Hydrangea disaster

diggingthedirtMay 29, 2014

I'm starting to have a lot of sympathy for those of you in the colder areas, because this winter left many of my hydrangeas with mostly dead branches. Some have a few stems leafing out, but I don't know if any of the old wood will produce flowers this year.

Since we don't usually get this kind of die-back, I don't know how to handle this. Do I cut them back to the new growth at the base, leave all the stubby branches that have a few small leaves appearing, or ... just remove branches that are obviously completely dead?

How do you handle half-dead hydrangeas? Can I expect ANY flowers on h. macrophylla this summer? Obviously, Endless Summer will be ok, as will h. serrata (like Preziosa), and the others that bloom on new wood. But the City Lights, the Merritt's Supreme ... all the Nikko Blues - are they skipping this season?

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"But the City Lights, the Merritt's Supreme ... all the Nikko Blues - are they skipping this season?" Yes, unfortunately.

My H. macrophylla die back to the snow line annually, and so I just cut last year's branches to a few inches. I only grow rebloomers and other species of hydrangeas that bloom on new wood.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 2:07PM
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carol6ma_7ari(zones 6 & 7a)

Hold off on cutting back - you might be surprised.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 3:27PM
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mjc_molie(z6 CT)

I have the same problem here along the CT coast. I'm afraid much of the old growth is not going to produce this year.

Today I noticed new leaves appearing along a few of the stalks ... I'm not sure about the flower buds along these branches. Most look dried and dead. I'll give them a bit more time to see what happens.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 2:11PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

All of my hydrangeas grow on old and new wood now, so I haven't had this problem. I can see how it would be tempting to cut the tall stems down, if they only have growth at the tips. I would also give them time to fill in, if it meant there were more chance you would get bloom this season.

I thought Nikko Blue bloomed on old/new wood?

I would give it another 2 weeks to see if there is any more growth on the branches in the middle. I would cut out any branches that are dead to the base. I would trim back each branch to new growth. If it ends up looking crazy to you, you can always cut again and make them all the same height where you have new growth. Sorry you've had that problem. Let's hope this winter was a fluke.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 4:39PM
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I am having the same problem here, north of Boston, but am waiting a bit longer before trimming back . All of my Endless Summer , some quite large, are affected, while the Incrediball are not.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 5:54PM
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mine needed a drastic pruning anyway, and I bit the bullet this year. hoping to get a few blooms this year on the bits of old growth, otherwise, I had to cut everything back hard due to the harsh winter. SW Connecticut.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 10:45PM
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I'm sorry to hear that so many others are having unusually bad hydrangea seasons. I think I'll give my plants a little more time... it's such a busy season now anyway.

I do have Endless Summer, but it seems a little bland - this year I'll appreciate it much more, I guess! True Nikki Blue blooms only on old wood; it's the newer cultivars of h. macrophylla (like E.S.) that can also bloom on new.

The hydrangea serrata, aka mountain hydrangea, are doing just fine. I have Preziosa, Fuji Waterfall, and a few lace-cap types, plus seedling offspring that could turn out to be any type. Apparently they snooze later in the spring, so their buds survive late frosts much better. Those are probably better plants for New England, and are the closest to the macrophylla, in terms of variety of color and flower shape.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2014 at 8:49AM
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luckyladyslipper(MA 5b-6a)

All my hydrangeas look pretty much like this, altho this one, Nikko Blue, is my oldest and biggest. Makes me want to cry. (That's my neighbor's house, btw).

But I think we all fared better than my sister in Southeast PA. She thinks all her hydrangeas are completely dead.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2014 at 4:06PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

I have two hydrangeas, one is the H. serrata 'Blue Billow' which had no problem that I can see after this winter.

'Blue Billow'

But the H. macrophylla 'Variegata', which is in the most sheltered spot in the yard, probably died down to the ground although I'll wait and see if anything sprouts from the stems. There's new growth coming at the base of the plant.

I'd finally found a spot it liked and it bloomed in 2012 and 2013 but it won't be blooming this year.



    Bookmark   May 31, 2014 at 5:54PM
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bostongardens(z6 MA)

Nan ~

Worst year ever for us! Finally cut them down today. Majority of branches were dead, dead, dead...

~ Hilda

    Bookmark   May 31, 2014 at 10:13PM
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My friend in Maryland near DC had the same thing happen. While it is typical where I live north of Boston, I was very surprised to see the winter dieback so far south.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 12:09AM
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I was wondering if there was something I didn't understand about lower bush type hydrangeas when mine only leafed from the bottom. Now I know our negative temperature winter party from the polar regions is to blame. My tree hydrangeas are fine, though.

Deann (not in NH anymore)

    Bookmark   June 2, 2014 at 8:09AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

The Hyannis Country Garden Blog contains a Hydrangea Report - Spring 2014 with discussion about the sorry condition of hydrangeas on the Cape, and how to deal with it.


    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 11:56AM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Claire, thanks for posting the Hyannis article - very helpful and succinctly answers the questions. They're right - my Annabelle and Limelights are happy; not so the others.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 1:04PM
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Great link, Claire. Thanks.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 2:43PM
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