By: Jennifer LaMontagne – Horticulturist – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI
Now is the time to determine the best course of action for helping your hydrangeas weather the winter. Last week’s article discussed the level of winter protection required for your hydrangea. This week, I have provided a few tips that, no matter the variety of hydrangea you have, will help it survive winter better.
One of the most important tasks in preparing your hydrangea for winter is to make sure to keep watering it until the ground freezes. Winter winds have a drying effect on plants. All shrubs, including hydrangeas, need to be moist going into the winter. Hydrangeas have shallow roots and need adequate watering but be careful not to overwater because they don’t like constant wet feet.
Adding organic compost material supports healthy soil. When applied after the ground has frozen, the nutrient-rich compost breaks down over time and once spring arrives, provides your hydrangeas with an extra boost after their long winter’s nap. It’s important to keep in mind that compost and fertilizer are two different things. Fertilizers should not be added at this time, because it stimulates the shrubs to produce new leaves. Hydrangeas should be slowing down growth above the ground and continuing to grow roots below until the ground freezes and they enter complete dormancy.
A layer of mulch should be added near the base of the shrub to insulate the soil and protect hydrangea roots from temperature fluctuations. Mulch also helps shrubs retain moisture. If you don’t have mulch, leaves or straw work just as well.
Depending on the variety and location of your hydrangea, as discussed in the previous article, the next step would be to provide a covering. For smaller hydrangeas, covering them over with leaves or straw works well. For larger hydrangeas, use stakes, a tomato stand, or chicken wire, and burlap to create a covering. It’s important to use material that will allow air to circulate. Plastic is not recommended because the moisture trapped inside can encourage disease formation. Once the covering is established, tuck leaves or straw inside to act as insulating material surrounding your hydrangea.
Bloch’s Farm is closed for the season but feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. Don’t forget to visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and our Facebook page!