Am I killing my hydrangeas?

stinky-gardener(7/SouthEastern VA)October 23, 2009

Have I killed my hydrangeas because I pruned them improperly or at the wrong time? I have four mature hydrangeas on the property I bought 3.5 yrs. ago, 2 of which did not bloom at all this year. The others did quite well. One is a blue mop-head of some sort & the other is a lace cap. The lace cap bloomed a lot last year then I think I over pruned it, so it didn't do a thing this yr. The leaves looked kind of icky & spotty all summer, (but it was shaped very nicely!)

Also, I planted 2 Pink Elfs 2 yrs. ago. One bloomed for 3 months straight (May, June, July, a bit of Aug.) & was spectacular, while the other (in slightly more shade, same soil) got about 2 blooms on it all season! Once again, I trimmed the good Pink Elf & now it seems to have black spot! The leaves look hideous. The Elf that didn't bloom (that I also didn't trim) has lush green foilage & no spotting. I also planted two Tovelits in the spring & they have ugly leaf spot even worse (they are still quite small & haven't bloomed, so I haven't trimmed them). What am I doing wrong? I don't want to lose these plants!

Thanks!

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gardengal48

Pruning too hard is very unlikely to have killed them, although that may be possible if done at the wrong time (like too close to a hard freeze). But as you have discovered, it WILL affect blooming and rather substantially on most macrophyllas.

At this time of year, I would not be overly concerned about leaf spot or other foliage problems. Just be sure to clean up any fallen leaves and make sure all the leaves come off the plant for winter and dispose of them properly. To avoid foliage problems next season, make sure the plants receive good air circulation and if possible, avoid any overhead watering. Mulching well around the plant will also help to avoid any lingering fungal spores from splashing up and reinfecting the foliage. It will also keep weeds down and conserve soil moisture and if you use a compost mulch, eliminate the need for any additional fertilizer.

And leave any pruning for spring as they bud out and then only remove any obviously dead wood. I do not advocate much pruning other than this at any time unless you are rejuvenating old, mature and overgrown plants. If they are too big for the location, it is better to relocate them than to prune them to maintain size. And monitor the foliage beginning early in the season and take proactive measures to keep leaf spot or other foliar problems to a minimum.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2009 at 10:12AM
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stinky-gardener(7/SouthEastern VA)

Thanks so much, Gardengal! You have given me very helpful info. When you say,"... make sure all the leaves come off the plant for winter..." do you mean just the icky leaves or literally ALL the leaves? Also, mulch went down in July...really nice mulch that's still hanging in there somewhat, but should I mulch again after it gets cold?

Thanks!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2009 at 10:31PM
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gardengal48

ALL the leaves -- hydrangea shrubs are deciduous plants and the leaves should fall off naturally as the plant goes into dormancy but sometimes they hang on and linger. If you have disease issues, you want to make sure all the old foliage is removed and destroyed. And topping off the existing mulch can help to smother any remaining fungal spores that may be laying around. But don't pile it on too deeply and keep it away from the stems.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2009 at 11:14AM
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stinky-gardener(7/SouthEastern VA)

Appreciate the additional feedback, GG.

Btw, don't know if the freckled leaves are a result of a "disease."

It has been raining today & will be tomorrow, but when I get a chance, I'll take pics & post them. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   October 26, 2009 at 4:54PM
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