Newly Registered
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Joined: Sat Apr 16, 2016 10:47 am

Novice gardener in the process of killing a hydrangea

Hi everyone,

Thanks so much for taking a look at my question!

I am new to gardening and this site, so sorry if I make any etiquette mistakes (and do let me know I have!)

I planted a hydrangea bush ~3 weeks ago. It was healthy when planted but has since become increasingly sad.

I live in downtown DC, and the native soil is a dense clay. We dug that out (but maybe not deeply enough) and put in a mix of organic potting soil, compost and worm casings.

When it was planted we were going through a crazy rain spell (we set records - 16 days basically straight). The leaves were wilting and many had black spots on them. From looking at online forums I thought this might be due to overwatering, so once the sun finally decided to return I watered it less frequently than the rest of the garden.

It temporarily perked up, and the black spots are gone, but it has since gone back to wilting. I've read a lot of conflicting thoughts in online forums that I have looked at (soil still wet, although it feels dry now, too much sun?). Any thoughts on how to help it feel better are much appreciated!

Full Member
Posts: 45
Joined: Sun Apr 03, 2016 5:38 am

If in direct sunlight, try moving it in a spot with partial shade, or even shade, if temperatures too high during summer. Don't let the soil to dry between waterings. Dig a deeper and larger hole when replanting it.

Greener Thumb
Posts: 801
Joined: Tue Sep 22, 2015 9:20 pm
Location: Canada zone 8b

Agree with Algida. I personally think that it isn't watered enough. The leaves look dehydrated.

Newly Registered
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Apr 16, 2016 10:47 am

Thanks so much Algida and Annalkona! I will definitely up the water. It's been very hot the past week so it might be getting too much sun too, unfortunately I don't have anywhere to move it to that gets less light but I can try sticking a lawn chair in front of it to give it some cover!

Greener Thumb
Posts: 824
Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2009 8:31 am
Location: Hurst, TX USA Zone 7b/8a

A recently planted hydrangea is a shrub whose root system has been pruned to fit into a plastic pot. As such, it takes the plant a while to develop a bigger root system to deal with summer weather issues. While the plant is for sale at your plant nursery, it gets watered a lot and often. Plus it gets placed in areas with shade cloth so it gets limited amounts of sun and wind. Then you introduce the plant to your garden and it tries to cope with sunlight issues, windy conditions and moisture issues. It begins to wilt. Transplant shock is what some people call this.

So what can you do... try providing it increasing higher levels of sunlight slowly, as opposed to dumping it in its final location. An example: put it where it gets full shade for a week or so... as long as it is "bright" shade. Then introduce it to get 1 or 2 hours of morning sun. And so on. Some people get a chair or umbrella and place it to shade up new plants so you can try this. The shrub should end in a place where it gets morning sun only, say, until 11am-12pm. More or less. Afternoon or evening sun is not good because it is usually hot enough to make wilting episodes look really baaaad. You can go down to 11-2 hours of morning sun only if you want. Or full shade as long as it is bright shade. But keep the plants away of (house) wall surfaces, cement surfaces, rock beds etc that irradiate too much indirect sunlight to the plants and for long periods.

Windy locations make the leaves loose moisture faster than the roots can resupply so this causes leaves to wilt. Not a big deal often. The plants recover on their own at night or by the next morning. In future years, when they have larger root systems, this only happens during the middle of the summer months (or on windy days).

Mulch will help keep the soil moist longer so keep the shrub mulched with 3-4" of mulch up to the drip line. If you see those round fertilizer pellets in the potting soil, you do not need to fertilize this year. Do it starting next year in Spring. Do not fertilize the hydrangeas just as they are having issues with sun, heat and water. You can give them 1/2 to 1 cup of cottonseed meal, composted manure or organic compost. Or you can use a slow-release, general purpose chemical fertilizer. During the rest of the growing season, try some coffee grounds, liquid seaweed and-or liquid fish but stop all fertilizers by the end of June so the plant will go dormant in the Fall and not stay in grow mode.

Hydrangeas love water so each time you water the bushes, give each one 1 gallon of water in Spring and 1.5 in the Summer or as needed (more when the shrubs get larger, etc). Revert back to Spring levels in Fall when the summer temps moderate.

Transplant shock will go away in 1-3 years. You will notice less and less but, it is always good to ck the plants often during the summer months or after windy days when the weather service gives wind advisories.


PS - I have worse looking wilting episodes when I turned off my sprinkler system (it was raining a lot) and forgot to turn it back on! :shock: Join the club!

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