Dear Hydrangea Enthusiasts,

Welcome to the Hydrangeas Plus newsletter for May/June, is it still 2008?

Why is May so busy?  Why can't you answer the phone?  Mommy, can I have some doritos?  Look at this big slug!!

What's happening at Hydrangeas Plus®?
On my goodness, what's not happening here at Hydrangeas Plus?  Yes, May is the crazy month for me.  I'm not sure what day of the week it is until mail order Monday.  

I'm in the nursery doing a good inventory to see what's left, what needs to be shifted to a larger size, what houses need repairs, checking sprinklers, checking the propagation house for leaks.  I really should start a blog, I'll have to talk to my resident computer geek, David, about that.  It's so hard to sit down once a month and tell you about hydrangeas and Hydrangeas Plus.

I've started our propagation activities but we had 97 degrees on Friday.  and, that temperature was surrounded by  80 degree temperatures.  Today is supposed to be the coolest at 85.  For all you outside of Oregon, temperatures this high really cause some grief for us here.  We haven't even gotten the rust off from the winter rains and we're hit with 97 degrees?  Rust does burn, as I found out yesterday as I was out watering plants.

We again have run out of some of the most popular varieties.   Plants are growing and growing.  We've begun to cut back some varieties but we're trying to wait as long as possible so we can ship your hydrangeas with buds so they will bloom for you.

Our overstock sale was a huge success!  I didn't have as many hydrangeas this year because I sold so many.  Our spring sale is always the two weeks before Mothers Day every year.  We select this time of year for several reasons.  First, it's at the end of our busy wholesale shipping season and second, it's right before planting so that we can ‘clean out the nursery’ of plants that are left over or that we don't want to move into a bigger size.  And make room for the new plants!

We are also hard at work planting new hydrangeas. You've probably noticed that we are very low on hydrangea varieties right now.  We're planting as fast as we can so we can have them ready for summer (if your area doesn't get too warm) and fall shipping but some varieties may not be ready until Spring.  If you must have a variety that is out of stock, be sure to sign up for our email notification for that variety.  We will email you as soon as they are big enough to ship out.  It's usually September 1st for the three year plants and September 15th for the one year plants.

I've got some new varieties in the works for next year.  I do like to grow a variety for a year (at least) so that I have some real life experience before we recommend it to our customers.  I'm not one to take the word of other growers - I must have my own experience so that I can honestly tell customers about the plants we grow.  Some of the varieties I'm trying are Pinky Winky paniculata, Let's Dance moonlight and starlight, Lemon Daddy, Big Daddy.  As consumers, we are bombarded with marketing and  I've got word that there are several more coming out this year.  I'll try them when I can get them and am always looking for input from you about your successes or failures.  For next year (just to tease you) I'm going to offer a pink climber, a truly green, white, pink lacecap as well as Brunette (yes, the real one!, Yahoo!)

Finally, we're starting to gear up for the Les Tour de Plants.  This is a self guided tour of garden centers and nurseries in Oregon and SW Washington (new this year).  Not every garden center will participate.  Dates are September 13th - 21st. We'll have specials going on here at the nursery and I hope to have everything available for on site sales.  Plus, we're putting even more hydrangeas in the ground with hopes we'll have something to look at, too.  If the heat would stop, that is.  See our website for our plan of events (later in June).

Last day for shipping is June 16th
We'll be taking a few weeks off from shipping this year so I can focus on the garden, ballet recitals and swimming lessons.  I'll start shipping again via USPS Priority mail only July  7th.  Regular shipping will resume after Labor day.

Can plants get heatstroke?
Yes, it's possible.  We in the NW were hit with record high temperatures this week.  Even the hydrangeas in the ground for years got a little sunburn.  What should you do?  Water, water, water.

Remember that most hydrangeas are very shallow rooted and just moistening the top 3 or 5 inches of soil is helpful.  However, it may not fix those leaves that are burned.  Because we haven't had blooms yet, there is still a good chance you plant will bloom for you this summer.  Just do what you can.  Shade the plant from the heat, mist the leaves in the AM or the PM (not during the hottest noon day sun), water the drip line several times a day.

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask.

Cutting Hydrangea Blooms

Now that we have blooms on our mind, I'll start getting the ‘cutting hydrangea blooms’ question often. Here are some tricks of the trade....

Don't cut fresh blooms:  Be sure that the hydrangeas are at least a few weeks old.  The older the bloom, the longer it will last.  Color pigments should be fully developed before cutting.

Cut all the leaves off:  Leaves take moisture away from the flower head so strip the leaves off before cutting.  Long stems are nice for vases but the longer the stem, the less water that reaches the bloom.

Immerse cut blooms immediately in water and soak for two hours:  this may require that you weigh the hydrangeas down in the water.  Cold water that has been boiled works the best.

Some other methods for cuts that eliminate the oxygen bubble in the stem:
Florist gel is expensive, time consuming and can be messy but works
Put the cut ends in boiling water
Smash the cut end with a hammer right after cutting
Cut another inch off the stem underwater

Common question – Drainage

We always talk about the importance of good soil for hydrangeas and its ability to drain well.  Most areas don't have perfect soil but there are lots of things you can do to improve your soil and grow better hydrangeas.  It is especially important to give your hydrangea a good start, too.  Good soil is important for root growth and supplying water to the hydrangeas leaf and stem structure but most importantly, the flowers.  Here are a few tests to see what kind of soil you have in your garden.

Dig a hole about 6 inches deep and one foot wide and fill it entirely with water.  Let the water drain out of the hole completely.  Fill the hole again and record the time it takes to drain the second time.

If the water drains in three hours or less, your soil is most likely draining too quickly.  Chances are your soil is somewhat sandy.  Incorporate some mulch and good potting mix into your hydrangea beds.

If the water drains in four to six hours, your soil is draining just perfectly.  You have rich, great soil for hydrangeas.

If the water drains in eight hours or more, the soil has poor drainage typically common with clay like soil.  Again, incorporate mulch and good potting mix in those areas you'd like to plant hydrangeas.

Even we, the hydrangea grower, have trouble with this aspect of hydrangeas.  We have lost a many hydrangea to poor draining soil.  Sometimes, it's as simple as a broken sprinkler head that keeps drenching the roots.  Hydrangeas that have too much water often have similar symptoms to those with not enough water.  Common symptoms for TOO MUCH WATER are...
droopy leaves that don't bounce back after watering
leaves with brown edges that just look tired
blooms or buds may form but will appear smaller and dingy in color
roots are brown, not bright white like they should be
new growth is browning and limp

If you hydrangea is looking like this, it's not too late to save it.  Once the leaves fall off, it may be a goner but until that point, there is still a chance.  Replant the hydrangea in a larger hole.  Remove the wet soil and amend it with some potting mix, bark, garden mulch and replant the hydrangea.


The sale of the $30 three year plants is good till June 15th or while supplies last..  Let us choose a mophead or a lacecap for you.  We are not sure what our choice will be but we'll try to pick you one that will bloom and grow lush in morning sun and afternoon shade.  

Commonly Asked Questions

Q:  I received an Hortensia from my daughter for Mother's Day last week, and I would like to save it, if possible. Have never tried to plant a "grocery store" hydrangea before and wondered if you would point me in the right direction as to how to plant it outside. I do remember that there is different care or location, etc. for these plants. Would appreciate any advice!

A:  As soon as it's done blooming, cut the stems.  This plant has been forced to bloom and grow ahead of it's natural life cycle.  But, that doesn't mean it can't become a beautiful addition to your hydrangea garden. 

The forced varieties are really similar to the outdoor varieties.  We've found that forced hydrangeas aren't as healthy as naturally grown hydrangeas.  Hydrangeas grow better if they are allowed to have a dormant period and a growth period.  Most varieties grow very quickly and may not be healthy if grown inside without moving the plant to a larger pot.  If it's already hot down there, (what am I saying), it may be better to keep it in large, well draining container until it's cooler.  These forced hydrangeas have been treated with chemicals and heat to make them bloom so they will be tender in the heat. 

When your forced hydrangea blooms begin to decline and cannot be revived with water or moving to a larger pot, it is time to cut off the blooms at the lowest healthy leaf node.  Blooms take a lot of energy away from the plant so just cutting the blooms off will help on it's road to recovery.  Water and fertilize with instant fertilizer for Acid loving plants.  You need to get it growing to work out those chemicals and get it back onto a real hydrangea schedule.  It probably won't bloom again this year but you should see blooms next year.  Just fertilize and water and keep it from the sun and heat, if possible.
If you do move these plants outside, be sure that you don't move them until the last chance of cold weather has passed and there is no chance of any frost.  Our general rule of thumb is don't move the forced hydrangea outside until the outside hydrangeas are at the same stage of leaf.  If it's already really hot and humid down there, wait to put it in the garden until it cools or put in a really shady location.  Protect this sensitive plant for the first few winters.  The process that growers go through to get them to bloom is very tough on the health of the plant.  The chemicals and environmental controls have made the hydrangeas a bit more delicate to the elements.

Thank you for your question.  Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Q:  What is wrong when the Hydrangea bloom is green? The plant is nice and healthy looking, but the blooms were green. I don't know the variety....I got a cutting from a very old plant. The old plant was very large and had large beautiful blue blooms.

A:  Did you happen to use some aluminum sulfate or other amendment to help go blue?  You may have put too much or applied too late.  I've also had this happen to me when fresh blooms open and we get a really hot day.  I know our hot days are not the same as your hot days.  Humidity may also play a role.
Also, limit fertilizer in the hot summer months.  We recommend applying it when you start to see buds (March to early April for us here).
I hope that helps.  Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Q:  I live in zone 6A. My red hydrangea bloomed for the 2nd time last summer....but it was blue/violet. What can I feed it to make the red return? Does the plant need super phosphate? And you have never seen a lovelier site than hillsides covered with red hydrangeas in Ireland........spectacular!! Thanks for your help.
A:  You may use garden lime but I recommend super phosphate fertilizer (like you'd use on your bulbs) if you soil is acidic.  And, I think you do have acidic soil.  The phosphate will bind the aluminum and stop the plant from absorbing it.  Without aluminum, the pigments in the petals will stay red.

You may also pretend to transplant the hydrangea.  By that I mean pretend you're going to dig it up and move it.  But don't actually remove it from the ground.   With a sharp 12" spade, break ground around the drip line of the hydrangea (3 feet to 4 feet away from the center branches).  Proceed around the plant until you make a circle around the plant.  This will break up the roots and stop them absorption of aluminum for a year or so.  

Q:  I am new to your website and was just wondering when is a good time to order.  I notice that most varieties are listed as "sold out".  Thanks for your time

A:  We take orders anytime, but the best time to order for spring delivery is usually winter/early spring and late August/early September for fall delivery.  We'll have most everything coming on for fall crop in late August.  The best way to be notified real time of plant availability is to click on the plant details link and click on the "keep me updated" link and input your e-mail address.  That way you'll be sent an e-mail notification the moment something has been put back in stock for ordering.   The links option was updated recently so sign up for those out of stock plants now.

Q:  How do you prune a hydrangea?  Do you cut it all the way back in the Fall, Spring or just let it be? 
A:  It depends on the variety.  And, whether it blooms on new wood.
Macrophylla (mopheads and lacecaps) generally bloom on old wood.  We recommend pruning in the fall or late summer for shaping right after the plant stops blooming.  You can also prune in the spring but don't cut as much.  Younger plants just needs some shaping and pruning just a little to achieve a good shape.
Other varieties bloom on new wood - Paniculata, Arborescens, new wood blooming macrophylla.  Prune any time.  I like to prune these in the spring.  Just because we're so busy in the fall.
We have some more tips on the website and in the catalog.  You'll get different answers from different people.  Trouble is, they may all work just great depending on the variety you have and where you live.

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Kristin VanHoose
Hydrangeas Plus®