The Q&A Archives: Light/water Requirements For Red Hydrangeas

Question: A couple of months ago I purchased some hydrangeas from a local nursery -- 3 of them were yours, and 2 of them were red -- "Red & Pretty", I think. Because of our very hot summers, I planted them in a flower bed that stays in the shade except for a little morning sun, and where the soil stays moist. I have several other hydrangeas planted in the same conditions, and they are all doing well -- I have always found hydrangeas easy to grow. For some reason, over the last couple of weeks the two red ones have begun to "ail." One in particular has really wilted (like it needs water) even though the soil is very moist. A couple of days ago I transplanted it to a pot, thinking maybe it needed drier soil - ?? However, it still has not perked up. Now, the second red hydrangea is beginning to wilt slightly. It perks up over night, but then is wilted by the end of the day.

What's puzzling is that I've got 7 other hydrangeas (pink and blue) planted in identical conditions, and they are all thriving. Is there something different about the red ones that causes them to have different needs? I called the nursery where I bought the plants, and they were not helpful. They just said they didn't know what could be wrong.

I'm hoping you can shed some light on this problem. I really don't want to lose my hydangeas. Please help!!!

Answer: It sounds as though you're doing everything right for your new hydrangeas - rich, moist soil, protection from hot afternoon sunshine, regular water - so the only insight I can offer is 1) newly transplanted shrubs can take several months to become established; until the roots are firmly established, the plants can be stressed by the slightest things that wouldn't bother established plants, and 2) hydrangeas tend to wilt when the weather gets hot - they don't need water, they just need cooler temperatures and that's why they revive overnight and then wilt again the next afternoon. This is a natural process - the plants are trying to cope with hot weather by conserving moisture in the roots and stems rather than sending it to the foliage. Because your plants are new to your garden, they haven't yet developed extensive root systems. Once they have been in place for a season, they should be able to cope with your summer weather. If your other hydrangeas are behaving normally and the reds are not, they're just not mature enough to cope with the environmental conditions in your garden. There is hope for them, though. This summer water them just as often as you water your other hydrangeas - no more, no less. Don't let the afternoon wilting convince you to water more often because you may be over-watering and that would lead to root rot. If the plants perk up by morning, then they're getting enough water. Best wishes with your landscape!

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