Hydrangeas forum: Help me save my hydrangea (black stems, brown spots on stems)

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Vanessa889
Jun 19, 2016 2:57 AM CST
Hello,


I got this hydrangea last week as a present and I've watered it, but it is showing signs of distress. I don't know anything about how to care about plants, so I'm not sure what is wrong with it.

Can you look at the pictures and tell me if there's anything I can do to save it? My guess is that maybe I've watered too much and the roots are starting to rot?? :(


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Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
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sooby
Jun 19, 2016 4:03 AM CST
Welcome! Vanessa. The black spots on the stems could be normal, it's hard to say without a sharper close-up. It looks as though the plant may be indoors? What I wonder most is what potting mix it is growing in, it looks an unusual colour, possibly rather dense, and the potting mix comes almost to the top of the pot. Do you know if it came from a garden centre or other retailer, or did someone dig it up and repot it? It doesn't look to me as though it was done "professionally" because the pot is so full. I'm guessing the flowers were either blue or pink? Depending how often you watered it and where it is located it could be over-watered but not all the plant is wilting which makes me wonder if it's not that. If you can tell us a bit more about its history it should help.

Vanessa889
Jun 19, 2016 4:12 AM CST
Thank you for your reply! I'm super worried and I hope it's not dying! Indeed, it had pinkish flowers.

I received it as a gift 10 days ago. It's sitting in the pot it came in from the store. I got it last Friday and I left it at work because I had received other flowers too and I couldnt carry them all at once. It sat for two days close to the window, nobody watered it during those two days. When I came back on Monday morning I saw that it looked a bit tired so I watered it. Then I took it home and watered it a bit more some days later. But the plant is getting worse. Many leaves have fallen off and I'm most worried about the brown stems close to the root. I really hope it's not a fungal infection or rotting caused by me overwatering.

I must look really dumb, and I apologize, I just don't know anything about how to care for plants.
Name: woofie
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woofie
Jun 19, 2016 7:46 AM CST
Does that pot have any drainage holes?
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
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sooby
Jun 19, 2016 7:57 AM CST
No, you don't look dumb at all. It can take a lot of questions to figure out a plant problem and even the most experienced gardeners still have casualties Hilarious!

The planting medium is so high in the pot that it would be difficult to give it enough water each time, and the mix has pulled away from the sides which actually suggests not enough water rather than too much. But we need to establish which it is so as not to make the situation worse. Woofie asked a good question. Another one would be does the pot feel light or heavy when you lift it?

Vanessa889
Jun 19, 2016 7:58 AM CST
The pot has drainage holes! Though when I watered the plant, the wrapping was still on. But I saw the water leaking out, so hopefully it should have drained properly :(

Is it dying? Can I save it?

The plant is the way it was purchased from the retailer. That's the original plastic pot and the earth it came with.
[Last edited by Vanessa889 - Jun 19, 2016 8:00 AM (+)]
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Vanessa889
Jun 19, 2016 8:04 AM CST
sooby said:No, you don't look dumb at all. It can take a lot of questions to figure out a plant problem and even the most experienced gardeners still have casualties Hilarious!

The planting medium is so high in the pot that it would be difficult to give it enough water each time, and the mix has pulled away from the sides which actually suggests not enough water rather than too much. But we need to establish which it is so as not to make the situation worse. Woofie asked a good question. Another one would be does the pot feel light or heavy when you lift it?


Thank you for the support!

I'm probably bad at judging if it's light or heavy. I'd guess on the heavy side.
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
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sooby
Jun 19, 2016 8:08 AM CST
To save it we need to figure out what the problem is. At this point it doesn't look like it is dying. It may have dried out too much in the two days by a window without watering especially if it was already dry from its original location. Some potting mixes become very hard to re-wet if they get too dry and you would need to soak it in a tub of water. Otherwise any water you give it may run straight through and out without getting to the roots. But first we need to make sure the problem isn't from too much water, hence the question about the weight of the pot.
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
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sooby
Jun 19, 2016 8:10 AM CST
OK if you're not sure about the weight, stick your finger into the mix, does it feel wet or dry? Or tip the plant out of the pot and take a look at the rootball.

Vanessa889
Jun 19, 2016 8:21 AM CST
Okay! I've given it a checkup. I've moved my finger around the earth in the pot and felt around. It didn't feel wet, but the soil feels very dense. I've poked it around to "fluff" it a bit. It felt cold and slightly musty if that makes any sense, but I wouldn't say it's wet.

Yet the earth was a bit green on the surface. Don't know if thats' fungus or just normal.
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
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sooby
Jun 19, 2016 8:34 AM CST
The green is probably algae and not unusual. I was thinking that the potting mix looks a bit orangey. It does look dense. I would be inclined to get some fresh potting mix and repot it. Or can you plant it outdoors? if you're in a cold winter area that type of hydrangea likely won't survive outdoors though.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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dyzzypyxxy
Jun 19, 2016 8:35 AM CST
Vanessa, I think you need to gently slide the plant out of the pot and have a good look at the root ball. The green on the soil surface might be algae which is quite normal on a plant that likes to be in the shade. Don't worry about that. The flowers look like they have wilted, not dried up as if they are finished blooming. I think the plant (soil) is too dry.

But when you pull the plant out, (lay it sideways on a sheet of newspaper or something to keep the soil from going everywhere) if the soil stays in a solid block, and is mostly dry, you need to loosen it up a bit by sort of crushing the block of soil on all sides (gently so as not to break roots) then replace it back in the pot with any loosened soil, and soak it thoroughly for an hour or two, to re-moisten all the soil. Put it in the sink, or in a large bowl or bucket. Room temperature water is best.

Then put it in a saucer or on an old pie plate so you can see it drain. (well you might need to let it drain in the sink for a few minutes or the saucer could overflow.) The water should never go straight through and come out the bottom right away. It should take a few minutes and a fair amount of water to wet all the soil completely, and have some then drain out.

If you are living somewhere that has hot weather right now, and your a/c is running the air is pretty dry too. Hydrangeas really like some humidity so if you have a shady place outside, it might be happier there, too. (edited to add) Just checked your pictures again, and if that plant is getting direct sunlight through that window, you need to move it away so that it's out of the direct sun. Hydrangeas like shade. Near the window but out of the direct line of the sun would be fine.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
[Last edited by dyzzypyxxy - Jun 19, 2016 8:38 AM (+)]
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Vanessa889
Jun 20, 2016 1:16 AM CST
Planting it outside is not an option for me, because I live in a flat.

dyzzypyxxy, I will do what you described!

It came out of the pot very easily. The soil feels like a solid block. I'm going to try to gently pull it away, but I have to ask you first. How much of that stuff is the plant's roots? How large is the rootball really? I'm not sure how much I should remove before I soak the plant in water.

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Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
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sooby
Jun 20, 2016 2:27 AM CST
Since I'm up earlier than Elaine, my two cents worth is since it looks so dry, soak the whole rootball in water. I wouldn't bother doing anything else at this stage. It will need repotting once it has recovered.

Vanessa889
Jun 20, 2016 2:43 AM CST
Like this? How long should I leave it? One hour, two?


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Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
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sooby
Jun 20, 2016 6:33 AM CST
Yes, like that. A couple of hours should be enough but it won't hurt to leave it another hour or two. When the rootball is hydrated put it back in the pot and then hold it to gauge how the weight feels, then you will know next time if it feels much lighter. You don't need to keep it as heavy all the time as it is when it comes out of the water but it gives you an idea of what is light and what is heavy.

Vanessa889
Jun 20, 2016 7:01 AM CST
Yes, now it feels very heavy when I lift the pot. Very interesting!!

Now I just need to wait for the plant to recover, right? How many days will it take to see signs of improvement?
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
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sooby
Jun 20, 2016 7:24 AM CST
Yes, it should be looking better by tomorrow but any parts that had gone at all crispy dry will not return to normal.

Vanessa889
Jun 20, 2016 7:39 AM CST
:( Will the stem still be brown near the root? I guess it will grow out or something? Anything more I can do to help my cute plant?

Now I understood what happened, when I took it out of the pot. The soil was dry and dense like a block. I thought I was watering it, but I assume the roots didn't get any water because it would just flow right through. Poor thirsty thing :(
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Jun 20, 2016 8:30 AM CST
Well done, Vanessa I think you've saved it. If you have time today, get a new, bigger pot and some fresh potting mix. That plant is what we call "root bound" which means it had filled its old pot with roots and had nowhere to go. Yes, anything that has turned brown probably won't recover, but that doesn't matter. Once you get this plant re-potted it will be beautiful again, and grow too!

The new pot should be an inch or two bigger than the one it was in, and maybe a little deeper. Don't go too big. Be sure the new pot has drainage holes.

Once the plant is soaked nicely (the flower heads might even perk up!) and you're ready to re-pot you will want to tease the mass of roots out a little bit. You want to help it to grow new roots out into the new soil. A kitchen fork or a pair of chop sticks works great for this. Wet the new potting soil before you put it in the pot - it's sometimes hard to get it well wetted in the pot. Again, a bowl or bucket works well for this. I usually put a piece of newspaper or paper towel in the bottom of the pot before starting to fill with soil. This keeps the new soil from washing straight out the drain holes. The paper will disintegrate pretty quickly and by then the soil will be nicely firmed in place. You don't want to pack the soil too firmly in the new pot but it will compact itself once the plant is in place.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill

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