Hydrangeas forum→New Little Limelight tree dying

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Portland, OR (Zone 8b)
amidy
May 31, 2020 8:49 PM CST
Hi, I just received this tree last week. It was shipped to me in a box and arrived looking pretty good. I needed to buy a pot for it so it sat for a day in its plastic bag and dirt on the patio. It was a hot day and by the end of the day the leaves were droopy. I planted it in the pot that it's shown in and I used potting soil. I watered it really well. Again it was a hot day, 80 degrees. The temp has dropped and I am keeping it out of direct sun. But the leaves are not perking up. They're crispy and sad. Help!
Thumb of 2020-06-01/amidy/6c86d4
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Name: Luis
Hurst, TX, U.S.A. (Zone 8a)
Dog Lover Region: Texas Salvias Roses Hibiscus Plumerias
luis_pr
May 31, 2020 10:56 PM CST
If the leaves are wilting, the plant is losing moisture faster through the leaves than it can absorb water through the roots. This differential causes the wilting.

Hydrangeas normally recover on their own and appear perky in the morning. But that requires that the soil be kept as evenly moist as you can with no periods of dry soil. The roots are very tiny fibrous roots that occur in the top 4", an area that can dry up easily if it is warm or windy.

In a case like this, I would extract the plant very carefully so as not to disturb the roots too much and dunk it in a pile full of water. After several hours, when it stops throwing air bubbles, put it back on the pot.

Paniculatas like this one can stand in full sun but due to the shipping method, I would transition the plant more slowly. For example, let it be in a place where it gets full, but bright shade only all day and night. After a few days of this, then let it get a few hours (1-2) of very early morning sun only. Very slowly increase the number hours. You can wait at each stage for as many days as needed if there is a problem. You can start by keeping in bright shade for a week. Then two/three days getting 2 hours of sun very early only. And so forth.
Portland, OR (Zone 8b)
amidy
Jun 1, 2020 11:39 AM CST
Thank you Luis! I pulled the tree out and placed it in a bucket of water. For future, how will I know the difference between a lack of water and root rot? I live in Oregon where most of the year it rains a lot, so I'm thinking it's going to take me some time to figure out this watering situation. Hopefully the rain will lessen since we're coming into the summer, but we're expecting rains all next week...

Thank you again for your help!
Name: Luis
Hurst, TX, U.S.A. (Zone 8a)
Dog Lover Region: Texas Salvias Roses Hibiscus Plumerias
luis_pr
Jun 1, 2020 2:46 PM CST
A lot of rain is ok as long as the soil drains well. Even with my clay soil and an El Nino Event years ago, it took my Alice Hydrangea 3-4 months to catch root rot and oakleaf hydrangeas get it more "easily".

Root rot symptoms resemble those of lack of water -wilting, for example- but they remain always wilted. A plant in dry soil would be wilted until you gave it water. Then it would perk up. With root rot, it would not perk up as the roots are unable to absorb and send water to the leaves.
[Last edited by luis_pr - Jun 1, 2020 2:58 PM (+)]
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Portland, OR (Zone 8b)
amidy
Jun 2, 2020 9:56 AM CST
Thank you! I did what you said yesterday and then this morning I gave it a gallon of water. I'm keeping it from direct sun. There's not a perky leaf among them. I guess I need to give her some time to recover...
I bought my house a year ago and was gifted with a front yard full of beautiful established hydrangea plants. They pretty much take of themselves as long as I give them water and the lawn guy trims them at the end of the season. I'm hoping I don't have a black thumb.
Name: Luis
Hurst, TX, U.S.A. (Zone 8a)
Dog Lover Region: Texas Salvias Roses Hibiscus Plumerias
luis_pr
Jun 2, 2020 10:27 AM CST
The leaves on the picture look papery, which is a stage in which they can get before browning. Hopefully, the plant will react to the water and produce new foliage in 2-4 weeks. The root ball starts to repel water when it dries out too much so dunking in water for a very long time helps. You can also put a soaker hose in drip mode above the root ball but this is easier. Although not practical for a plant that has been planted in the ground.

Until it leafs out, maintain the soil as evenly moist as you can so the soil does not dry out then you water it, then it dries out again and so forth. Keeping it in morning sun or dappled sun will help it as long as it is not windy. You can also put it in bright but full shade all day (like underneath a tree). Hopefully, we caught it before it was too late.

To tell if the soil needs water, insert a finger into the soil to a depth of 2-4" (potted plants) or 4" (planted in the ground) and water if the soil feels dry or almost dry. You can probably do this daily, early in the mornings, at the same time for 2-3 weeks. After a while, you get an idea of how often to water. Maybe write notes in a wall calendar every time that you watered. Then after 2-3 weeks, review the notes and calculate on average, how often you were watering. Such as, every 3 days; every 4 days; etc.

Water only the soil, never the leaves from the base of the plant outwards in all directions. If planted in the ground, you would like a single watering to reach all the way down 8" and make the soil feel moist at that depth. In Spring, you can start with 1 gallon of water and tweak that amount if it is not enough. As temps regularly climb above 85F, hydrangeas become heat stressed and we have to increase the amt of water per watering (try 1.5 gallons). As temps regularly climb above 95F, increase the amt of water per watering again (try 2 gallons). Then reverse the process when temps go down. Tweak as needed for your conditions which may require even much, much more water than those numbers.
[Last edited by luis_pr - Jul 10, 2020 2:31 PM (+)]
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Portland, OR (Zone 8b)
amidy
Jun 2, 2020 12:53 PM CST
Here are a couple of pictures from today. I am watering directly to the dirt only. I will watch it carefully this week while it's sunny to make sure it doesn't dry out at all. The rain comes on Saturday. Again, thank you so much for your help! Last night I dreamt of dead hydrangea all night. 🤦🏻‍♀️



Thumb of 2020-06-02/amidy/0f5f01
Thumb of 2020-06-02/amidy/1c65be

[Last edited by amidy - Jun 2, 2020 12:54 PM (+)]
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Name: Luis
Hurst, TX, U.S.A. (Zone 8a)
Dog Lover Region: Texas Salvias Roses Hibiscus Plumerias
luis_pr
Jun 2, 2020 1:31 PM CST
Some of those leaves will definitely fall. Others, I am not sure. Let the plant decide. Then let it decide when to produce new foliage. Normally, it takes 2-4 weeks. Hot temps can delay that. I had one mophead that lost all leaves one summer after an accident. It leafed out in Spring of the next year from the base.

I am hoping the tree will not leaf out from the base because, if the tree dies out and the roots replace the tree with new stems from the base then the tree form is lost. You can let the stems grow and they will become a Limelight in bush form instead. After they have grown a bit, the stems that you have at the time can be pruned to leave one leader that will become the new tree. Or just grow it as a bush (easier).

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