Need some help (New Gardener)

frankcal20September 30, 2008

First of all let me start off by saying any and all help I get from you all, I appreciate it.

My Wife and I purchased a home last year and have slowly been putting in flowers, plants, etc that fit what we like. My Wife loves hydrangea's and we had a location picked out for it.

We went to Home Depot and purchased one when they were on sale. I planted in a planter along with soil for flowers, shrubs, etc. We have watered it on a daily basis and even used fertilizers like Miracle Grow and B12(?) and water. I was told that this will help it grow.

Slowly but surely the leaves have darkened at the tips. Almost like they are dying from the tips in. I have read several topics like checking the soil and making sure it is moist. And it is so the frequency of watering appears to be ok.

Take a look at the photo and let me know what additional questions or comments you may have. Again thanks.

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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Hello, frankcal20. While hydrangeas like water, daily waterings are too much. You should water only if the soil feels almost dry or dry. Use the finger method to tell... insert a finger into the ground to a depth of 4" and see if the soil feels either: wet, moist or dry. If it feels almost dry or dry then water. If it feels moist, do not water. If it feels wet, well, I would wonder why it is wet. It is ok for the soil to feel wet after the sprinkler has gone off or after it has rained but not otherwise.

A new plant is usually happy with about 1 gallon a water so water the soil (not the leaves) early in the morning and check the soil moisture using the finger method. Mark on your calendar the days when you water. After a week or two has passed, review the information in the calendar. By then, you should show a watering pattern (you water every 2/3/4/5/6 days). So, set the sprinkler to water 1 gallon of water on that frequency. When the temperatures change 10-15 degrees (up or down) and stay there, you may want to use the finger method again for a week or two to see if you need to tweak things. You can water more than 1g when the plant has grown bigger or water more often if the soil dries faster (like it does during the summer). Just remember to cut back when temperatures moderate. Once the plant has gone dormant, you reduce waterings to about once a week or once every two weeks (if winter turns out to be dry).

The location for the shrub should allow it to get morning sun and afternoon shade. I see some leaves turning yellow. This can indicate one of two things: (1) too much sun or (2) iron chlorosis. How to tell which one? If the shrub gets too much sun, the leaves turn yellow all over. If the shrub suffers from iron chlorosis, the leaves turn yellow except for the leaf veins, which remain dark green.

It is a little hard to tell from the photo but I would guess too much sun since I cannot notice green skeletal veins. I also notice that most of the leaves turning yellow are the ones that the sun strikes directly. The ones protected by the other leaves look 'normal' green. To confirm this, let us know what hours of the day this shrub gets sun.

I also suggest you mulch heavily. I cannot tell how much mulch you have but you need about 3-4" of any type of acidic mulch. This will help lengthen the days between waterings and conserve moisture.

From the information on your post, I also notice that you are fertilizing way too much. Hydrangeas in pots require frequent food but one that is in the ground can do with 1/2 to 1 cup of manure or cottonseed in May and again in early July. That is it. If you wish to complement with coffee grounds, liquid seaweed or liquid fish, that is fine but stop fertilizing at the start of August. You can also use a general purpose slow-release chemical fertilizer with a NPK Ratio of about 10-10-10.

Hydrangeas like soil that drains well and is acidic. You can purchase pH soil test kits that will tell you whether your soil is alkaline, acidic or neutral. If your soil is neutral or alkaline, I suggest you amend the soil in Spring every year with aluminum sulphate, Sulphur or iron-chelated liquid products that can be purchased at just about any nursery. When the soil is too alkaline -like here in Texas- amending the soil is an annual chore but one that I do once in Spring and again only if I notice signs of iron chlorosis (the ones I described above). The good news is that many hydrangeas tolerate some alkalinity so this may not be a big deal for you.

Another thing that I noticed has to do with the place where the shrub is. Many hydrangeas get quite big, sometimes 5x5 feet. Of course, this depends on the variety but since you did not mention the name, I assume you do not know. If you have the label that came with the plant, it should state the size at maturity. That is a guess of how tall/wide the plant will be after 10 years. Pruning may be needed if it gets too big for that space. Transplanting may be another option as well. Since you do not state the variety, I will mention that the safest time to prune will be after the plant has bloomed but before August. On August, the plant starts developing flower buds for next Spring and pruning in August could cut those flower buds.

As we get closer to Winter, the plant leaves will probably get a little ugly, some may develop leaf spots and finally dry out. You will be left with some sticks. The leaves can be added to the compost pile or the trash. Some time in the first quarter, the sticks will leaf out and then produce blooms closer to or in May.

Below is a link of a website with lots of information about hydrangeas. If you have some free time, consider reading the material in it.

Does this help you?
Luis

Here is a link that might be useful: Hydrangea Website

    Bookmark   October 1, 2008 at 12:10AM
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