TAKE A BREAK FROM HYDRANGEA WORK
If you are in the northern hemisphere and in zone 6 and colder, the beginning of August is the time to take a break from working on hydrangeas that flower on old wood. That translates into big leaf (macrophylla), mountain (serrata), oak leaf (quercifolia), and climbing (petiolaris) varieties.
EXACTLY WHAT NEEDS TO STOP
From now on, you don’t cut them back or fertilize them. The reason is simple: both actions stimulate the plant to produce new growth and you don’t want that. This is the time to help your plants settle down and get ready to go to sleep. Plus the new growth that emerges between now and the close of the season rarely makes it through the winter.
Of course, if they need to be reshaped (don’t we all?), hold off on that chore until they drop their leaves. At that point, you will be able to more clearly see their structure and make the right cuts. However, it’s quite possible that the weather will not be pleasant that late in the season. So you could wait until early spring or one of those bonus warm days we are sure to get in mid-winter.
THE JOB OF AN OLD WOOD HYDRANGEA IN THE COMING WEEKS
Let me also help you better understand what will be happening to your old wood plants in the coming months. Once your nighttime temperatures are consistently below 60 degrees, your plants will go into bud-making mode. So it’s important to be sure they aren’t stressed and have the right conditions to dedicate themselves to this important function. It’s the first step to having fabulous flowers in 2022 that you can control.
KEEP AN EYE ON MOISTURE LEVELS
Not too much, not to little. Too much moisture will turn them from flower-making to foliage-making, and too little moisture will turn them from flower making to just trying to stay alive.
IF YOU JUST CAN’T TEAR YOURSELF AWAY
If you are really itchy to work on your plants and can’t take a break, one of the things you can do now is straighten out your irrigation set up if it needs it.
You can also add more compost at the base of your plants. As beneficial as compost is, it isn’t a fertilizer per se, so it won’t stimulate your plant. What it will do is gradually provide an army of beneficial microbes to help your plant be the best it can be.
The other action you can take is to ensure your plants are well mulched. That will help with better water retention as already discussed.
LOOK OVER YOUR PANICLE HYDRANGEAS
Even though you are taking a break, look over your panicle hydrangeas. Where I live, we have had several days when the difference between night time temps and daytime temps has exceeded 10 degrees. HOORAY!! That’s what tells your panicle hydrangeas to turn color. Sure enough, this morning, I am seeing several of my plants begin to color up. So while you’re enjoying your hydrangeas, take a closer look at the panicle varieties. I bet you’ll see the same thing. As long as it doesn’t get too dry, they will hold their color for a few weeks. So watch your moisture and enjoy the show!
TAKE A BREAK AND ENJOY YOUR PLANTS
August is the time to sit back and truly enjoy your plants. Decide what needs to be done to make them even better in 2022. Maybe take some notes for next season, or transplant one or two to give them better growing conditions like more sun. You might see some leaf spots and other late season annoyances. I’ll write about that in about a week if you need a refresher.
On August 14 and August 28 I have Zoom classes at the New York Botanical Garden (www.nybg.org). Go HERE for the info.
Here’s to happy hydrangeas – and gardeners!
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