Newly Registered
Posts: 5
Joined: Fri Jul 17, 2009 10:28 am
Location: Northeast IL

Dried and Dead Limelight

I got a beautiful Limelight Hydrangea and I think I killed her. I don't know what I did wrong. I am so very upset.
Here is what she looked like before:


I walked out to my garden this morning to find her dry, dead, brittle and completely wilted. What little growth there was unaffected was followed by dead leaves, dying flowers and brown everywhere.

Here is what she looked like this morning:
(it's actually worse than this photo shows)

I watered her for over two hours straight and by the evening she showed no signs of improvement so in a fit of despair, I started cutting away all the dead branches.

Now it's nothing but branches and stubble protruding from the ground and I'm just devastated.

What did I do wrong? Why all the brown? All my other plants are fine and healthy except for my two hydrangeas, this Limelight and the Endless Summer in front (completely different location).

Are hydrangeas sensitive to bug spray? (there was a truck that came through the neighborhood last night and sprayed the trees and everything.) Is it a lack of moisture? Why are my hydrangeas dying on me?

Please help me. Please tell me what to do to nurse this Limelight back to health (even though her nickname is now Stubby.) Will she come back next year? Have I made it even worse? Should I pull her up and give her a proper burial then get another one and start all over again?

Please help.

Greener Thumb
Posts: 822
Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2009 8:31 am
Location: Hurst, TX USA Zone 7b/8a

Oh, wow, elabird. That description sounds awful. Well, some fungicides and insecticides will cause leaf drop but the ones that do should indicate so in the label as some form of warning. You can look and see if the product that you used says something about this. But hydrangeas are pretty hardy shrubs, including Limelight, so I would doubt that that such a problem would kill the shrub.

I am not clear one on thing. Your 2nd picture shows some green but your comments suggest that it is now all browned out. Is that correct?

Such a change might be caused by soil moisture issues, either too little or too much. When the plant gets too little water then it wilts and tries to recover by next morning on its own. If moisture conditions do not improve then blooms or buds are next to go. Leaves follow. The leaves begin to brown out in areas around the edges until the whole thing is brown and dried out.

Too much water, say from the downspout shown in the picture, can also cause this same problem. Water could collect in that area after rains and keep the soil wet for long periods of time. Too much moisture then allows root rot to develop. When the roots rot, they cannot supply nutrients or water to the growth above the ground and the plant behaves exactly as if it was getting no water. It wilts and, when the root fungal infection gets bad enough, the leaves brown out and the plant dies.

Under normal conditions, it is hard to tell which problem you have unless you check the soil for moisture content using the finger method. Insert a finger into the soil to a depth of 4" every day for a week or two. If it feels wet then the problem could be too much water. If it feels dry then the problem could be too little water.

If the problem turns out to be lack of moisture then the root ball may have dried out partially or completely. If completely then the shrub is gone. If partially, you might be able to extract the plant and place it in a pot full of water to force the root ball to absorb water. Once the root ball dries out a lot, it seems to repel water so it must be watered using the concept of drip irrigation (just a few slow drops at a time) or dunk it in water for a while until you see that it has absorbed the water. Then remove the excess water before replanting back. Time then will tell if it comes back.

An obvious giveaway from root rot is the rotting process. You could inspect the root and smell then. If there is rotting going on, I would expect some bad smell coming from the roots and they would not look like healthy roots do.

You could also have some borer damage but, hmmm, not likely. Borers drill into stems and damage the growth above the point where they enter the stem. So you might expect browning in selected or limited areas, not the whole thing at once. Boring at the level of the crown would be need for such extensive damage.

Good luck. Limelight is hardy so whichever of those suggestions is the cause, I hope it recovers and you can enjoy the blooms for many more years to come.


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