Ask a Question forum→Hello! New member seeking advice for planting limelight hydrangeas in wet clay

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Ohio
Josieocal016
May 15, 2020 9:24 AM CST
Hi all,

Would appreciate any guidance as my research is leading me in conflicting directions and I'm a gardening newbie.

I have some limelight hydrangeas to plant but do not know the best approach- I'm in the Midwest and the area native soil is heavy on the clay side. Ground is otherwise flat, but I've dug two holes that filled with rainfall and the water has been standing now close to 8 hours so I have drainage concerns.

I'm reading conflicting info on the best way to create sufficient drainage- should I use a mix to amend? (and if so...compost/sandy dirt vs. mostly using the native soil? Adding something else? Break up the clay?) I have concerns about the bathtub effect and want to give the plants the best chance to thrive.

Thank you!
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
May 15, 2020 3:41 PM CST
Welcome!

You can't amend a big enough hole to keep it from becoming a bathtub. How about some huge decorative pots? Or raised beds tall enough to keep the roots out of the clay?
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org
central ohio (Zone 5b)
PlantingOaks
May 15, 2020 4:29 PM CST
hey, I have that soil.
first point: it is the wettest now it will ever be (see: unwanted seasonal pond in my backyard), so while yes, the drainage is bad, it's not *quite* as bad as you think.

so, ideally, you would get something like equal parts compost, sand, and local clay, mix them together into a giant berm ON TOP of the clay, and plant the plant in that.

worst-case scenario, there's a decent chance the plant will do ok if you just chuck it in an unamended hole.

realistically, plant the plant slightly above the grade, mound the local soil around it, and mix in a little compost while you do.

remember, compost eventually decays and goes away - if you make the hill entirely out of compost, you will gradually end up with a sad plant with exposed roots sticking up out of its hole.

How much compost you add largely depends on how terrible your local clay is. There is pale yellow new-subdivision subsoil, undisturbed forest floor, and everything in between. If your soil is pretty nice apart from the texture, sand might be a better long-term choice than compost. compost is always awesome, but you have to keep adding it.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
Image
DaisyI
May 15, 2020 5:21 PM CST
PlantingOaks, Did you miss this part?

Josieocal016 said:Hi all,
I've dug two holes that filled with rainfall and the water has been standing now close to 8 hours so I have drainage concerns.


Here is a quote from a seller of Limelight Hydrangea (plantaddicts.com):

"No matter what USDA growing zone you live in, this shrub requires well-drained soil. The plant does like moisture, but cannot tolerate soggy conditions or "wet feet". Planting in well-drained soil is more important than the type of soil. This shrub is widely adaptable to most soil types, as long as it does not get root rot. The soil pH does not affect the flower color. Like most hydrangeas, we recommend applying a layer of mulch to help retain moisture in the soil, and protect the roots during freezing winter conditions".

By the time the "unwanted seasonal pond" had dried, the Hydrangea would have root rot. I wouldn't risk it if it was my plant.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org
Ohio
Josieocal016
May 18, 2020 11:33 AM CST
Thank you everyone for your advice and info!

I decided after watching the area few more days that while this is the wettest time of year and doesn't indicate what the ground will be like year-round, I didn't want to risk planting anything there. I picked a slightly higher spot further away and will try to raise the bed a little, and will try to use the native clay soil with some compost mixed in. I also picked a raised bed for the other hydrangea that has enough drainage.

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