smay0030
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Help! My hydrangeas are doing bad

Can anyone tell me what is wrong with them? I'm a new homeowner and gardener and will take any advice offered! Thanks :D
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luis_pr
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Location: Hurst, TX USA Zone 7b/8a

Re: Help! My hydrangeas are doing bad

Hello, smay0030. You did not say where are you located so I can only assume summer has arrived where you live and the rock mulch is warming things.

Hydrangea blooms last only for so long (1 to 1.5 months) before they begin a plethora of bloom color changes that ends in brown. These color changes can also be started/affected by such things as the summer weather: hot winds, hot temperatures, not enough moisture, sunlight hits the plant after 11am, etc. Not knowing where you are, I assume it is not time yet for the blooms to be turning brown.

My blooms in Texas, which started around early April, are loosing the original colors now and turning greenish or sandy-like (observe the set of color changes of your shrub to see how it will work in future years). Depending on what hydrangea you have, the color change progression varies to include greens, pinks, blues, purples, sandy colors, mixes of all and finally browns.

Of course, if you live in the northeast, where the summer sun is weaker, mopheads may like being in full sun. However, mopheads, in the natural habitat, are under-story shrubs so anything you can do to duplicate that will certainly be appreciated by the plants.

While the blooms in the pics appear to be a shade of blue, they will only stay blue in future years if your soil if acidic (or if your soil is alkaline and you amend the soil to acidify it). Feel free to deahead the blooms if they get too ugly or leave them on for winter interest. On year 1, I tend to cut them off soon but if this is a rebloomer variety, cutting the blooms makes it trigger new flower bud development. You will then get blooms in 1 to 1.5 months, provided it is not scorching hot; if it is, the plant may wait until temps moderate.

The shrub should be exposed to morning sun and afternoon/evening shade. If the planting location gets too hot, too windy or gets sunlight after 11am-ish, the plant may first try to abort the blooms (the sepals then turn from white/blue/pink directly to brown) and reallocate water to the rest of the plant. If the plant still needs more water than it uptakes, the plant may wilt the leaves during the worst part of the day. Typically, the leaves recover on their own at night (provided the soil is still moist). If the leaves still cannot absorb enough moisture, the leaves will brown out from the edges inwards.

For a small plant, make sure that the plant gets about 1.5 gallons of water per watering per plant in the summer (you can dial that back to 1 gallon once temps go down). Water from the crown outwards to make sure you hydrate the root ball. Also, make sure that you have 3-4" of organic non-rock mulch up to the drip line so the water in the soil lasts longer.

When the leaves loose moisture faster then the roots can absorb more water, the leaves wilt so less sunlight hits the leaf surface, heats the leaf and evaporates. You can help plants during this time by keeping the soil as evenly moist as possible and by making sure they get shade starting at around 11am-ish. Evenly moist means no periods of dry soil, followed by wet soil, followed by dry soil again.

If the plant is getting afternoon sun, you may need to eventually transplant it to a spot that is more shady and has less wind. But transplanting in the summer is often a bad idea so, if it gets sun after 11am, use an umbrella or chair or something to give it shade. Then consider transplanting it in the Fall when the plant has gone dormant and transplanting is less stressful.

To know when to water, use the finger method: early in mornings, for 2-3 weeks, insert a finger into the soil to a depth of 4" and see how the soil "feels": dry, moist or wet? If it feels dry or almost dry, water the plant and make a note of the watering in a wall calendar. Water the soil early in the mornings (1.5 gallons of water per plant per watering). Do not water the leaves or water when it is hot unless you are trying to correct a wilting leaf issue. After 2-3 weeks, review the notes in the calendar and approximate how often you had to water. Then set the sprinkler or drip irrigation to give each plant 1.5 gallons of water every 2/3/4/etc days. If temps change 10-15 degrees and stay there, try the finger method again to see if you need to tweak things.

On newly planted shrubs, wilting becomes a problem in the summer. As long as the soil is moist though, the plant can recover on its own without help and it will do this by nighttime or by next morning. Should you notice a wilting episode that looks real bad, immediately give it about 1 gallon of water. But I normally insert a finger into the soil to see if it moist or not and then I water accordingly. Summer breezes can dry out plants with big leaves suddenly so I keep an eye on forecast calling for windy days and I water the night before as a precaution. Just do not over water as that can trigger root rot if the roots are in wet soil for too long of a period.

Hydrangeas do not do well with rocks used as mulch. Rocks absorb day time heat and release it at night. Better to use pine needles, acidic or hardwood mulches.

In future years, this will occur less... as the plant's root system grows and is able to absorb more water. As soon as plants become established, expect less of these issues. But I always monitor the shrub in the hottest part of the summer.

There is one other possibility that could cause early browning of the blooms. It happens when the plants develop a fungal infection called Gray Mold or Botrytis Blight. In this scenario, the sepals feel papery to the touch and look as if they were wet. I cannot tell that from the picture but I assume summer is just causing the problem for now. Water the soil instead of the leaves to minimize the chances of this fungal infection.

When pruning hydrangeas, have in mind the following. Depending on your location, mopheads will develop invisible flower buds in July-August 2016 and these will open in the Spring 2017. Try not to prune the ends of the stems where these flower buds reside.

For more info on hydrangeas, go to http://hydrangeashydrangeas.com/

Luis

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Help! My hydrangeas are doing bad

You only showed us the flower, not the actual shrub.

Is there a problem with the shrub other than that the flowers are browning? That is in the nature of flowers, which do not last forever. When did it first bloom?
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hillary.a.bayne
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Re: Help! My hydrangeas are doing bad

I have had the same issue with my hydrangeas as well. I started out with a mothers day blue mathild and over time i bought the discounted variety from walmart that were marked down due to non blooming. ( Bloom struck was one of them, the others were not marked in any way so I'm not sure the variety) my issue now is that the stems turned black and died, all the flower heads wilted and died and the leaves became very dark and crunchy even though i was watering as RX'd by several different nurseries. unfortunately I had to just cut them far back because they were just not doing well and any new growth on them was turning black. NOW that I have done that, my issue is white mold growing all over them no matter WHAT I have tried.
I've tried the baking soda and soap mix.
I've tried fungisides
I've tried repotting etc

My hydrangeas are litterally nothing but white roots and dead shoots.... with white mold STILL growing on them. I've transplanted and done everything imaginable to try the stems out, even bringing them inside out of the humidity. unfortunately in my area of NC (8a) its been really muggy out this year with temp spikes up in the low 100's for heat index so I know thats not helping with the mold spores, however I've repotted the hydrangeas in new soil that was a humus and manuer mix. my dogs have thought they were actually sticks and pulled them out. that stated, the major roots are still white even though the shoots are dried out and the roots around them are all dry.

Would sticking them in a bucket of water even be worth the effort at this point? what about the white mold that is still plaguing the shoots?
Root systems don't smell or look brown and dingy. Please help! My once green thumb has turned brown!

luis_pr
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Re: Help! My hydrangeas are doing bad

Hello, hillary.a.bayne. Can you clarify something? Did the blooms die only or did the stems & blooms die? Pictures might help to show how they progressed (if you have them). Also, where are you and what is USDA Zone? Do you do overhead watering?

hillary.a.bayne
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Re: Help! My hydrangeas are doing bad

Im having problems trying to log in from my phone to upload photos but ill give you the order in which everything happened
1: leaves started turning brown and crispy even with RX'd watering from nurseries i've contacted.
2: normal flower wilting occured (due to heat which was to be expected) along with flower heads dying and looking the same as the above photos. mathild hydrangea and 1 other had the colors fade to green which is normal as well when the flowers are done.
3: stems started to turn black, soggy and mushy about 1 week after noticing the black crispy leaves
3: noticed white mold spores growing so I started to try the above mentioned methods to stop the mold growth, to include putting a clear bag over previous holes to attempt to "burn off" the remaining mold spores left in the ground.
4: any continued growth on the stems themselves were turning black along with black continuation of the stems spreading further.
5: cut them completely back to old growth
6: white mold is still continuing even with being repotted into new soil and brought inside to less humid environment with same amount of sun (filtered)
7: took all roots and remaining planted "sticks/stems" out and have now placed them into a bucket of water after washing them down to get rid of any remaining soil.

As soon as I can log in I will upload photos of before and now of the progress of decomposition.

Soil is a sand clay mixture along with potting soil and I did put down a weed barrier but made a large enough hole around the base of the plants for the water to have enough room to evaporate during the day to prevent molding or rust (which is an issue my holly hocks are seeing currently) covered by the red mulch, thinner lay around the base. flowers are planted next to a barn to protect them from afternoon sun and wind. they get morning and early afternoon sun (until about noonish)

hillary.a.bayne
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Re: Help! My hydrangeas are doing bad

this is what they looked like 1 month ago.
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hillary.a.bayne
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Re: Help! My hydrangeas are doing bad

this was when they started dying and the stems turned black, mushy and all growth ended up dying including any new growth buds on the stems themselves so i cut it back.
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hillary.a.bayne
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Re: Help! My hydrangeas are doing bad

and this is what im left with now. i wiped the stems down this morning but you can still see some of the mold growth in the cracks and crevices. I also live in NC zone (8A)
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hillary.a.bayne
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Re: Help! My hydrangeas are doing bad

I don't overhead water, i actually stick my hose end into the ground to ensure my roots are actually getting wet.

luis_pr
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Re: Help! My hydrangeas are doing bad

Hello, hillary. Sorry for not replying soon but I had family visiting from the northeast. Do you have a picture that shows symptoms why you said that the hydrangeas "started dying"? I am wondering if they got root rot but I am not sure what symptoms you observed. Except for the mold in Pic 3, I did not observe anything bad (but I was curious why the soil near the hydrangea in Pics 2 and 3 looks grayish?).

Problems with stems can usually be tracked down to fungal or bacterial causes although a few pests like borers can drill thru the stems and kill the stems but rarely the whole plant. Some black spots -called lenticels- may be normal if they occur on all the mature stems but stems that are all black is obviously not good. Some darkening or brownish colors may also be normal but only in the Fall when the plant is getting ready to harden in preparation for winter.

Below is a link that may be useful. Review the information and see if you can match the descriptions against the symptoms that you saw happen.

http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-1212/ANR-1212.pdf

luis_pr
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Re: Help! My hydrangeas are doing bad

Rephrasing.... Above I said "stems that are all black is obviously not good".

I wanted to clarify that some mopheads have naturally dark -even blackish- stems, like Hydrangea Nigra. In ads, the stems are said to be black but purplish-black is probably right. Lady In Red has red stems too.

So I should have stated that stems that are green but turn black a-n-d foliage dies, that is obviously not good.

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