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ajohnson616

In praise of Hydrangea arborescens

I got my hydrangea arborescens on a whim years ago, because I needed something for a tough spot between a fence and a shed, but I never expected to like it so much. It's definitely not showy, but it's a bee magnet, and looks very delicate and graceful. Now I wish I had it in a more prominent spot and had room to plant more. If you are looking to add more native, bee-friendly shrubs, this one's for you!





Comments (47)

  • maackia
    4 years ago

    FM, I couldn’t agree more! I’ll be putting these in the ground shortly. BTW, that’s not me in the background. ;)

    Festiva Maxima (MD 6B) thanked maackia
  • luis_pr
    4 years ago

    Nice, how old are the ones on the left hand side of the picture?

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  • Festiva Maxima (MD 6B)
    Original Author
    4 years ago

    Maackia, I'm so envious right now ;)

  • hyed
    4 years ago

    Festiva, i’m thinking that might be Hydrangea White Dome lace cap?

    Festiva Maxima (MD 6B) thanked hyed
  • Festiva Maxima (MD 6B)
    Original Author
    4 years ago

    Hyed, I think you're right. It was labeled as "woodland hydrangea" at my local nursery but it looks lime White Dome.

  • maackia
    4 years ago

    The planted Hydrangeas are ‘Incrediball’ and about five years old. I cut them back to 6”-8” each fall and fertilize in spring. They produce stronger stems and the flowering is, well, incredible! Cheesy name; great plant.

    I’ve got several Smooth Hydrangea planted throughout the garden and they all seem to do well. Easy to grow and splendid flowers that last, and last, and last...

    Festiva Maxima (MD 6B) thanked maackia
  • Sara Malone Zone 9b
    4 years ago

    I don't get volunteers but my 'Annabelle' can be divided and also roots easily. Nice shot.

  • maackia
    4 years ago

    That’s interesting. Don’t know much about propagation, but division I can do. I’m curious to know roughly how long it takes for ‘Annabelle’ cuttings to be ready to plant out? The next spring?

  • laceyvail 6A, WV
    4 years ago

    I have one that nature planted right on the creek bank behind the house.

  • nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis
    4 years ago

    maackia..I haven't done it but I think you slice off an outside piece and plant immediately..

  • Sara Malone Zone 9b
    4 years ago

    I don't think that I've ever grown cuttings of an arborescens but the other species of H. that I've tried have rooted quickly, as I recall. Next spring should be fine.

  • Festiva Maxima (MD 6B)
    Original Author
    4 years ago

    For me the best technique for shrubs is layering. Select a flexible stem low to the ground and bend it down. Dig a shallow trench and bury a portion of the stem. Also, remove leaves from that area of the stem and scrape off a bit of cambium. It's most effective earlier in the growing season but I propagated some sage last summer this way and it worked fine.


  • User
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    I added a small 'Annabelle' last summer. Came really bushy this spring. We'll see if it flowers. About a foot or so tall.

    Edit: Added pic 9:20 pm 6/21/18

  • ophoenix
    4 years ago

    Annabelle is easy to propagate. I put fall cuttings in soil in a bucket and they all rooted. I used branches about 20 - 24 inches long. I was Feb and all the leaves were gone, gently wounded the bottom 6 inches of the stem and I put the bottom two or three leaf nodes into the soil and put the bucket in the basement. Made sure the bucket did not completely dry out and they leaved out in March - zone 8, PNW - and potted them up three weeks ago. I had about 15 - 24 in each bucket. Almost all of the branches rooted. Here are some shots of the process. I found this method in an old gardening book written in Britain and tried it out. It is faster and easier than the usual way of heat mats and rooting medium. It seems to work for some species better than others and perfect for the Annabelles, Nikko Blue and other Macs.

    Bucket of cuttings leafing out.



    Bucket broken out and plants teased out.


    Root ball from plant in bucket.


    Potted up and labeled


    Trays of new babies.


    Festiva Maxima (MD 6B) thanked ophoenix
  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    I whack chunks off the side of the plant in spring to keep it sort of within bounds. If I have a taker for them, I just cover the roots in dirt, usually in a plastic bag lined cardboard box.

  • Sara Malone Zone 9b
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    Yes NHBabs that is pretty much what I do. I've never needed or wanted to propagate it as it grows into a huge colony and I just whack away at it to keep it in check and give the results to anyone who wants them.

  • ophoenix
    4 years ago

    I also divide hydrangeas! It is a great way to get mature size plants rather than small year olds. The first time I did this I took a saw and cut an old plant into pieces (6) soaked them for a day - or two - and planted without cutting back the branches. This was an old Nikko Blue that was offered for the experiment! lol All the pieces recovered. A few of the tall branches were zapped by a particularly cold spell, looked terrible and were finally cut back and each one is now in full leaf, looking fabulous in their pots!

    Propagating plants for the home garden is quite different from propagating for a nursery or a wholesale grower. You can follow the rules found in most gardening books that use methods from the trade and get very good results but they require special equipment, heat mat, rooting containers and daily hand misting and are pretty labor intensive. The nursery business is very competitive and maximum production is necessary to stay alive. As as an experience home gardener - if I get a 50% - 70% success rate I am very very happy and have enough plants to trade and and share with others, schools and public gardens. By the way, the tall Nikkos that made it are happily growing and getting ready to bloom in the garden at a clinic that specializes in hand therapy for children.

  • User
    4 years ago

    My plant propagation book shows dividing 'smooth hydrangeas' (Hydrangea arborescens) under the category of "dividing suckers".

    The only thing listed that can go wrong is: The divided plant may not have enough roots to sustain itself in hot weather. Solution: Cut back the top growth if it seems too large for the root system.

    I think propagating plants that sucker have some of the highest success rates. For me anyways :-)

  • ophoenix
    4 years ago

    Good to know that this method is suggested for your 3b zone. It also works beautifully in the PNW, zone 7-8b. I also have several serratas that have been divided and they are doing just fine after one year. Bene Gaku and Izu-no-hana were divided successfully. Is your plant propagation book published locally or for a class in a local school?

  • User
    4 years ago

    Used library book. 'Plant propagators bible' by Miranda Smith. (Readers Digest). Pretty basic but it covers a little bit of everything, perfect for dummies like me. :-)

  • ophoenix
    4 years ago

    Found used copies on Amazon for under $17 - great value and new hard cover sells for $179. Super reference for new gardeners and experienced. Thanks for the name.

  • User
    4 years ago

    You're welcome. Mine was around $15 shipped through Amazon. It took a couple of months to get here. Had library issue stamps inside the back hard cover but otherwise in almost perfect condition. Good quick reference for many subjects. I like the way all the plants are all categorized into which propagation methods work for them. Also covers basic grafting methods. Well worth it for that kind of money imo.

  • hyed
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    What’s not to like Annabelle & Invincibelle Spirit 1 ... picture taken today

    Festiva Maxima (MD 6B) thanked hyed
  • User
    4 years ago

    I got one! Yah!

    Looks like there might be another one forming. Do they bloom all summer?

  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH
    4 years ago

    Mine do. I think for folks in longer season areas they may not.

  • luis_pr
    4 years ago

    Congrats. The blooms will remain "on" the plant until next year if you do nothing. They will start to turn lime green and get pink spots as they get older. If you see broccoli then it may bloom from there.

  • User
    4 years ago

    Looks like a little broccoli forming on another branch tip. Can I fertilize this time of year?

    A deer removed the one branch tip but it's already sending new shoots out in that area. This thing really likes the water on my sandy loam soil but I do have it in full sun so that's understandable.

  • luis_pr
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    It is probably not needed in the middle of summer. Their potting soil usually comes with those round fertilizer pellets that will allow it to last thru Spring 2019 at the least.

    If you maintain mulch past the drip line throughout the year, it will feed off the decomposing mulch too.

    But sandy loam soil may regularly benefit from 2" or so of organic compost to hold nutrients and water. Maybe twice a year or so but a soil test may give you better specs than we can provide thru the Internet. Hydrangeas love composted manure so you can try that too in Spring 2019.

    The latest 3-month forecast for late Summer and early Fall suggest that you may have below or near normal temperatures so your new shrub may like the moderating temps.

  • User
    4 years ago

    Yeah, just lately we're back in the mid to low 50's at night with mid to upper 70's during the day and some PC to mostly Cloudy skies. 10 day for cast looks like more of the same at least until then.

    Things dry out considerably slower under these conditions so it's pretty nice compared to the 90's, no rain and hot sun we normally get this time of year. Still early tho. :-)

  • ophoenix
    4 years ago

    Bill....... fertilize? NO! Your plant is fine!!!

  • User
    4 years ago

    ok, Just wondered if fert might make it bloom more prolifically being it's as much a flower as it is a bush.

  • ophoenix
    4 years ago

    NO! It is a waste of money and time and the unneeded chemicals organic or not will just run off. Over fertilizing is a huge contributor to pollution of ground water, streams and rivers. Fertilize only when plants show nutritional deficiencies. Tossing fertilizer without knowing the condition of the nutrients in your soil only benefits the people selling the fertilizer! If you mulch the soil, you may not have to fertilize ever!

  • ophoenix
    4 years ago

    Here is an article about fertilizer that you should read. It is long but very detailed and is a great resource that should be downloaded and kept in your computer. This question comes up all the time and even experienced gardeners think that - a handful of fertilizer will perk up the plants in the garden! Not true!

    Fertilizer 101 by Pam Sinclair

  • User
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    Oh, I believe you. And I am real conservative using that kind of stuff. I just know if I use a little Miracle Grow when I water the potted petunias, maybe once every week or two, they just look so much more vibrant and perky. Maybe because they're in a pot. Don't know anything about Hydrangeas so thought I'd ask.

  • User
    4 years ago

    I got one more bloom! :-)

    Looks like it will be the last one for this year. Next year will be more established so maybe more blooms? One stem was nipped off by the deer fairy earlier this summer so may have been one more. Sorry, my phone pics are not the best. :)


  • ophoenix
    4 years ago

    Next year should be really productive - as long as the deer stay away! lol Just a thought, could it be just that you are watering the petunias and not really all that Miracle Grow? Potted plants do need some fertilizer but ??????

  • User
    4 years ago

    The potted petunias do quite a bit better with some occasional N fert, I've tried it both ways.

    I water petunias every day and when hot, twice a day, if windy and once the plants get going strong. But MG once a week or two can mean maybe half a dozen times all season.


    btw: I just saw more broccoli coming on the stalk the deer ate, not real big but still. :-)


  • maackia
    4 years ago

    This has been a great year for hydrangea. It got dry from roughly the middle of July to...well, today, but they are not a diva plant, at least not in this environment.

  • User
    4 years ago

    Very nice maackia. Are any of those in your pictures the 'Incrediballs'?


    We had a genuine dry spell too that went for several weeks but with my smaller yard, I'm able to water. Not the same as good old fashion rain of coarse.


    I did notice in full sun, I had to water mine regularly or it would start to wilt at the tops in the afternoon. But that was earlier in the season, I hadn't noticed any wilting lately but then I do water generously.


    I'm sure with the ability to expand by suckers, we'll be seeing more of these around the yard in the future. ;-)

  • User
    3 years ago

    My Annabelle came through the winter fine, it did expand some but not enough that I'm worried about it getting too large, at least not this year and probably not next year either. Blooming nice and not wilting anymore, being in full sun, I'm attributing that to the fact that the roots are more established now and our climate is cooler than some. But I'll be watering if it quits raining regularly. :-)


  • User
    last year

    Just an update:

    Last Fall I noticed a small sucker offset from the main plant. So this spring I decided to try my hand as dividing it.

    After digging it out, I wasn't sure if there were enough roots for it to survive.

    Put it in a 5" pot with some of that good moisture retentive 'Pro Mix' I purchased for trial. ;-)


    After 6 days, the small shoots have been opening into leaves, so hopefully it's survived and on it's way.


    And as an aside: The DW brought in one of the dried blooms last Fall and added it to the 'interior decor'. Surprisingly, it's still intact and looking presentable (I move it out into more light for the picture).


  • lovemycorgi z5b SE michigan
    last year

    I was just outside, cursing my Annabelles and Incrediballs, while peeling back leaf after leaf “pod” and squishing the larvae within. My Invincibelle Ruby is afflicted as well. I love that they are early bloomers, but I swear, if my new Quickfire Fab (planted last fall) puts out early blooms, my smooth hydrangeas might all be replaced next year with those.

  • luis_pr
    last year
    last modified: last year

    Consider applying products early (starting in April) or before leaf out, such as spinosad (spray the whole shrub per label directions).

  • lovemycorgi z5b SE michigan
    last year

    Thanks, luis_pr, I’ll give that a try. Was out smooshing larvae again today, I’m sure my neighbors think I’m nuts.

  • BillMN-z-2-3-4
    4 months ago

    Update:

    My original plant is doing well. Full (all day) sun with a few dry spells this season, sandy ground.

    Pretty reliable I would say.



  • pennlake
    4 months ago

    On my radiata type this evening I prefer the lacecap flowers