Wilting oak leaf hydrangea

greenhavenrdgardenNovember 2, 2013

I planted 3 munchkin oak leaf hydrangeas near each other and they had been doing fine. A few weeks ago one started to change to fall colors. I noticed soon after branches started to wilt (as if they were thirsty). I had been watering but to be sure I wasn't over watering, I dug up the plant and checked the roots. It seemed just fine-not too wet, not too dry. A week or 2 later the second munchkin started to change to fall colors. Soon after a branch began to wilt. Some branches on the 2nd are still green and fine, some are in fall color and fine and one is in fall color but wilted.
Is this normal for oak leaf hydrangeas in the fall or could the plants have a desease? The stems seem healthy. I can't see any rot and the roots look fine. In just worried that if it is a desease that it could spread to my many other hydrangeas or Japanese maples.
The first plant now completely wilted;

2nd plant:

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greenhavenrdgarden

I just rechecked the hydrangeas. The first stem has a stem that isn't wilted yet but it's stills green. The wilt is only on stems that have changed color. Could this still be root rot? The stems are all still healthy and the first plant has been like this for a few weeks now. It hasn't died but the leaves still cling to it.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2013 at 5:24PM
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luis_pr

Sounds like the plant is going dormant and the leaves are responding appropriately. Once the leaves are finished with the color change progression, turning brown and drying out is next. Cold temps can make some leaves turn to mush if too cold; others look wilted as the stem blocks moisture from the leaf, etc.

You were right to check the soil and roots. Lack of moisture can trigger a wilted look. So can watering too much (if that causes oxygen deprivation or root rot). Now that the shrub is shutting down for the year, water only once every week or once every two weeks... if it does not rain (but stop watering completely if the ground freezes where you live).

    Bookmark   November 2, 2013 at 8:17PM
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calistoga_al

Your post gives no clue as to your Latitude, so your plants may be right on schedule. Al

    Bookmark   November 3, 2013 at 9:46AM
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gardengal48

IME, this is NOT how oakleaf hydrangeas should look at this time of year. The color change is perfectly normal - the wilting is not. Even when going dormant, the plant will retain a certain degree of turgor and the leaves tend to retain this look well into winter. In my climate, they will look good - colored but good - all winter until new growth in spring pushes them off. There is little, if any, sign of wilt all winter long.

This looks suspiciously like a water issue in my opinion - either too little or too much, possibly leading to a root rot.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2013 at 1:20PM
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greenhavenrdgarden

Im sorry I didnt post my zone...Im not sure why it doesnt show up when I post. I am in zone 6 on the A/B line in CT. It has been cold here and most trees have either lost their leaves or are about to.
I was worried this could be a rot. I did dig up the first plant and the roots seemed fine. This is in a very well draining spot. I dont think I have over watered. What would the roots look like if they were rotted? They seem normal to me but I am not sure what I am looking for.
The drooping only occurs on branches that have colored up. The first plant still has 2 stems that have all green leaves and those leaves are not wilted.
I normally would not panic and let it be but I am afraid that it could be something that could spread to my other plants.
If it was a root rot or some kind of pathogen, how long would it take for the stems to die? As of right now the stems are plump, firm and healthy and I see no signs of damage anywhere on the stems or base of the plants. What should I look for?

    Bookmark   November 3, 2013 at 2:45PM
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greenhavenrdgarden

That first photo, the one that looks completely wilted, it has two stems on the other side that have all green leaves and those leaves are not wilted yet. just trying to clarify because my post seems confusing. The wilt is only on stems that have colored up.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2013 at 3:13PM
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luis_pr

You always have to think root rot with oakleafs when you see wilting. I lost an Alice many years ago due to an El Nino Year in which we were pummeled with 2-3 rain storms per week, each delivering at least 1" of rain at a time.

If it is root rot, damage from excessive watering probably occured during the last few months not just recently. I am guessing on that because you sound so certain that the shrubs have not been overwatered. Hard to estimate when a problem happened or started. So try to water when the soil starts to feel as if it is almost dry or when dry.

That being said, I have a Pee-Wee which was turning from green to reddish/purplish colors one Fall too. The temperatures went down one day below freezing, but not much and not for long, Like yours, some of the red leaves wilted, dried out and.... that was it. The green leaves were not affected. They changed colors and eventually dried out later. No other visible damage happened then or by Spring. And it has not happened again. So, I hope that nothing will occur to your shrubs. Keep a vigilant eye on the shrubs' watering & soil moisture in case this is root rot.

I suggest you be on the lookout for watering issues as soon as the temperatures in Aug-September go down and stay down. During that transition, plants sometimes get exposed to too much water because while temps go down, we do not tweak the sprinklers & drip systems to deliver less water rightaway.

If you are extremely concerned, feel free to send leaves and soil for analysis at an agriculture extension service office.

Luis

    Bookmark   November 4, 2013 at 8:25PM
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