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Variegated Hydrangea - Zone 6(b), 7(a)

Posted by triciae Zone 7 Coastal SE CT (My Page) on
Fri, Jun 1, 07 at 15:24

Hoping some of you hydrangea experts can be of some help to me. I seem to be odd man out here in New England as I've been told I'm the only one who's had success with 'Homigo'.

I live in Mystic, CT on a small penninsula jutting out into Mystic Cover/Mystic River. We have water on 3 sides within 200' of the house (less on one side). So, I'm assuming we have a bit of a micro-climate due to the moderating influence of the water.

OK, here's the story...

Three years ago, I purchased a package of 3 'Homigo', 1 Variegated, & 1 Paniculata hydrangeas from QVC. They arrived looking dumpy so I phoned QVC & complained. They immediately sent me another package. I planted ALL of the baby hydrangeas & every single one lived. That was April '04. By Fall, all the plants had grown to about 2' square. Let's forget about the paniculatas 'cause my questions aren't really about those...

Spring '05: All of the previous year's stems appeared absolutely dead which didn't surprise me. They were brittle, withered looking, & snapped when brushed up against. So, I cut them all to the ground when I started seeing new growth at the bottom. The 'Homigos' ALL bloomed on NEW WOOD in July. Huge, beautiful blooms. The variegated one did not bloom but I hadn't expected them to.

Spring '06: Repeat of 2005 season.

Spring '07: We had a VERY warm December & January. Then, around February 1 temperatures returned to normal even a bit below normal. April comes around & it's still cold & rainy outside so I didn't get my spring clean-up done as early as normal. Around May 1, I noticed that leaves were sprouted from the "dead" sticks so I didn't cut anything down on either the 'Homigos' or the variegated hydrangeas. Last week, I noticed that the 'Homigos' had set many buds on last year's stems. I already know that they also bloom on new wood so I guess I'll have lots of flowers from them this summer.

BUT, today I noticed that my variegated hydrangeas have also now set buds on last year's stems. THAT is unexpected & unusual since apparently they do not bloom in my area. I don't believe the variegated bloom on new wood...just old wood, correct?

So, my questions:

1.) Would my hydrangeas have always regrown & bloomed from such dead appearing stalks? Seriously, I'm a Master Gardener & those stalks absolutely seemed DEAD?
2.) It's now June 1 & they are still pushing out new leaves from the dead stalks plus growing new ones from the crown. So, since I've left the old stalks & they are going to bloom...will the new wood blooms on 'Homigo' be much August or September instead of July?
3.) As to the variegated shrubs...does anybody know the minimum temperatures these guys can handle & keep the old wood alive?

We had 4-5 nights that dipped into the upper single-digits but those nights were not in a row. I did absolutely nothing for winter protection because I always assume they will die to the ground no matter what I do. Obviously, that's wrong...they do not always die. And,

4.) Is this a fluke or can I expect these crunchy old stems to always sprout if I'm patient enough? How does one know when to cut them back? July 4th weekend, maybe?

Can you tell I'm confounded? I think my hydrangeas are tougher little buggers than I've always thought they were...and I wasn't giving them enough time to leaf out before I cut the old stems down.

Help with my variegated hydrangeas, please. I would really love to have a repeat of this season's performance. I'm really wondering if the reason hydrangeas don't bloom well in cooler zones is because we're just not patient enough & we cut off all last season's growth.


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Variegated Hydrangea - Zone 6(b), 7(a)

Hello, Tricia. It is definitely hard to tell as we can only guess at what you saw and experienced when living with these plant daily. So I will guess....

1. Stems that "look" dry as sand can actually be alive. The exterior woody shell which we see is hard and protects from the elements, just like in trees. But the interior where the sap resides could be green. Dormant too. Why do you not experiment next year? Prune off a stem and see if you see green or is it dry dead inside. If dead, prune two inches below that cut and continue until you either find green or hit the bottom. Here in the south, stems that do not leaf out by mid-to-end of May can be considered dead (mid-to-end of June if located the northern parts of the country).

2. Bloomage may be "later than normal" under such conditions but not thaaat late (September?). Foe example: Leafout happens here in April and about 4-6 weeks later (varies a lot) then I start seeing the bloomage. Things should work similarly for you. How about you monitor this interesting question and post updates as you notice changes.

3. I have not seen such a list. But Hydrangea Macrophylla Maculata can be grown in Zone 6 and, if it is hardy to zone 6 then you can assume the wood can withstand temps as cold as -10 to 0F. Maybe less if they warm up the next day. Hydrangea macrophylla 'Variegata' is a Zone 6er and Hydrangea Macrophylla Light O Day is a Zone 5er. Or so the nurseries say. While the wood may withstand these cold temps, I am not sure about the flower buds. Hydrangea macrophylla suffers from early or late freezes since the flower buds have a weak dormancy. Surprise warm weather in winter or early spring causes the buds to emerge from dormancy, grow and become susceptible to freeze damage; see Hayseedman's famous post on overwintering hydrangeas for more info.

4. Late June but feel free to do the pruning I suggested in Question #1 in late spring if you are curious.


Here is a link that might be useful: Overwintering Hydrangeas by Hayseedman

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