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Hydrangea

October 22, 2016

Question

Is it too late to cut back an Oakleaf hydrangea? It grew significantly this summer, but didn't bloom because my yard guy cut it back at the wrong time last year, so I let it  

 

Answer

It is too late to prune oakleaf hydrangeas.  Even though they bloom in the summer, they set their flower buds in the fall.  When your plants go dormant in a month, their blooms are set for next season.  The time to prune will be as the white blooms start to fade to pink next summer.  They are similar to the big-leaf hydrangea and you have a short window of opportunity to prune without interfering with blooms.


 

October 1, 2016

 QuestionI live in the southeast corner of the state. My hydrangeas are on the east side of a building and were gorgeous this year until the large oak tree that provided them with shade had to be cut. They must be moved as they cannot survive another summer like this. Question then should they be moved in the fall or the spring? Also mother-in-law has an azalea that is dead on top and green on the bottom and I want to move it to our yard, as she no longer can care for it. The plant is sentimental to my husband and I would like to do my best to save it. Should I trim out the dead wood before moving and again should this be done in fall or spring?   

Answer

Since you are in the southern part of the state, you are fairly safe in moving them this fall once they go dormant.  For the rest of the state, I typically wait until late February, until the bulk of winter weather is passed.  We have had some cold winters that damaged even established hydrangeas, so newly planted or transplanted plants would be more at risk.  Same answer for azaleas, except I would do the severe pruning after bloom in the spring.    


 August 27, 2016

Question

I have a small hydrangea plant that I bought in the spring.  It is getting black on the leaves.  What do I need to put on it to kill the mold or etc.?

 

Answer

There are two possibilities—a black sooty mold caused from aphids or other sucking insects or a leaf spot disease.  If you have aphids, I would suspect they have drowned recently and the black sooty mold will wash off.  The black spots are not uncommon on hydrangeas in the latter part of the season, and with as much rain as we have been having, I expect the problem to be pretty wide-spread this year.  Cercospera leaf spot is a common fungal disease on hydrangeas.  Late summer rainfall can be a major contributor to the spread of this disease and we have definitely had more than our fair share.  Since the disease is happening this late in the year, spraying with fungicides will do little good.  The best thing you can do for both problems is practice good sanitation and rake up all the foliage after it falls off this fall.      


  July 30, 2016

QuestionI have about 10 Niko Blue hydrangeas. They had lots of beautiful blue blooms in June. Now they are putting on green blooms. They do this every year. Can I do anything at this point to turn the new blooms blue? 

Answer

I think we have all forgotten the growth habits of the big leaf hydrangeas since we haven’t seen too many blooms the past two years. I have had a lot of folks asking what is wrong with their hydrangeas or if they have a disease, since the blooms are changing from beautiful blue, pink or purple to a washed out green or beige. That is the natural aging of the flowers. Unless you are growing the re-blooming big leaf hydrangeas, they are done with their flowering for the year and their blooms are aging.  It is just like any bloom on a plant, as the flower is spent, it changes colors and fades away.  Some people like the dried flower look that eventually occurs on their hydrangeas, while others like a more manicured look. If you don’t like the discolored blooms, you can clip them off behind the bloom. I think we have all forgotten the growth habits of the big leaf hydrangeas since we haven’t seen too many blooms the past two years. I have had a lot of folks asking what is wrong with their hydrangeas or if they have a disease, since the blooms are changing from beautiful blue, pink or purple to a washed out green or beige. That is the natural aging of the flowers. Unless you are growing the re-blooming big leaf hydrangeas, they are done with their flowering for the year and their blooms are aging.  It is just like any bloom on a plant, as the flower is spent, it changes colors and fades away.  Some people like the dried flower look that eventually occurs on their hydrangeas, while others like a more manicured look. If you don’t like the discolored blooms, you can clip them off behind the bloom.  


 July 24, 2016

Question I have a couple lilies that have been in pots for a few years now.  I'd like to plant them in the ground and wonder when the best time would be.  Also, I ordered some hydrangeas this year, they are small plants but healthy after living in a planter outdoors.  Can I plant them in the ground before winter gets here, or should I bring them in and store them in the garage for the winter, then transplant in the spring?  They have not yet bloomed, but the three plants are nice and healthy. 

Answer

If you are like me you are probably already tired of having to water containers every day this summer.  When it is hot and dry, containers demand attention.  You will find your job will be a whole lot easier if these plants get established outside in the yard instead of staying in pots.  For the lilies, plant them in a well-drained site in full sun.  Don’t be alarmed if the shock of transplant causes them to begin dying back. If it has been at least 6 weeks since they bloomed, they should bounce back next spring.  For the hydrangeas, plant them in a protected spot in the garden where they get morning sun or filtered daily sun.  Big leaf hydrangeas performed beautifully for us this summer, but it was our first good season in a while.  Cold winters do take their toll, but these are really outside plants and you don’t want to have to move them back and forth each season. 


 July 2, 2016

Question

 I have two lacecap hydrangeas I planted about 10 years ago in Fayetteville. They had beautiful pink flowers on them when I purchased and planted them.   They are in dappled sunlight with little direct sunlight but not in heavy shade.   My problem is that these have grown and are lovely healthy bushes but NEVER have bloomed again.  I have figured out that they bloom on old wood.  In the spring they come up from the ground around the old wood but the old wood almost has no leaves on it and late frosts kill what is there so those old wood sticks die with the frost.  At that point I cut them off.  With the light winter the sticks had more leaves and buds on them than usual so I did not cut them down.  Most got blitzed in a late frost but ONE did produce a sad little bloom.  So the question is how do I keep the old wood with the blooms on it from getting frozen?  Should I just be happy to have some green shrubs and forget it, dig them up and throw them away and try again with another hydrangea?

Answer

I have decided that life is too short to live with bad plants, and one sad bloom in 10 years is grounds for removal!  NW Arkansas has more of a challenge than central and southern Arkansas when it comes to blooms on the Hydrangea macrophylla or big leaf hydrangea, but this was a great year for hydrangeas in most of the state, so you need a new plant.  I recommend one of the Hydrangea paniculata varieties which bloom on the new growth, so it doesn’t matter how cold our winters get, or if a late frost occurs.  Limelight is a great older variety, but there are many to choose from.  They will take more sun too.  You can also try one of the Hydrangea arborescens or smooth hydrangeas such as Incrediball, which also bloom on the new growth.   Dig up your lacecaps and give them to a friend in southern Arkansas!


 June 18, 2016

 QuestionI planted an oak leaf hydrangea in my front landscaping and it is really crowding the other plants, should I move it before it gets any bigger

 

Answer

If it is already too big and it is newly planted, I think you should move it this fall.  Oakleaf hydrangeas come in a variety of mature sizes.  Always read the plant tag to know the mature size of the plants you are planting. They all look cute in a one gallon container, but some can grow up to be giants


 May 28, 2016

 QuestionMy neighbor gave me two large pots of hydrangeas but she forgot to water them for the two days I was away.  The large blue blooms are what I consider to be dead.  They're completely brown and are just hanging there.  Should I cut all of the dead blooms off and still plant them?  Will the plants grow once they're planted in the ground?  Or should I just throw them away?

Answer would plant them in the ground. If they are the old-fashioned big-leafed Hydrangea macrophylla, they set flower buds in the late summer/fall and bloom in early summer. If they are the reblooming Endless Summer type, they can set more flower buds as long as they are putting on new growth.  Plant them where they get full morning sun and afternoon shade.  


March 5, 2016

Question

I have hydrangeas that are beautiful for a couple of months...say, June and July...and then the leaves get black spots all over them.  Is there something I should do before the spring/summer actually begins to avoid the spots?   I forgot to remove some of the flowers at the end of the summer.  What shall I do now?  I do not want to lose the flowers for this year's blooming.

     

Answer

Many hydrangea plants get the cercospera leaf spot disease but it usually happens so late in the year, that we don’t recommend spraying.   If your plants gets the leaf spot every year early in the season, you might try a preventative fungicide.  Spray with a product containing chlorothalonil (Daconil) when the leaves are fully formed. Then spray after the flowers begin to fade, then see what happens.  To keep them totally clean all season, it may require more applications, but I would not want to spray that often. For your hydrangeas that still have spent blooms, simply clip off the bloom without damaging any buds that are behind them, since the flower buds are at the tip of the branches.


 September 2015

Question

In March, my daughter & I dug up a Variegated Lacecap Hydrangea. I kept it on my patio in Cleveland County until Aug 8, when I took it to GA, where my daughter moved.  What do we do with it now? Do we wait until the fall to plant it or try to plant it now? It is in a giant pot, but the plant is so large, that it only has adequate dirt and has to be watered frequently?

 

AnswerPlant it ASAP. The sooner it gets in the ground, the sooner it can start getting its root system established before winter sets in.   This will make your life easier too, since it won’t be AS water needy once it has more room to grow in.  Give it full morning sun and afternoon shade if you can. 

 


 October 2012

QuestionI enjoy your weekly column and have followed your advice on many occasions. I have a hydrangea bush that I planted in the bed near the front entrance of my house, however, now that it has grown it is about to overpower the entrance. When is it safe to move the bush, can I safely cut the bush back now?

 

AnswerHydrangeas are not the most winter hardy plants, so I would not move it now. Wait until the end of winter or early spring to move it. Also, flower buds are already set now for next summer, so no pruning even when you do move it in late February through mid March. I am a bit concerned about some hydrangeas. Many have been putting on new growth with our mild, moist weather this fall, and some have even bloomed. I hope they have a chance to harden off and be prepared for winter, but time will tell.


October 2012

QuestionWhen should oakleaf hydrangeas by pruned, and how do I do it?

 

AnswerOakleaf hydrangeas and the bigleaf hydrangeas (those with the pink and blue flowers) both bloom in the summer, but set flower buds in the fall. It is too late to prune them now until next summer. The only time you can prune without damaging flower set is immediately after flowering. Oakleaf hydrangeas begin with bright white flowers, which fade to a dusty rose and then tan. If they need pruning, as soon as the white blooms begin to fade, begin pruning. They are cane producing plants, which means you should thin them at the base, removing older, woodier stalks. If you plant them where they have ample room to grow, you don’t need to prune as often.


October 2012

QuestionDuring a visit to Fayetteville about two years ago, I saw hydrangea trees. I live in Malvern. Would these trees grow well here? If so, when is the best time to plant them?

 

AnswerMy guess is you saw some peegee hydrangeas, or Hydrangea paniculata. They can be pruned into small trees or large shrubs. These hydrangeas bloom on the new growth and have large panicles of white flowers that typically fade to pink. They are not quite as finicky as the big leaf Hydrangea macrophylla, which can suffer from late freezes, particularly in the NW part of Arkansas. I would plant in late winter to early spring. They should do fine in Malvern, and there are some new varieties that will tolerate more sun – ‘Limelight’ and ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ are just two options.      


December 2012

QuestionI actually spent a little time in my garden this week and I was shocked to see that my hydrangeas are trying to grow again. I have them mulched at the base, but I don’t think I can get mulch high enough to cover them. Should I put sheets or blankets over them whenever it gets cold? I know that the tops have the flowers for next year and I don’t want to lose them. Help!!

 

AnswerYou aren’t alone. These mild periods we have between cold snaps have many plants confused. Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot you can do. Mulching of course helps, but covering with sheets and blankets only gives about 2-3 degrees of protection, and if there is any winter precipitation, the sheets will get bogged down and the weight could break the branches. If you have a large cardboard box, that you can cover the plants with when it gets way below freezing, that could help some, but we have a long way to go until spring. Keep your fingers crossed.


November 2012

QuestionI have a baby Hydrangea bush that is probably well under a foot tall. We have tried to grow Hydrangea in the past with no luck, they all died. This is the first that we have had any luck with. It was just a baby plant when we put it in the ground several months back. With cold weather coming on I don't know how to take care that it doesn't die, but I don't know what to do to protect it during the winter. What should I do!

 

AnswerHydrangea bushes can be damaged by a cold winter, but usually are not killed. Pay attention to it in late winter. If we have mild winter days, they often begin to grow, and this tender new growth can get zapped by cold weather. The problem lies in the fact that they set their flower buds before they go dormant, so if they get nipped back by winter weather, they will not bloom that summer. I am a little worried about even larger, established plants, because many began a new set of growth late this season, which may or may not have a chance to harden off before winter sets in—only time will tell. Mulch your plant with 2 – 3 inches of mulch, leaving a little space between the main stem and the mulch. You can cover it during really cold days with a large cardboard box, but that only gives you a few degrees of protection. Hydrangeas like well amended, well drained soil on the north or east side of the house, provided they do get some sunlight—(planted in heavy shade, they will not bloom). They are not drought tolerant plants, but if you give them the right location and ample moisture, they can be beautiful plants in the landscape.


July 2012

QuestionI have a ten year old hydrangea that I have never pruned. It used to bloom beautifully at the top, but this year, most of the blooms were at the bottom. When should I prune and how? Do I need to cut off the old flowers as they fade?

 

AnswerIf you are planning on pruning your hydrangea, you need to do it soon. Hydrangeas bloom in the summer, but turn around and set flower buds for next year in the late summer or early fall. Remove up to one third of the older canes at the soil line—this should reduce the size, but still leave plenty of growth for blooms for next year. As to removing the spent flowers, that is a personal preference. Some gardeners like the look of the dried flowers, while others think it looks bad. Do continue to water, since hydrangeas are not drought tolerant plants.


June 2012

QuestionI live in Bella Vista, Arkansas and I have a question about my hydrangeas. They were absolutely huge and loaded with blue flowers this year — I use coffee grounds on all my acid loving plants and they thrive. This year I had about 60-75 flowers and we got a big rain. All the flower heads were bowed over. Now I have a lot of bent branches. I know they set their flower buds on last year’s growth, so if I prune all the bent branches, I probably won’t have any flowers next year. I would have to cut about two feet off of each branch to get to straight limbs. Any suggestions on what to do?

 

AnswerActually, the time to prune hydrangeas is immediately after they bloom. Instead of just cutting two feet off, try thinning the plants out and remove up to 1/3 of the limbs at the soil line. Cutting hydrangeas at the tops of the stems will encourage branching. Each branch on the stalk can produce the large flower heads which can make them top-heavy and not able to support the blooms. Pruning now will allow the plant to recover and you should still have flower buds set this fall for a bloom for next summer. Hard, cold winters often take a toll in the NW part of our state, but our lack of winter this year has given us quite the hydrangea show this year.


June 2012

QuestionIs it possible to take cuttings from a hydrangea and start new in another location? I want to bring some memories of a loved one to my home.

 

AnswerHydrangeas root quite easily. Make sure there are no flowers on the cuttings you are trying to root, but take tip cuttings no more than 3-4 inches in length and put them in moist, sterile potting soil. I like to root inside a large plastic bag, so the humidity stays high, but if you do this, make sure they are not getting any direct sunlight. If you know the person who has the original plant, another easy method is to layer a low branch of the plant in the soil. This method allows the plant to root while it is still attached. Once roots have formed, you can cut and replant.


February 2012

QuestionHow do you get a hydrangea to bloom? It starts a new bush each year and it is just green. I have seen bushes with large blue flowers and that is what I would like.

 

AnswerThe big showy Hydrangea macrophylla sets its flower buds in late summer to early fall, and blooms the following year in late May through June, if the buds aren’t damaged by cold weather. Northern Arkansas in particular has had annual winter damage, which lessons your chances of flowers. This year, many hydrangeas started growing in late December with our mild winter, and the recent cold snap could have damaged them. If all of your growth starts at the ground level, there will be no blooms on traditional hydrangeas. However, there are some newer varieties that bloom on the new growth as well as the old, so even if they get nipped back and all your growth starts at the soil line, they will have flowers. Varieties include: Endless Summer and Blushing Bride.      


March 2012

QuestionI have some hydrangea bushes that are 5-6 years old that have never bloomed!! Unknowingly I cut them down the first year thinking that was what you did with the “sticks” that were left but after I was told NOT to do that I haven’t done it since. They set buds on the old stems like they are supposed to but even with fertilizing, they never set one bloom! Is there ever a time when you DO cut back the old stems or do you just leave them to continue to grow and grow from year to year? And what suggestions do you have which might help them to bloom?

 

AnswerMany people make the same mistake, since hydrangeas do look like dead sticks all winter. Thus far, they have made it through the winter this year unscathed! The top buds on those “dead sticks” are the largest flowers in the summer, so if Mother Nature freezes them back, and all your new growth begins at the base, we won’t have blooms, which was very common last year. Remember, they do need some sunlight to set flowers—so if yours are in total shade, that could be limiting flowering too. Have a reason to prune—too large, etc. If your plant does need to be pruned to maintain size, do so as the flowers start to fade in mid-summer. Just like the above forsythia, hydrangeas are cane producing plants, so remove older, larger canes at the soil line to encourage new canes and reduce size.


March 2012

QuestionI would like to plant hydrangeas on the north side of my house in Little Rock. I would like a hardy variety that grows tall and wide, and I am not particular about color. Which variety would you suggest and are these better planted in the fall?

 

AnswerHere in central Arkansas we can pretty much grow all of the hydrangeas. Occasionally we have winter damage which can prevent blooming on the big leaf hydrangeas, but that usually isn’t an annual problem like it is in the northern tier of our state. There are plenty of new varieties to choose from including the reblooming Endless Summer and Blushing Bride, to Strawberries and Cream, to Limelight. Oakleaf hydrangeas are also a great addition. For most hydrangeas spring planting is preferable to allow the roots a chance to get established before cold weather.


January 2012

QuestionMy hydrangeas have all seemed to be budding out. What can I do at this stage of the winter to make sure they don't continue to grow? How can I protect them from damage? Should I cover them with sheets when it is going to be cold?

 

AnswerYou are not alone. Many hydrangeas have started sprouting their top buds. The mild, spring-like weather has many thinking spring has sprung. With this much winter left, I don't know how much luck we will have in protecting them. Sheets and blankets will give a few degrees of protection, but if it is raining or other forms of precipitation, the weight of the material can cause limb breakage. If they are small, an inverted cardboard box can help, but again, only a little. Luckily it seems it is just the tips that are breaking dormancy. While those buds do contain the larger flowers, there are still buds further down the stem that can give us blooms. We can only hope for the best at this point! Good luck.


November 2010

QuestionA friend is giving me some large hydrangea shrubs which I must move to my location. When is the best time to transplant them? They are huge! How much of the roots must I dig up? Send me all the information I need on transplanting.

 

AnswerUnless the friend is moving and you have to move them now, wait until the bulk of winter has passed and then move them in late February through mid March. They will be more winter hardy now with their roots intact. When you move them, get as much of a root ball as you can manage to move and get them in their new soil as soon as possible, planting them at the same depth they are currently growing. Make sure that you plant them where they get full morning sun and afternoon shade, or filtered sunlight. They won't bloom in heavy shade and they will wilt daily with full sun. You may have to thin them out a bit during the move, but remember that flowers are set and if you want blooms this first year in your yard, you want them as intact as possible. Water well the entire first year, and as needed thereafter. No fertilizer in the planting hole, but if you want deep pink flowers mix lime into the planting soil. If you want deep blue, mix in some wettable sulfur.


October 2010

QuestionWe have a huge hydrangea that refuses to bloom although it is beyond a doubt the largest and most beautiful plant in our yard. We did have some freezing the last two winters. Should we use some sort of protecting cover on it? I would love to see such a beautiful plant bloom.

 

AnswerThe key to hydrangea blooms is to keep it from freezing back. Big leaf hydrangeas have their flower buds set on the tips of the branches. Warm spells during the winter often lead them to think spring has sprung, and they break dormancy early. At that point they are highly susceptible to frost damage. If the plants get frozen back, there goes your flowers, but they will grow in leaps and bounds. Watch them closely this winter. If the buds have green on them and a hard freeze is predicted, consider covering them for extra protection. Covering can give you several degrees of protection.


October 2010

QuestionI have had a recurring problem with my hydrangeas. They get a black spot which causes the leaves to shrivel. I have used a triple action-fungicide, miticide, insecticide, but with no results. What should I use to clear up this problem?

 

AnswerI don't think there is a hydrangea without a leaf spot this fall. The growing season was not kind. Spray schedules now are not effective. The leaves will be dropping as soon as we have a killing frost. Practice good sanitation, and rake up the old leaves this fall or winter. Watch the new growth in the spring. If you have the leaf spot early in the season every year, then a preventative fungicide only spray would be in order (you don't need the miticide, insecticide part). If it only happens late in the season, I wouldn't worry.


October 2010

QuestionI have taken up some aucuba that I had growing on the north side of my house after they wilted and turned black. I also have some oakleaf hydrangeas that developed reddish brown spots on them in the same area. We cut them back a couple of years ago, raked up the old leaves and mulch, and they came back ok. We didn't have any flowers last year, but this year we sprayed with a fungicide and we had lots of flowers. Now late in the season, but later on the red spots are back. What do we do to get rid of whatever it is that is causing our problem? Our tomatoes and peppers in small bed on the east side of the house are also affected. Would you advise replacing the aucuba with healthy plants or going to a more disease resistant plant?

 

AnswerHow much sunlight were the aucuba getting--also the oakleaf hydrangeas? We have had several situations where trees were removed or damaged and the plants were simply getting too much sun. Aucuba turn black in direct sun. This year, many oakleaf and regular hydrangeas have leaf spots. It isn't all that rare late in the season, nor would I recommend starting a spray program this late. If the problem starts early in the year then a fungicide might we warranted. Water is still the most vital factor for success in a garden, and this year that was a challenge. Lack of fertilization, heat and drought stress are probably your biggest problems with the vegetables. I do not think the same thing is plaguing all your plants, but it has been a tough gardening season.


April 2010

QuestionI have a hydrangea in a tight spot that I would like to move to another spot which has morning sun. Is now an acceptable time to do that?

 

AnswerYes, get your hydrangea moved as soon as possible. Don't be alarmed if the plant wilts almost daily after the move, especially if it is a warm day, but do keep up with watering and they should begin to bounce back.


September 2009

QuestionMy hydrangeas around my patio have grown too large. I am not sure what kind there are, and understand that different hydrangeas are pruned at different times. When and how can I cut them back to make them more manageable, yet still have flowers?

 

AnswerThere are actually several varieties of hydrangeas grown in Arkansas. The most common is Hydrangea macrophylla—the big pink or blue types. These plants set flower buds in the fall before going dormant, and then bloom on these buds the following summer. Pruning should only be done immediately after flowering in the summer. Some of the newer cultivars like ‘Endless Summer’ and ‘Blushing Bride’ actually bloom on both old and new wood, so if they get winter damaged, you still have some summer time blooms, but prune them like other macrophylla types, after the first flush of flowers. The Oakleaf hydrangea- Hydrangea quercifolia has the same bloom pattern, with summer flowers from buds set the previous season. They typically don’t overgrow their bounds and are lovely in partial shade or a woodland garden, but if pruning is needed, do so as the white flowers begin fading to brown. The two types that do bloom on the new growth are H. arborescens –the smooth hydrangea and the Panicle or Peegee Hydrangea- H. paniculata. They both produce white flowers on the new growth, and as such, could be pruned as much or as little as needed before new growth begins. Since hydrangeas are cane producing plants, it is often best to reduce height and size by removing older, woodier canes at the soil line.


June 2006

QuestionI have a hydrangea bush in my front garden. We had a warm spell this spring, followed by a cold spell. The bush looks absolutely dead now. You can see where the buds tried to open, but there is absolutely no green on it. It looks like dead sticks. I cut a piece of one branch and it looks dry throughout. What should I do? Do I get rid of it, or is there any chance it will come back to life?

 

AnswerMany hydrangeas may have experienced winter damage this year. For folks in north Arkansas, this is a common winter occurrence. Statewide we had so many fluctuations in temperature this winter, and coupled with the dry conditions, it isn’t unusual for the plants to have damage. Hydrangeas often begin to bud out after any prolonged exposure to warm temperatures. At that stage, they are highly susceptible to a hard freeze, which many parts of the state experienced in late March and April. By now, all plants should have begun to grow. With winter damaged hydrangeas, usually the damage is to the top growth, and it usually re-sprouts from the root system. When that occurs, there are no flowers that growing season, since the flower buds were set. If you don’t have even bottom growth beginning, it is possible the drought got you. There isn’t much you can do to reverse the damage, once it goes beyond the point of no return.


June 2005

QuestionHELP! I bought a beautiful pink hydrangea four to five years ago and it's now turning blue. I don't want blue! I want pink! I never listened when I was told years ago that the color can be manipulated by soil content. Please tell me what to do to it and how long will it take to take effect? I assume it will be next blooming season.

 

AnswerHydrangeas change color based on the pH of the soil. Since many soils in Arkansas tend to be acidic, most of our hydrangeas are blue. If you want pink, you need a more alkaline soil. The way to raise the pH is to use lime. Sprinkle lime around the plant, and if possible try to lightly work it in. Even poking some holes around the plant sporadically and then putting in some lime can speed up the process a bit. Lime is slow to move through the soil profile, so anything you can do to help would aid in the color change.


March 2005

QuestionI am from Arkansas even though I now live in Chevy Chase, MD now. My question is, what chemicals or fertilizers can I put on my Hydrangea to keep it pink. It has slowly been turning purple-blue. I have seen this in your column before, but cannot remember what to do.

 

AnswerHydrangeas do change flower color based on soil pH. If you want your flowers pink, you need to apply lime to the soil to keep the pH raised. In Arkansas, our soils tend to run on the acidic side, and flowers gradually revert to purple then blue. It sounds like yours is doing the same. For those who like the purple/blue, adding aluminum sulfate or wettable sulfur (any acidic fertilizer) will keep them blue, but for pink, you want alkalinity so use lime. Keep in mind that color intensity is often a result of variety, but the shade of pink or blue is altered by pH.


March 2005

QuestionI am a novice gardener, and am trying to take care of a yard that is loaded with plants—not of my planting. What can you tell me about care and culture for the following: abelia, hydrangea, azaleas, and a yellow rose of Texas? I have them all and don’t know when to prune, how to prune, and what to fertilize with. Help! M. Smith, Hope

 

AnswerNikko blue is a type of Hydrangea macrophylla --or big leaf hydrangea. It blooms in the summer--usually June, and sets new flower buds in late summer to early fall. If it is overgrown and needs pruning, it should be pruned as soon as the flowers start to fade. Take out one to three of the older canes at the soil line. If there is room for plant growth, and the plant is healthy, you don't need to worry about pruning, but don't delay too long after bloom if it does need pruning. Be aware that big leaf hydrangeas can be winter damaged in Northwest Arkansas. If all of your growth occurs from the soil line each spring, it was frozen back by a late freeze and you won't have any flowers--but huge bushes. A lot of our more northern gardeners are opting for hydrangeas that bloom on the current season growth such as Annabelle or Endless Summer to solve the problem.


October 2005

QuestionI recently went to Maine and brought back a Limelight Hydrangea that grows to be trees in Maine! It is in a 10 inch pot and is about two feet tall! My question is should I plant it or keep in the pot inside? I thought these were so pretty in Maine; they have huge blooms on them and grow to be 10 to 15 ft tall there!

 

AnswerThe ‘Limelight’ hydrangea is a cultivar of the Hydrangea paniculata or panicle hydrangea. These plants can grow quite large and bloom on the new growth, so you don’t have to worry about winter damaging the flowers. I would definitely plant the shrub in the ground now. It will fare much better in the soil than in a container indoors and should have no problems with winter damage. Amend the soil with organic matter, and mulch. Water periodically, even in the winter if it gets dry. Planting now should give you a stronger root system next spring and a stronger plant for the growing season. The flowers on this cultivar are reputed to be lime green, however they often appear more white than green in our climate. Either way it makes a pretty bush, growing ten feet or more in height and five to six feet wide.


June 2010

QuestionI have a few questions concerning hydrangeas. I love cutting them and bringing them inside. Sometimes they begin to wilt within several hours. I've been told to put them in a little bit of water or to use warm water. The point where I have cut them for blooms now has a woody stalk. There is a woody stalk from the ground up a few feet then it branches out green stems with blooms. Do I need to prune that stalk to the ground? They are along the north side of my house and have never been fertilized.

 

AnswerHydrangeas make beautiful cut flowers. Try to cut them early in the day before it heats up. When you finally bring them indoors, you can make a fresh cut at an angle under water and this should keep the stem fresh and open. Change the water in the vase every two to three days. Tepid, room temperature water is best. If your hydrangeas need pruning, the best time to do it is as soon after flowering as possible. Remove up to one third of the older, woodier stems right at the soil line. This should encourage new growth. Hydrangeas set their flower buds in the late summer/early fall for next year’s flowering. Fertilize then as well. Hydrangeas bloom best when they get full morning sun and afternoon shade. They do not like direct afternoon sun.


May 2010

QuestionI have some overgrown hydrangea bushes. Can I separate them--how, and when? Thanks a million for your advice.

 

AnswerHydrangeas are cane producing plants which have multiple stems coming from the soil line. If there are several plants grouped together, division is possible, but normally we just thin out up to one third of the older canes at the soil line following bloom. Flower buds should be showing signs of color soon, so pruning or dividing now would hurt any flowering. Let them finish blooming, then thin immediately after the flowers begin to fade.


April 2010

QuestionI have a hydrangea in a tight spot that I would like to move to another spot which has morning sun. Is now an acceptable time to do that?

 

AnswerYes, get your hydrangea moved as soon as possible. Don't be alarmed if the plant wilts almost daily after the move, especially if it is a warm day, but do keep up with watering and they should begin to bounce back.


January 2010

QuestionWe recently moved to a new home. The new owners of our previous home have graciously allowed us to move some plants from our former flower garden. When and how is the best time to move hydrangeas? We have prepared a bed for these plants at our new location, but we have been reluctant so far to move them during winter. The two varieties of hydrangeas in question are commonly called "Ever Blooming" and "Lace Cap". Additionally, where is the best place to find material on moving a variety of other plants, including roses, butterfly bushes, and various herbs. I have read about moving a few plants in your column.

 

AnswerWait until the bulk of winter is over before moving hydrangeas. They can suffer winter damage easily and will be better prepared to handle it with a strong root system. Move in March. In general, the dormant season--November through February is considered the best transplant season for most hardy plants, simply because the plants are dormant and there is less stress to them. For less hardy plants, hydrangeas, azaleas, gardenias, etc. which can get damaged in the winter, wait until winter is over before moving, if possible. For some folks, timing is limited due to circumstances--moving, construction, etc. With proper care--mainly watering, you can successfully move most plants year-round. They wilt horribly when moved in the summer but can recover with time and care, and need extra protection in the winter if cold. If timing is your choice, for roses, I suggest moving them after you prune them in February so you deal with less thorns. Butterfly bush (buddleia) is also pruned in late February so moving it then would be easier. Herbaceous herbs can be moved spring or fall with ease.


November 2008

QuestionI do not have a green thumb! In 2001 my husband and I received a beautiful hydrangea plant when his mom died. I set it out on the north side of the house and prayed because I did so want it to live. We had a beautiful plant with large pink blooms until this year when the plant really took a beating with a late spring cold snap. A friend who seems to be an authority on plants (her yard is a showplace) told me to trim it back, give it adequate water and it would “come back in 09~~you just can’t kill a hydrangea”. Is there any hope in her statement? The plant is so special to us. We want it to remain a living memorial.

 

AnswerHopefully the plant is not a lost cause. How does it look now? By now, it should have recovered from the spring freeze. I am assuming your friend gave you her advice about pruning and watering, immediately after the freeze damage. Your plant may not have bloomed this season, but it should have fully leafed back out. If it has foliage, you really don't want to prune it any more this season, or you won't have flowers next summer. The big leafed pink and blue flowering hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) bloom in the summer from flower buds they set in late summer to fall. Hopefully you have large flower buds set now, so don't prune. At any rate, mulch the plant and wait for next spring to see if life begins again. Late freezes often freeze hydrangeas back in the northern tier of the state, which really impacts their bloomability, but the plants grow in leaps and bounds.      


November 2008

QuestionWe have quite a few hydrangea bushes in our garden. This fall we began to notice a few leaves developing dark spots that would enlarge on leaves and the leaves would finally die and fall off. The leaves start with spots, then the leaves turn yellow, eventually brown, and then they fall off. I don’t notice any insects but the plants do not look good at all. Is there something that we should be spraying with now to prevent this disease next season? Do you think it has killed our plants?

 

AnswerIt is not unusual to see spotting occurring on the leaves of deciduous plants late in the season, especially when we had as much rainfall as late in the year as we did this year. There have also been reports that the hurricanes actually flew in some new insect and disease problems. For now, no sprays should be needed, but do rake up all of the fallen leaves and get them out of the yard. You may actually want to replace the mulch under this plant as well. This way, you can start the season out clean. I would be surprised if a leaf spotting disease late in the season would be enough to kill the hydrangea. Monitor the plants next spring and if you see leaf spots then, a fungicide may be called for, but not now.


May 2007

QuestionFor Mother's Day I received a beautiful pink hydrangea. I would like to know where I should plant it and in what kind of soil. I've always heard if they aren't planted in the right kind of soil they will turn colors. I have pine trees in my front yard with azaleas and other plants in a flower bed under the trees, would this be a spot for this hydrangea? I have two blue ones now that are planted on the east side of my home, which gets morning sun.

 

AnswerFlorists hydrangeas aren't always as winter hardy as the nursery variety. However, plant them on the east or north side of your house where they get morning or filtered sunlight, and no direct afternoon sun. Make sure the site is well drained and has good organic matter content mixed in. Hydrangeas change color based on the pH of the soil. If the soil is acidic--which many of Arkansas soils are, they will be blue. If the pH is more alkaline, the hydrangeas will be pink. If you want yours to stay pink, incorporate some lime into the planting soil. Pine trees usually provide a high canopy with filtered sunlight, so can be an ideal place to plant hydrangeas, but the soil will be acidic, causing the plants to turn blue. You would not want to use lime in the area if there are azaleas present, as that could damage the azaleas.


April 2007

QuestionI evidently cut my hydrangea bush back too late in the season. The only new leaves coming out are in the bottom of the plant with just one or two on a couple of stalks. Do I leave the other stalks until next year and trust they will come out or do I cut them back? Thank you for your help. I live in Cherokee Village.

 

AnswerFrom the reports I have been getting statewide, I don't think it had anything to do with when you pruned. It seems that many hydrangeas are growing sparsely from the old top growth and prolifically from the base--even in central Arkansas. This means they suffered winter damage. In the northern counties in Arkansas, this can be a common occurrence. Last year we saw quite a bit of this due to the drier than normal winter, but that was definitely not the case this winter. My guess is the colder than normal temperatures and the fluctuating warm weather caused it. Cut out the old dead growth now and wait and see what happens. Most of the older varieties of hydrangeas only set flowers on the old wood, so you won't see many if any blooms this summer, but they should grow well. If this trend continues, you may want to replace them with a remontant--reblooming form of hydrangeas such as Endless Summer so you can enjoy some flowers each summer.


July 2006

QuestionI have a friend who would like to give me part of her Hydrangea bush. When is the right time to dig it up and transplant?

 

AnswerYou basically have two choices. Wait until fall when the weather cools off, mulch well and water. It might get winter damaged, but it should survive. It may not bloom the next season however. The other option is to wait until the bulk of winter weather has passed in the spring, and move it then. Dividing and transplanting now would not be advisable. This is typically the hottest, driest part of summer and hydrangeas would struggle.


August 2006

QuestionDue to illness, last year I did not get my hydrangeas pruned. This spring, I cut one down to the ground and tried to leave last year's old wood on the other one. Both have grown nicely but neither has bloomed. How should I handle the pruning this year in this situation. (they are the old, big, blue "macrophylla" hydrangeas.). Thanks.

 

AnswerAs previously mentioned, this was not a kind year for many blooming plants. Hydrangeas like moisture, and the dry winter coupled with the warm spell in January caused many flower buds to abort. There is still time to prune hydrangeas, but as late as it is getting, don’t be as severe in your pruning. Flower buds are setting now and heavy pruning will impact your flowers next spring. I like to get pruning done as soon as the hydrangea flowers fade, but try to have everything done by early to mid August. If your plants really need pruning, thin out some older canes at the soil line, but do so as soon as possible. Be sure to keep them watered, and hopefully next summer will give us better hydrangea blooms.


September 2006

QuestionI am a new resident of NW Arkansas, moving here from Virginia. There are two large Oak Leaf Hydrangeas growing near my porch that have grown so large they block the view from my porch. I would like to know when to prune them back. Should I remove all the old canes and leave the new ones, or can I cut them all back. How far can I cut them back without killing them?

 

AnswerOak leaf hydrangeas bloom in early to mid summer from flower buds they set in the fall. By now, they have set or are setting flower buds. They can be pruned without killing the plants now, but you would lose next years blooms, or at least greatly impact them. To get the most of the flowers for next season and this years fall foliage, I would suggest waiting until next summer before pruning. Prune as soon as the flowers begin to fade from white to pink. If you have some limbs that are really interfering with the porch, sacrifice them now. Enjoy the intense red fall color this fall, next springs white flowers, then prune as needed. It might be necessary to consider moving the plants to a location where they can reach their maximum size.


June 2005

QuestionMy hydrangeas are still in bloom but have grown so large that when it rains they bend completely over on the ground. I'm afraid the limbs will break some time. Can I prune them back and if so, when should I do this so that I will have blooms next summer. Also, how can I make the white ones turn either blue or pink? I read that lime does the trick, but not sure what color that makes them.

 

AnswerPruning of hydrangeas is often misunderstood. The common pink and blue Hydrangea macrophylla plants bloom in the summer from flower buds set the previous fall. If they need pruning, do so as soon as the flowers are finished. Cut out the taller canes close to the soil surface. This should encourage new sprouts which should be more stable, and hold more of the blooms upright. You can cut out one third of the old growth. If you have white hydrangeas, you cannot alter their color. Depending on which type you are growing will determine when to prune. The oakleaf hydrangea is similar to the H. macrophylla, blooming on buds set in the fall, so prune the same as above. The white Annabelle hydrangea, a Hydrangea arborescens is becoming quite popular. H. arborescens types bloom on the new growth and develop larger blooms if pruned hard before new growth begins in the spring. This also prevents floppy stems. Another white flowering form is H. paniculata, which also blooms on new growth, so should be pruned as needed before growth begins. It does not need as severe a pruning as the Annabelle type.


June 2005

QuestionI moved into a house last summer that had several oak leaf hydrangeas in the landscape. I planted several more this spring, and when they began to leaf out I noticed that the leaves aren't nearly as large as the original shrubs. They also aren't blooming as quickly as the older plants and, although the blooms seem to match those on the existing bushes, the flowers are also smaller on the new plants. Is there another variety (such as a miniature type) of oak leaf hydrangea that has smaller leaves and flowers? If not, will the new bushes ever catch up in size with the older shrubs?

 

AnswerOakleaf hydrangeas are blooming nicely now, and are a wonderful addition to the shade or woodland garden. There are numerous varieties of the plant. Some will grow 10 feet tall or more, while others may stay as compact as 2-3 feet. The smaller cultivars tend to have smaller leaves and flower heads. Since you are unsure about variety, let them grow and see what happens. Small cultivars won't change into large ones, but new plants often don't perform as well in year one either. See what happens next year or even the year after.


December 2005

QuestionMy wife wants to know how and when to cut back hydrangeas. We're in Conway so we've had a few frosts and they are losing their leaves.

 

AnswerMost folks grow the Hydrangea macrophylla--the big pink or blue flowering types. These plants are losing their leaves now, and entering into a fairly ugly stage. Even though they look like dead twigs, they contain the flower buds for next summer. You should not do any pruning now or you will remove the blooms. The only time to prune them without interfering with flowering is immediately after bloom in the summer.


February 2005

QuestionI am worried about losing my hydrangea flowers this summer. The plants are really beginning to bud out now with all the warm weather we have had. Is there anything I can do to prevent this budding out? I live in Cherokee Village and am sure we will have more cold weather this season.

 

AnswerPray! Unfortunately, many of our shrubs, perennials and trees are beginning to grow statewide. Watch the plants closely and cover if cold weather is predicted. We have a long way to go until spring is officially here and many plants are ahead of schedule. There is nothing you can do to keep them from sprouting when the weather continues to be mild. Water if it is dry, and use extra mulch around low growing plants, or sheets and blankets on larger shrubs if a hard freeze is predicted. A large cardboard box works well too.


February 2005

QuestionI have some hostas and a hydrangea that need to be moved. They are struggling because they get way too much sun. When do I move them-fall or spring?

 

AnswerI would move them this fall. Let the weather cool off a bit and then make the move. I sometimes recommend waiting until late winter for hydrangeas to get them through the winter with a stronger root system, but if they are in the wrong locale then I would go ahead and make the move. Hydrangeas do best on the east or north side of the house.


February 2005

QuestionIs it too late to cut my hydrangeas back? They were beautiful when they bloomed about two months ago, but the flowers caused the branches to fall over. They are just too top-heavy and too large for the location I have them in. How much can I prune if I still can?

 

AnswerThere are many types of hydrangeas, but the most common are the pink and blue flowering Hydrangea macrophylla. These plants bloom in the summer and set flower buds in the fall. It is too late to prune them without interfering with flower bud set. The time to prune is as soon as the flowers begin to fade. Then you can remove some of the older, taller canes at the soil line. Many gardeners cut the canes back by one third or one half. This encourages branching which is not a great idea for hydrangeas. Each section of the stem can have a large flower, which can cause the branches to fall over. Cutting out taller, older canes down low, encourages new canes which should support the blooms better. You can prune by one half next season—after bloom.


 

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