Hydrangeas forum→hydrangea dying, help! NorthEast

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May 16, 2020 12:27 PM CST
Hi, planted these two shrubs about 3 weeks ago, they were doing ok, but now 1 looks like it died and another one is wilting. Its a mixed shade area. It was raining for the past 2 weeks - I didnt water them. I have clayish soil, and NY?NJ area, its not hot yet. Do I replant in a better spot, help?

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[Last edited by mhiterer - May 16, 2020 12:34 PM (+)]
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Name: Luis
Hurst, TX, U.S.A. (Zone 8a)
Dog Lover Region: Texas Salvias Roses Hibiscus Plumerias
May 16, 2020 2:50 PM CST
Where in NJ are you located?

May 16, 2020 3:18 PM CST
Bergen county
Name: Luis
Hurst, TX, U.S.A. (Zone 8a)
Dog Lover Region: Texas Salvias Roses Hibiscus Plumerias
May 16, 2020 7:24 PM CST
Well, in the pictures, the soil looks quite dry. It may explain why the plants look wilted. I would make sure that when you water, the soil feels moist to a depth of 8". This normally requires about 1 gallon of water but it varies so you need to experiment by watering, waiting a while and then inserting a finger to a depth of 8" or so.

If a plant is having an extremely bad wilting episode, you can extract the plant from its hole, dunk it a pail full of water until it ceases throwing air bubbles. Then put it back in the hole and mulch it (2-4" up to the drip line or beyond). Or you can also immediately give it 1 gallon of water. But note: a hydrangea will perk up on its own if the soil is moist enough. So if you are not sure whether to water it or not when wilted, use the finger method and water is the soil is dry or almost dry. It should recover by morning. If you observe that it has not recovered in the morning then give it 1 gallon of water. I would give the plant in Picture 1 the dunkitinwater treatment.

The pictures also show a lot of small rocks. I would keep these rocks away from the hydrangeas. Hydrangea roots are very tiny and fibrous, usually located at the top 4" of the soil. Having rocks as mulch causes heat stress to the plants because the roots should cool off at night and that is when rocks begin to release absorbed heat. The rocks may also reflect sunlight from them towards the plants around them.

I also checked your recent weather in North Bergen, NJ and it looks like you had late frosts/freezes recently and that can zap leaves. The zapped leaves may turn completely dark green sometimes, maybe black-ish. Other times, parts of the leaves are zapped and they turn reddish, orangeish or purpleish. Partly zapped leaves may brown out in sections. Or the whole thing may brown out (whatever the plant chooses to do). New foliage takes 2-4 weeks to appear but that takes us into late June and with temps increasing, the plant may decide not to produce more foliage because it is starting to get warmer than 85F, its approximate heat stress point.

When to water: insert a finger into the soil to a depth of 4" and water if the soil feels dry or almost dry.

How much to water: See the first paragraph. Once the plants leaf out in Spring, you can start watering about 1 gallon per watering, more or less. When temperatures are typically above 85F, they feel heat stress and leaves wilt often or brown out from the edges inwards. So ratchet up the amount of water; try watering 1.5 gallons per watering. If temperatures are temporarily above 95F or regularly above 95F then water about 2 gallons.

Water the soil and never the leaves. This will reduce the chances of leaf fungal infections.

Remember the pot in which the hydrangea came? That is the area of soil that needs to be watered. Roots will not go beyond that until next year. Water from the crown (where all the stems originate from) outwards in all directions. Once temperatures moderate in the Fall, reverse this process. If temperatures are regularly below 95F in most days then reduce the amount of water one notch. Once temperatures are regularly below 85F most days then reduce the amount of water another notch. Once the plant goes dormant and the leaves brown out, water once a week or once every two weeks depending on local rains. If the soil freezes stop watering. Once you see leaf out in Spring then resume watering at Spring levels.

How to set a sprinkler or drip irrigation: for 2-3 weeks, use the finger method daily at around 6-8am to see how the soil feels. If it feels dry or almost dry, water and make a note on a wall or electronic calendar (for example, saying you watered 1.5 gallons of water on that day). After 2-3 weeks, review the notes in the calendar. Average out how often you were having to water (every how many days?). If you had to water every 3 days then set the sprinkler to water 1.5 gallons of water every three days. If temperatures change up/down by 10-15 degrees, you can use the finger method for another 2-3 weeks to see if you need to tweak things. If you use drip irrigation, you need to make sure that the drip holes provide water to the root ball and that they circle the plant so roots that are growing in all directions will some get water. I hide the drip tubings under the mulch as I want the water to moisten the soil and not the mulch. Tweak as needed for your conditions which may require even much, much more water than those numbers.

Mulch: maintain 2-4" of mulch at all times. It helps conserve soil moisture and protect the roots from heat and cold extremes. It can also be used as fertilizer once the plants become established in the garden in 1-3 years.

Sunlight: these macrophylla hydrangeas require morning only sun (afternoon and evening shade), dappled sun or full but bright shade.

Soil pH: some rocks help make the soil alkaline. Cemented surfaces also do this. It may be necessary to monitor the acidity/alkalinity if you observe signs of chlorosis on the leaves: the leaves turn light green or yellow but the veins remain dark green. I could not tell if this is an issue from the leaves in the pictures.
[Last edited by luis_pr - Jul 10, 2020 2:39 PM (+)]
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May 17, 2020 9:38 AM CST
thank you, I didnt dig it out, but watered twice and a lot, it seems to help! another thing, today is sunny and at 11am, there is no direct sun on those 2, do I need to replant them?
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[Last edited by mhiterer - May 17, 2020 9:41 AM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #2241824 (5)
Name: Luis
Hurst, TX, U.S.A. (Zone 8a)
Dog Lover Region: Texas Salvias Roses Hibiscus Plumerias
May 17, 2020 10:57 AM CST
No, I would not move them unless they start to get sun in the afternoon hours or in the evening hours during the summer months. Unfortunately, then it becomes a debate as to whether move them in the middle of the hottest months or not. That is when they are most sensitive to heat stress so on the one hand, you feel like not bothering them with a transplant but then you see how they react and you want to move them. Decisions, decisions....

Add 2-4" of mulch as soon as you can (but remove the rocks before adding the mulch).
[Last edited by luis_pr - May 17, 2020 12:03 PM (+)]
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May 17, 2020 1:12 PM CST
Yes, I should have mentioned that today at 11am they were still in part shade and now at 3pm they are in full sun. Not sure how this will change in the middle of summer.
However, the other ones that I've had for years are thriving in full sun for the most part of the day. Could it be something with soil. I have crappy soil and its full of clay, but when I was planting these 2 new ones, I added new soil to the hole.
Name: Luis
Hurst, TX, U.S.A. (Zone 8a)
Dog Lover Region: Texas Salvias Roses Hibiscus Plumerias
May 17, 2020 7:10 PM CST
Ah, that is a surprise that I hit on by accident after growing them where the original homeowner had planted them. In the summer, they get hit with daily 100F temps from July through September and get morning and evening sun. From around 6:30pm to 8:30pm. I did not notice that late sun either! Welcome to the club! Hee, hee, hee! ;o)

Are the ones you call "the others" also macrophyllas or other types of hydrangeas. But do not compare these guys as they only have a few weeks in that location. It takes them 1-3 years to become established. Remember that their root system was cut to fit into the plastic pots in which they were sold so now they need time to develop a brand new root system. They will pout during the hot and dry months until the roots can absorb water at the same rate as the leaves loose moisture. Keep an eye on windy days and when temps are above 85F. If they are too fussy in year one, I have covered some during the summer with outside chairs and other contraptions that I built with twigs. I have also transplanted them when I decided the spot was just too hot for them.
[Last edited by luis_pr - May 17, 2020 7:11 PM (+)]
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May 18, 2020 7:20 AM CST
same type of hydrangeas.
I read about adding soda, can you comment on that?
Name: Luis
Hurst, TX, U.S.A. (Zone 8a)
Dog Lover Region: Texas Salvias Roses Hibiscus Plumerias
May 18, 2020 12:43 PM CST
I have read of using baking soda to help with some leaf fungal problems or deal with slugs. The other claims and uses should be taken lightly. Perhaps trust them more if reported by a reputable university for example. Gardening magazines may pass useful tidbits too but they do not make a true scientific study to prove something works like universities do so, they are basically passing along info that they read or heard of somewhere.

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