33July 20, 2017

People often ask me how I come up with ideas for this weekly column. I tell people that when you get 6 people who come into the store with the same question concerning a problem in the garden, then I know it must be a widespread problem for many people. With that being said, this is what many people want to know this week.

“Why aren’t my hydrangeas blooming yet?”  That question was the question of the week. It can be a complicated question to answer. Let me see if I can help you to figure out what is going on in your yard.

Hydrangeas will put up new canes each year. The canes will be covered with leaves and those canes will set flower buds on the canes during the summer.  Many hydrangeas set the flower buds on the growth that comes up this year. Those canes will over winter and the flowers will appear the following summer. There are exceptions to this “rule” but I would gather that most of the problems this year are on the hydrangeas that bloom on last year’s growth. If you pruned back the hydrangeas in the fall, you were pruning out this years’ flower buds. If last years growth died over the winter and come this spring you had dead sticks that you had to prune out then you would have lost your flowers. Hydrangeas will need a steady supply of water to form flower buds during the previous summer. If you remember back to last summer, we had a horrible drought going on. This may have prevented the hydrangeas from forming flower buds due to a lack of water.

The question is, how do you prevent this from happening again next year?  Hydrangeas will take up a lot of water in the summer. A dry summer, like last year, means that you would have needed to do a lot of watering to keep the canes alive during the drought. In the fall, hydrangeas will take up a lot of water and store that water in the canes. This allows the hydrangeas to lose water to the dry winter winds we get and to still survive those winds. If you remember last winter, it was a series of up and down temperatures. We had record warm temperatures at times and we had pipe freezing cold at times. We had very little snow and we had many periods of the ground being frozen and the ground thawing out again. This alternate freezing and then thawing of the ground can raise havoc on the roots of the hydrangeas. Come the spring, the tough summer with a lack of rain, a tough fall with less than normal rain and a winter with a roller coaster ride of temperatures all lead to those canes being dead come the spring. Here is what you need to do to prevent this from happening again.

You need to make sure that your hydrangeas get the water that they need during the summer and also in the fall. The water, combined with an appropriate fertilizer during the summer will help with the formation of flower buds. In the fall, you will need to give the hydrangeas a good drink each week until the ground freezes. The ground may not freeze until late December so make sure that you keep up with the weekly application of water. You also need to protect those canes from the drying winter winds. You can wrap the canes with burlap or you can apply an anti-desiccant spray onto the canes once the leaves drop in late fall. You should also apply a 3-inch layer of mulch around the hydrangeas. This will help to temper that freeze and thaw cycle. If you take these precautions, your hydrangea canes should make it through the winter and then they will produce the flowers that you are wanted during summer.

If you have some of the new varieties of hydrangeas that will bloom on new growth, the reason you may not be getting any flowers is because the plants have not had enough fertilizer this season. Regular applications of fertilizer during the spring and summer will keep the plants blooming during the summer.

Well, that’s all for this week. For the readers of this column in the Daily News, there won’t be a column next week due to Yankee Homecoming coverage. I’ll talk to you again in 2 weeks.

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