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nicholsworth55

overwintering macrophylla hydrangeas in cold zones

Has anyone overwintered macrophylla hydrangeas in a pot? Keeping it in a garage, shed, etc & then bringing it out in spring? Love to have blooms but even endless summers are duds. I don't buy that they bloom on new wood. Have 5 original, 1 forever & ever, & 1 blushing bride & not 1 bloom!

Comments (72)

  • 8 years ago

    Well, I dug mine up tonight but it was much bigger than I realized. So I had to plant it in the ground in another spot- one with more sun! It is supposed to get down to 30F tonight so I hope it makes it! I love the new spot its in. I am trying to grow a stem from 2 others - early last summer I buried them in the ground while still attached to the mother plant. This spring I am hoping to cut it off and plant it- maybe one of those I could put in a pot! I can't remember what fertilizer I bought- it may have been one for roses and other flowers too.

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked maryjozone5
  • 8 years ago

    "How soon will you do this?"

    I wait until they're dormant - usually close to Thanksgiving.


    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked ruth_mi
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    Luis is correct - the primary flower buds are formed at the terminal ends of branches or stems. But there are also primordial flower buds scattered up and down the stems that growers producing for the flowering plant market take advantage of by strategic pruning to produce very compact and floriferous plants for sale. If the terminal buds are damaged or removed, these should be stimulated into development. "Expose them to freezing temperature for a night and your efforts are for naught?! " I doubt it is that cut and dried :-) I do not protect my macs at all, never have. They are often exposed to freezing temps in winter, sometimes into the teens, and still produce abundant flowers from old growth each season. It is my theory that these flower buds are not developed or advanced enough to be seriously damaged by "normal" winter cold. I believe the greatest risk to the flower buds from cold occurs later in the season when the buds are more advanced or closer to being fully developed. Cold temps then, as the plant is starting to move out of dormancy - the late winter/early spring freeze - is when the serious bud damage occurs. That late season freeze or period of intense cold is not something we experience in my location, ergo no damage to the flower buds! That's my theory and I'm sticking with it!!
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  • 8 years ago

    ruth_mi About what I thought. Mine r still fully leafed out & some have pretty fall color. Anxious to try this & see if it blooms.

  • 8 years ago

    I did it! Put forever & ever and blushing bride in pots. Put trash cans over them - 30° tonight. Wish I had moved them during the summer...but at least(if they live)I might get blooms. They will be spending the winter in my shed. So ready for spring already.

  • 8 years ago

    I have two "Twist & Shout" hydrangeas and I've found that if you mulch the base heavily in the Fall, this protects the plants and they are able to bloom next Spring. Worth a try.

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked bellarosa
  • 8 years ago

    nicholsworth - If your hydrangeas are dying back to the ground each year, the mesh fence rings stuffed with chopped leaves will protect from that. If your hydrangeas aren't dying back, but aren't blooming, that's likely a sun issue.

    The Endless Summers seem to like an Eastern exposure where they get sun or at least a decent amount of it, in the morning. I've had them in too much shade, and they don't bloom even when the old wood makes it through the winter.

    Fertilizing does seem to help as well.

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked ruth_mi
  • 8 years ago

    Thanks bellarosa - I have a new T&S. Haven't gone thru the winter with it yet. Supposed to be more reliable. Too bad they weren't around when I bought the ES. I have Annabelles & they r reliable.

  • 8 years ago

    ruth - plants always leaf out but I usually have a stem or two to cut off. They could use more light. The 2 that I put in pots today I'm planning to keep on my deck & they will get more light. Will be protecting the others & if they don't bloom will try moving them. Would u believe that even tho we have half an acre my east side is just a narrow side yard...

  • 8 years ago

    What ruth_mi said is what I have experienced -- my ES is on the northeast corner of my garage, gets only morning sun then is shaded. I've never winter protected it or fertilized it (although the bed it is in gets chopped leaves every fall) and it blooms. Last spring there were more dead stems than I had seen before, but also some that survived and it bloomed about mid summer. Columbus should be about the same as Indy weather-wise, isn't it?

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked raee_gw zone 5b-6a Ohio
  • 8 years ago

    raee_gw Columbus is south of Indy so slightly warmer right? Been reading LOTS of posts & I see so many complaints about ES. Yours has a good location. Mine faces east but the south side is blocked. I'm going to use leaves with a large leaf bag with an open top & bottom (saw pics on gardenweb - 1 used plastic wrap & leaves) & see what happens.

  • 8 years ago

    ES is supposed to be reblooming. I think the first bloom is on old wood and occurs around Mothers Day. If I am not mitaken, blooms which come out midsummer on the ES are actually blooming on new wood and technically would be the 2nd round of blooms.

    with New England frosts and winters (and my failure to winter protect) my bloom appeared midsummer. It would be lovely to master winter protection so blooms appear May-Oct!

  • 8 years ago

    muffin - my plants are 10 years old but do not bloom on NEW or OLD wood. At least u had some bloom. I tell strangers at garden centers not to buy this plant. I am trying winter protection this year. Hope it works.

  • 8 years ago

    Mother's Day is a bit too early to expect flowering on any bigleaf hydrangea (reblooming or not) in any location other than the deep south. Even in my very mild winter climate, macs don't bloom until late June or early July. Flowering from new growth occurs even later in the season - August to September.

    And while many folks have had issues with ES (and are often quite vocal about it!!), just as many others have success as the link with photos from such cold climate areas as MI attests. Dave's Garden also has many comments, both pro AND con, from cold area gardeners.

    Personally, if I lived in any zone lower than 6, I would winter-protect any mac regardless of its ability (or not) to bloom on new growth, just as an abundance of caution. And have a lot of patience :-) Even here in nearly ideal hydrangea growing conditions, flowering generated from new growth takes time to develop.


    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • 8 years ago

    gardenegal is right (as usual!) - Mother's Day is too early in cold zone. I cover mine successfully, uncover about the end of April, and usually have old-wood blooms in mid to late June.

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked ruth_mi
  • 8 years ago

    Thanks everyone for your comments. Gathered lots of dry oak leaves today for my ES. Am not expecting any new wood bloom just a few on some old canes would be great. Question for ruth - how many winters have u been covering yours?

  • 8 years ago

    You know what, you are right. I meant Mothers Day is about when the leaves might start to come out; not bloom.

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked muffin1358
  • 8 years ago

    I've been covering this way for three years, I think. I've covered by bending the branches to the ground and then putting mulch or something over them as well. And I've skipped covering too (end result - die back and no blooms).

    My sister has hydrangeas that are more protected than mine by her house and hers usually bloom without covering. We had a tough winter last year and hers didn't bloom. Mine bloomed fine all three years I've covered this way.

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked ruth_mi
  • 8 years ago

    Ruth - I love hearing that you've done this several times - which indicates to me that u think it's worth it! My comment was misleading - not intentional. After thinking about it more I HAVE experienced complete dieback. I had 1 decent year on 1 plant but more often than not DIEBACK. Tired of it & ready for a change. Will a plastic leaf bag be ok? I could put some slits in it for circulation. Saw a photo of 1 like this.

  • 8 years ago

    I've never used a plastic leaf bag but am going to try at least one this year just to experiment. I ordered some clear ones online (but just 30 gallon size, not the huge ones). I've already poked numerous air holes in it...may add some slits too to be sure enough air can get in.

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked ruth_mi
  • 8 years ago

    I also saw a pic where someone used plastic wrap just winding it round & round the plant holding in the leaves. Didn't look as if they left any gaps. If I did that I think I would. If you're interested I posted some pics of my fall color on the hosta forum under a post - "thinking about next year already".

  • 8 years ago

    Hi ladies - just recently joined gardenweb and am obsessed with hydrangeas and live in Indianapolis! Stumbled on this discussion and was excited to find others who share my love and frustrations with endless summer living in/near Indianapolis! Curious to know how your hydrangeas are doing with the extra winter protection? I've had mine for 2 years (with few blooms) and this winter was the first time I over wintered with the flat box method. For the first time I've got buds on old wood! I foolishly took off their winter coat mid-March and had to rush to protect them over the weekend to make sure all my work didn't go in vain for this cold snap!

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked Kristen
  • 8 years ago

    I did the same thing...I uncovered recently & had leaves & buds on old wood...figured I would have to recover but wanted them to get some air, light & rain...when I recovered I didn't cover as heavily & I saw damage today when I checked them...added more leaves & am hoping for the best...the 2 in pots in my garage still look good

  • 8 years ago

    In previous years I have uncovered too early and it was so frustrating to loose the growth that had started. Its a hard balancing act to uncover and air them out but not freeze them. I try for that just right time, then pray!

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked maryjozone5
  • 8 years ago

    Those of you who winter protect; I've read somewhere that even with the protection, early growth will not survive temps in the 20's. Is this your experience or to the contrary? I did the chicken wire, leaves and pine boughs thing this year and have resisted uncovering. Glad I did as we are having some cold nights this week in Jersey.

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked jemboysch
  • 8 years ago

    jemboysch - can't speak from experience...first time covering...could be true...these plants r wimps!!!...spent so much time & energy to get these thru winter & still up in the air as to whether it worked...

  • 8 years ago

    I cover with Styrofoam coolers. One was so big this year that i had to cut 2 coolers in half and duck taped them together. The coolers have worked in the past.

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked maryjozone5
  • 8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    I uncovered early when the temps got up into the 60's with the lows in a 3 week forecast in the 40's or 50's. Similar to Nicholsworth55, I wanted to give my plants a chance to breathe. Now we have the lows in the 20's for the next week here in Indy, so I put cardboard back over them and added another layer of protection with a plastic sheet over top. I'll keep that on this week and then it looks like temps will be back up for a couple weeks so I'll probably let them breathe again. I jokingly call my hydrangeas "my babies" to my friends ;)

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked Kristen
  • 8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Kristen - keep me updated...so curious to see what happens with yours since we both live in Indy...2 in pots(in my garage)still ok...outside ones r covered & haven't seen them...

  • 8 years ago

    Just uncovered mine since the next two weeks are forecasted to be above 40's for the lows. They made it through the late freezes without any problems - at least the part that had been growing. I still have sticks with nodes that appear brown. Based on extensive research I've read that you should wait until late May (in our zone) before clipping the sticks because you never know when the nodes might start growing. I do have growth on old wood closer to the bottom though. Stay tuned as the saga continues ... ;)

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked Kristen
  • 8 years ago

    Uncovered today...they look pretty good...post pics soon...true that we need to wait awhile before cutting any stems...ever cut a "dead" stem & see that it has green tissue...

  • 8 years ago

    I uncovered today in Michigan. We have a week of very warm temps and no freezing predicted for the next couple weeks. I usually end up uncovering sometime in late April, but this is about 10 days earlier than most years.

    Now I'll just keep an eye on the weather and throw a blanket over them if the temps look too cold. It's always hard to pick that "right" time to uncover.

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked ruth_mi
  • 8 years ago

    I uncovered too. We are supposed tombs warm through the rest of April but I'll keep my eye on the weather and put the Styrofoam coolers back on ifnit gets cold! There is sprouting on some stems!!!! What a sight for wore eyes!

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked maryjozone5
  • 8 years ago

    Uncovered my two Endless Summer hydrangeas this evening. Lots of growing buds on the stems. Partly cloudy days ahead to help the tender new growth harden off. No freezes expected this next week.

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked mnwsgal
  • 8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Ok! Here is the current status of my endless summer hydrangeas! One isn't doing so great, only (slowly) leafing on new wood. Two are leafing on old wood, but don't have the broccoli yet. And the one in the center is doing really well and has already started to broccoli. Which makes me wonder if the other two that are leafing are going to even bud. Time will tell. I did buy the one that has broccoli from a different nursery from the others. Oh and the one in the back is my peegee - she always does really well. :) Hoping they do a lot better this year otherwise I'll need to transplant them. I wanted a bushy hedge in the front of my house and can't deal with the sticks and small bushes dictating my house's curb appeal!

    all of them in a row --

    Here is the one starting to broccoli --

    An example of one leafing out but no broccoli yet --

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked Kristen
  • 8 years ago

    Kristen - yours r further along than mine..will take pics soon..curious - r they on the east side?

  • 8 years ago

    Yep, east side. I've installed a soaker and have been watering them every other day (they are under my extended roof so they don't get much rain water).

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked Kristen
  • 8 years ago

    Kristen - I'm embarrassed to post my pic..looks scrawny compared to yours..but in previous years there weren't any leaves on the old wood so I'm hopeful..potted ones have grown..pics below..won't attach

  • 8 years ago

  • 8 years ago

    Oh wow - yours is growing much bigger/faster at the top than mine. Your plant will probably turn out much taller. I wonder if it is because the flatbox method doesnt protect the ends as well as the center. I definitely wasn't able to get my cardboard boxes to be able to cover it 100%. The ends of the branches were near the edges of the cardboard which may have been too cold for comfort. Guess we'll see! I'll post another progress photo near mid-to-end of May! Hope everyone else on this thread isn't getting tired of our updates yet... ;)

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked Kristen
  • 8 years ago

    Kristen - just saw your response..wasn't at home..went to the city gardener class at the fairgrounds..the May 5th class is about trees & shrubs..u should come..check the purdue marion county extension office website..not sure that all of the tips on mine will leaf out..patiently waiting..don't think anyone minds our updates..when one of us is ready to update should we start a new thread?

  • 8 years ago

    Its good to see your pictures! Its amazing how fast they get their leaves once their uncovered! I am guessing mine are about 2 weeks behind yours (I'm in zone 5).

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked maryjozone5
  • 8 years ago

    maryjo - post your pics too!!

  • 8 years ago

    I will ask my husband if he can figure out how beause I don't know how to post pictures!

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked maryjozone5
  • 8 years ago

    maryjo - I'm using my phone..I write the comment first & if I don't attach immediately it won't work..took a phone call after starting the comment above & when I went back to finish the pics wouldn't attach..

  • 8 years ago

    Thanks I will ask my husband to do that - he has a smart phone!

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked maryjozone5
  • 8 years ago

    19 degrees on 4/10 wiped out 80% of buds / old wood that had easily survived winter with minimal protection. Buds that were still "green" a week later were actually freeze-dried as they crumbled In my fingers. Conclusion: late freezes are MUCH MORE DANGEROUS to the plants than winter itself. Once a set of bud nodes has died, the plants will cut off nutrients to those parts of the stems even if the stems survived winter (once the buds die, the stems go with them). At that point those stems will turn white and/or begin to get moldy, and what still look like buds will turn brown or black and crumble. It was a sad fate but even with blankets plastic, cardboard, packing paper and leaf litter there was nothing I could do for old wood canes against 19 degrees once the plants had completely broken dormancy.

    On the brighter side, about 75% of new crown shoots were at least still partially alive under the mulch I'd buried them in. And you'll also notice that once you've cut the dead parts of the canes down/off the new shoots will come up much faster!

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked October_Gardens
  • 8 years ago

    springwood - so sorry...some of my stems have leaves at the top & bottom & nothing in the middle (a little ugly)...but I will NOT cut the tips off...too precious haha

  • 8 years ago

    Spring wood - good point about freeze being far more dangerous than winter itself. Did you put anything over your plants to protect them against the late freeze?

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked Kristen
  • 7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    July 14, 2016, z4: I live in West Central MN, z4, have had an Endless Summer, Twist & Shout, planted on East corner of house since summer of 2011 (5 yrs at time of this writing). It gets full sun in morning, a little dappled sun in afternoon for a very short time, rich soil, moist conditions, landscape fabric covered with wood mulch, no turf or other nearby vegetation to compete with. This should be perfect Hydrangea conditions, and while this plant has been robust and healthy from the very beginning, it does NOT get anywhere near its advertised size. (Label that came on my plant says 4 to 5 ft tall and wide.) It dies back completely to the ground every winter so growth starts all over, from ground level, every spring, rather late in the spring, and reaches its maximum size of 2 ft tall X 3 ft wide in mid July. This also means it blooms only on new growth. Though it's advertised as blooming on both new and old growth, there is no old growth that survives the winter for blooms to grow on. I do not cut it back in the fall....don't touch it at all.....and leave the old growth until the following season. In the spring, I clean up the dead and fallen leaves from the year before but leave the old stems standing. (I started leaving the previous year's dead stems through the following spring beginning from the time I planted it, always hoping that, if given enough time, they'd come to life and be that "old growth" that would give the plant that bigger size and more flowers. I've given up that idea, but it's just a habit now. It's become one of those, "This is how I manage this plant because I know it does no harm" , kind of things.) Once the new growth is nearing the height of the previous year's stems, I simply break the old ones off as close to ground level as I can without disturbing new growth, usually ending up to be 3-4 inches above ground level, completely hidden by the new growth. Because they're "dead", the old stems just snap off by hand, very easily, and those few inches that may be left behind have fallen into the soil by the time late fall arrives and the plant once again goes into dormancy, has shed its summer foliage, and everything that was living that summer dies back completely over the coming winter. Over the summer and early fall, it usually has up to 12 blooms at any given time, depending on how much TLC it gets. Blooms range in size from 3" to 7" across (older blooms). Each flower lasts a long time. As far as the color of the flowers, some years they are more on the purple side, some years they are a bit more pinkish. Most years, there's an interesting mix of both colors on each individual flower, often times starting out more on the pink side but changing to purple with a smattering of pink as the blooms mature to full size. I don't know how the plant determines, but it does so on its own since I do NOT amend the soil with anything to change the PH level or influence the bloom color. All I do as far as feeding is give it a drink of water soluble "Bloom Booster" fertilizer (10-52-10) three or four times during the summer, beginning around July 1 (when the plant is nearing its full size and focusing most of its energy into putting on new blooms), and ending the end of August, at the latest. I tried giving it a balanced fertilizer beginning earlier in the season and found that it there was lots of green but sparse on flowers and could get rather leggy. This feeding routine seems to give the best results, in my situation, anyway. I'm very fortunate to live in an area of glacier-rich black soil (black gold!) where pretty much EVERYTHING I've ever planted in my 40 yrs of gardening/landscaping grows much larger and faster than what's stated on the labels. I was expecting the same with this Hydrangea, that its mature size would be greater than its label indicated, so I gave it plenty of room, which is doesn't come close to filling. I've decided to transplant it either this fall or next spring (depending on what I find on the internet for info on how it will stand up to fall transplanting in my zone, which I've not yet found). I think I'll put a Black Lace Elderberry bush in the vacated spot and move the Twist&Shout Hydrangea further down the east side of the house, next to a large bunch of established White Phlox just about to break into beautiful full bloom this time of year. That's my only disappointment with this Hydrangea, its ultimate size. According to my experience, it will never reach the size stated on the label in zone 4, where it dies back to the ground every winter and comes back from ground level every spring. An attractive and, so far, hardy zone 4 plant, to be sure, but not nearly as large as some other varieties in the Hydrangea family, and the larger size is what I was wanting when I bought the Twist and Shout.

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked User
  • 7 years ago

    Yes, regarding estimated plant sizes in cold climates (especially when given in ranges), the smaller number in a range is what I too would expect for the cold zones. Then in my mild winter area, with a longer growing season, I would expect the larger number.

    Oooh, I have been looking for a white phlox now that you mention it. Trying to get it locally but either I find none or pink ones.

    nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis thanked luis_pr