Q: I have seven hydrangeas that just won’t bloom. They look amazing and have looked like they would bloom for two months; and I have about 12 flowers total. Once again the ones I have look great. They grow on new wood, and it’s about halfway between white and light blue in color. They are about 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide and stand very close together. I also have a crape myrtle that blooms beautifully in the spring and then dries up in the summer. Also, I water regularly. We just moved here from out of state last year and I’m hoping you could give me some suggestions. I always enjoy reading your articles.
A: First we need to determine what type of hydrangea you have. There are two main types of hydrangeas commonly grown in Arkansas gardens – those that bloom on new growth and those that bloom on old wood. There are many options in these categories. Those that bloom on last year’s growth (or old wood) are large-leaved hydrangeas and oakleaf hydrangeas. The most common hydrangea is the large-leaved hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) with either crested or lace-capped flowers in shades of pink or blue. Oakleaf hydrangeas have oakleaf shaped foliage with white flower spikes. Large-leaved hydrangeas are often pushed back by a late frost or cold winter. If all of their growth comes from the ground line (new growth), they will have very few late blooms. The large buds they set in autumn at the tops of dead-looking stems in winter are the origin of the huge flowers.
Due to susceptibility to winter damage, new cultivars called remontant (reblooming on both new and old wood) are becoming more common. These include Endless Summer, Blushing Bride and many more. They will bloom even if winter harms them; but the flowers come later and are usually smaller. Panicle and smooth hydrangeas form either white panicles or round white flowers when new shoots appear in summer. This year, due to the extreme heat, many of the panicles were smaller than normal, but they bloomed anyway. Try pruning (cutting off the faded flowers) on your crape myrtle and see if that doesn’t help them recover and bloom again.
Q: Is it time to give up our golden rain tree? Since the polar vortex nipped him in the bud two years ago, he has been losing large limbs. It used to be so thick and shadowy, and now it’s just hollow when you look up. It sprouted three new branches at the fork of a large dead branch; two died. We have loved and cared for this tree for many years. We always thought it would strike back. But what do you think of our poor tree? We are in Northwest Arkansas.
A: I’m surprised the cold has gotten to the tree as golden rain trees should be hardy even in much colder climates. The way I see it, you have several options. It’s not as full and lush as it used to be, but it’s not dead either. It’s not in a place where it could do damage if it falls, nor is it big enough to do damage. You could continue to water it, fertilize it in spring and see what happens. Or you could transplant another one nearby and let it grow for several years until it reaches a good size and then remove that. I don’t think this tree will die instantly, but sometimes when they start losing limbs it signals a slow death.
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Q: I need help. I didn’t get any fruit on my persimmon tree this year. That has never happened before. The tree is about 14 years old and looks very healthy. The leaves look great and I can’t see any disease. I have to do something? This tree bears fruit that does not become astringent. I think it’s an oriental type. Something was disturbing the flowering. Do I need to do something or see what happens next year? I’m so disappointed because I really like the fruit and last year we had about a bushel. any advice?
A: Don’t let a bad production year worry you. Late frosts can get flowers; dry winters can do harm; wet springs can limit pollination; and some fruit trees may be “alternatively bearing”. One year they produce a bumper crop, and the next season they rest and recover. Let’s see what happens next year. If you still aren’t getting any fruit, investigate further.
Janet Carson, who retired after 38 years with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, is one of Arkansas’ best known horticulturists. Your blog is up arkansasonline.com/planitjanet. Write to her at PO Box 2221, Little Rock, AR 72203 or email her [email protected]