hydrangea Wilting and dying suddenly

Discussion in 'NEW Gardeners !' started by Emily Brookes, Aug 1, 2020.

  1. Emily Brookes

    Emily Brookes Gardener

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    Hi all

    So all of a sudden, my hydrangea has wilted and looks like it’s dying. What can I do to help it? Should I move it, perhaps into a pot in more shade? I’m so gutted as i absolutely love it! It’s since we had the really hot weather yesterday. I water it every day and feed it plant food.
    I hope it’s not the end!!
     

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  2. Jymi riddler

    Jymi riddler Chilled Gardener

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    This is common with them.. My Two mop heads do not like hot spells.
    You need to water your plant, and when i say water i mean water.
    I've left a hose pipe onto my biggest one for 30 minutes at the roots. (That one is in full sun) it wilts all too easily in the heat. My smaller example is in partial shade and is much more tolerant.
    They can lose their lovely colour in the flowers and turn prematurely brown with too much drought.
    Having said all that your photo shows that maybe something else is amiss because your flowers are not all wilted.. I'm sure someone else may give further advise.
     
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    • luis_pr

      luis_pr Gardener

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      You should increase the amount of water (if you already have not) from "Spring watering levels" to "Summer watering levels". It will perform better if it gets sun until the hours of 10-11am only and then shade during the afternoons and during the evenings. A wind block in windy areas and mulch can also help minimize soil moisture loss. But if this is a newly planted/purchased/transplanted hydrangea, it will pout during its first summer as its root system is not big enough and it suffers from transplant shock.

      Never water the leaves to minimize the chances of developing leaf spot fungal diseases like powdery mildew and cercospora leaf spot. Instead, water the soil early in the mornings (6-8am). Some potted plants may even need two waterings per day during the worst of summer heat waves. However, try not to water too much because over-watering can cause root rot and too much watering leaches minerals/nutrients from the potting mix.

      On a healthy hydrangea that gets an adequate amount of sun, water, nutrients and wind, you should observe that the blooms go through a color progression as the blooms get older. While the color changes depend in many things like the type of hydrangeas and the variety, the blooms basically "stay" with a given color for a while (a month, maybe more?) before changing colors several times and ending with brown. However, in the attached pictured, I am noticing that the bloom was pink and has some browning already too so that tells me that it needs more water and-or it has received inconsistent watering.

      To determine when to water: insert a finger a finger into the soil to a depth of 5-10cms and water if the soil feels dry or almost dry. Hydrangea roots are typically located down to a depth of 10cms or so when planted in the ground. To make sure that you watered enough, water as usual, wait a while for the water to drain and then insert a finger to a depth of 20cms or so in multiple places. See if the soil feels dry; if it feels dry then you need to use more water.

      When temperatures reach or exceed 29C, when it does not have enough water or when it is very windy, the leaves and/or blooms may tend to droop. Less sun, more water might help. But as long as the soil has enough moisture, you can let the leaves wilt and it will perk up at night. However, it it is still wilted in the morning, it probably did not have enough water so I would water it. If the soil remains too dry, the first thing to go will be the blooms (they will start browning out) and then the leaves will brown out from the edges inwards.

      Do not over-water as that also causes a series of issues including root rot. Watering daily may be too much as you are probable responding to the "look of the plant" and not to the amount of soil moisture in the potting mix.

      If your plant is in a pot or was recently planted in the ground and the leaves take a turn for the worse, it may be that it is not getting enough water. In an extreme wilting episode or if many leaves dry out/brown out, you can always extract the plant and dump it in a pail full of water until the soil stops "throwing" air bubles (1-2 hours?). If the plant is in the ground and is too big/old to do this, you can put a soaker hose and let it drip water for a long time. The reason for these actions is the root ball. If it dries out "too much", it starts to repel water when you try to water it.

      Determining when to fertilize is a tad more difficult as it requires knowing what kind of potting mix one has and what amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and trace minerals the fertilizer has. But at least try not to use fertilizers with a high nitrogen content (example: 30% nitrogen content would be a tad high) as the plants will then tend to grow lush, dark green leaves sans flowers. A general purpose, slow release, chemical fertilizer would be fine. Hydrangeas are normally not hungry shrubs like roses are. A single application of a fertilizer in Spring is enough for the whole if you plant them in the ground and the soil has not mineral deficiencies (example: the soil is sandy, etc.). But if grown in a pot then you need to fertilize often due to the leaching of minerals through the drainage holes. A liquid fertilizer may be ok too but it will have to reapplied often as they are usually not "slow release".

      Brown/spent blooms will remain attached to the plant for a long time, maybe February 2021 or later. However, you can deadhead them at any time. To deadhead, the blooms, you can cut the peduncle string that connects the bloom to the stem. This is not the same thing as pruning (see the link below and scroll all the way down to the section titled Deadheading Hydrangeas.

      Pruning Hydrangeas | Plant Addicts

      The stems of your hydrangea should not be pruned in the summer/fall months because hydrangea macrophyllas like yours develop invisible flower buds at the ends of the stems during this time. These flower buds will open in Spring 2021 and, at first, will resemble small broccoli heads.
       
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      • Emily Brookes

        Emily Brookes Gardener

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        Wow that’s incredibly kind of you to give me so much information. We have a south facing garden so they are in sun a lot. I’m wondering whether to dig it up and re plant it in a large pot instead. Our soil is mostly clay.. and has leather jackets in! I’m hoping this isn’t what’s killing it!

        so digging it up; replanting into a large pot and moving it into a bit more of a shaded area.. perhaps that’s the answer? X
         
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        • Mike Allen

          Mike Allen Total Gardener

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          Due mostly to climate change. So many strange things are happening to plants, across the world. In relation to our gardens. Several changes have taken place. For instance. Even after a really heavy downpour, little if any water has reached way down to the roots. At times due to weather changes, the soil has become so hot, that the water evaporates before penetrating the sub-surface.

          Just as a simple test. Think back a bit. OK the garden has become dry and perhaps the surface has become crust-like and splits. Following a good watering, the soil once again bonds together. Now-a-days. The soil dries out and we are left with basically dust. I admit this is simply a thought of mine. I am inclined to believe that our use of MPC may be in part responsible. I will leave it there for the moment.

          I used to wonder why? the local council suddenly inserted lengths of pipe into the ground close to tree bases. Jokingly I mused that it was for the dogs to compete, who had the most accurate aim........I have since fathomed it out.

          Stay Safe and enjoy your garden.
           
        • luis_pr

          luis_pr Gardener

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          How much sun is the hydrangea getting (from when until when) in the summer months? And when did you plant it there? Just trying to determine if it is a new plant or if it has been in that spot a while.
           
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          • Emily Brookes

            Emily Brookes Gardener

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            It’s a new plant, we got it about a month ago I’d say. It probably has sun from about 11am until 4pm then it gets a little shaded in the flower bed. Should I cut the dead flower off? I’m so annoyed that it’s not doing well. It looked so nice a few weeks ago :( the soil here isn’t really soil it’s predominantly clay as it’s a new build house. Just wondering whether to take it out of the flower bed and put it in a pot with new compost.
             
          • Emily Brookes

            Emily Brookes Gardener

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            This is the whole plant so you can see the state of it...
             

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            • luis_pr

              luis_pr Gardener

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              You can deadhead the flower now if you want, just do not cut the stem in case it already has any (invisible) flower buds inside the stem.

              Hydrangea macrophyllas are under story plants in the wild and thus prefer morning sun (until 11am or so) or dappled sun in the summer months. During late Fall and early Spring, my potted hydrangeas had no problems with getting full sun down here. Try to give it some respite from the summer sun.

              The plant -just like any other new plant- suffers from transplant shock but once its root system grows much larger, it may perform better (although it probably will pout :) a little during the worst of the summer). I have been known to provide temporary shade using outdoor plastic chairs, umbrellas, shade cloth and contraptions made of cardboard & sticks. I would delay moving it until Summer 2021. Your summers, while hot, are mild compared to mine so give this location a try for one year. If you still have a lot of problems in Summer 2021 then transplant it when it is not stressed (when temperatures recede in the Fall or during winter when it has gone completely dormant).

              Just saw the picture attachment you added... It appears to be small and in good condition to me so, try maintaining the soil as evenly moist as you can; maintain 5-10cms of mulch year around and consider ways to provide temporary shade this year only.
               
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              • Jymi riddler

                Jymi riddler Chilled Gardener

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                As Luis says that's a nice little Hydrangea and just removing the fading flower will suffice.
                Don't worry that you have clay.
                I'd mulch it well with compost (or manure) and let the worms incorporate it. As it's recently planted you could dig a small distance around the plant around 30cm deep, and improve the surrounding soil with good compost avoiding disturbing the roots.
                By next Spring the roots will have ventured into the improved soil.
                 
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