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JennyC
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Should I do anything for preexisting hydrangeas?

The house I'm living in came with a big hydrangea by the porch and a smaller one on the side of the house. No idea what variety they are, though with the age of this place it's likely they're an old one. I pruned the big one late last fall (discovered later this is not the time to prune hydrangeas) and it's coming back, but low on the branches, with a good food and a half of dead-looking wood above the leaves. No sign of blooms yet, but this is also true of the bush I didn't touch on the other side of the house.

Should I do anything for these plants, or, given my track record, should I just leave 'em alone?

zone6
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Pre-existing hydrangea

I would just leave them alone this year and see what happens. They can take a while in the spring to leaf out, and until then they can look like a bunch of dead sticks. Don't prune until you see what's still alive.

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JennyC
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Thanks, zone6. They're actually looking much better now, with thick new foliage growing from root level almost to the height of the "dead wood" from last year and some blooms starting to form.

The dead wood is not producing any leaves, though. Should I cut it back?
Jenny C

opabinia51
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Sprinkle some kelp meal around the base of the plant to fertilize it. Don't use synthetic fertilizers as there is a possibility of burning the plant and you will kill any beneficial soil organisms in the soil.

If you don't get any growth on the deadwood, prune it back.
Feed the soil, not the plants.

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JennyC
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Thanks, Opabinia. Here's a picture showing the deadwood sticking up above the new growth (itself over four feet high):

[img]https://i287.photobucket.com/albums/ll138/crispwriting/PICT0164.jpg[/img]

Should I prune that deadwood back? And do you think kelp meal would hurt my dogs? They insist on climbing into the hydrangea and sleeping there, regardless of what I do (they're large -- a black and tan and an Aussie, if it matters). The black and tan is a puppy still, so he tastes everything.
Jenny C

cynthia_h
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Kelp meal is just dried seaweed. Kelp is a very LARGE form of seaweed. (Monterey Bay, off the California coast, contains a kelp forest, providing habitat for sea otters and other sea life.)

Unless there's been something weird added to it, dried kelp won't hurt dogs. In fact, some breeders of my dogs' breed recommend small amounts of kelp powder as a mineral supplement for their dogs.

One precept I've adopted re. "fertilizing" plants, even with kelp and such, I got from the orchid world:

"Water weakly, weekly."

So whenever I mix up a solution, I just make it half strength. That way, if I'm able to give it to the plants two weekends in a row, there's no problem. If the plants go dry in between, I won't burn them b/c I didn't water them ahead of time.

So far, so good, and I've been doing this "weakly, weekly" thing for maybe 15 years. Roses, orchids, fairly indestructible stuff like that. Vegetables a few seasons.

Cynthia H.
USDA Zone 9, Sunset Zone 17

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JennyC
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You know, as my hydrangeas wilted in the 100+ degree heat this afternoon, it occured to me that I can't apply your remedies -- I can't even water the poor things. We're better than last year, but still Level 4 drought here -- total outside watering ban. We can water home food gardens -- they're a special exception -- but that's all. We can use rainwater and greywater (I carried leftover bath water to the hydrangeas in a bucket and they perked back up). But no fancy mixes on my hydrangeas this year... :cry:

Let it rain, let it rain, etc...
Jenny C

cynthia_h
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I was just looking back through the Hydrangeas forum and saw this thread again.

When you do have greywater for the hydrangeas, estimate its volume and add enough liquid kelp or kelp powder to make a one-third to one-half-strength solution. This will give them more minerals and help "buck up their spirits" while making the *very most* of your scarce water. Does your washing machine exhaust into a laundry sink? The final rinse water would be terrific for watering plants.

I hope your hydrangeas are doing OK. I deadheaded and cut out deadwood on two of 'em yesterday at my MIL's house and let my BIL know that there's a way to manipulate the bloom color. He thought that was "cool," so now I have to deliver.

They started off blue and are now white, both from lack of water and minerals, so I could get them to go either way. Since pink is so highly represented in the floral world, I'm gonna go for blue.

But only at half-strength. :wink:

Cynthia H.
USDA Zone 9, Sunset Zone 17

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JennyC
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We've had more rain, and the hydrangeas seem to be doing fine now. Mine are blue on both sides of the house.

I could water if I wanted on certain alternate days, so that's a good thing. Think I'll still use the greywater. We've improvised a rain barrel in the form of a kiddie pool for the dogs to play in; I dip from that at need (and we dump it out on a tree when the water gets too nasty).
Jenny C

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