Ask a Question forum: How do I prepare the following for winter?

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zone 5 - northern Illinois
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ninabee
Sep 24, 2017 9:01 AM CST
I have 3 different hydrangea species. I believe they are macrophylla, annabelle, and paniculata. I also have some shrubs, still not sure if they are rhododendron or azalea. All are pictured below. Planted them all 2 years ago and none have looked as good as when they were first planted. Azalea/rhododendrons haven't bloomed in two years and hydrangeas barely bloom, probably due to improper pruning the first year I got them (haven't pruned since). Now I wonder if not giving any protection during winter months is also causing them all to look sad. You can see in the pics they are all very small. I'm in zone 5 (northern IL) and winters can be either brutal or mild. We never know what to expect. How should I protect them during the winter months? Any other helpful tips.
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Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
The one constant in life is change
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dyzzypyxxy
Sep 24, 2017 9:10 AM CST
Nina, about the only thing you really should do for fairly young shrubs to prepare for winter is Mulch, Mulch, Mulch! Don't pile mulch up around the stems too much, but make sure there is deep mulch over the root areas and outwards from the stems. This prevents 'heaving' from freezing and thawing, and also helps keep the roots moist.

Just my opinion here, but it looks to me like you planted those beautiful shrubs in too much sun. All those plants do best in at least partial shade. The hotter your summers are, the more shade they need especially in the middle of the day.

Now is a great time to plant trees, and if you planted a few trees between your hydrangeas, azaleas and rhodos they will eventually have more shade, and surely do better in the long run. Nurseries often make drastic discounts on their trees at this time of year, too.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Rj
Just S of the twin cities of M (Zone 4b)
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crawgarden
Sep 24, 2017 9:13 AM CST
I usually cover my hydrangeas in November with leaves and uncover in April, I just put the leaves right down in the center and the stems hold the leaves in place. The last photo looks like a Rhododendron, Curious if there is any landscape fabric under the mulch?
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zone 5 - northern Illinois
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ninabee
Sep 24, 2017 10:18 AM CST
@Cawgarden, there is some fabric through out the area and seems to have been covered with dirt and mulch a few times over. It's deep. I pull it out whenever I'm digging and come across it. Is that good or bad? Seems to me like it's bad, but I'm an amateur gardener, so I don't know for sure...
zone 5 - northern Illinois
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ninabee
Sep 24, 2017 10:23 AM CST
@dyzzypyxxy, I've read that new buds get damaged from wind and cold temps. Is this not true? Some of my hydrangeas didn't bloom at all, even after skipping pruning. Same with the rhododendron/azaleas. No blooms in 2 years. This gardening stuff is so darn frustrating!
Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
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
Sep 24, 2017 10:41 AM CST
Yes, but usually they're not vulnerable through the winter months. It's when you get a really late cold snap in the spring that the buds can be damaged. The only thing you can really do about this is put something like an old sheet, towel or blanket over the plants at night on the cold nights.

But your plants won't make new buds for next year if they're not putting on healthy new growth each summer. What are you fertilizing them with? The rhodo in the last photo looks like it needs a shot of Epsom salts. That reddish color isn't what it's supposed to be, is it?

Did you amend the soil around them with lots of compost before planting? This is always helpful, and you can continue to improve the soil around the plants with a wheelbarrow (or a bag) of good compost spread around each of their root zones each spring.

Yes, by all means remove as much of that pesky landscape cloth as you can. It can be frustrating to learn gardening when you're on the steep part of the learning curve, but hang in there. Your successes will soon overshadow your failures and have faith that we all went through the same thing, at the beginning. It's worth it and we're here to help you.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
N. Ohio (Zone 5b)
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Tisha
Oct 9, 2017 2:42 PM CST
ninabee
Azaleas` have very shallow roots. Landscape fabric and over mulching will suffocate the roots. I think they are woodland/mountain plants. They like moist acid soil, mostly shade and very tolerant of zone 5 temps. I`ve found they will pout if winter wind burn happens. I`ve seen them wrapped with burlap where wind burn is a problem. They set flower bud in fall. Prone to spider mites in my yard.
Please up date your findings `cause I`m probably missing some info. Thumbs up

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