Need green thumb advice!

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Shari, Aug 13, 2008.

  1. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    OMG, I needed this!

    My dad passed away suddenly 18 months ago. Work was awful, my supervisor (who had a red X on my head) told no one except HR, who sent a plant on behalf of the office. The plant happened to be a hyrid blue hydrangea - the only plant I'd have actually purchased for myself except they were too darned expensive. The cold funeral was hard on it. I brought it home and planted it per the nursery's instructions, and it promptly died.

    I just went outside to wander around and lo and behold there are 3 little hydrangea leaves sticking out of the ground where I planted that thing! Could it be my dad showing up when I really need him to??? I've never gotten a "sign" from dad.

    Anyway, I do not have a green thumb. At all. I want to nurture this thing along - what can I do to help it???
  2. Abbey

    Abbey Spork Queen

    Gosh...wish I could help. I can't make a fake plant live.

  3. mstang67chic

    mstang67chic Going Green

  4. Steely

    Steely Active Member

    OK. Well, first of all Hydrangeas are perennial, so they should come back year after year.

    They also like lot's shade, and lot's of moisture. They grow in abundance in the NW like Oregon/Wa because of the shade, water, and the acidity of the soil. Because they like the soil to be pretty acidic, and because you do not live in the NorthWest it might good to plant it in a pot or surround the area with a lot of peat moss or acidic compost.

    You can actually change the color of flowers by what PH the soil is. Pretty neat.

    In Texas, Hydrangeas and Azaleas are like growing a cactus in Alaska. However, it can be done with the right soil conditions and care.

    Good luck........
  5. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    I don't know a whole lot about gardening, but here are the things I have been doing to keep my garden growing.

    1) Don't over water. Water when the soil looks dried out, but not totally parched. If the leaves are starting to shrivel a bit you've gone too far

    2) Put bone meal and blood meal in the soil. Stir it in gently with a little garden fork. Don't know exactly why this works, but I'm guessing all of the nutrients that are added to the soil

    3) If you have any ashes from the fireplace, mix them into the soil. Again, don't know why this works, but it seems to.

    4) Dead-head any flowers as soon as they start to wilt. This apparently let's the plant put its energy toward growing new bits rather than supporting bits that are going to drop off soon.

    5) Prune aggressively when the fall weather arrives. Cut branches back pretty severely. (You might want to check whether this is good for hydrangeas before doing this), but I cut all of my plants back to the ground last fall and they came back ever so beautifully this year.

    I don't really have a clue about gardening, but Green Thumb runs in my family (my Grannie once brought a dry stick back with her from the Caribbean, and grew a beautiful hibiscus tree from it) and I tend to have pretty good luck with plants.

    Hope that you find something useful in all this, and good luck with the hydrangea. How lovely that it came back. It does sound like a sign from your dad.

  6. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    The colour of the hydrangea flowers changes with pH. And they do die back in winter, they can look straggly and dead.

    I can't help you with info on the cold, I don't know enough. But I remember someone I worked with whose sister ran a B&B in the Blue Mountains where is sometimes snows in winter and always has frosts - she had magnificent hydrangeas, so they should be able to cope. You should protect it by using mulch, especially if you have any young growth as the weather turns cold.

    With the pH - it's sort of the opposite of litmus paper. In science class litmus paper goes red with acid, blue with alkali. With hydrangeas it's the other way around.

    My mother had a row of hydrangea bushes and would bury her steel wool pads from the kitchen under alternate bushes, so they alternated pink, blue, pink, blue. The steel wool would have made them pinker.

    Some hydrangeas have very intense colour, some are paler. Changing the pH won't change the intensity of the colour, only whether it's pink or blue.

    You can also grow hydrangeas from cuttings - when you cut them back you can get pencil lengths of stem and poke them into soil. Make sure you put them in right way up, and make sure you have nodes (the mark on the stem where shoots will come from) on every cutting.

  7. muttmeister

    muttmeister Well-Known Member

    If you live where it is cold in the winter, as I do, hydrangeas will die back in the fall and reemerge in the spring, although you should have seen a lot of growth before now. If your hydrangea is one of the old fashioned kind, and it dies back in the winter, you probably won't get any blooms as they only bloom on second year wood. However, if it is one of the new cultivars, like Endless Summer, it should bloom as they bloom on both old and new wood. To get it to have blue flowers, the soil has to be acidic. I use aluminum sulfate, available in any garden store. I've been told that adding coffee grounds around the roots has the same effect, although I've never tried it. There is a neat Sue Grafton/Kinsey Milhone book where she finds the body which was buried in a car many years before by realizing the hydrangeas were blue and the rusting metal was what had made the soil acidic. Sorry, I'm rambling. You can get lots of good info about hydrangeas on the internet or from your county extension agent.
  8. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Scientifically - metals react to form base (alkali) and non-metals react to form acid.

    So alum works well for blueing hydrangeas. In fact, we can buy hydrangea bluing agent which is almost pure alum.

    To make them pink - use lime - calcium hydroxide. Or anything to make the soil more alkaline. Crushed eggshells work the same as lime and are a good way to recycle into the earth in a good way. Hydrangeas love fertiliser. Just don't put neat manure too close to the roots.

    My mother was a cheapskate who recycled before it was fashionable. That's why she used her steel wool pads. They also provided iron to the leaves to keep them green - large leaves use a lot of chlorophyll and this needs iron. I always thought it was the steel wool that made the hydrangeas pink but I could be wrong.

  9. Star*

    Star* call 911

    Shari -

    I bought 3 hydrangeas years ago from Lowes. I had "visions" of my childhood home with these "snowball" bushes nearly as big as my folks blooming and being filled with lovely flowers.

    What I got? Three hydrangeas that at best every year get 4-5 leaves, die back in the cold (despite my best efforts to mulch heavily in winter and pull back in the Spring). I have had them in the ground for nearly 6 years. I've mowed over them, I've forgotten to water them and still every year 3-4 leaves. I was so disgusted - I started to just pull them out and then thought - maybe just let them be.

    They did have flowers on them when I planted them too - beautiful for about 2 months and not very big - about ohhhh 12".

    Then I ran into one of those little old lady gardeners so I asked her about the tiny bush. She said what I had was indoor hydrangeas. The kind that is meant to be over-wintered in a green house but because the South has had relatively mild winters and I mulch - they've survived outside. These particular ones I have are 6 years old and never got more than their original 12" height. Had I planted them up N. they would have perished.

    If you DO have the type that is for out doors? Then keep in mind they like a drink now and then, and a little fertilizer about 2x a year. I believe they like the same kind as azaleas, but I'd have to look up in my book to see. Miracle Grow couldn't hurt - lol.

    Wanted to add: LOWESS had them marked with tags that showed GIGANTIC hydrangea bushes. I believe they are slow growing or scared to grow in our yard for fear of the dog's. lol

    Maybe your dad is trying to tell you to GROW....
  10. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    Thanks for the tips. Kmart didn't have any fertilizer that looked good, so will stop by the local mom and pop nursery on the way home. If its the hydrangea from dad's funeral, well, its stupid, but I'll be exicted. (I dont' know what other it copuld be, tho).

    Star, if he's telling me to grow, I wish he'd give me al ittle more direction. Then again, that would be just lik e him.