Hydrangeas forum→Pale and near white leaves on my Nikko Blue...

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Name: Jason
Gold Bar, Washington (Zone 8b)
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riverman123
May 30, 2015 12:45 PM CST
we have three of these in various places in our yard. the one in question, on the east side of our deck gets full sun first thing in the morning until about 10 am, then dappled sun all day. literally, all day, until about 6 pm. I would think the lighting aspect is pretty well covered. however, im thinking theres a problem with the soil its planted in. the plant is a vigorous grower and its LOADED with flower buds. but patches of leaves are very pale green and some of the innermost leaves are nearly white and dropping off at a fairly quick rate. we fertilized it at the beginning of the growing season with organic "acid loving" fertilizer and its thick and full. its just looks a little ill. I also don't think its a "too much water" issue. we pay really close attention to our watering regimen, especially since the pale leave appeared a few weeks ago. thoughts?
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4b)
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
May 30, 2015 2:19 PM CST
Is it the youngest top leaves on the branches that are white and, if so, are the leaves below that yellowish but the veins still green? If so it is likely iron chlorosis from the pH being too high (do they flower pink?). If it is on leaves most exposed to the sun it could be sun scald but I assume they are not recently planted? A picture close-up and also whole plant would help.
Name: Jason
Gold Bar, Washington (Zone 8b)
Image
riverman123
May 30, 2015 11:31 PM CST
the pale leaves are random it seems. its very difficult in the photo to see any real difference between the pale ones and the "normal" ones. most of the leaves are the deep green that hydrangeas are known for. however, there are quite a few that are not, having a slightly yellow tint to them. seems to be affecting the veins as well. its more or less all over the plant, not just at the top. I don't believe its sun scald, it gets dappled shade all day, and morning sun until 10 am or s. it was planted last year. did great! and no, it doesn't bloom pink.
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Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4b)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
Image
sooby
May 31, 2015 5:56 AM CST
Thanks for the picture. Did the near white leaves fall off? Iron deficiency is common in hydrangeas and can turn leaves almost white which is why I was going along that train of thought from the initial description, but it doesn't look like iron chlorosis and nor is it likely either given that the plant is flowering blue.

Hard to see a pattern but it looks as though the leaves are yellowing starting at their tips, and that it's the older leaves on a stem that are most affected? With nitrogen deficiency the older leaves would be affected first and the veins would not remain green. Looking at the one branch that is sticking up above the rest towards top right, there does seem to more or less be a progression to paler going down the stem which would be consistent with nitrogen deficiency.

There is a conifer next to the hydrangea that might be competing for nutrients and moisture. Is there any possibility the soil is on the dry side there because of the deck (?) and the conifer?
Name: Jason
Gold Bar, Washington (Zone 8b)
Image
riverman123
May 31, 2015 1:17 PM CST
All good points you make and good questions as well. I don't believe its a matter of being too dry. me and my girl are pretty good gardeners and we have a regular watering schedule. now as far as the other shrubs and trees surrounding it are concerned, I suppose they could be competing for nutrients...? although there are plenty of conifers and what not here competing with out five other hydrangeas and they don't appear to be having the same problems this one is having. the white leaves are always on the inside of the plant and they're very difficult to see by just looking at it. they always grow directly off one of the main stems themselves, lower to the ground rather than from an offshoot stem higher up. and yeah, they always fall off before they get any bigger than say, 2 inches across. they're totally white. no green veins left behind or anything.
Name: Jason
Gold Bar, Washington (Zone 8b)
Image
riverman123
May 31, 2015 6:42 PM CST
aside from the small areas of slight blotching, its entirely white. theres dozens of them and eventually they all drop.
Thumb of 2015-06-01/riverman123/e91f7b

Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4b)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
Image
sooby
Jun 2, 2015 2:11 PM CST
It's certainly very white! It doesn't really match a nutrient deficiency - iron chlorosis can turn leaves white but it doesn't seem fit the pattern or the environment of this problem. I really have no idea what's causing it.
Name: Jason
Gold Bar, Washington (Zone 8b)
Image
riverman123
Jun 2, 2015 2:42 PM CST
the white leaves are present on all our big leaf hydrangeas. however, this is the only one displaying the pale green/yellowish leaves also. the rest of the plants are deep green, lush leaves... other than that the plant seems to be fine. flowers are starting to turn blue and open up, stems are strong and upright. im thinking its a soil condition. but im no expert! ha! either something foreign in the soil, or the soil is missing something. several of our clematis plants kinda have the same symptoms, but not nearly as severe.

Maisonblanche
Apr 19, 2021 5:47 PM CST
Hi!! I have the same thing happening in my hydrangea. Lots of lush leaves up top and buds forming but I'm seeing these strange whitish young leaves forming and it worries me. Is there a water issue? Iron deficiency ? Too much fertilizer? Used holly tone pretty liberally in the spring. Buds look healthy. I had an issue last year with the spotty fungus and am getting ready to do a fungicide treatment at the roots. Don't see spots yet but I know they are coming. Trying to water below but my irrigation system I inherited is overhead so I may have expensive changes to make. Thanks for any advice !
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Name: Luis
Hurst, TX, U.S.A. (Zone 8a)
Dog Lover Region: Texas Salvias Roses Hibiscus Plumerias
luis_pr
Apr 19, 2021 8:46 PM CST
Soil pH:

Hydrangeas prefer acidic soil but they also tolerate alkaline soil past 7.0 to a point. But, as the alkalinity increases, the leaves change, except for the leaf veins. For example: the leaf may turn from dark green to light green, from light green to bronze or yellow, from bronze to yellow and finally from yellow to white. While making these leaf color changes, the leaf veins always stay dark green. If conditions do not improve, the white leaf with dark green veins will then die. If the leaf veins are not dark green -they are not in the above three pictures- then soil pH is the cause.

Sunlight:

New leaves that do not get sufficient sunlight will not produce enough or very little green chlorophyll. As time passes and as the leaf gets more sun, the leaf should turn bright green and then dark green. The leaf veins appear white too in this scenario that occurs more often in the Spring when hydrangeas leaf out. So there is no action typically needed on your part other than wait. If things do not improve, the leaves may drop on their own.

The same thing happens with other plants too. Roses are a good example. This time of the year, many roses are producing new foliage and, sometimes, the foliage looks a shade of red when the leaf does not produce enough green chlorophyll. With the passage of time, the leaves change to green. Roses are actually more sensitive than hydrangeas to this lack of sunlight and may develop new leaves with the red coloring in mid summer if the days are cloudy enough.

Hydrangeas that break dormancy early and that are being winter protected with leaves/mulch/blankets may also show white-ish leaves when the leaves unfurl while still winter protected.

Nutrient problems in the soil:

Some nutrient deficiencies can result of leaves turning white but this is rare. I would expect that if this were to be the case, multiple plant types in the same planting location might be affected in the same way or in similar ways. I would expect sandy soil to produce this issue more than regular garden soils. A formal soil test would be needed to confirm these deficiencies as the issue tends to occur with micronutrients. Those simple test kits sold at plant nurseries may not detect a problem if they only check nitrogen levels or the three macro-nutrients only (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium).

Bottom Line:

Looks like a sunlight issue. I would not worry about those new leaves in the above three pictures. Note that leaves that are deeply inside the bush may tend to do this as they leaves above the white leaves cast shade and do not let much sunlight underneath. If the leaves above do not let much sun inside, you can consider cutting off the leaves or removing some branches/stems. To remove leaves on a hydrangea that blooms on old wood and whose stem/branch may now have Spring 2021 flower buds, I would recommend cutting the petiole string of these leaves (the string that connects the leaf to the stem/branch) so as not to accidentally cut off any Spring 2021 flower buds.

Watering:

Try setting the sprinkler to water near sunrise so infected foliage does not stay wet for long periods of time.

Fungus:

Cercospora leaf spot becomes more visible after the Summer Solstice. Apply the fungicide per label instructions to the leaves. Use clean sanitation practices too.
[Last edited by luis_pr - Apr 19, 2021 9:07 PM (+)]
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