usmcwife
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Location: Eastern North Carolina

Help with newly planted Mathilda Gutges

I recently planted 3, 1.5gal hydrangeas (blue, mathilda gutges) from our local garden center. We live in Eastern North Carolina and lately, its been warm, 70-80 degrees and windy. The hydrangeas are planted in front of the house where they recieve approx. 6 hours of full sun in the morning, are shaded all afternoon and don't get hit with too much wind. I have watered them about every other day since planting. My concern is that near mid-day they all wilt. Mostly the flower heads, but sometimes the leaves as well. The individual flowers turn down completely...they almost always perk up by the next morning, but it seems the wilting is worsening each day. I thought the location was ideal but now Im not so sure. I had one of the plants previously on the side of our house where it recieved full sun most of the day until about 5-6pm when the shadow of the house covered it, and aside from the wind beating it too badly it still wilted in the sun and wouldnt perk up 'til late evening. Im completely perplexed. What could the problem be? Is it normal for the flowers to wilt daily? Will this problem eventually resolve itself when it becomes more established? Id hate for these beauties to die on me. Any tips would be helpful!!

luis_pr
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Hello, usmcwife. Newly planted hydrangeas suffer from transplant shock and will also exhibit wilting episodes as the summer season approaches. Wilting is common in some large leafed shrubs like hydrangeas. It is caused when the plant looses moisture through the leaves faster than it can absorb it through the roots. While dire looking sometimes, established hydrangeas usually recover on their own by next morning with no action needed from us. When they do not, a little extra water usually helps.

It is important not to overwater though because too much watering too often can result in root rot. If the wilting episode looks bad, I immediately water but otherwise do some research: if the soil feels moist or wet, do not water; if the soil feels dry then water 1/2 gallon of water.

As they become established, they will wilt less but will usually still have a few episodes through the summer. You can help by keeping them well mulched (3-4") and by keeping the soil moist as constantly as you can. You have already chosen a location that is not windy and windy locations promote wilting so your choice of planting location was a good one. Wilting may have been triggered by the excessive windy weather. If you hear on the news that there is a Wind Advisory the next day, water the hydrangeas the night before a little (1/2 gallon).

Your shrubs seem to be getting a lot of sun so monitor the leaves during July-August. Normally in the South, the leaves need some protection so they do not sunscorch. This is accomplished by choosing a planting site where the hydrangea gets afternoon shade. Less sun might result in less evaporation from the leaves and therefore can minimize wilting a little too.

So should you move them elsewhere? Hard to tell at this point. In the northern half of the country, hydrangeas can sometimes be planted in full sun with no problems to their leaves. But I am not sure if you are quite there or not so.... I would ask you to drive around looking for people who have planted hydrangeas and observe how much sun they get in the afternoon. Look for hydrangeas in sunnier locations too and observe how do the leaves look. Visit the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville or the NC Botanical Gardens in Chapel Hill (call ahead and ask where they have hydrangeas). And monitor the leaves this first summer.

Does that help you, usmcwife?
Luis

jbp45168
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Re: Help with newly planted Mathilda Gutges

You helped me ALOT! Thanks for all the great information.

PookieMichelle
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Location: DFW, Texas

Re: Help with newly planted Mathilda Gutges

I had quite a chuckle upon reading Luis' advice about driving around, looking for other hydrangeas...I am always 'touring' the neighborhood, trying to figure out who has some good ideas on flowers that work in this Texas furnace/hellish/surface of the sun heat! I haven't seen a single hydrangea around here!

I don't have nearly as much experience as Luis, or many of the green thumbs on the forum, but I have definitely learned one thing: Don't give up on any hydrangeas you've planted! I have seriously almost killed one of mine, nearly burning it to death with too much aluminum sulfate - but I kept with it, tried to flush it through as best I could, cutting off the carnage (too see so many burned & shriveled florets broke my heart) and believe it or not, it's coming back! It even has one huge pom of flowers on it!

:) Best of luck for you - I do so love the blue blooms!

luis_pr
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Re: Help with newly planted Mathilda Gutges

Yes, we do have to protect our hydrangeas here, don't we? Makes it difficult to see them.

Reminds me of the house where my sister used to live in. There is a neighbor that has a lot of trees in front of his house and planted on the front right corner, there it is... a mophead hydrangea with pink blooms. I have always been surprised at how well it does there since the area seemed dark at first but that does not bother it much. It gets more blooms than I expected. After I found it, I realized that the area gets dappled sun in the mornings. It wasn't until the year that my sister moved that I discovered that hydrangea.

If you want to see other hydrangeas locally, I stopped by the Dallas Arboretum a week ago. Mopheads and oakleafs were in bloom.

huytton
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Re: Help with newly planted Mathilda Gutges

I have one Mathilda Gutges (from Costco) in Southlake, Texas (zone 8a). It is doing great. I did have a wilting problem and I suspected that it was because of the combination of too much sun and lack of watering. After I watered the hydrangea with about 1/4 gallon of water, the plant started to come alive again in about 15 minutes. Now with the heat in Soutlake, I water my hydrangea daily. The ones that are planted with about 4-5 hours of full sun (Endless Summer Original, Endless Summer Bloomstruck, Endless Summer Twist-N-Shout, Oakleaf, Nantucket Blue, Red 'N Pretty, Tuff Stuff, Freebird) I have to water them twice a day to prevent them from wilting. My other hydrangeas (Little Lime, After Midnight, Blue Enchantress, Fuchsia Glow, Lets Dance Moonlight, Pistachio, Hot Mauve, Early Blue) are planted or placed in shaded areas so I just water them once a day.
I had one hydrangea that wilted because of water retention. It was in a container when I bought it and after about 3 days it wilted bad. I knew that I had watered it everyday. When I took it out of the container I discovered that the container had a plastic bag that prevented the water from draining.

luis_pr
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Re: Help with newly planted Mathilda Gutges

Hello, huytton. You are very close to my travels to visit relatives in Colleyville so I should warn you that extra watering and extra monitoring are de rigueur (sp?) in year one and in the summer.

As "summer" arrives in May here with temps in the 90s, I increase the water amounts per plant from Spring levels to Summer levels. As we hit the daily 100s, I even do some manual waterings with a hose... at times. When we hit the 90s or the daily 100s, you will notice these wilting episodes and maybe some browning of leaves from the edges. Browning of the leaf edges moving inwards suggest that the plant needs more water and is aborting some leaves (although the blooms will be the first ones to 'go' and brown out). Wilting episodes are caused by those big ole mophead leaves that loose moisture faster than the roots can absorb.

If you notice an extreme wilting episode, I always water first and research it later. But typically, if the soil is moist (check with your finger to a depth of 4") then you can ignore it as the plant should recover on its own by the next morning. If it has not recovered in the morning, water it but try not to over-water as wet soil and root can set in and cause a 24/7 wilted appearance. I use more water than 1/4 of a gallon per plant per watering; approximate amounts for water for a n-e-w shrub: 1 to 1.5 gallons of water from the rootball outwards in Spring; 1.5 to 2 in the Summer. The exact amounts can vary as the plants get larger, if the soil is sandy, etc. Watering daily may be too much, unless the plant is potted.

How to tell if you need to water: insert a finger into the soil near the rootball to a depth of 4" and water if the soil feels dry or almost dry. You can use the finger method daily at the same time each morning and write down on a wall calendar a note on days when you watered. After 2-3 weeks of using the finger method, review the notes in the calendar and average out how often you were watering: for example... every 2 days or every 3 days, etc. Then, set the sprinkler to water about 1.5-2 gallons of water every 2/3/4 days. The goal is to keep the soil as evenly moist as possible, water deeply & not often and get the soil moist at the 4-8" depth. I add 2-4" of mulch past the drip line to help with all this.

Once the plant becomes established and has developed a bigger root system, these summer problems should be reduced but they will not go completely away. In year one, plan on spot checking them very often and less so in future years. I bought a Pistachio Mophead at Marshal Grain about a week ago but it remains in a pot. I do not plant anything from mid-to-late May because they will fare poorly once we hit the daily 100s and I go outside less and less. LOL!!!! :-() :-() :() :()

I typically give them shade starting at 11am to 12pm. Learned that the hard way when a hail storm broke branches off a Crape Myrtle and exposed a mophead to more sun and the leaves in direct contact with the sun turned all yellow, including the leaf veins. It actually looked quite nice. Part yellow and the leaves under other leaves remained dark green.

Wow, how odd to find a plastic bag in the container??? I have never run into that. How exactly did you catch it? Hmm, maybe you picked it up and felt water moving around inside... hmmm,

I find morning sun only works well here; gotta give them afternoon/evening shade afterwards in July-September. Dappled sun and areas with bright shade also work but some bright shade locations can produce unusual results with blooms. LL is a paniculata that usually handles lots of sun (not here though) but, in some bright shade locations, it may stay lime colored throughout the whole growing season. Meaning it never turns white unless it gets a tad more sun.

Oakleafs are more drought tolerant and I think you will love the Fall foliage colors. I find that these guys sometimes do not loose leaves at all during mild winters though. Not really a problem as I like to see their purple-ish or other colored leaves anyways. But I wish their early blooms lasted longer.

Luis

j.d.stinson
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Re: Help with newly planted Mathilda Gutges

We live in Southern New Hampshire, USA. Just received three Mathilda Gutges. If I'd purchased hydrangeas myself I'd not have gotten a variety that blooms on last season's wood. Too much winter kill. Is there hope I can get them to bloom regularly? Or should I try to return them? jds

luis_pr
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Re: Help with newly planted Mathilda Gutges

It probably depends on you and the shrub. ;o)

My MIL had a Nikko Blue in her home near NH and that was not a big deal for her. NB produces blooms on old wood usually but some people report some blooms in new wood too. I never asked her if her NB did that so now I have to wait until mine gets big enough to bloom.

There is a way to help these shrubs that only bloom on old wood and it is called winter protection. I seldom use it here since my winter are mild but I use it because... the winters are mild. In NH, very cold temps can make the stems dieback and the plant then grows back from the base or crown. Down here, winter is mild so the plants break dormancy.... then temperatures come crashing down into the 20s or 10s and the stems maybe die back and the flower buds are history (or the stems do not die back but the temps got cold enough to kill the flower buds anyway). Same result in both places (NH, TX): no blooms.

The way winter protection works is by putting chicken wire around the shrubs and then filling the inside with mulch or with dried out leaves. If you use leaves, make sure you are packing the inside really, really, really, really good. Top with a cardboard and rocks to keep the cardboard in place. Add more material around mid winter if leaves have settled. The more insulation you have in the form of leaves, the better the chances that the stems and their invisible flower buds will survive the cold and windy winter. If you remove the winter protection 2 weeks after the last avge date of frost and there are no blooms that year, the winter protection failed so pack more insulation than you did on year 2. The invisible flower buds are located at the ends of the stems so keep that in mind. The chicken wire should be wider and taller than the shrubs. The farther away that the chicken wire is from the ends of the stems, the better.

Too much work? Return them and try remontant ones (rebloomers). With rebloomers, you get blooms from old and new wood. Old wood produces blooms in (approx.) Spring and new wood produces blooms in the Summer. The old wood of rebloomers will probably suffer from dieback if not winter protected but then the new wood will produce blooms late in the Summer.

Or you can switch to Smooth Hydrangea or Hydrangea Paniculatas. Both develop blooms from new wood (only) and do not suffer from winter issues as mopheads do. Thus, they typically bloom reliably. Usually. But their blooms are different from mopheads and some people just do not like them. Ooooh, welll.

Last alternative for MG: you can grow it in containers and bring the containers inside when the plant goes dormant in the Fall. Bring them outside around 2 weeks after your avge date of last frost. Water the containers about once every 2 weeks or so while in the garage. You can put them in a shed or the garage.

Decisions, decisions... ;o)

luis_pr
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Re: Help with newly planted Mathilda Gutges

Hello, usmcwife. Upon re-reading, I found an error that I want to correct.

On April 21, I said: "As they become established, they will wilt less but will usually still have a few episodes through the summer. You can help by keeping them well mulched (3-4") and by keeping the soil moist as constantly as you can. etc". That "phraseology" can make some people think that the soil needs to be watered a lot so I want to restate that sentence.

I should have said: "As they become established, they will wilt less but will usually still have a few episodes through the summer. You can help by keeping them well mulched (3-4") and by keeping the soil as evenly moist as you can. etc".

You can keep track on the soil moisture using the finger method. The way that works is by inserting a finger to a depth of about 4" into the soil. Do this early in the mornings for 2-3 weeks; try to do it at around the same time if possible. If the soil feels dry or almost dry then water the soil and make a note in a wall calendar. If the soil feels moist, do nothing. If the soil feels wet, well, you may want to find out why (did it rain recently? did the sprinkler go off? etc). After 2-3 weeks, review the notes in the wall calendar and average out how often you had to water (for example, the notes might suggest that you had to water every 2, 3, 4 or ?? days). Then set the sprinkler or drip irrigation to water on that same frequency (every 2, 3, etc days). If temperatures change by 10-15F degrees and stay there, you may to re-test for another 2-3 weeks to see if you need to tweak things. Remember to increase the amt of water per watering in the Summer and reduce it when Fall temperatures arrive. If winter is dry, water every other week or whatever works. Note that I try not to say to water "the plant" or "the leaves" as hydrangea leaves/blooms can sometime suffer from common ailments like powdery mildew, gray mold and cercospora leaf spots.

As for how much to water per watering, that is hard to guess as it depends on many factors (the weather, how big a root system the plant has in the pot, the type of soil, etc). In my clay soil, I usually start with around 1 gallon per watering for a newly purchased regular hydrangea (a standard or tree-form hydrangea may need more).

In the Summer, I increase that amount to 1.5 gallons per watering but my aim is to get water down to around a depth of 8". So feel free to tweak those watering amounts in order to get your soil moist at that approximate depth.

Sandy soil, if you have any, typically require even more water, usually about 50% more due to the "excellent" drainage of the sand. Mix compost to sandy soils to add more minerals to the soil and so water will get absorbed, retained and released longer by the compost.

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