AngelBlackThumb
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Woody Hydrangea

HI there! So I have this lovely hydrangea that has GREAT green leaves - but it blooms the tiniest flowers ever- each of the entire blooms were smaller than my fist.

I know I over trimmed it in the spring, and I am ok with that - it was unruley. And still is - there is alot of Dead, very woody stem inside the plant - 3/4'-1" thick stems. Some of them pull right out of the ground, and some have loads of leaves on them and its hard to tell one from the other.

The total circumference of my plant is probably 3 feet high x 3x4 feet wide....

My question is it has just finished blooming (and I know this is an old wood plant)

What would you do if this were your plant? -helpsos-

Zone 7a

luis_pr
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Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2009 12:31 pm
Location: Hurst, TX USA Zone 7b/8a

Re: Woody Hydrangea

To put things into perspective, can you identify the type of hydrangea that you have (macrophylla, mountain, smooth, paniculata, oakleaf, etc)? where are you located? about how old is the plant? where did you get it from? do you have pictures of the plant and of the blooms?

You can prune dead wood at any time that you want. Pruning of live wood though, requires knowing more about the plant.

I normally wait to prune dead wood until the end of May or thereabouts. I remove dead, dried out looking stems that do not leaf out by then. If there are no leaves showing by the end May, the chances of getting leaf out in June fall considerably... unless you are located in the northwest US or in Canada.

Here is a link with pictures to help identify the type of hydrangea:
https://plantaddicts.com/types-of-hydrangeas

Also, I got the impression from your wording that you were "not happy" with the size of the blooms because they are small. Is that correct or not?

Luis

AngelBlackThumb
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Re: Woody Hydrangea

It's a mophead macrophylla. It was on the property when I bought it so I can't say how old it is - atleast 4 years tho.
I'm in lower Fairfield County, CT (zone 7a)

Yes the blooms were patheticly small - the 4 that I got off of a 4' plant were less than 3.5" in diameter each. And they were .. not very healthy looking.
I know I don't have alot of blooms because I hacked at the plant in May, I'm sure that I wasn't supposed to - but it was pretty scraggly looking and I was willing to sacrifice alot of blooms (this year) for a better shaped and healthier plant over all. But it seems the branches that did bloom should not have been this sickly and small.

Everytime I look at the plant I find more very dead stems in the center of the plant that just pull right from the ground. (with nothing else on them.)

The result of the spring trimming I will say has garnered tons of leaves, and a VERY green plant, but the inside of the plant is crazy woody - would you take this kind of a plant down to the ground?

luis_pr
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Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2009 12:31 pm
Location: Hurst, TX USA Zone 7b/8a

Re: Woody Hydrangea

Can you please post pictures and elaborate more on the comments pasted below:

"It seems the branches that did bloom should not have been this sickly and small." Why do you say that? If you just pruned, why should they not be small?

"Everytime I look at the plant I find more very dead stems in the center of the plant that just pull right from the ground. (with nothing else on them.)" Is there a problem that is causing the stems to be dying?

It may be useful to know what kind of care is the plant getting. This may help understand what is going on and why are stems dying.... I assume that the plant is planted in the ground. Or is it grown in a pot/container? how often do you water and how much water does it get per watering? Do you fertilize? Using what? How often and how much? Do you amend the soil to prevent iron chlorosis? How often and what product do you use? How much sun does the plant get? Meaning from what time to what time (approximately)? Etc.

AngelBlackThumb
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Re: Woody Hydrangea

It is planted, not potted. No fertilizer, no other treatment

I water not liberally, but when needed. We have had a pretty rainy summer, so it has been only a few times that i need to water - Im trying to figure out how to post photos now....

The photos of the flowers had already been cut off - (longer story) - so you can see they are drying already
Last edited by AngelBlackThumb on Fri Aug 17, 2018 9:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.


luis_pr
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Location: Hurst, TX USA Zone 7b/8a

Re: Woody Hydrangea

Comments written as I saw each of the pictures...

If IMG 4618 is what the shrub looks like now, I would not do anything now.

IMG 4620/4621 shows a lot of old stems but, not necessarily dead or dried out. Hydrangea stems start green in Spring and then as Fall approaches, some of them turn dried out looking. The older stems remain looking dried out near the base and turn green near the end/top of the stem in Spring. Right now, due to the Spring pruning, you cannot tell for sure which are dead or dried out unless you very carefully scratch the skin to see if you see "green".

Since it is hard to tell which stems are dried out/dead and which are just plain old/pruned and since doing more pruning could result now in no flowers for 2019, I am going to suggest leaving the stems as they are. Then in May, prune stems that have not leafed out but prune tem all the way down.

IMG 4622/4623 makes me want to cut some of the dead looking stems all the way down but, since they may be alive, I would wait until May. Or if you want to very carefully look for green near the bottom of the stems, decide to prune based on whether you find green or not.

IMG 4624 - I usually suggest leaving the flower for winter interest, specially in places that get a lot of snow. The browned flowers break the monotony of all white after snow has fallen. Mother Nature then makes the blooms fall on their own between January and May. If you also want, you can use the spent blooms as mulch, in a way, recycling the aluminum that turns the blooms blue. The size of the blooms does not appear abnormal. Inflorescences range from 3" to 10". The size depends on the cultivar, age of the plant, vigor, available minerals in the soil and your pruning practices (the flower buds develop at the ends of the stem but if you prune the stem, the plant may develop one or two branches there; if it develops two branches, each one of those ends can develop flowers. Prune a lot and the plant may produce more but smaller blooms).

Should you wish to "start from scratch" and prune all the stems all the way down, you can do that but, I suggest that you prune when the plant is dormant as pruning can trigger growth.

Rejuvenation pruning is a technique in which stems of large/old hydrangeas are cut in thirds. One third of the stems (the longest) are cut in Year 1; the next longest third of stems are cut in Year 2 and any others that are left can be cut in Year 3.

Be advised against pruning on or after August: in some locations, new growth that occurs as a result of pruning in August will not be able to harden before cold weather arrives and the new growth may die. Also, flower buds can develop quite early. Down here, my old wood hydrangeas produce Spring 2019 flower buds by mid July. I suspect that August may be when hydrangeas in your location develop Spring 2019 flower buds.
Last edited by luis_pr on Sat Aug 18, 2018 5:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

AngelBlackThumb
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Re: Woody Hydrangea

Thank you so much for your kind and thorough response. It is much appreciated!

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