The Q&A Archives: young hydrangeas

Question: I'm a new gardener who planted three small hydrangeas less than one week ago. I have been watering them once a day for about 30-45 minutes with a soaker hose. I just noticed that the stems on all three plants are speckled with reddish, brown spots. Is there something wrong with them? I don't remember if they were there when I bought them. I'm also wondering, since they are very young and only stand about 6 to 8

Answer: Hydrangeas need soil that is evenly moist yet well drained. This means it should be slightly damp like a wrung out sponge, not sopping wet/saturated and not dried out. Based on your description I think you may be severely overwatering your hydrangeas. This can lead to root problems and foliage disease issues. It can also encourage slugs and snails.

There is no set schedule for watering, it depends on the soil and the weather. To know if you need to water, pull aside the mulch and dig into the soil with your finger. If it is still moist, do not water yet. When you do need to water, apply the water slowly and thoroughly so it soaks down deep. After watering, wait a few hours and then dig down to see how far the water went; sometimes this can be surprising.

Mulching around the plants is also a good idea. Use an organic mulch about three inches thick year round. Do not allow it to touch the stems. The mulch will help reduce watering needs, moderate soil temperature and keep down weeds as well as help feed the soil slowly over time as it breaks down.

The tattered leaves may possibly be due to slugs or snails. Check for these near your plants in the evening (they are nocturnal), on the leaves, and also look for shiny trails. If you find them, you can hand pick or you can use a bait containing iron phosphate per the label directions. (Avoid metaldehyde baits.)

Your hydrangeas bloom only on old wood that grew the previous year. If there is some old wood at the base of the plant then they may bloom this summer. If not, you will ahve to wait until next year to see flowers.

Good luck with your hydrangeas!

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