snowcalla
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Caring for Hydrangea in Tropical Climates

Hi guys, I simply love love love hydrangeas... they are beyond beautiful! Unfortunately, I live in a little tropical island in SE Asia. We have lots of sun & rain throughout the year, avg temperature around 30 deg cel. I've just given in to temptation & got this small pot of budding white hydrangea from the local nursery. It's now on my desk below an open window facing east. I know I need to keep the soil well-watered and I'm using this fertiliser called Phostrogen. Besides optimism, how may I care for it so that it stays healthy & in bloom? Is it even possible? Any tips would be so, so welcome. Thanks in advance!!

The Helpful Gardener
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How tropical? This is an annual any where hotter than USDA Zone 9 (Miami is Zone 10, Honolulu is Zone 11)...

HG

snowcalla
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Thanks... As tropical as tropical goes, I'm afraid. I think the closest climate to us in the US would be Florida - sunny, humid & rainy... all year round. It is a small plant right now (about 15 inches tall), in a pot measuring approx. 8 inches in diameter. I don't have a garden, but I plan to change to a bigger pot (though I'm not sure how to tell) and move it to our balcony when necessary. It will need to survive our hot humid weather first. Any caring advice would be much appreciated.

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Grey
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Well, like Scott said - anything higher than zone 9 and you're plumb out of luck as far as keeping it outside. I only first met these pretty plants when I moved to zone 9 from zone 10 in south florida.

They do well with moderate sunlight though - so if you have a nice sunny room in your home you may have your best chances at keeping it alive and well in there.

A plant I loved in Florida just as much as I love hydrangeas is Mona Lavender Plectranthus. Same light levels, and technically a zone 10 though it was plenty happy in zone 9 and I have found it has accepted indoor overwintering in zone 7 just fine. It did the best out of all of my plants, really!

snowcalla
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Thanks, guys. Yes, I've generally been told that examples of hydrangeas growing well in the tropics have been few & far between. Hence my initial hesitation in getting one & the info searching I'm doing now.

I've had advice from another really helpful hydrangea lover in the US about re-potting it later in the year. Right now, just hope the litle buds will go on to bloom into nice white "stars." :)

Have also read online that it might be necessary to simulate the hydrangeas' natural seasonal environment by removing it from sunshine during the later quarter of the year and keeping it in a "cool" place in the house. By cool, I'm assuming out of the sun & not in an air-conditioned room? (I've once nearly "freeze-dried" a pot of ferns by placing them in my airconditioned room - yes, I was foolish enough to place it on the shelf directly under the vents).

Is this "simulation" necessary or helpful to keep hydrangeas happy?

Thanks in advance for all of your advice!

snowcalla
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Did a search on the Mona Lavender Plectranthus... it reminds me so much of Hokkaido... Gorgeous :) I've never seen Lavender plants at the nurseries here though. Hydrangeas, calla lilies, even venus flytraps.... but not lavenders :(

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Grey
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I guess it might be beneficial to offer the hydrangea a "dormancy" time - just less sunlight and cooler temps.

Another plant that is quite pretty and tropical (without being tropical-looking in my opinion) is Tibouchina. Burgundy Lorapetalum (also called Chinese Fringeflower) was another fave, and OH!!! Plumbago - the Plumbago CAN be trimmed to look nice. I've seen them as big as a house, and they do tend to ramble worse than this sentence if left unchecked - but the flowers are many little blue flowers - maybe they can take the place of hydrangeas for you outside, anyway.

Heres a little about them:
https://www.floridata.com/ref/p/plumbago.cfm

And Tibouchina:
https://mgonline.com/tibouchina04.jpg

And Burgundy Lorapetalum:
https://msucares.com/news/print/sgnews/sg01/sg010402.htm

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Lavenders HATE humidity; might explain the lack...

If I was in the Tropics I'd go nuts with big, showy foliage, but familiarity breeds contempt; we all want what we can't have...Phormium, Monstera...there was a very famous designer named Roberto Burle Marx who I think of very highly of. Here's some shots at his house... like modern ruins ala Frank Gehry...

[url]https://www.maria-brazil.org/newimages/burlemarxhome12.jpg[/url]

[url]https://www.maria-brazil.org/newimages/burlemarxhome23.jpg[/url]

8)


HG
Last edited by The Helpful Gardener on Sat Apr 01, 2006 4:42 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Grey
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Scott, it isn't a true lavender. This one doesn't mind it so much. It's actually from South Africa.

https://www.plantzafrica.com/plantnop/plectranmonlav.htm

:)

As for wanting what you can't have - since moving here everybody wants some kind of tropical, or something tropical looking - Bird of Paradise, etc. When I lived in Florida I wanted cottage garden looking things. Dianthus, coneflower, true lavender etc. but the heat and humidity killed them off. I even have a very hard time here keeping lavender. I have one plant left of the 3 I purchased last year. :(

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OOOOHHHH.... :oops:

I get it...

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Grey
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It's ok - I get confused at the garden center all the time. So many plants have similar names (and few have the latin name on their tags) and I get a little confused.

So I really like it on here when someone's looking for more tropical advice - that stuff I know! :lol:

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Yes you do... 8)

snowcalla
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The Plumbago look really nice! Just have to find them at the nursery first. On tropical blooms, my mom LOVES orchids and she has several pots of them. However, she only goes for annuals with one or two large buds sprouting each year so it is always a mini-occasion for the household when they flower. The good thing is the blooms are also much more spectacular compared to perennial orchids. And they are very hardy in our climate and don't need much looking after.

Unlike the fuss my hydrangea seem to need... :p I am now worrying about yellowing from too much/too little water & food (I'm currently going with 5 mm of water in the tray before I go off for work in the morning, & a spray of diluted phostrogen once a week). It seems to like where it is now (I tried the balcony & it didn't work), by the window where it get morning sun.

Btw, my supposed "white" hydrangea have turned blue. It happened suddenly one day! I thought it is a white variety (non-colour changing) as the two pots next to it were white. Well, I actually love indigo, so I am happy enough.

Thanks for the advice & recommendations, Grey.

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I'm hoping to have room for orchids in my new kitchen when our house is done. It will have great light exposure in the mornings & the humidity from cooking and washing dishes should help, plus a little spritz to give it some more. Those blooms surely are spectacular!

Do you know what kind of hydrangea yours is? Must be a macrophyllia instead of aborescens or quercifolia - unless there are exceptions I don't know of (guys???). Although, PeeGee blooms white then fades to pink - so maybe there's another that blooms white and fades to blue?

snowcalla
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Orchids are lovely, yes, and such variety too. Most orchid types I see around me typically blossom in sprays (smaller blooms) but the cattleyas we have sprout only 1 to 4 flowers each time. To make up for the lack of numbers, they burst into large, gorgeous blooms, though. The white/lavender and yellow/crimson ones are my fav.

Yes, the one I have is the mophead or macrophyllia hydrangea. The buds started out the usual green & I was expecting them to turn white, which they did initially. Then one day, it started turning blue. Was quite a surprise, I must say, though I know many types commonly bloom blue or pink depending on soil acidity. Just that I thought mine would be white like its neighbours in the nursery. Right now, the plant is more leaf than flower. But I'm happy as long as it stays healthy.

Anyway, what type of orchids are you planning to grow in your new place?

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Oh, I haven't even started researching which orchids I'd like - more than likely a few will trickle home with me from working at the nursery! lol. Any suggestions?

Depending upon HOW humid your area is, an Oakleaf Hydrangea might be okay where you are. I forgot about it earlier but they are native to central Florida (zone 9). It's not the same, in my book, as the mopheads or the annabelles, but still pretty. I wouldn't try the new double-blooming pure white variety, Snowball, as I doubt it'll have the same tolerance for the weather. They are still mostly shade plants, and will even grow in more boggy soils.

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Do you like sprays (many little flowers on 1 spike), or fewer but bigger flowers? Like you guys said, we tend to like what we can't have, so I prefer types with bigger but fewer blooms like the cattleyas which are less common here. I know that the "moth" & the "lady slipper" orchids are both very popular in the US. What types do you have in your nursery?

My hydrangea blooms are blossoming gradually, with a few more flowers turning lavender each day. Other than that it looks like it's doing pretty well, though guzzling like crazy. I leave water in the tray every morning & by the time I come home in the evening it's totally dry. Our climate is very humid, though, average levels at 85%. Do you think I should water twice a day? I've heard it's not advisable.

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No, once a day is fine. Other than oakleaf, I don't think hydrangeas like their soil too damp.

I like the single-flowering orchids over sprays. They just are so neat. :)
My nursery doesn't carry any though. I'll have to get them from an orchid nursery some miles away from me. The only one I know of is in Florida, about an hour's drive south of my family, so I may get one from there while visiting sometime.

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Depending on your climate and soil conditions, once a day might be a little over kill as well. Even if you don't dry your plant out, you will leach all the good stuff out of the soil.

Start a compost or even better a leaf mold pile, if you go the compost route add lots of leaves (apple and maple are the best) and once you have compost (or in the case of the leaf mold pile, soil (but, that will take about two years)) then spread this around the plant. The decomposed leaf matter will help hold water in the soil and decrease evaporation. Another way to decrease evaporation is to mulch your plants. Again, mulched leaves would be ideal because they will protect the soil and in a year or two you will have soil

If you decide to go the sheet compost route for a mulch, spread leaves and top with some rotted manure and in 3 to 4 months you will have compost.

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Hi guys... I usually water my hydrangea from the bottom, by leaving a film of water in the tray. The water "disappears" within minutes, although we have very high humidity. I'm a little concerned as the soil on top is starting to feel dry & sandy, while when I first brought the plant home, it is soft & moist. Hence, my question about the watering. Should I spray water from the top periodically to keep it moist? What is the reason for the fast drying, and how moist should I keep the soil? I also have a question regarding fertiliser... is a spray once a week good?

opabinia, afraid we do not have pine, apple or maple trees here in the tropics. What we have are angsanas, rain trees & acacias... Will any leaf do? Right now, I'm experimenting with using browning leafs from the plant itself to cover the soil around the stem. Any advice & guidance would be really appreciated.

grey, do hope you go get those orchids. they are plants (& blossoms) of real character & so lovely to have in the house. :)

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Most leaves are fine - except oak and walnut, and I doubt you have either of those. :lol:
If you are near a body of water gather up some seaweed for your compost too. Lots of good yummies there.

You may be borderline on your water needs for your hydrangea then - hard to say for certian, it could be a bit too little or it might be just right. If the plant looks happy and healthy, you're probably fine.

My orchid days are probably about a year away.

snowcalla
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Haha, Grey, we get walnuts in plastic packets & oak... as furniture finishing. :p

If the leaves start to droop & then perk up after watering, it should be a clear sign that it's too little water & not too much, right? I'm really learning bit by bit as I go along - the orchids just need splashing (literally, with a pail) like once a week & other plants I have just need a bit of water once a couple of days but not the hydrangea it seems. The advice you guys give here have been a tremendous source of encouragement & help.

Btw, here's how the blooms are looking, before & after the last 5 days... just crossing my fingers that it'll stay hale & harty under our tough climate & my not-so-green fingers. ;) https://www.flickr.com/photos/snowcalla

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Grey
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Oooooohh - your blooms are lovely :)

You're doing fine.

Interesting info on the Orchids though - I'd been told by a friend whose hubby grew them in their kitchen that a little spritz of water a day was all they needed. I like the once-a-week plan though - it fits in better with my current indoor watering schedule!

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Nice Hydranga. I love the deep coloured flowers. My old neighbour had two that he kept at that colour. Very nice.

snowcalla
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thanks guys. i actually hadn't counted on them turning purple at all. about half the blooms are more magenta than violet although all of them are turning darker by the day. i suspect that they started turning blue after I placed some wooden pegs below the pot to prop it up. Possibly that introduced some acidity into the soil? Although i really dunno how... wooden pegs acidic??! :p

Btw, is it a problem if the young leaves at the bottom start yellowing & falling off? The new leaves at the top of the plant are growing nicely though.

haha, Grey, i think it depends on the type of orchid & the climate. some orchids need a lot of air & cannot live with too much water. the ones we have are growing in clay pots with lots of holes in them, using charcoal so that the roots (which crawl out all over the place) can breathe. they get splashed with diluted fertiliser in a can once a while, and ya, water from a pail once every few days. I guess it helps that our climate is so humid. Which keeps making me wonder why the hydrangea needs so much water... can't be the heat could it? *shrugs*

opabinia51
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It depends what type of wood the pegs are made from. If they are cedar, then they are definately acidic.

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i see... wow, so much still to learn ;)

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Hi Snow. Nice plant...

Hydrangeas are thirsty. Their name comes from the Greek for water/earth, and that's a soil requirement too. In my neck everyone comments on how well they do in the Islands (Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and for us Eastern Connecticut folk, Block Island) in the sandy soils, but moist sea air doesn't dry as quick. That emptying saucer is probably your plant drinking. Dryer in winter helps to build denser root system in this fine rooted planat and THAT is why these island hydrangeas are better, IMHO.

Scott

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Hi Snowcalla,

Your hydrangea is lovely! I was wondering how it's doing now. On April 8th you wrote:
I usually water my hydrangea from the bottom, by leaving a film of water in the tray. The water "disappears" within minutes, although we have very high humidity. I'm a little concerned as the soil on top is starting to feel dry & sandy, while when I first brought the plant home, it is soft & moist. Hence, my question about the watering. Should I spray water from the top periodically to keep it moist?
I would water from the top down and let the water run through to the saucer. I wouldn't let it sit in water for more then 15 to 30 minutes. Then I'd dump any remaining water. I don't think there is enough water for it to all rise to the top. The entire rootball may not be getting enough water.
What is the reason for the fast drying, and how moist should I keep the soil?
I don't think there is enough water in the saucer and the top is not getting any. Hence may be the reason you are having yellowing leaves. I find the best way to check if there is enough moisture in the soil is to stick my finger in to the first knuckle. If it's dry, time to water.
I also have a question regarding fertiliser... is a spray once a week good?
When you say "a spray" I'm thinking you mean that you just spray the leaves. That could be done from time to time, but I would think that fertilizing the roots every two weeks during the growing season would be fine with the fertilizer mixed in the water.


Newt

opabinia51
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Spraying the foliage with an aerated compost tea will do wonders for preventing disease and insect infestations. Makes a good ferilizer for roots as well.

For fertilizers, I like to use compost and composted manures to build the soil which will lead to healthy plants that are disease free and tolerant to insect herbivory.

For topical ferilization of the soil I like liquid organic fertilizers as a supplement to soil building.

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