Dear Hydrangea Enthusiasts,
Welcome to the September 2005 edition of the Hydrangeas Plus® e-mail newsletter.

Fall is coming, fall is coming!  The weather is starting to cool and it's time to get your hydrangeas ready for their winter sleep.  Unless you're in S. California or Florida.  Do hydrangeas every sleep there?  See the commonly asked questions at the end of the newsletter.  Lots of good questions about fall preparation, pruning, fertilizing and protecting your hydrangeas in containers and in the ground.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of Hurricane Katrina.  

We had another busy month here at Hydrangeas Plus®.  Our most exciting was visiting with Dr. Michael Dirr, his wife Bonnie, and research assistant Vicki Waters and Ph.D. candidate Josh Kardos at our FarWest Trade show this month.  We were hoping that they would all come visit but there is so much to see here in Oregon.  Vicki and Josh were the typical tourists - being their first time to Oregon, they had to see it all - from the Oregon coast to the top of Mt. Hood - and all the wonderful scenery in between!  We hope that they can come out again soon and visit our operation.

Dr. Dirr talked about hydrangeas!  at the FarWest show opening night gala - much to all's delight!  The pictures were fantastic, his wit sharp as a tack and his descriptions made everyone drool in excitement for the next generation of hydrangeas from University of Georgia's breeding program.  Dr. Dirr's visit to Oregon was sponsored by J. Frank Schmitt Company of Boring, Oregon and our friends, Heritage Seedlings of Salem, Oregon.  Some of Dr. Dirr's favorite hydrangeas that we are growing are:
Macrophyllas Ami Pasquier, Frillibet, Lilacina, Lanarth White, Veitchii, General Vicomtesse de Vibraye, and Madame Emile Mouillere
Serrata Blue Deckle (remontant)
Quercifolias PeeWee, Sykes' Dwarf, Alice, Allison
Paniculatas Grandiflora, Tardiva.  

Some cultivars from the speech were new releases planned for the future that we hope to bring to you in the coming years...
    Paniculatas Chantilly Lace has an upright and graceful habit
    Serrata cross called Painter's Palette is a compact lacecap with white sepals but green markings, bloom ages pink
    Hydrangeas that bloom on new wood (David Ramsey, Decatur Blue, Oak Hill, Penny Mac)

Bailey's has executed the option to offer one of the seedlings grown from the control breeding of Endless Summer(tm) and Veitchii.  It is called Blushing Bride (named by Vicki Waters).  We have ordered this variety from Bailey's Nurseries and requested that we be allowed to offer it next year (as a 2006 pre-release) but being such a small grower, we may not be able to offer it until the general release in 2007. This fabulous remontant offering blooms white but will age to pale pink or pale blue as it ages depending on the pH of the soil.  The plant is mildew resistant and a more compact than the Endless Summer(tm).

Back in stock soon
Most of the hydrangeas are back in stock!  Order now to ensure your first choice will be available.  You can select fall planting or spring planting.  If you're unsure about fall planting, use this simple rule of thumb.  Do you have at least 6 (or 8) weeks before your first hard frost?  If yes, fall planting is really the best time to plant.  Cooler temperatures allow the plant's roots to focus on growth not getting water. Usually this means zones 6 and above are appropriate for fall planting.  As always, mulch your plants for the first few winters to be sure the roots get established before winter and maximize root growth.

There are just a few of the one year plants not yet available.  The Paniculatas and Quercifolias are always slow to root and sometimes take another season to get big enough.  The true dwarf, Pia, is also a bit on the small side but I just looked and it is growing very well so expect that one to be available soon.

Thank you for your patience.  If you'd like to be notified when a particular variety and size is ready, just go to that product online at and enter your email address after clicking on the 'Keep me updated' button and we'll send you an email when it's ready.

The LADY IN RED (PPAF) are here
We've had lots of questions about new varieties of hydrangeas and we're please to offer a Dr. Michael Dirr and University of Georgia original.  It took a little while for us to acquire the licensing agreement but next spring, we'll be offering the Lady in Red hydrangeas!  I anticipate we'll have the one year plants available early next year.   We bought some starter plants just a week ago and while the other hydrangeas are growing like weeds, we'll have to wait for these new ones to get big enough.  This is our first venture into patented plants so we'll see how successful our first patented variety will be.  We're expect to continue offering Dr. Dirr's introductions as soon as they are released in the future.  This is just the first of many new and exciting varieties for real life gardens.

We are thrilled to offer you this wonderful hydrangea.  I've been growing a specimen plant for a year and the foliage color is really dynamite.  Dr. Dirr is introducing this first seedling from his first breeding trials.  This is an open pollinated seedling from the wonderful hydrangea Otaksa.  This Lady in Red variety is a strong, vigorous growing hydrangea with lacecap type blooms of pink or pale blue.  The lovely lacecap blooms aren't finished though.  Like many other lacecaps, these will flip upside and show their red underside.  This plant is truly a multi-seasoned hydrangea - blooms in late spring, aged red blooms in summer and fall color.

This variety was selected for it's fabulous burgundy fall color and it is mildew resistance even in the southern gardens.  Gardeners are going to love the burgundy leaf veins and stalks, too.  Lady in Red is hardy for zones 6 - 9, needs partial shade (more sun is okay for northern gardens) and the bloom is slightly pH sensitive.  It grows 3 to 5 feet tall and wide.  It reminds me a lot of the serrata family but that  may be the fall leaf color.  For a bit more history and information, check out the website at

These plants will be available in Spring 2006 - sorry, they aren't big enough to ship yet.  If you'd like to be notified when they are available, go to the Lady In Red hydrangea on our website at and enter your email address after you click on the 'Keep me updated' button.  We'll send you an email when they are big enough to ship.

Added USPS Priority Mail service for shipping your hydrangeas
We finally got the website shopping cart set up for another delivery option for those of you east of the Rocky Mountains.  We're using the USPS Priority Mail service for the fall and see how the plant delivery goes for you eastern customers.  UPS rates just keep going up and up and even though we are a volume user, we can't get the rates down enough for my liking.  So, until the USPS raise the rates next year, we'll give it a try.  Unfortunately we can't track the package as closely and there is no guaranteed service.   USPS Priority mail saves anywhere from $5 to $15 for smaller orders.

Past Newsletters online

Did you miss a newsletter?  We have put all the 2005 newsletters on the website.  It's on the left side of the website.

Three-year fall plant sale
It's that time of year again.  We have too many plants left!!  We are offering some of our 3-year plants for just $30.  These plants can be shipped now or in the spring, just order by the October 15th deadline. Here are the plants we're offering in our fall sale - they should show up on the specials page four at a time (refresh the browser to see more) or in the three-year plant section on the website.

Macrophylla (mopheads)
General Vicomtesse
Nikko Blue
Souvenir de Presidente

Macrophylla  (lacecaps)
Geoffrey Chadburn

Pee Wee

Commonly Asked Questions

Q:  I am going to lay down your recommended balanced fertilizer this fall. Can you give me some guideline as to how much fertilizer I should use. My hydrangea is about 30" high and 31" in diameter. Last year I think I used too much with negative results.  I am located in NY.

A: Always read the directions but my rule of thumb is 1 tbsp per foot of hydrangea so approximately 2 1/2 tablespoons for your hydrangea that is 2 1/2 feet tall and wide.  Apply the fertilizer around the drip line of the hydrangea.  Avoid getting the fertilizer on the leaves.  Water it in well.
You say you put too much last year.  The trick is to know whether the time release fertilizer is heat released or water released.  If you get lots of rain, the water soluble fertilizer will release more quickly.  If you have warmer than usually temperatures, the heat activated fertilizer will release quicker.  You may not have used too much last year - it could have been the water or the heat.

Fall is a great time to fertilize with a time release type product.  As the plant begins to slow in top growth, fertilizer will allow root growth to optimize and store nutrients for the winter.  Try not to use one too high in Nitrogen (the first number in the N-P-K designation for fertilizers).  And, don't wait too long.  Too much nitrogen too close to winter and the stems are weakened and susceptible to frost damage.  When your plant begins to leaf out in the spring, use another application of balanced fertilizer.

Q:  Hi. I have potted 2 Madame Emile Mouillere hydrangeas . Can you tell me what I should do to over winter them?  I'm zone 5 or low zone 6

A:  Move them into an unheated garage or basement after they lose their leaves.  Keep them watered - probably once a week is fine.  Just don't let the soil dry out.  Although they will be leafless, they do need a little water.

The key is the roots must not freeze.  When hydrangeas are in the ground, the ground temperatures (zone 6 and above) usually protect them.  In containers, they are much more susceptible because they are above ground and susceptible to temperature changes.  If the pots are too big to bring indoors, insulate the container.  Wrap with a frost blanket (blanket with a little bit of waterproofing) and cover the plant somehow.  The Madame Emile is one of the hardiest of the macrophylla but it still blooms on old wood and the old wood must survive in order for you to get blooms.  The old wood is hardy to somewhere between -10 and 10 degrees but if the roots get that cold, the plants will struggle.
If you do keep them outside and insulate the container, be sure that you protect the stems of the plant as well.  Even though they are dormant, cold weather (especially in your area) could damage them enough such that they won't bloom next summer.  Hydrangeas do need some old old wood to survive in order for them to bloom the next summer. 

Other tips for protecting hydrangeas from the elements (in ground or in the container)...
Use tomato cages or chicken wire and wrap the plant.  Once the leaves drop completely, fill the cages with leaves and garden mulch.  Wrap with tightly woven burlap.  Take it off after your last hard frost.

Q:  I need your advice. Over the upcoming Labor Day week-end I have to relocate 3 large hydrangea plants.  Two of them -Pee Gee & La France- I purchased from you 3 years ago; the third one, Limelight, I bought from another mail order merchant.  A new fence is going up near these plants and since I don't want to lose them I'd like to dig them up & replant them in a different area. I've never relocated a plant before and I thought I'd seek your advice on how to proceed.  Would you please help  me or let me know where I can find information on moving plants.

A: Transplanting can be done as long as it's cool enough.  Hydrangeas transplant much easier if it's cooler.  I've done it in the spring and the middle of summer but fall is really the ideal time. 

Here's some tips...
Hydrangea root systems are fairly shallow and are usually as large as the spread of the plant. If these are large plants, bind the stems together gently with twine (this make it easier to move and you don't get as much breakage). You may also cut the branches back to make them more manageable.  Get as much of the root ball as possible. Dig and transplant the same day. Your blooms next summer may be a little strange in terms of color and size the first year after transplanting, too.  Water well and mulch this winter to protect the roots from freezing.   Be sure you have at least 6 (or 8) weeks in the ground before your expected frost date.

Q:  Purchased a Gertrude Glahn from you this spring.  I am zone 5 in Rochester, NY.  Spectacular specimen.  Blooms are now green with red petal tips. Do I need aluminum sulfate in spring to maintain the blue?  When do I prune and how do I protect for the winter? Thanks for the help.

A: Do you know the pH of your soil?  If you have less than 6.0, aluminum sulfate probably isn't necessary but spring is the proper time to apply.  As soon as you begin seeing leaf, apply the aluminum sulfate solution.

Don't feel like you have to prune the plant.  If it does need shaping, do it now so that you may get some new growth after you cut.  This variety blooms on old wood and if you prune too much (down into the old wood) then you won't get blooms next year.  Our catalog has instructions on page 11.

Protect your hydrangea with mulch around the base.  After the plant drops its leaves (October for you, perhaps) then wrap the plant with burlap.  Any covering will really be fine.  You need to be sure that the old wood survives the winter so you'll get blooms next year.  Hydrangea macrophylla are hardy to about zero degrees.

Q:  I ordered the following items:  HY40GLOWINGE 1 year mac. 'Alpengluhen'
I planted these last summer, lost a few blooms to the deer.  this spring the growth was all new (the old sticks were brown), I have six lush bushes, but not a blossom to be found.  I'm new to growing them, help?

A:  The most common reason why macrophylla hydrangeas don't bloom is improper pruning.  Perhaps the deer did that for you.  Most hydrangeas bloom on old growth or last years wood.   If you cut too much of that old wood off when you prune or you cut that wood too late, you won't get blooms.  See our pruning tips for more info on the website.  My rule of thumb is prune about 6 weeks before your anticipated frost date.  Pruning macrophylla

The second most common reason why hydrangeas don't bloom is due to cold weather.   The Macrophylla hydrangeas are hardy to about zone 6 (Alpengluhen may be a bit more hardy) between –10 degrees and zero degrees on the Fahrenheit scale for your Winter low temperatures.  If your Winter temperatures fall between these temperatures, it would be advisable to protect the hydrangeas to ensure blooms.  Again, the old wood of the hydrangea must survive in order to get blooms the following Summer.  If your hydrangea is dying to the ground every year, (new growth coming from the base) protect your hydrangeas or consider a hardier hydrangea.

In addition, unseasonably low temperatures after a mild Winter also cause a lack of blooming on hydrangeas. Again, most macrophylla hydrangeas bloom on old wood and if the leafed out plant is actively growing and hit by late Spring frost or an early Winter frost, the buds freeze and the hydrangea won't bloom. 

Or if the deer ate them in the spring, and there wasn't enough old wood left for blooming.

Fertilizing too much can also stunt your blooms.  Too much nitrogen and you get a healthy plant with beautiful foliage, but no blooms.  Use a more balanced fertilizer and see our info about fertilizing hydrangeas.

Finally, hydrangeas need some sun to bloom.  Remember morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal for most Macrophylla hydrangeas.

Q:  In your last newsletter you said it's time for a haircut for the hydrangeas, Mine are huge but had little growth on 3, which are the largest ones. What kind of haircut?

A:  Sorry for my use of un-plant-like talk.  By haircut, I mean a sever pruning.  This can be done in the summer so that the plant is allowed to put on good growth before going dormant for winter.  Most mophead and lacecap hydrangeas bloom on old wood and if you cut severely in the fall you won't get blooms.  But if your hydrangea is out of control and huge and overgrown, a 'haircut' is a great idea.   Hydrangeas are growing their fastest right now and even the most cut back hydrangeas will develop new leaves in about 2 - 3 weeks.

Are your hydrangeas macrophylla?  This is the family of lacecaps and mopheads and because they bloom on old wood, you need to be sure there is some current year's growth left on the plant before fall.

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Kristin VanHoose
Hydrangeas Plus®