and the tops of the plant are killed."

Sound familiar?

The weather at Cape Cod is moderated by the ocean. For Cape Cod, the daily swing in the temperature might be 14 degrees, but for you and me it might be 21 degrees. In a week or a month it's the same thing. I remember going out to the beach in the late spring and realizing that it was downright cold out there. I think of the beach as hot because it's usually mid summer when I might go, but this trip woke me up to the realization that it's slow to warm up in the spring, and slow to get cold in the fall. Everything was late to bloom at the shore. I imagine that must be the kind of environment in which Hydrangea Macrophylla must have evolved in the islands of Japan.

"Roses can take hot, Roses can take cold. What they can't take is hot, cold, hot, cold...." I think of this when I'm thinking about overwintering my hydrangeas.

Even though we talk about overwintering hydrangeas, I think it's worth while to make the point upfront that the trickiest part of this whole business is the spring and you should pay really close attention to your plant in the spring. In my earliest attempts I would get the plant through the winter, only to kill it off in the spring. That hurts when you only get one chance each year. When your buds break dormancy in the Spring, it takes just the least amount of frost to zap them. They are sooooo tender. Don't forget.

You might be interested in this article about zones. If you're by the ocean and are in a zone 5/6 just like me, you have a tremendous advantage over me for growing hydrangeas.

I thought these were interesting comments make in this forum last Spring:



Posted by kars z7 LI, NY (My Page) on Sat, May 24, 03 at 8:47

I see many discussions on zones looking back through the forums. I am on the south shore of Long Island's east end, less than a mile from the water. We are considered zone 7. My mother lives about 30 miles west of me, towards the city and she is in the center if the island, about 15 miles from the south shore and 10 miles form the north shore. On any average winter day I am 5-10 degrees warmer than her. I even went and checked my thermometer against hers. Sometimes when it is snowing at her house it is raining at mine. Sometimes it is snowing north of me towards the north shore and raining by me. The norht shore gets the cold north wind, even though it is coming off the water (Long Island Sound)it changes the micro climate. That wind does not seem to effect me though. I've had days in the late winter when the wind is out of the north and changes to the south and the temps can change by 10 degrees or more. Plus the water seems to stabilize the temps.

Also the reverse is true for the summers. I often get comments from visiting friends that as they came within a distance to my house they had to roll the windows up cause it was chilly. This could be on a 70-80F day.


Posted by: fdutra 7 maritime (fdutra1@attbi.com) on Sun, May 25, 03 at 7:46

Botanically speaking, the "true" Hydrangea macrophylla is considered a maritime species, originating from the near coastal regions and smaller islands of Japan's eastern shore. Since nearly all garden/landscape macrophyllas are hybrids originate from this stock, it's not surprising that Long Island's near coastal regions have an advantage when it comes to raising hydrangeas. It's more than just the higher average winter temps that help with overall plant survival and bud hardiness. That +/-10 degree moderating affect from the ocean makes a big difference when it comes to early and late frosts. Seasonably cooler temps in the spring help to keep budding hydrangeas in check, often avoiding that late spring killer frost that often wreaks havoc further South and inland. When they are developing next years flowers in the fall, the warming effect of the ocean will offer some protection from an early frost/freeze. The cooling effect of ocean breezes in the summer, along with frequent fog and higher than average relative humidity doesn't hurt them any either. A few miles inland can make a big difference as you noted, so I guess I'll be staying with the old maps and their confusing micro climates out here on Nantucket.


Posted by: kars z7 LI, NY (My Page) on Sun, May 25, 03 at 11:44

fdutra - Good points. We usually do not get our first freeze until late December or later. Often not until January. Often when my mother wakes up to frost on the lawn I do not. This year my mother had snow in April but it was rain by me. A few miles north of me, farther inland there was snow on the ground. The temp stayed around 34 at my house. I am still amazed at how a mile or two can make a difference. There is a home on the bay that has a row of hydrangea at least 60 feet long. They look incredible in the summer. They seem to handle the winds and salt spray very well.

Ohh and that fog, many a night it rolls in around dusk and takes the morning sun an hour to clear it out."


I guess that is what we would like to duplicate if we want to get Hydrangea Macrophyllas to flower for us.

My most successful technique for overwintering is to either have the plant already in a pot (some in 15 gallon pots, some in less than a gallon.) or else I'll dig up the plant in the fall and use a 30 gallon size plastic bag which I don't open but instead just lay down as it is. I place the plant on top and tie the corners of the bag in a way that makes a snug enclosure for the root ball, the look of a balled and burlaped plant. I'll jab a few holes at the bottom for drainage. I think this is a better way than trying to put them into a pot. I wouldn't try this with an old, established plant, but it's easy enough for younger ones, and if you do it repeatedly, the root ball will stay tighter. Then I drive them out to my friend's house at the beach....If only, huh? I forgot... I use these same plastic bags to tie around the gathered up canes so that I have a more compact plant to deal with. Just like a piece of rope or twine, but less likely to cut into the plant.

I gather dry leaves and bag them in these same 30 gallon plastic bags. Next summer I can use the leaves as a mulch or a compost ingredient or keep them to use again. Many of them will get wet and some of these will eventually rot to nice leaf mold, right in the plastic bag. But for this winter, I'll use the leaf bags to make a corral by stacking them up. The old wet ones can go on the bottom. It doesn't need to be very tall, just enough to enclose these plants after they're laid down. Couple of feet, maybe. They might want to slip and slide, but you can lay some boards or limbs or something across a span of them to tie them all together. I do a lot, so I might end up with a space that's 15 feet by 6 feet by 2 feet tall.

I lay my plants down inside. I stack them and layer them some. I'm aiming for the sardine look. I usually put boards on top of the corral around the perimeter and then lay other boards across the top of everything trying to create a lattice over which I can spread one layer of these bags of leaves. Now I've got the plants laid down and enclosed by these bags of dry leaves. When it gets very cold later on, I will put a sheet of plastic over all this.

In the spring, I want to keep the plants inside this enclosure for as long as I can. I want them to stay dormant for as long as they can.

But at the point I bring them out, I hope that there is no forecast of a frost and hope that I have a good shot at not having another frost for the season. That's ideal. The plants will start putting out growth before I'd like to bring them out and this new growth will be your basic white with a tinge of yellow. That's what happens when they don't have any light at all. I can get a leafy stem that is several inches long. This is not a problem and the plant will do just fine even if I left it to grow inside this dark place. The real problem I have is that the plants are bound up and laying on their side. As this new growth comes in, it wants to go up, but since the plant is laying down, that's really sideways.Mabye I could deal with that, but since they're bound up, the new growth gets all entangled and when I unwrap it, it's difficult to untangle.

On the day I take them out, I check the weather forecast for as far as the eye can see. Just the kind of forecast you wouldn't want is what I want to see. We might have had a few nice warm spells, but I'm looking for weather that is on the chilly side but not freezing, wet and overcast. Don't run out on the first nice warm days of spring and throw everything off. ( If I could, I might throw more insulation on when we get those warm days). These plants need to be acclimated to the outside world and if you hadn't seen the light of day for months, you'd appreciate taking it nice and slow.

For a while, I'll leave them laying down, keeping an eye on the forecast. I might cover them with just a sheet of plastic if there is going to be a cold night. I've covered some that were in sunny location on some afternoons when it was very sunny, but last winter I had a group under some maple trees that leafed out just as I was uncovering them and the dappled shade was just perfect.

Mostly because they're growing sideways I'll feel that I need to stand them up and I'll look for a forecast of no frost for the foreseeable future. It never seems to work out that way and I'll need to lay them back down with a sheet over them . Remember that they're very, very sensitive at this point . One frost and they're gone. That being the case, I end up laying them down even if there is a threat of frost, meaning that I lay them down many times when no frost actually occurs.

Finally I think I'm safe and I'll untie and untangle them.

I think it's interesting that I don't get any rodent damage. They might dig into the soil, but I don't think I've ever seen a single bud eaten. The bark doesn't seem to be harmed. I've tried to overwinter other shrubs in this mound, and the bark gets peeled right off and the plants die. These plants show up on some poison lists. (I know, I know, the deer love them. What can I say? For me, I've never seen any deer damage either, but I know it's common. )

And it surprised me that plants can send up new growth even if there is no light. I've overwintered other plants in different ways and I've now seen this a lot. You bring a plant out into the real world slowly and it will green up and be just fine. Don't get all crazy thinking that because you've got all this white new growth you've got to get the plant out quickly. It's OK. I had a hydrangea in a dark cellar send up a white flower in March. I kept it down there for another month and it was still just fine after I slowly brought it out.

I make sure they go in well watered and they come out just as moist as they went in. Just like it's always damp around the ocean, that is a very damp environment they're in.

I have usually put my plants away before they've dropped their leaves. Other people's comments suggest that I put them in way to early, but that's the way I've done it. The leaves can end up pretty slimey before Spring and you'd think that all this mess couldn't be very healthful, but I haven't noticed any problem yet.

I've gotten very fond of using hydrangeas in pots. Big ones, small ones, whatever. They're great for a terrace plant. Start to Finish. I drop big pots and medium size ones in a border. A pretty pot is nice, but a black plastic pot will disappear to the eye. The pot gives them the extra height they need when they flop. And they're easier to overwinter in a pot. This mound is the best technique for me, but there are other ways that I've tried.

I've overwintered some in a cellar that wasn't really all that cold. It was dark. They did just fine. Being so warm, they broke dormancy in February, sending up white new growth and even a flower or two. I ended up with flowers lots sooner than otherwise. I think I'd like an environment a lot closer to freezing. I would imagine that the ideal might be right around freezing or lower. Once I tried overwintering some in an unheated, uninsulated room that got below freezing. The root ball froze and it seemed like the buds just sort of got freeze dried. I wonder if the plant would have survived a frozen root ball if it had been in a very wet environment like the ocean or under my mound.

I overwintered some in a crawl space that was insulated enough to keep exposed water pipes from freezing.

I've had pretty good luck overwintering them on the steps of a cellar leading in from the outside.

Somewhere you should be able to find a good spot around your property. Maybe an unheated, enclosed garage. Maybe you can lay one down along your foundation and put a couple of bags of leaves on top. Camoflauge it with a piece of burlap.

I haven't done it, but I bet you could mound a layer of shreded wood chips over them. Other people have had good luck using wood chips with ones they overwintered in the ground, so I can't imagine that they wouldn't work for a pot. Wood chips would be insulating, moist, and breathable.

I once saw some people talking in the Northern Gardeners forum about burying other plants in the ground for the winter. Would that work for hydrangeas? Might.

I wonder what would happen if you dropped a bound up plant into a big garbage can and then filled it with dry white pine needles. You could set this inside a garage maybe.

People all over suburbia are putting their bags of leaves out on the curb in the fall. Maybe they could stack a few around the shed out back or behind the garage or someplace like that to cover their hydrangeas.

Lay a few on their sides and cover with some chicken wire and then mound leaves over the top. That might work and a small pile of leaves around wouldn't be such an eyesore.


My very first technique was to basically do the same thing, only do it with the plant still in the ground. I'd get half filled bags of dry leaves. (Half because they were smaller and I could manipulate them better). When it's looking like the thermometer would be going down to below 25 degrees I'll insulate them. I think I do it too soon, but that's what I do. The leaves are still on the plant.

I will gather and tie up the canes so that I have a small column. With stout wire, maybe six feet tall, I'll make a cage around this plant leaving about a foot or more of space around the plant. I'll place these bags of leaves around the plant, turning them upside down so that water is less likely to get in to the leaves. I leave cracks intentionally so that the plant can breathe a little. At the top I usually lash down some bags.

In the spring, I slowly acclimate them out. Take off some bags from the north side. Then some on the south side. You don't need to take off the bottom bags until the very end, but be prepared to cover the plant back up if a frost looks likely. I leave it bound up until the very end and sometimes, after it's all uncovered, I've gone out and wrapped it with plastic or put a plastic bag over it or even an old blanket if it looks like a late spring frost.

My most ambitious project was to overwinter five very old hydrangea that were in an L with a fence on one side and a shed on the other. I bound up the plants, and then pressed them down as hard as I could to get them lower. Put a fence around to finish the enclosure and placed bags of leaves around. Lots of leaves. Finally I put enough loose leaves around and over them to create the impression of a bin of leaves. Not quite so ugly. It worked.

Many people do what I do with the wire and then just fill the space with loose leaves. I've done this a couple of times and failed. I packed them in much too tight once and the plant looked like it rotted. Last winter I used oak leaves because they're supposed to stay fluffy and dry longer but it was a record cold winter for us and they didn't make it.

I know many people have mentioned using wood chips. . That makes sense to me. I've seen people talk about using a trash can with it's bottom cut out and placed around the plant. Then they put wood chips in around the plant.

Here are some pictures for you. I'm linking so that those on a slow connection won't have problems waiting so long.

I'm tired of talking and I'm sure you're tired of reading.So, enough. Good luck.

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Jen26(USDA zone 6/MO)

Well, well, Hay:

YOU'RE THE MAN! Unbelieveable. Thanks for taking the time and effort to share all that information. My two starter hydrangeas (both ES) are in a foundation bed right in front of my house and therefore I have the problem of protecting them without making it look toooooo tacky. I like your leaf-fortress, it takes me back to all that fort making I did as a kid, but the idea of digging it up just seems so counterintuitive. On one hand, an annual disruption of the plant would seem to weaken it or stunt its growth, but on the other hand, if it saves it from winter die-back, then that would be promoting growth, right? Do you stop digging up the plant at some point, when it's very well established? Let's say I muster the courage to dig up my girls, (they are girls, aren't they?) what would you say to building my leaf fortress on a brick patio? I'm afraid I would kill my grass if I built it in the yard. My patio is on the south side of my property, right next to the house, so it would certainly be warm -- maybe too warm? I'm also thinking about my ES as they currently are, which is full of blooms that appeared and the end of the canes I pruned in May. I would think I'd still get good end-of-summer perforance, even if I do nothing in terms of protection. Unless the buds I'm seeing now were harbored in the crown as you hypothesize. I think I'll try a hydranea-in-a-pot next year, sounds so much easier -- except for that 2,000 mile drive to overwinter on the east coast.


P.S. There's no such thing as "more than I wanted to know!" P.P.S. Are you a member of Hydrangeaholic Anonymous? See ya at the next meeting.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2004 at 12:25AM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

I'm definitely addicted to Hydrangeas. No doubt at all.

I've usually divided plants long before they get too big for me to handle. I've got my biggest ones in 15 gallon pots and some of those are getting big, but I guess the pot will naturally keep it confined. Some of these old ones are getting lanky and I might let them sit out all winter so they can get killed back to the ground and I can start over. When I get lots, I may let half of them get killed back each year so that I can prune them for the best effect next year.(Fantasies of a Hydrangea Addict).In my area, if I leave them in the ground, I'm virtually assured of not getting any flowers, so , aside from it's nice foliage, it's a waste to plant them. Even if Endless Summer is a winner, I want to be able to grow all the other really nice pretty ones.

If you were to do something on your patio, I'd think that you'd not have a problem til Spring when it might want to break sooner than you're ready. You might end up having to cover them more for the frosts or bringing them in or something like that. Keep thinking and maybe you can find a better, colder place.

The plants don't get set back much by repeatedly digging them up. But pots are very nice. They're good for a patio. You can get a large plant out of a 5 to 10 gallon pot.

All of this is not very pretty. Tacky. I can get away with that, but I can appreciate it's a problem. I've wrapped burlap around some I've done in the ground to make it less of an eyesore. To my eye, you can use loose leaves around the outside to give the appearance of a bin of leaves and it's not so ugly.

I can't expect that anyone would want to do things like I've done, but I hope that my ideas might suggest something that makes sense for you.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2004 at 10:04PM
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dwk001(z5 IL)

Hayseedman, you've inspired me to get serious. I'm definitely going to try the "in the ground with bags of leaves" approach this year for my Blue Waves and Nikko Blues, and maybe even for my Blue Birds. The Woodlander I planted last year made it through the winter with absolutely no die-back, with no other protective treatment than mounding up the crown with shredded hardwood mulch; so, I will stay with that approach this winter for it and the 2 additional Woodlanders I planted this year. Thank you for sharing so much of your experiences in all-things-hydrangea with us.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2004 at 10:54PM
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Jen26(USDA zone 6/MO)

Hayseedman, would it be too nosy to ask in what general area of the country you are? I'm wondering if my Kansas City climate is at all similar to yours. Also, if I decide to move my ES from the ground to a pot, should I do it in the spring...after I dig it up as you describe and overwinter it outdoors? Thanks.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2004 at 11:19PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

I'm in Connecticut, no where near an ocean, zone 5/6. Last year was one of our worse winters. We had a two week period when the lows were touching minus 5 degrees F every night and it didn't get much warmer during the day. Minus 10 was about the low for the year and we had virtually no snow cover all winter. BRRR!!

Jen, with your plants, I'd pot them up in the fall. You could probably get away with doing it even now. Doesn't really matter. Spring would work, too. When I suggested not putting them in a pot but keeping them in a sheet of plastic, I was focused on taking them out and putting them back into the ground. If you're doing that, no need to try forcing it into a pot.

Dwk001, if you have plants that haven't been in the ground for years, then you might find that it's easier to dig them all up, really just pop them out of the gound, and overwinter them in a group somewhere. I garden so much that digging up plants is easy and quick for me, but if you don't do it a lot, then I can appreciate it might appear difficult.

Woodlander sounds a lot like Blue Billow which I grow without any winter protection at all and it always flowers reliably for me. They're both serattas from Korea which I think are generally considered much hardier. I'll have to get one sometime. I have a list of "hardy" hydrangeas that I'll post sometime. I think it's very interesting that Dirr lists Blue Billow as a failure in hardiness trials in the South. Could it be that we Northeners have an advantage with this mountain grown species?

I hope no one minds. Dwk001 and Georgiarose told us about Woodlander in another thread, some of which I'll repeat here:
Impressed with lacecap 'Woodlander'
Posted by dwk001 z5 IL (My Page) on Wed, Jun 16, 04 at 13:17

I just wanted to say how impressed I have been with the lacecap H. serrata 'Woodlander' that I planted (3-gallon container purchased at Sid's in Bolingbrook) into my Chicago suburban (Naperville) garden last summer. Unlike my 2 H. serrata 'Bluebird' and 2 H. macrophylla 'Blue Wave' lacecaps, the Woodlander had absolutely no dieback on it after our rough winter and spring frosts. I provided no winter cover for it other than mounding up the base with hardwood mulch, just as I do for the Bluebirds. The Woodlander and Bluebirds are both planted in fairly heavy shade. The Woodlander is absolutely covered in buds that are just starting to open (pink, in my alkaline soil), while the Bluebirds and Blue Waves are just starting to think about making flower buds. I would like to buy more Woodlanders--I know they are available from some catalogs, but I was sure hoping that Sid's would be carrying them again this year. So far, no sign of them yet at Sid's.

Posted by: Georgiarose z7 (My Page) on Thu, Jun 17, 04 at 2:11

This is one of the easiest Hydrangeas to root from cuttings and or layering. If left alone, it will increase in size(width) by creating it's own offspring where the lower branches touch the ground, root and become established as part of the overall plant or you can remove them and relocate to another part of your garden. I have one that is about 8 years old and is now 7 ft in diameter and 4 ft. tall. It is covered in electric blue flowers(acidic soil) and the leaves are already turning to a burgundy color(early morning and late afternoon sun). Those grown in full shade have less spectacular blooms and no burgundy leaves.
Without hesitation, it is our favourite Hydrangea among the hundreds we grow. It is located near the street and we regularly observe drivers turning around to return and stop for a close-up view. Historical note- The original strain was started by Woodlanders Nursery, Aiken, SC, from seed obtained from the Chollipo Botanical Gardens, South Korea.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2004 at 6:20AM
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Jen26(USDA zone 6/MO)

Hay...do you find lacecaps to be an acquired taste?

    Bookmark   August 22, 2004 at 10:56AM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

I've pretty much loved both the mopheads and the lacecaps from the beginning, but I guess I'm partial to the showy mopheads like most people. They're all very pretty. I've got overwintering down now so I'm having fun checking out lots of new varieties. They all bring something wonderful with them.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2004 at 9:58PM
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Hay, question for you:

When you overwinter your blue plants out of the ground do they revert to pink when transplanted? I was told that blue hydrangeas revert to pink for one year after being transplanted in the spring. You have posted once before a picture of an Enziandom(Really blue!!) was it over wintered out of the ground?


    Bookmark   August 23, 2004 at 7:45PM
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Jen26(USDA zone 6/MO)

Outstanding pictures, thank you!! You're not helping my potential addiction however! I have more questions about lace caps, but I should probably start another thread. Thanks again for the great pix.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2004 at 8:01PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

Just give in, Jen. It's all great fun.

Most of my gardening is in a local streak of lime soil which has a pH of about 7.2. The potting soil I start out with is probably not acidic and lacking in aluminum, so it's an uphill battle for me to get blue flowers. I don't have a pH meter, so most of my attempts at getting blue flowers is by the seat of my pants technique. And I've only recently started growing more varieties than the few standard "cold hardy" ones.

What I do is add aluminum sulphate maybe six or so times a year.
I don't do more than a tablespoon in a gallon of water and I make sure to water the plant before and after. I'd read that you should do this in the fall, so starting a few days ago, I've been adding it to my plants. Then I've read that you should add it about three times spaced at two week intervals starting in the spring when you see the buds starting to break (or was it when the flower starts to show?), so I do a few applications in the Spring. I suspect that the Spring treatments are the most critical.

I acquired the Enziandoms last summer and they stayed in pots out of the ground until this spring. I bet they have a strong tendency to be blue. They got this aluminum sulphate treatment and stayed very blue, even now. Much of what I have is Nikkos and they start out blue and stay blue for me after I plant them . Some of these have been dug up for several winters, now, and they stay blue. So the short answer is that they don't go back to pink.

I think I know what you mean by plants going pink if you transplant them. I've seen people assert that was the case and usually attribute it to the plant not being able to acquire the aluminum needed when it's roots are not established. I don't know. I transplanted a bunch of Blue Billows once and the next year I noticed that the ones I moved were certainly pinker than their neighbors which hadn't been moved.

Good luck to both of you.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2004 at 10:21PM
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Jen26(USDA zone 6/MO)

"Lavendar Billow"...how 'bout that? They are both really beautiful. Maybe it's just me, but I find it a little encouraging that you are using the "seat of my pants" technique. It's much more fun that way...

    Bookmark   August 24, 2004 at 8:40PM
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Jen26(USDA zone 6/MO)

Greetings again, Hay. I've come to the conclusion that I really have no choice but to dig my hydrangeas and overwinter them as you suggest. I made the silly mistake of raising my garden bed with 12" - 24" of pure, finished compost, (which, by the way, the hydrangeas seemed to love) but I'm afraid they would be even less protected this winter at root level due to the crumbly nature of the compost. (I just planted my babies in the compost, didn't bother to till it into the underlying soil or anything.) Anyway, what do you think about building my hydrangea fortress out of straw bales? I'd rather use my leaves elsewhere, plus the straw bales seem like they'd be more aesthetically pleasing, at least to me. Also, I anticipate my hydrangeas could be close to bare-root when I dig them since the compost will likely fall off - ack! - what would you do if you were me?? Oh, and one more question...do you ever cut off all your autumn blooms before the first frost? I'd like to bring my new blooms inside when the first frost is imminent so I can enjoy them through the winter, but I don't want to compromise the shrub. Thanks again for all your help.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2004 at 6:39PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

I think the straw bales or hay bales is a good idea. And of course they would be a whole lot prettier than my plastic bags. Thanks for the idea.

My instinct says to be careful and not build it so tight that you seal out all the air flow. Almost all, though. Do bales of straw or hay heat up like compost? Maybe that could be a problem. It's very interesting, and I hope you try it and let us know how it comes out.

I don't think it's too critical when you dig them up, but since they're flowering now for you, I'd wait til the end. I don't have experience with barerooted plants, but I bet even they would do OK if they were in soil. If you find that you have plants with a lot of exposed root, pot it up in something rather than just wrapping it up like a balled and burlaped plant. But I bet you'll have a lot more than a barerooted plant when you pop them out of the ground.

I can't even imagine how cutting the flowers off at any time would do harm to the plant. I cut flowers any time, and in the fall, usually right after the first light frost, I cut off all the remaining flowers. I'm after the nice ones for drying. Sometimes I cut just the flower and I look for a nice FAT bud below the flower thinking that is where next year's old wood flower will originate. I don't know how far down I could prune this cane this late and still get old wood flowers from it next spring. But I think that going down to the first fat bud is safe and conservative.

I don't have any experience yet with the new Endless Summer, but on some of my Nikkos, I will routinely cut the flowering canes essentially all the way to the ground. What I want to leave is canes that are new this year but never flowered. Sometimes at the bottom of the old canes you'll see some of these never flowered canes and I'll cut down to there. I like doing this because I can get flowers on very long stems for drying.

Good luck. I hope it all works out for you.

I've had the best luck overwintering plants outside in the mound. Better than inside a garage, inside a house, inside a cellar. I'm beginning to think that the moisture the plant gets outside helps a lot.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2004 at 11:46AM
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Jen26(USDA zone 6/MO)

Thanks for your reply, Hay. I think I will try the straw bale structures. My only hesitation is that they may invite rodents...I hope not. I think straw bales do, in fact, heat up a bit, but I bet they will just freeze through in the winter so it shouldn't be a problem. I wish you could see my Endless Summers right now! They are just flowering machines!!! There is one cane with an old flower at the tip, and three buds below it on the same cane. Every day I see more buds. I am trying to borrow a digital camera just to show you.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2004 at 3:37PM
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Thanks Hayseed, another wonderful job. Just a reminder for Endless Summer owners...you need not worry about overwintering this hydrangea. Even if it dies down to the ground, you should see blooms next year. I was among the first Endless Summer buyers last summer. Every one of my stems died last winter and the plants came back with vigorous growth and beautiful blooms.

BTW, the few I moved away from tree root competition now compare similarly to the pics shown in the link below. This confirms my suspicion that placement, not weather, was the culprit for their potential demise.

Here is a link that might be useful: Endless Summer- Year 2 (July) pics after a hard winter (-20F)

    Bookmark   September 11, 2004 at 3:49PM
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Jen, don't worry about compost in winter. It is not the roots which are exposed (and being burried in compost is hardly a liablity) .. it is the flower buds that is exposed to drying winds. The problem is not even in fall or in winter in most cases. The problem occurs usually in spring when a warm spell breaks dormancy of the buds which then start to grow, and are killed by a freeze afterwards. You wait until the bush has defoliaged in late fall, early winter, and then make a ring of chickenwire. Fill it with whole oak leaves or shredded leaves. After last chance of frost in spring, you remove the enclosely and gently remove the leaves again.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2004 at 8:20PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

Jen, I'd love to see pictures of your plants. I've had great fun with a digital camera that someone gave me. I always have it with me or in my car. Pictures end up costing pennies, so you can take a lot of them. And a picture is really worth a thousand words as you can see on this forum.

You probably will be giving the local rodents a nice cozy home. I'm in the country, surrounded by wildlife, so they're just a fact of life for me. Maybe if I can attract them to my mound, they'll stay out of my house. One thing that has amazed me is that they may dig around in the soil, but they don't seem to do any harm to the Hydrangeas themselves. Other plants haven't done as well.

lsimms, I just took another look at your posted pictures.
Are you saying that all of these blooms that we see on your plants on July 2 are coming from plants that were killed back TO THE GROUND over winter? That is really impressive if that's true. That's a lot of flowers to be getting from the harsh winter we had last year in a spring flush. And if you are continuing to get flowers like Jen, then WOW!

I had thought that the main attraction for Endless Summer was that it "bloomed on new wood" and that new wood bloom would be coming along right about now for many of us. But in your case you're seeing blooms from your overwintered plants on July 2. Nevermind whether that's new or old wood, it's impressive that with Endless Summer you can get blooms early in the season from plants that died to the ground and continue getting lots of blooms into the fall.

I think that Perennial Princess has suggested that you might want to put a layer of some kind of mulch over the plant to protect it in the winter. Just to cover the crown. Maybe these plants have an ability to send up a great show from the crown if the tops are killed back to the ground. And that you can do as little as mulching them heavily in the fall to help insure that you will have a great show.

I've even seen this idea before around this forum. Tree Oracles plant was sorta like this. A Nikko Blue that died back to the ground and still gave a very impressive show in the early summer. Old or New, I don't care, but when my Nikkos die back to the ground, I don't get much of anything in the way of flowers that season. Did Tree Oracle have a different Nikko than us, or was the environment he had able to produce this result. In his case, all he really did different was to plant it by the ocean.

And even away from the ocean, like somewhere in the interior of the country, Dirr and others have mentioned that you can just protect the bottom of the plant and still get an impressive show from "Nikkos". I really haven't tried this idea too much, but with Endless Summmer, and maybe even with the Nikkos, or perhaps with some versions of Nikko, maybe you can get away with just mounding something over the bottom of the plant.

Thanks for all your comments. Hay.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2004 at 2:41PM
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Hay, I wanted to show that picture of the Enziandom to my wife and I can not seem to find it, which thread is it in?

Will you post pictures this fall of the "mound" contruction?

Did tree oracle ever give you cuttings of his magic Nikko?

dave, glastonbury

    Bookmark   September 17, 2004 at 1:35PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

Tell me what you're wanting to see and I'll be glad to post a picture for you. This year might be a little tricky for me. I might have to travel right about the time I'm supposed to be doing all this. I've posted some pictures of last year's mound.

Didn't hear from Tree Oracle. I would love to have a cutting of any plant that anyone has that comes through zone 5 or 6 winters and reliably blooms.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2004 at 3:28PM
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I took cuttings from a friend's magnificent hydrangea this year (sorry, I don't know the variety, but it's a mophead type) and now I have 11 healthy babies with varying sizes of rootballs--some half the size of my fist. They were started in plain sand and are currently in compost mixed with sand (some are in potting soil mixed with sand). How should I treat them this winter? I have an unheated barn that I could put them in, or should I bury them pot and all in what will be their permanent location and cover with leaves or straw or something? What would be the best thing to do? I live in Southern Illinois, about 60 miles north of the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and we generally get at least a week of below zero temps in the winter. I've never seen anyone in this area do anything much to protect their hydrangeas, certainly nothing as elaborate as Hayseedman does, yet there are beautiful blossoms all over town each year.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2004 at 6:04AM
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Jen26(USDA zone 6/MO)

Hay, I posted a picture for you on the forum and on the gallery. I have some other more technical pictures of the stems and buds...one in particular that is kind of interesting. It has an old flower at the top of the stem, with three buds directly beneath. Take a look...

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 20, 2004 at 9:27AM
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lerissa(z6b Philly)

Jen, That is amazing! What are you feeding on your ES :)

    Bookmark   September 20, 2004 at 10:23AM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

Dungendweller, are the flowers you see all over town the blue and pink kind or the kinds that start out as white flowers. Are they Macrophyllas and Serratas? Or Arborescens and Paniculatas? I'm always interested in trying to understand what it takes to make the Macrophyllas bloom, and it would be interesting if they bloom in your region so reliably.

Last year I had some cuttings of some Nikkos that I started on July 15. They ended up in four inch pots and were placed inside my mound. We had a very, very cold winter. Almost all of my bigger plants in the mound did fine and flowered. Of these four inch pots maybe half made it and many of those actually flowered for me. I know I didn't take very good care of the cuttings, so this outcome is probably not going to be typical. Plants that were just a bit larger and more established did just fine. I' ve actually got a lot of cuttings going into this year and I haven't decided exactly what to do with them. I'll probably experiment and spread my risk by putting some in the mound, but maybe with some more layers of bags or something. Maybe a few in a cellar.

Once I had some cuttings that I kept in a room which had the heat maintained at about 40 degrees. They were dormant for the most part til spring and came through just fine. That's what I'd aim for, something just above freezing. You don't need light.

You might be able to plant them in the ground, pot or no pot, and have them survive. I've never done it with so small a plant, but why not? If I were to do it that way, I would still try to use bags of leaves, not loose leaves because my bags of dry leaves would be so much better at insulating than a layer of wet leaves. Maybe put them in the ground all together, put a pot over them and then mound bags of leaves around and over them.

And Jen, you've got pictures! And a picture really is worth a thousand words. We could have been going around for days trying to get me to understand what was going on. Thank you. That is so interesting. I've never seen anything quite like that. I'll check out your other pictures. Thanks.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2004 at 10:45AM
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lerissa(z6b Philly)

Jen and Hay,

I have those fat buds on the leaf axils on my ES. There are plenty and really fat! There are also on the other hydrangea varieties that I have but these ones on ES are really almost bursting :) It is so cold today that I'm starting to think overwintering. I don't think I can do Hay's elaborate procedure, digging up the plant and everything but maybe I'll try wrapping bubblewrap plastic around the bush sometime late fall.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2004 at 5:32PM
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They are macrophyllae, I'm sure. The colors range from blue to purple to pink. Each year they bloom but they've been especially nice this year. Since I have several, I may try to insulate some in the barn (which is open, more of a big shed, really) and maybe put some on an unheated porch. There might be one or two which possibly could be transplanted directly into the ground and protected there, but I'd feel better about it if they had some more time to grow bigger root structures. I've never seen anyone take up a hydrangea to overwinter it. They all stay in the open ground around here and seem to do just fine with no protection at all that I've ever noticed.

I have an ES plant that I will probably try to protect some way since I just put it out this year. It has doubled in size since July and is blooming now. I want it to be better established though before I let it go on its own. The cuttings are from much older bushes.

Many thanks for all the advice. I'm in awe of you all!

    Bookmark   September 21, 2004 at 10:28PM
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lerissa(z6b Philly)

Dungeondweller: Maybe because in Illinois, there is always a snow cover during winter that serve as insulation against the dessicating winds.

This is excerpt from www.hovaria.com:

Most Hydrangeas are hardy. This means that the branches and the buds that still are not opened will not be killed by frostbite. It may happen (especially with container plants) that the soil in which the roots are, will totally freeze. When there is lasting, severe, bleak, drying, frosty cold weather (with much wind), the branches and buds can dry up because no supply of moisture from the roots will be possible. We can avoid this by covering the plants in a proper way during severe frost, for instance with bubble plastic.

For container plants it is recommended to give them a frost free place indoors (as cool and light as possible). During the first winter after planting, when roots are not deep enough, or when there is bad garden soil, the chance of damage during frost will be greater. Then surely extra protection will be necessary.

Vulnerable to early frost in spring are the young opened buds. Most Hydrangeas have their buds sprouted in early spring so they can be caught by night-frost and be frostbitten. So it will be right to cover the buds if frost is forecasted for that night. By this covering during cold nights there will be a richer flowering in summer.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2004 at 1:15PM
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In my part of Illinois we usually get 4 or 5 snows a year, with the total accumulation all season less than 20 inches. It's rare for snow to be on the ground longer than a week or at a depth of more than 4-6".

    Bookmark   September 25, 2004 at 6:38PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

It seems to me that there have been a couple of posts by people in this region below the Great Lakes that have macrophyllas survive over winter and flower. Maybe they all got a good local strain or maybe being where they are near bodies of water or whatever. Thanks for elaborating, DungeonDweller.

If it gets too cold in your shed or whatever, you might think about bringing them in when it gets to be the coldest. And keep them in. Maybe in the coldest place in your house. Essentially you'd be forcing them, but if you expect to see flowers, that might be nice. The dormancy period doesn't have to be all winter, and since you're mostly interested in getting them through, this would help assure that.

If you can get away with it, these same bags of leaves laid around or even on top of your Endless Summer will serve as a mulch for them and help them overwinter in the ground.

In my harsh zone, I couldn't be as casual as Hovaria seems to suggest and go out and cover the plants with a little bubble wrap. Not when it's minus 5 and 10 night after night. For someone more South, it might not take more than this. I think it would be a lot of fun to bubblewrap a plant with lots of layers and see if it came through. It might get expensive, though. Make it in the shape of a snowman and light it up for Christmas.

It's those big fat buds that are so interesting. Which will flower this year like Jen's? Or next year as "Old Wood"? And if I cut it back, does that change things? What if I cut it back now , a month ago, next Spring?

Thanks for all your comments. Hay.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2004 at 2:34PM
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lerissa(z6b Philly)

Snowman?! Yeah why not, good idea! Bubblewrap are expensive, true! But what can I do, I'm afraid of rodents of any kinds. Even the sight of rabbits and squirrels make me jump. I don't want to see any little creature using the pile of leaves as shelter, or I'd scream very loud :). I saw an online store that is selling bubblewraps for wholesale, 24 feet by 500 feet, I think it would cost around close to $100. I do have lots of hydrangea shrubs to cover but maybe 500 feet will be enough if not excessive already for all of them. Plus, I can always re-use them every winter, so maybe not so bad. Hmmmn I'm not sure still. Winter is milder here and most of my plants are planted near the wooden fence so bubblewrap might be sufficient for me already. I have a feeling, maybe it's not really necessary to protect any of my hydrangeas whatsoever. I am surrounded by my neighbor's houses, I don't live in an open field. I see my neighbor's hydrangeas out in the open field of their garden and they still get some flowers. However, I am greedy! I want to see lots of blooms on my hydrangeas, just like as I see in some of the houses in my neighborhood. I notice that most beautiful blooms are in the garden of small houses inside Philadelphia area! Maybe because of the warmer temperatures in the city than in the suburbs.

Oh well, we'll see, I will update you guys next year, I'll let yol know!

    Bookmark   September 27, 2004 at 8:13PM
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lerissa(z6b Philly)

24" by 500 ft per roll

    Bookmark   September 28, 2004 at 11:36AM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

Lerissa, I don't think my bags of leaves would provide any more of an inviting home for the critters than bubblewrap. Bubblewrap gives them a nice, cozy, warm, dry place...with a view.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2004 at 9:35AM
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lerissa(z6b Philly)

Do you really think so? Well then maybe I have no other choice but to save my money and just use the fallen leaves on the ground from my oak trees. FREE! All I have to do is gather them together in the late fall. So now that I save money, I decided to order more hydrangeas that I've been wanting to have: Amethyst, Ayesha, Enziandom, Involucrata hortensis, Mathilda Gutges, Nigra, Fuji Waterfall, Miyama Yae Murasaki (Involucrater, are you reading this :) ?) I think I will use the construction thrash bags that I have already too, they seem thicker than ordinary black thrash bags.

Thanks hay, your posts here are very informative and helpful. Thanks for sharing them with us.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2004 at 3:18PM
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Hay, When are you thinking of "Mound" construction? Late October, November?


    Bookmark   September 30, 2004 at 12:20AM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

I'm not so good at remembering dates, but I guess mid October or a little later. I think I do it sooner than it's necessary. Others have said that they protect their plants much later. Just the way I've done it.

I gather leaves as they fall, and by the time all the leaves are on the gound, I've pretty much built my mound of leaves. I don't mind temperatures going down to about 25 overnight, but if I see it forecast to the low 20's, I get moving. That's what I've done.

I happen to like White Pine needles as a mulch in the spring and summer and they make the best insulation, either in bags or not. I've found some favorite country lanes with big stands of white pine along the side and go to them in the fall after their needles fall. The passing cars blow the needles to the edge of the road, and if you time it right, you can rake up the six inch thick strip of pure needles along side the road in no time at all. I carry a rake and garbage bags in my jeep and fill it full in less than an hour. Not that I can't get plenty of leaves in my back yard, but pine needles are so nice in a lot of ways. I use them as insulation over winter and then as the prettiest mulch in the summer.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2004 at 7:24PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

This time of year there is a lot of discussion in the forums about overwintering. Here's a thread in the perennial forum that I thought was a good one with some good ideas. I like the idea of digging a hole to overwinter plants.

Paul299 z4 Minnesota
If you have compost pile-you can also dig a nice hole in it and chuck all the pots in the hole and cover over with the compost.
I have a number o fthings that are not even close to being hardy here and they go into a deep hole dug in the ground,I let the ground be my cooler since it rarely gets colder than 26F below 6 inches of soil, even if we have had 3weeks of negative 20F.

Paul299 z4 Minnesota
OH- for got the type of hole I use, I dig down about 2.5 feet and put all the plants down in the bottom and then put a layer of straw down on top of them and some "Rat food" and then a small thin piece of wood or cardboard and then will the hole back in with dirt.

And NantucketHydrangea has some thoughts about overwintering your little cuttings.

"I find it best to treat the rooted cuttings the
same way I would a tender perennial, I keep them root bound in their
little pots...I think this has a tendency to harden up the roots and
keep the plant from throwing out new root growth that would be killed
by the cold, and weaken the plant. They can be in a dark place as
long as it doesn't get too warm... below 40 degrees most of the time,
never much above 50 for any length of time. Water only as needed and
watch out for the aphids, algae, and botrytis (grey mold). In a cold
minimum heat greenhouse that's about once , maybe twice a month. They
are going to want to get going in March no matter what you do if the
temps get much above 40. I stick them out in cold frames when it
warms up a bit in the spring to hold them back. Minimum temps for
following season flower development are around 20-25 degrees, once
hardened off. Minimum temps for survival is around 5-10 degrees for
all but the very hardy."

Good luck. Couple more weeks left. Hay

    Bookmark   October 6, 2004 at 9:37AM
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Hay...beautiful pictures! What is the plant with the purple flowers behind Nikko Blue in the photo titled "Here's the payoff?"

    Bookmark   October 6, 2004 at 9:26PM
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juanital(5b/6a OH)

Hay...and Gals & Guys, I purchased a Maculata 'Blue Lace' Its about 1 1/2 ft tall, could I put it in a bigger container and sink in a hole and if I understand this right, cover it so that it would have blooms? (I'm not sure if it is mature enough to have them by next year). But if it was mature enough covering it will help the blooms?...

    Bookmark   October 7, 2004 at 10:18AM
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Jen26(USDA zone 6/MO)

Back to the bubble-wrap, I can't believe there would be enough water and air circulation getting to the plant if it's completely sheltered in plastic. Maybe I'm missing something...

    Bookmark   October 7, 2004 at 10:32AM
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lerissa(z6b Philly)

Jen, I have milder winter here, it might work for me already but I don't have anymore budget money for bubblewraps. I was thinking, if I use bubble wrap, I will just envelope the shrub with one or two layers, and not too tight, just to protect it from dessicating winds. Well anyway, I thought of another means, I will just use construction bag, sandwiched with insulation foams used for houses, I would sew the construction plastic if I have to.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2004 at 11:08AM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

That's scaevola. Nice blue annual with a horizontal habit.
. Nicotiana sylvestris for the fragrance. Alternanthera for the red horizontal, sedum rosy glow and a cauticola for the hanging baskets and fall, thalictrum rochibrunianum just because it's nice, petunias, geraniums, artemisia powis castle, a dahlia. Hmmm, did I leave anything out?

Juanita, it's unlikely you'll ever see a flower if you dont' do something. Your plant will likely die back to the ground each winter, taking the flowering buds with it.

jen, lerissa, I think you're trying to reinvent the wheel. My mound is a lot easier than you must think. I could have popped your hydrangeas out of the ground, thrown some bags around them and be done with it before you get back from the Home Depot with all your supplies.

Good luck with whatever you do. I'm always interested in a new approach. Hay.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2004 at 6:33PM
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Jen26(USDA zone 6/MO)

Hay, you're so funny. What else do we have to do now but reinvent the wheel? That's what it's all about...endless discussion and sewing trashbags.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2004 at 12:47AM
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lerissa(z6b Philly)

hehe, you got it right Hay. You very smart. Though I would wish you could really go here and do that for me. What I really is trying to avoid most is digging up the plant again.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2004 at 12:05PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

I did my overwintering today. We really haven't had much in the way of cold weather yet this year. A couple of dips to about 30 degrees or so and that's been it. Tonight they're saying 26 and 21 for tomorrow night. I see 23 a couple of days from now. I've seen them be off by four degrees enough times that 21 scares me. Especially since we really haven't had any cold so far. The normal temperature for now is about 52 degrees for a high and about 32 degrees for a low. Anyhow, they're all in.

Good night. See you in the Spring. Hay and his Hydrangeas.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2004 at 6:57PM
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Jen26(USDA zone 6/MO)

Nighty-night. (Hay isn't going to abandon us all winter, too, is he?)

    Bookmark   November 11, 2004 at 6:29PM
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Hey Hay HELP! I am in zone 5-6 sometimes Five. I have potted up in very large nursery pots some of the mac hydrangeas. I have never had much success with Nikko Blue in the ground. Just a few blooms every other summer. I have two places I can overwinter the macs in containers. One is an unheated greenhouse and the other is a cellar. Which one do you think would be the best? The unheated greenhouse can be closed up completely with doors on each end. Would the greenhouse heat up to much on sunny winter days and then cool down at nights for a drastic temp difference? I use the bloom for drying and have been buying the dried blooms for many years. I would love to grow my own. Thanks, Beverly

    Bookmark   November 13, 2004 at 11:11AM
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Hayseedman if you are out there today I would like for you to answer this. I have potted several Macs into very large nursery pots and need to overwinter. I have Nikko in the ground and hardly ever get bloom so I know I need to try the potted method. This is the first yr to overwinter and I thought about the unheated greenhouse but after reading your postings about the cellar that made me realize that might be a better locale. The unheated greenhouse may be too much of a temp change from sunny hot to dark cold. I have bought the dried bloom from the macs for years and have decided to grow and dry them myself. your help appreciated BeverlyWV

    Bookmark   November 15, 2004 at 11:39AM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

Hi, Beverly.

I don't have any personal experience with greenhouses in the winter. A few posts up there is a comment from Nantucket Hydrangea and how he mentions overwintering in a "cold minimum heat greenhouse".

Over the years, I've had some conversations with a local friend about overwintering hydrangeas in one of his large unheated greenhouses. I've never really followed through with testing it, though. I remember his mentioning how hot the greenhouses could get and I wondered, just like you if the temperature swings would be too much. Maybe if it's minimum heat, the fact that you get high temperatures is tolerable.

I'm thinking as I type and wondering if maybe you could cover the greenhouse with some sort of really heavy duty shade cloth so that you wouldn't get such a strong "greenhouse effect".

The cellar works. The one I used last winter wasn't freezing, and I wish it had been colder. If you have just a few plants, you might think about putting them on the cellar steps leading to the outside. I'm visualizing the traditional steps that have a covering leading into the cellar. Keep them there until it gets to be really cold and then maybe move them into the warmer cellar. I've overwintered one the entire winter on some cellar steps before.

If your cellar is very warm, I might be a little wary, but I still think you'd do just fine. In that case, I might pay more attention to letting it stay outside for a long enough time to send it through some cold period before putting it away. And that might mean doing something to protect it when it's in that cold period outside on those nights when it dips super low.

Perhaps you could start out in your greenhouse and move it to the cellar when the temperature starts really swinging around.

I wish I had a greenhouse so I could experiment, and I hope you get back to us if you try it.

I grew up in the moutains of North Carolina and it sounds like you live in a similar area. I wish I had the side of a hill to dig a bankhouse. I remember one from my youth. That would have to be a great place to overwinter.

Good luck.

I'm still having a problem deciding what to do with my small cuttings and small plants. I don't have enough experience with really small ones in a mound outside and are very important to me. What to do, what to do? I've taken them in and out when it's gotten really cold (We went down to about 16 degrees on the coldest night we recently had. A record for the date. ) I'm thinking I'll let the cold get to them gradually either by covering them on bad nights or bring them in. Then maybe cover them for a while. And then, when it starts to really get cold like in the last of December, I'll bring them into a very cold room of the house or into the cellar. I expect that means I'll have a bloom a lot sooner than I really want. In effect I might be forcing them. But they should all survive this way and that's important. That's the game plan anyhow.

Here's one of my mounds. Snow helps a lot, though.

But out of that ugliness will come next Summer.

I never really left, Jen. I have been super busy. I find time to check in some, but I haven't been able to participate as much as I would like. Too many fun things to do in life.


    Bookmark   November 15, 2004 at 4:02PM
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Thanks so much Hayseedman. I will probably go with my cellar. I really think the flucuation would be too much. I have wondered for some time just how low can the temps go before those buds freeze. We have already dipped to 19 once and low 20's several times. I have them in that unheated house. Hope I havn't waited to late. I will move them to cellar tomorrow. Thanks again. BeverlyWV

    Bookmark   November 15, 2004 at 6:50PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

This is from a newsletter from the Plus people on November 10. Hope you're all doing well. Hay

"Winter is coming
In case you didn't know, hydrangeas are deciduous and will lose their leaves during the winter months. Warmer zones (like areas in California and Florida) may not experience total leaf loss. In fact, warmer climates may have hydrangeas that keep their leaves all year long and just discolor and look a little sick. You may remove those leaves if you don't like the discoloration or wait until warmer days when the new leaves will push the old leaves off the plant.

In most areas (zone 6 and above), cold weather shouldn't harm your macrophylla (mophead and lacecap) hydrangeas. The Paniculata, Arborescens, climbing Petiolaris and Oakleaf are all much hardier and should be safe to zone 4 without protection down to -20 or -30 degrees. Severe cold weather after periods of unseasonably warm weather could be a problem and cause your plants not to bloom the following summer. Here in Oregon, our prior two Fall seasons have been very cold very quickly and many of our garden hydrangeas did suffer and didn't bloom as prolifically as in seasons past. This fall season has been much better with a gradual decrease in temperatures and the hydrangeas are slowly going dormant and losing their leaves.

Remember, most macrophyllas bloom on old wood so to ensure blooms the following summer, old growth (this year's current growth) needs to survive the winter to produce buds next year. Most macrophylla types are bud hardy in the range of 0 degrees to -10 degrees. If you are experiencing sudden bitter cold weather, there are several things you can do to protect your hydrangeas.
Pour water over the hydrangea and allow to freeze - this will keep the branches at 32 degrees - just be careful of the branches as they will be very brittle when frozen and will break easily in strong wind.
New garden products on the market called Anti Transpiration liquids can be applied and will give plants an added 5 to 15 degrees of protection. We have seen a consumer product available called WiltPruf. We use a commercial product similar to WiltPruf and have been very pleased with the results.
Cover the plants with a thermal blanket (waterproof felt) or tightly woven burlap to protect branches - there are some winter protection tips for zones 5 in the 'Commonly Asked Questions' section below.
Q: My hydrangeas are planted on the Northwest side of the house against the garage. Without protection, I have lost the old wood every year. This year I would like to take necessary precautions against the weather. I read your helpful hints for protecting hydrangeas through the winter. Instead of a thermal blanket could I use burlap as a substitute?

A: A thermal blanket is a waterproof blanket often used for growing vegetables. I have seen ads in the garden magazines. You may also use a water repellent blanket too. We use treated thick felt as our protection for staged plants. It is about 1/4" thick, gray and comes in large sheets. Tight woven burlap is also a good substitute. We have seen these blankets and felt sheets at agriculture supply stores. Also check your local university's agriculture department. They may have other ideas about protect and may even direct you to stores that carry such supplies.

The Arborescens, Oakleaf, climbing Petiolaris and Paniculata are hardy to zone 4 and most likely won't need protection. The macrophyllas should be mulched after leaf drop. If your minimum temperatures (including wind chill) fall below 10 degrees, you may need more protection to ensure the branches come back next spring.

Do your temperatures fall below 10 or 20 degrees? If so, protecting the branches is the most conservative option. Once the leaves drop, wrap the stems with twine such that they are pulled together into a cone shape. Wrap with a tight woven burlap or a thermal blanket (waterproof felt). Once spring comes and leaves start forming on the trees, remove the burlap and twine. You may still experience some late spring frosts once the plants begin to leaf out. On those nights you expect frost in the spring, cover the plants with the burlap, thermal blanket or old bed sheet - just enough protection so that the frost doesn't get to the leaves.
In your area, it's important to protect the hydrangeas from the cold wind more so than from just the temperature.

Spring frosts can be very damaging to the new leaves and flower buds, too. Once the plant leafs out, it has just begun to start forming the flower buds that will be the flowers next summer. On those nights you expect frosts, cover with the burlap, old bed sheet or thin blanket. Even just a light covering will help keep the frost away."

    Bookmark   November 29, 2004 at 10:01AM
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DonBrinser(z6 MD)

Hayseedman posted a photo of Hyd 'Blue Billow' way back on Aug 23. I grow only a few hydrangeas, but this is one of my favorites. Folks, it just won't grow. In 4 or 5 years, it's still only, well, very small, and blooms miserably. I treat it the same as my few other hyd. plants, which do well. Secrets?

    Bookmark   November 30, 2004 at 6:08PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

My experience has been that Blue Billow is more on the small size. The plants never have gotten to be larger than about three feet tall and appear spindly in comparison to the stout stems of Nikko, say. But still blooms very nicely.

Maybe your soil in this one spot is not so good? Maybe the sun, shade is different in that spot? Under a Norway maple? Under a walnut?

Good luck. Hay.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2004 at 8:54AM
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Hay, last year I had beautiful foliage on my mature hydrangeas, however, no flowers....I'm almost sure that our late frost was responsible. I purchased burlap yesterday and would like to know if it is ok to cover my plants now. All of the leaves have fallen off and I have tons of nice buds....I want to keep them too!! Thanks


    Bookmark   December 4, 2004 at 7:43AM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

Hi, Margaret. I put in the article by Hydrangeas Plus, but I've never just wrapped hydrangeas with burlap. For me, here in zone 5/6 I just can't believe wrapping a layer of burlap would do much good. Maybe several layers. Maybe. So I can't say that I advocate wrapping with burlap.

But it's certainly not too early. If your leaves have fallen off, you've waited longer than I ever have. I know I wrap too soon, but it doesn't seem to hurt things.

Good luck to you. Hay.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2004 at 4:27PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

We are in the middle of a cooler stretch of weather. Mostly between about 40 and about 60 with lots of rain and overcast skies expected. Just the kind of weather I look forward to when I take off the bags of leaves. The first day or so I kept them covered with just a sheet of plastic. It's been a rainy day today so I took off the plastic last night so that they're seeing the first real light today.

I had a disaster with some real small plants and cuttings that I had started last summer. I overwintered them in a room that I was able to keep right at freezing most of the winter. In the late winter, I moved them into a warmer, but still very cold room. For whatever reason they leafed out just fine and then one by one they started to wither away in the spring. I lost at least half of what I had overwintered this way. I'm not sure of the problem, but I suspect some fungus and I don't know whether it was from the conditions, the fact that they were so small, that I got a contamination from somewhere or what.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2005 at 3:13PM
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Sorry to hear about your cuttings but congrats on your overwintering project, it looks like a success. I was surprised to see them all in containers. Are all of your hydrangeas grown in containers or do you dig them up in the fall? .....yg

    Bookmark   April 27, 2005 at 3:39PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

Many of them are in containers, but I've got lots and lots that are dug up in the fall. I wrap the root ball with a sheet of plastic, just like you'd do with a piece of burlap. The first picture is with just a small portion of the top removed. There's lots more in there. Hay.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2005 at 4:01PM
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Wow, that's a lot of work for the love of hydrangeas!!! I guess that also answers the questions for once and for all about how well they handle being transplanted. They are proving to be a much more adaptable plant than most give them credit for. Then again, sometimes I think you just make it look easy!!!....yg

    Bookmark   April 27, 2005 at 4:46PM
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tree_oracle(z6b MA)

I just took the hay/oak leaf protection off of my hydrangeas this past weekend. They look really good. Some branches from each plant were sticking out of this protective layer and were killed during the winter. The parts of each plant in the protective layer look great and are putting on new leaves. I think I'll see quite a few blooms this year. It will be worth all of the efforts to protect/deprotect the plants if I get blooms out of it.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2005 at 3:56PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

I mentioned to Nantucket Hydrangea the loss of so many of my plants that I had tried to overwinter in my house in a very cold room. He has to overwinter thousands and I thought he might have some insights for me. And he did. I'll share them with you.

It has been my experience that hydrangeas, as well
as most other plants respond well to challenge... that is to say the
sometimes harsh and variable conditions encountered in their natural
environments. Time after time I have tried to protect some rare or
valuable cutting/plant only to have them succumb while their cohorts
which I ignored and left outside unprotected have thrived. I have had
this beaten into me and still resist at times, but I'm beginning to
catch on. You may be able to get away with blooming a developed plant
inside for a couple of months, or keeping them inside in a very cold
room for a couple of months in the winter, but once they get the urge
to grow you need to be prepared to get them out into a cold frame
before they bud out and lose their dormancy and antifreeze, and then
keep them from getting too cold when the temp suddenly dips below 25.

I have the advantage of being set up to overwinter en masse. When
handling thousands, a few dead ones aren't noticed, plus I'm set up
for it. I leave them out till first freeze which prunes off the
leaves and weaker shoots. Then bring them under/provide cover for the
worst of the winter, back out in the spring (Roll up
sides/coldframes) with shade cloth/wind breaks wherever needed. This
rough treatment not only culls out the weak, but produces a much
healthier plant than your ever going to get from a greenhouse grower...

.... but I would stop babying your plants.
Think of it like a really bad way of teaching a kid to swim... Throw
them out into the middle of the deep end of the pool and let them
sink or swim,,, just don't let them drown! You might end up with
burnt leaves, broken stems, and tattered foliage, but in 2 months you
will have one tough, good looking hombre ready to take on whatever's
coming down the pike.

Live and learn. Hay.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 10:32AM
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Thanks for that Hay. I think I am starting to agree with the "stop babying your plants" mentality. As he said, it's easier said than done but time after time the semi-neglected plant in my garden seems to out-do the "babies" . If I'm not careful, I find myself working and analyzing too much and taking in and enjoying the beauty too little..........yg

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 11:20AM
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hydrangea2(5b Ontario 4bUS)


I was totally captivated by your posts. I too am a hydrangeaholic but live in Zone 4! I was thinking of overwintering a florists hydrangea in my cold cellar. Since you say it doesn't need light, do you think this should be successful? What do think about watering etc.
Would very much appreciate advice.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2005 at 9:33PM
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hydrangea2(5b Ontario 4bUS)


I have been trying to search things on the net re: maximum temperature for overwintering hydrangeas and minimum dormancy period but have not been able to.

Since I live in Zone 4 and would like to keep my florist's hydrangea I thought asking you about hydrangeas in FLorida might be worthwhile. Yours probably stay evergreen. Wondering what you know about how long their dormant period is and how cool it is. I have a few options for mine, garage with a window for a few weeks or cold cellar where it doesn't go below freezing but no light.

Somehow, I think there must be a way to get these beautiful plants to come back.

Would appreciate any information you can provide.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2005 at 3:31PM
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My understanding is that they need 8 to 12 weeks between setting buds and blooming. My plants do go dormant (kind of). I have had blooms (still blue) on New Years. February is probably the most dormant month down here. I say "most dormant" because my buds never really harden all the way. Even though the leaves fall off, etc. my buds stay in more of a tender state until they open fully again in April. So that pretty much fits the 8 - 12 week principle. Hope that helps. I know nothing about keeping the plant in the garage or basement but I have read other posters on this site say they have done this. Just don't forget to give it water from time to time. As an aside, you say that you are looking to do this with a "florist" hydrangea. Florist types are tricky to keep alive under the best of circumstances as they are not sold with long term health/growth in mind so beware that you have an additional challenge in that regard. Good luck.....yg

    Bookmark   July 25, 2005 at 9:56AM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

You can overwinter these in the cellar. In my first post you'll find lots of pictures of some that I've overwintered thio way. It works. It's not as good as the mounds I do because the cellar doesn't stay very cold and the plant wants to take off way before it's time to go outside. It still works (and if you really like hydrangeas like me you can go down in March or so and watch the new flower coming out. It'll be white.)

You can get an idea of the dormancy needs by the timing of my cellar blooms.

And your flowering will be a whole lot earlier than ones kept in a colder place.

Good luck to you.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2005 at 5:37PM
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Knowledge like yours is the reason I asked GardenWeb to add an Hydrangea forum. Thanks.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2005 at 8:42PM
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hydrangea2(5b Ontario 4bUS)

Yellowgirl and Hayseedman...you are both wonderful to help me out! Thanks so much as I am hydrangea crazy and for years have been frustrated until the higher powers sent us Endless Summer which I am so ever grateful for.
So, Hayseedman, if I water it well before placing it in the cellar and no light, it will tell me when it's ready by pushing out new growth around March? I don't mind it blooming early because I can keep it as a houseplant.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 10:04AM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

Don't water them too well. They really need very, very little water.

I think it would be interesting to keep it as a houseplant, but I might be inclined to choose to try to keep it more dormant in a cold cellar (or the colder cellar steps maybe) for a longer time and then take it outside. I'm thinking you're going to be encouraging spindly, weak growth by trying to grow in limited light. All or none might be better than a little in this case. Let us know how it turns out.

Thanks, Lisa. I always enjoy yours and everyone else's comments and garden pictures. I've gotten a whole lot more out of these forums than I've put in.

Thanks to all of you. Hay.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2005 at 7:15PM
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hydrangea2(5b Ontario 4bUS)

Thanks again Hay. What I will do is let it gradually think its going dormant this fall (it's outside now lapping up as much sunshine as it can and pushing out new growth) I've already repotted it.

In the fall I will bring it in once the leaves are pretty bad and the temperatures are getting scarey, and put it in the cellar with enough water to get it through the "winter".

Then in March it comes out once it's pushing and I will set it under my grow light stand for the flowers to mature. Then when it's mild again put it outside to soak up some more sun.

Sound like a good plan??

I will definately let everyone know about the outcome of this experiment.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2005 at 9:03PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

Let us know!

I'd let it get zapped by the frost a few times before I brought it in. It can easily handle a gradual decline in temperatures to 25 degrees, say. Take the leaves off.

In the spring, if you want, you can take it outside very early if you're willing to bring it in and out as it's needed. I don't remember the exact timing, but I went directly from the cellar to a porch that I could easily slip the plant in and out of the house. If this would work for you, I'd consider doing this rather than try to make it into a houseplant.

You're gong to have fun, I bet.This is a young Vulcain flower. Hay.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2005 at 10:02AM
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hydrangea2(5b Ontario 4bUS)

Yup, that is definately a possibility for me and an easy one. I love these shrubs so much and am so committed to them that I will have no problem tending to their daily needs.

Thanks Hay!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2005 at 5:13PM
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bcmouli(z5 IL)


Thanks for your wonderful posts. I am new to Hydrangeas; I bought several this summer only. I bought them late and did not see many flowers. The plants have grown well though. Two endles summers, one anabelle and one "Homigo", all in 15 G pots. I want to overwinter them. I do not have basement or enough garage space. I do have a vinyl sheet shed. Will it work? (a little diffuse light gets in. And what do I do with a Oakleaf which is on the ground?

    Bookmark   September 27, 2005 at 11:11PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

You are more than welcome. The best way to learn something is to try to teach it, and I really do want to learn, so it works for all of us. Thank you for asking!

Fifteen gallon pots. Wow, that''s big. I use several 15 gallon pots and I know how heavy they can be. Are you very strong or do you use something to help you move them around. I'm a little bit strong, but I struggle a lot when I have to move mine. One simple trick that I use is to let them dry out as much as I can before I think I want to move them. And I've learned to do a few contortions to get leverage with my body.

(An aside: Someone pointed out to me that sand, gravel and the like are sold by the ton. I've seen it first hand, now. If you buy the sand or gravel after a rain, you'll see that the pile is a whole lot smaller)

I don't know that being inside your shed would really add a lot to keeping them over the winter. It is absolutly better than nothing, but I would try to find a way to put something around and over them no matter where you put them. If you don't like the ugly sight of plastic bags of leaves, perhaps you could do a small mound inside your shed. I think I would figure out a way to do it on the backside of the shed. Use the shed to hide the mess and to help hold up a few bags of leaves.

I keep hoping that someone will find a beautiful solution to my overwintering.

You might think about actually planting most of your plants. Then mulch them a lot to help the roots through the winter. Endless Summer would die back to the ground, but you'd still get a show of flowers from the crown area. Not as much as you would if you got the upper stems through the winter, though.

The Annabelle shouldn't really be a problem. It can bloom on new wood and unless you really want to keep it in a pot, then I don't know of any reason not to plant it.

Homigo, I'm not familiar with, but I bet you should try to overwinter that one.

You do not need light to overwinter the plants if they are cold and dormant. Mine never see the light of day for almost six months of the year.

I don't understand your "oakleaf on the ground"
"IN the ground"?, I'd just mulch it a whole lot.

Could you lay yours along a foundation wall of your house and then place a few bags over them. The house foundation would help a lot. And how about a crawl space under your house.

Good luck. Let us know how it works out. Hay.

I saw one of my pictures from last year. On November 8 I had put the last bag over my plants. Five more weeks for me.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2005 at 8:29AM
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bcmouli(z5 IL)

Thanks a lot Hay!!

I stand corrected. I think I meant to say 15" diameter pots; I did not see gallon info on them but I calcualted it to be about 10 gallons.

I use a small hand cart to move stuff around. BTW, I did move a LOT of stuff when I built my pond using a lot of stones and concrete.

I think I will put the Hydrangeas inside the shed if I have space or outside. What do you mean by "mound" ; can it be
mulch, leaves etc?

My Oakleaf is planted in the ground, about 3 feet from a fence.

What do I do with some cuttings which have rooted? Right now, there are 2 or 3 small plants in I G containers. I never thought they would take root, but they did !!. Can I cover them up too until spring?

Again, thanks for your valuable input.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 8:27PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

Mound means the pile of hydrangeas that I make and then surround with bags of dry leaves. Thiry gallon size bags. That is my basic method of overwintering.

I think you will have to do something equivalent to that. I do it on the ground, so I will be helping to trap the warmth of the earth to get them through the winter. In a shed, especially if it's off the ground, you wouldn't get that and that would argue even more for your need to put something over them.

I'd put your young cuttings away in the same way.

Plenty of people have said that they get by with just piling woodchips or pine straw over the in-ground plants for the winter. Many have done it with a wire cage or something around the plant that is then filled with chips or pine straw. Maybe you could just bury the pots in the ground, upright, and then figure out a way to enclose it with chips or something. Maybe cut the bottom out of a bushel basket for the smaller ones.

Someone pointed out to me a gardening magazine mention of overwintering plants in the cellar window well holes. (Is that the right term?). Put a couple of small plants in there and then put something over the top with a bag of leaves or something like that. The house would help keep them over the winter.

Here is something which someone might figure out a way to be useful in our overwintering. I haven't used it yet; I just saw it mentioned in some thread on Gardenweb and it looks to me like it has a lot of potential.

Hydrangeas are known to be very susceptible to fungus. I don't know if I get more or less fungus than other people, but I do know that no matter what, I want less fungus. I worry that maybe I'm encouraging the overwintering of fungus by what I do.

One of my mounds is on a slight slope and last year I put down a sheet of plastic with holes in it to allow any water to drain out that might get trapped. Fungus overwinter in plant debris and soil, so I think my plastic sheet may have cut back on this somewhat.

I would love to completely defoliate my plants, but I have so many and I put them away before they would naturally drop their leaves so it would be a task for me. For someone with just a few plants, maybe you should try to have them go into storage as clean as possible.

I'm thinking this year of maybe using sulfur to throw on the plastic to furthur help get rid of any fungus or to keep it from growing and maybe even drench the plants themselves with a sulfur solution.

Good luck. Hay.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2005 at 8:42AM
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bcmouli(z5 IL)


Some more questions !!

If I place them in the shed instead of outside, do I have to water thm during the winter?

Whe exactly do you cover them up? Depending on the temperature?

How do I defoliate? Manually?

thanks again

    Bookmark   October 8, 2005 at 8:14PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

You shouldn't need to water them in the winter. I put mine away outside and never touch them again til spring. They come out just about as moist as they started.

Last year mine were covered on November 8. I think I put them away earlier than I need and that you could wait longer. Don't worry about a mild frost, but, when the temperature starts hitting low twenties overnight, I start to lose sleep so that's when I usually will cover them.

I put mine away with the leaves still on the plant. If you have just a few and can take the time I'd manually defoliate the plant just in case it might encourage fungus, but my experience has been that it doesn't seem to cause any problems at all.

Good luck. Hay.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2005 at 4:10PM
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brander(z5 WV)

I went out to cover my macrophylla hydrangeas today with plastic bubble wrap and after covering two of the four that I have, I realized that I was covering them with the leaves still on them. Our weather has been unseasonably warm and whereas the leaves are usually gone by mid Oct., here it is mid Nov. and there are still lots of leaves on the plants. My question is - should I wrap now or wait until the leaves fall off. I don't want to encourage disease from the dead leaves hanging on the plant but I'm not sure if this would be a problem. Would appreciate any advice. I don't really want to unwrap the two plants I've already done but will if you think it might cause a problem.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2005 at 9:43PM
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Some people wait until the leaves fall off, some do not. The bubble wrap may cook your plants when the sun hit them. Burlap may be a better option. Most people build a chicken wire cage around the plant and fill it with leaves or other insulating material and cover the whole thing with burlap or canvas. Dont use plastic because it may cook your plant.
Good luck

    Bookmark   November 10, 2005 at 8:46AM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

I haven't used bubble wrap, but I like the idea.

Be careful to allow some breathing room for the plant. I think it is MUCH more likely that you might kill the plant by, in effect, suffocating the plant than you will injure the plant by covering it with the leaves still on the plant.

I have always put away my plants with the leaves still on the plant. I'm sure there was never any real damage done to them by doing this. It's not like you're going to open them up next spring and see a slimey mess where you once had your plant. Maybe the leaves themselves will be a little slimey, but more likely they will be dryed up and crispy and will flake right off. To your eye, the plant will be very healthy looking. You peel away all this old leaf mess and there will be this nice, plump, healthy looking bud ready to go.

I have one in the ground that I've been protecting with a fence and bags of leaves for about 15 years that never shows any signs of any problem. Healthy green foliage and flowers all summer long.

Bottom line: Don't worry about it.

Below the bottom line: Hydrangeas are very fungus susceptible. Powdery Mildew is very common, especially when you get away from the ones that have been selected to be somewhat resistant. I would like to do everything I can to discourage this, and even though I think I can't really do much, I have thought that my overwintering might be encouraging fungus to overwinter, so I've been experimenting with spraying sulfur on the leaves in the past few weeks as I gather them up. I'm thinking that I might try using sulfur next summer when the fungus problems usually show up and this was a good time to test it on the hydrangeas since, if I harmed the plant, I'd rather do it now than when it's at it's prime next July.

I'm seeing forecasts of 24 degrees tonight. We've had some frosts but just around 30 this far. I'll probably try to lay them all down today and maybe cover them up with a sheet of plastic for the next two days, just to help ease them into the winter. Last year it was on November 8 that I put mine to bed for the winter. This season is a little later for us this year, but not by much.

Good luck. Hay.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2005 at 8:51AM
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brander(z5 WV)

I got the idea of using the bubble wrap on this forum; it was one of the suggestions. I tried it last year on a Nikko and it worked great. When I uncovered it in mid April (too early I found out) it was covered with nice big buds. I had to keep going out to cover it at night because we had 13 frosts in April this year, but for the first time I had some blooms. I had also covered the whole thing with burlap. The bottom part closest to the ground was open so it was able to get some air to it, otherwise I agree I could have suffocated it. I think though that I will try the cage and leaves method for the other two small Endless Summer that I have, just to see how it works. I know the ES is supposed to flower even on new wood, but I know that would be much later in the summer and I'd like to get the early blooms too if I can. Thanks for your help.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2005 at 10:57PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

Thanks for telling us that you've tried it and it worked. That's great. If you should ever have a picture of your creation, I'd love to see it.

I have to resist the temptation to bring my hydrangeas out too early in the spring. Not only do you have to cover the plants back up when there happens to be a frost, but also every time that there could be a frost. So for every frost that actually happens I might have three or four nights when it's possible and so I need to cover them up then,too. So I wait as long as I possibly can.

My plants are all laying down in the mounds now. I've got two going and one is buttoned down for the winter and the other needs the top bags thrown on. Overnight on Thursday and Friday the forecast is for a low of 20 degrees. Up til now we've touched maybe 27 a couple of times, maybe 25 once. So Thursday night every thing will be covered for the winter. Last year it was November 8. This year, November 17. My little indicator of one of the mildest years on record.


    Bookmark   November 15, 2005 at 6:45PM
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brander(z5 WV)

Yes, we're going to get those cold temps too. I'll have to cover my last two plants tomorrow. I also have one in a pot that I was going to put in my cool, unheated basement, but I think I'll try protecting it outside using the bags of leaves around it. It will probably make a stronger plant that way.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2005 at 8:53PM
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Seventy Hydrangeas or so were put to sleep this last weekend, some in pots others just root balls. My mound was a little bigger then last year, half cover by kiddy pool the other with bags of leaves. I did not pack the bags in as tight as last year and also stuck some 2inch pvc segments in between the bags for some ventillation.

I am still amazed at how root systems grown late in the year when the weather starts getting cooler. Newly rooted plants that in August had root systems the size of quarters are now wrapping around a 1 gallon container....wow!!! I have always been told...its really all about the roots.

Also sprayed three plants with Wilt-Pruf and will not wrap at all....We will see what happens.

One othe plant will be pinned down to the ground and covered with card board and weed fabric.

We shall see the results next spring.

Hold a must add a picture: Enziandom

    Bookmark   November 15, 2005 at 10:28PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

I think you're right about getting better plants if you keep them outside. I think the plants are more likely to get diseased if you keep them inside.

Dave, I've been wondering what you might be trying this year. Good luck to you. For some part of the top of your mound, are you using only the kiddy pool as a cover? No bags of leaves at all? I had the impression that last year you had put the pool cover over the bags of leaves that were on top.

If I can get around to it, I've got some good candidates for flattening. A whole cluster that weren't protected at all last year and died back to the ground over winter. I then pruned back the new growth early in the summer and ended up with much shorter canes at the end of the season. If your wilt proof experiment doesn't work, you'll have the consolation of being able to prune them in any number of ways next year.

You're not going to cover your pinned down one with anything more than cardboard and weed fabric? No leaves? I'm thinking I'll try figuring out a way to pin them down and maybe cover them up with something like fabric and then piling on the leaves. They're in a corner so two sides are enclosed. Maybe I'll put a little fence around the other two sides to keep the leaves piled up a little.

(I'm thinking, "If I had a kiddy pool, I wonder if I couldn't use it to cover up these ones I'm trying to pin down. Or if I had a just a few plants, I wonder if I could put them under a pool. Then throw some leaves over them..")

I hope we'll get to see that Enziandom again next Summer. Looking forward to hearing how your experiments work out.


    Bookmark   November 16, 2005 at 2:14AM
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The kiddy pool was not big enough this year to cover the whole mound, so the walls are still made up of bagged leaves(some of them last year.

The pinning down of branch technique is still not complete. I need to check out that old post in here regarding that approach. To flatten the canes I tied about 6 canes together and then tied them off to chunks of fire wood for weights.

Last year I tried pruning late in the season like early October. It failed because the lower buds openned and were killed for frost. This weekend I will try doing this same thing but only hoping that the cold will prevent lower bud break and vernalization will take place in the lower buds, causing the side buds to flower in spring. So I will prune low and cover with leaves and wait for next spring.

From Nantucket Hydrangea: North of 6 will have to protect from frost/freezing. Here's the deal. Once temperatures have dropped below 65 for 5-7 nights and sunlit day lengths get shorter (8-12 hr), hydrangeas will naturally begin floral initiation, a fascinating process which isn't over until they resume growth in the spring, or in the case of no dormancy (indoor culture), 2-3 months later. This can only happen if the plants have developed to a point where it can physiologically handle bud formation (5-7 weeks from root formation). Your plants already have about 4 weeks of "vegetative" growth and should be ready to begin floral initiation in 3-4 weeks. Try to keep them somewhat warm until then in the more Northerly zones. If you live in the southern zones you may have to put them under air conditioning for a few weeks. A fully developed fall bud will have a "rugose" (wrinkled) appearance rather than a smooth exterior. Of course you can always slice a bud in 2 lengthwise and look at it under a microscope where the fertile flower primordia should be visible.

Not responsible for typos


    Bookmark   November 16, 2005 at 9:01PM
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Thanks Dave....That was very interesting.....yg

    Bookmark   November 17, 2005 at 9:28AM
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brander(z5 WV)

I just made it covering my last two hydrangeas on Wed.Nov. 16. It got down to 12.7 degrees last night. I covered most of mine with bubble wrap and then covered that with burlap using binder twine to secure it. They all look like skinny teepees. I put a wire cage around one and covered the plant (it's a small one) with shredded wood chips. I guess that's it until spring. :0(

    Bookmark   November 18, 2005 at 5:01PM
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hydrangea2(5b Ontario 4bUS)

Hey Hayseedman and Everyone!

Good news! The florist hydrangea that I overwintered in my cold cellar started pushing out yellow/white growth about 4 weeks ago and so I took it out and gave it some water and behold, luscious green growth sprung forth along with 4 blossom buds! I am thrilled! Some bud leaves are still developing, so perhaps more.

Any tips, on care right now? I don't want the buds to drop.

Also, my ES cutting has a flower head on it as well. I gave it the same treatment as the one above. I have it under lights.

Thanks Hayseedman for working with me to make this successful. The nurseryman told me it is almost impossible to get this hydrangea to rebloom. What I will say is that they really don't need to get that cold to go through their dormant period. My cold cellar probably didn't get much colder that 40-45 degrees and was usually about 50.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2006 at 7:36AM
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bcmouli(z5 IL)


I followed some of your advice and covered up my hydrangeas.I wrapped them, filled the bag with leaves and placed several of them under a makeshift shelter behind my shed. I covered the whole set up with bags of leaves. I uncovered them yesterdat since the tem was in the 50s. I was disappointed them to see that they looked dead! Brownish and shriveled up. I wonder if it is too early to tell or I did something wrong. The plants were in 10 gallon containers and not in ground.


    Bookmark   March 31, 2006 at 7:13AM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

Hi, everyone.

A little late to reply to your messages, but I hope you all had good luck.

Hydrangea2, how did yours come out? I try to keep mine as dormant as I can so that they won't get really going until it's time for them to be outside. When I've overwintered in a cellar, they want to get going much sooner than I'm ready for them, just like you. So cold is better in this case. In my mounds outside, they do the best for me.

bcmouli, I hope yours did OK. The old leaves and the stems might look all brown, but if they're healthy, then the buds toward the tip should have been nice and plump and healthy looking. Or, actually sending out new growth is maybe more likely by this time.

Did you put your hydrangeas in bags and then put leaves in these bags, and then covered all this with even more bags of leaves? That might have been too confined, but I have to say that a friend ended up doing something similar and they did just fine. I can only guess without seeing exactly what you've done.

One guess might be that you had them on a South wall and the extreme temperatures you'd get would hurt them. North side would be a whole lot better.

Here's another overwintering thread that's gotten started and I'll add some comments over there if anyone wants to continue talking about overwintering. We can keep this thread around and not let it expire. It's a fun topic for me. See you over there.


    Bookmark   May 23, 2006 at 8:24PM
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Thanks for this post. This is my first year really paying attention and truly loving my plants. I have a hydrangea in a pot this year and several planted in my landscape. I am getting REALLY nervous about wintering my new ones over. I have 4 new hydrangeas in the landscaps and one in a pot. Also three potted roses (two are rose trees) Not only am I scared they will not come back, I am nervous as to how I am going to drag these to the garage and when will it be the right time? I keep reading after first front right?
(As I bite my nails)

    Bookmark   August 12, 2006 at 6:50PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

Summie, borrow a kid's snow sled if you can't carry the hydrangeas around.

Hydrangeas and Roses aren't so tender that they can't take a frost. You've still got plenty of time after the first few frosts in your area.

In my zone 5/6 I usually put my Hydrangeas away by about mid November. I haven't dealt with Roses in a while, but don't people usually wait until the ground is actually frozen to mound them. That's with the Hybrid Teas, anyhow, I think..

I've tried a long time ago to put other plants inside my mounds, but the critters would devour most of them so I just stick with Hydrangeas. For some reason they don't do a bit of damage. But I wouldn't think that a nice tasty Rose would last very long in there.

I have in the back of my mind that some Rose standards are overwintered by wrapping them, maybe just the top part, in straw or something like that. Make your Rose trees into Scarecrows.

Join us over on the newer thread.


    Bookmark   August 15, 2006 at 1:27PM
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ofionnachta(z6 WNJ)

Gee, all this talk about digging up hydrangeas, covering them, moving them in & out of basements & barns! I grew up next to Asbury Park on the Jersey Shore. Every other house, whether mansions or small working folks', had at least a pair of the big blues flanking the front steps. There was a big plant at the corner of the street that was in full sun all the time. No one, except a few large estates, that I knew of ever gave them any winter protection (maybe they did it to keep the gardeners busy) and every year all of these plants were covered with huge blue flowers most of the summer. They all seemed to be in sun, too.

When I got my blue, in a pot from the table at a friend's wedding, I planted it on the sunny west end of our front porch. We live on the Delaware R., inland from the ocean environment I grew up in & I figured it would like a bit more warmth. It gets afternoon sun & sometimes quite warm. We had to work at it to get it back to blue--the soil must be alk.in that spot-- but a summer with lots of that aluminum powder did the trick. Then we moved it to a shady spot because we were getting a new septic & the hydrangea's home was going to be part of the excavations. No choice on the shade; the rest of the yard is shady. It has not been very happy & there have been few blooms, but now we are about to return it to the porch spot.

My question is, how big a root ball can we expect after 2 years in the temporary home? Do these plants make deep tap roots, or spread out their systems? If they spread, do they go way out? We don't want to start digging it out & find we have severed a lot of the roots. The spot we are brnging it back to has had some sand added (we have a lot of red shale & clay here) & lots of compost & just-fallen leaves. And we have been burying the kitchen waste in the area all summer long.
Thanks for the input!

    Bookmark   October 30, 2006 at 12:26PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

A little late to be responding to ofionnachta I guess, but don't think you'd have a problem moving a hydrangea that's been in the ground for a couple of years. I don't think they would be said to have tap roots, but an established one will have big spreading root systems. I've moved ones that were pretty large and it took a year for them to really recover, but a two or three year old plant will be fine in just a year.

I'm late this year because I've been too busy, but today I started uncovering my hydrangeas.

Not great quality pictures, but you can get the idea.

And after I've taken off most of the bags in a section,

Pretty typical of what I've been seeing over the years.

The new growth and the whole area inside were quite damp, but I figured that it couldn't hurt and that they might enjoy a nice spritzing of water. We might be having a record breaking hot day really soon, so I'm going to be very careful not to let the tender new growth have a chance to dry out. I uncovered these about 6 P.M. and promptly covered them up with some burlap strips and some tight nylon mesh so tthat when the sun comes up tomorrow morning, it won't have a chance to fry my new growth. Little exposure at a time.

Looking good so far. Tomorrow I'll open up another mound and the oldest one I have that's in the ground and surrounded by bags of leaves in a wire mesh corral.

Another Summer of Hydrangeas.



    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 10:35PM
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Well Hay, I am still holding back on taking off the winter coats, although I was going to remove them this week. Just too much cold weather up here going to below 30 at night. Chance of snow tonight? Looks like early next week will be the time for me, mid-50's days and high 30's at night. Pretty cold spring up here. JK

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 9:50AM
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it tells me I will be busy this coming fall:-)

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 8:50PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

I'm confusing myself. I thought I remember uncovering my Hydrangeas earlier last year than my post above suggests. These years are all merging into one, I think.

Yesterday I started the process. It's perfect weather. The forecast for the next few days is a range 60 degrees to 40, overcast, coudy, rainy. Perfect.

This mound is a little different. I used an old scrap piece of fence panel and some lattice that you don't see, and then I mounded just plain leaves, not in bags, on top of that. I've taken away the lattice pieces from the front, and all the loose leaves on top and lifted up the scrap piece of fence panel. First light of the year.

You can click on the picture for a larger version.


    Bookmark   May 2, 2008 at 8:30AM
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Hay, it's amazing, could you tell us are you in some gardening business since you have millions of containers or you have millions of land acres to put all those hydrangeas up to grow.
it's good, very good, i wish i have sooooo many hydra plants.

Best wishes from nude (not so nude) gardener.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2008 at 12:32PM
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Good morning Hay - I'm so glad that you revived this thread, it was a great help to me when I first joined the newly bitten 'Hydrangea bug' dirt digging group! I have since become an 'Over-wintering' apostle, challenged by my 5a-5zone & (at the time) my 15 year old Mother's Day, florist Nikko that very seldom bloomed ... consequently a slave to her!!! LOL

Nikko will be 18 this M's Day and each year since I have improved on saving her previous years' canes ... hoping for even more blooms this year!!!

Many thanks for your time in putting this thread up, your 'love & devotion' is quite inspiring!!! ;-)))

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 8:22AM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

I do a little gardening work, but I'm not a big time professional. My interest in Hydrangeas is strictly personal and started long ago. Most of my work with Hydrangeas is with a friend that I got hooked on Hydrangeas a few years ago. It's contagious.

My oldest Hydrangea and the one that got me started in all this is about 25 years old now, and it's been in the same spot all that time. I learned to overwinter the Hydrangeas in the ground by practicing on this one. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not. I've had bad luck in recent years and a part of the problem, I think, is that it is just too thick with canes to allow me to bundle it up nicely without getting everything packed so tightly that the plant doesn't have breathing room.

Nowadays, I pretty much only do the overwintering in the mounds and I get consistently good results from that effort. I've begun to cycle out the larger ones and cycle in newer ones, mostly more interesting varieties than the Nikko I started with. I keep my largest plants in the pot all summer. Medium size ones get planted.

Many of the ones I use are of a size that can be kept in pots in a patio or terrace setting and I keep them that size by dividing or cycling out the larger ones.


    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 6:13AM
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Hi Hay - Perhaps not just 'contagious' but addicting as well ... obviously it is love of beauty in nature and the challenge to be able to preserve what is beautiful - improve, enhance & share them!

I took the challenge on my old 'Mom's Day' Nikko for sentimental reasons - she is 4 mos older than my 1st born grandchild ('90)! Not only did I succeed following your method, I also had to take the challenge of protecting her from our scorching, Mid-West summer sun (after losing her dappled sun, when we had to give up an aging tree). The same grandchild helped me erect an arbor over her. The Sweet Autumn Clem. that quickly crawled over the arbor provided the necessary shade and she looked the diva that she is, under there!

In 25 years, I may not have the energy to do the 'high kicks' I do for her now - I'll be 77 then & perhaps shorter than my 4'10" stature! LOL ... So my ??? 'wonder if I can keep her from growing too big & tall by sacrificing some canes & pruning her tops before going to bed for Winter? There is just no other way of over-wintering her, but the burlap-bundling, encaging w/mulch & bagged leaves method.


    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 2:33PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

My first Hydrangea is now in the ground for more than 25 years. At this point, I keep it for sentimental reasons only.

It's gotten so THICK with canes that if I wrap it in my usual cage, I have to get everything so tight in there that I think I may actually be suffocating the plant. I've not had good luck overwintering it in recent years. This past winter I didn't even bother with it.

If I were you, I'd consider taking a cutting or digging out a portion of your sentimental one and essentially start over. It would indeed be the same plant, so you could keep your sentiment.

But I can understand sentiment. I should get rid of my first Hydrangea, but I'm not.

For a long time I would cut back the old canes completely to the ground in the Fall. I'd only leave canes that had shot up from low points on the canes or from the crown. They would have grown all summer and would end up giving me great flowering the next year. I'd have very long stemmed flowers, too, that I had cut. The big problem with this technique is that you end up with weaker stems than you would otherwise and next summer they'd be weighted down to the ground with their flowers.

I've found that, for my zone, I can usually prune as hard as I want up until about Fourth of July, just to be easy to remember, and not hurt the flowering potential for next year. After that, the buds start setting for next year and you start running into that problem. (But then I've cut some "nikkos" back to the crown in the Fall and on some I'd get great flowering and on some I'd get none. Do I really understand this? NO.) So, here is another method for you to consider to keep it smaller, at least in height.

Another thing I've experimented with is to prune all the wimpy growth completely out and just end up with a few stout canes over time. This was interesting, but you end up with an artifical looking Hydrangea and the few stout canes start looking rather strange. But with this technique, more or less, you could develop a plant that wasn't so crowded. I don't know though.

I wish I could help you more. I'd like an answer to the question you have, too!


    Bookmark   May 9, 2008 at 12:12PM
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txmom(North Texas)

Hydrangea - do they survive the hot North Texas summers?
Any special attention needed?

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 10:41PM
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Hi Hay -
Many thanks for taking the time ... your continued help is greatly appreciated. I'll start thinking/learning (gathering my guts) about your suggestion to get cuttings &/or splitting & starting over (to carry over sentiments!!!) also studying a site to shelter from Winter & Mid-West sun.

In the mean time I'll try pruning tops to see how I can keep her as short as my own stature could handle (as we both age & before she turns 25y/o -LOL!).

I'm quite curious about the"an artifical looking Hydrangea and the few stout canes start looking rather strange" - I might try & see what you mean ...'love experimenting & taking challenges!

Thanks again, sincerely -

    Bookmark   May 16, 2008 at 10:50AM
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