Ok, so I've had an Endless Summer for about 2-3 years now. Long enough to realize that it never seems to get any taller. It seems each summer it gets about a foot tall, maybe a little bigger, and then blooms. Since it dies down to the ground every year, is this all I can expect from it? Is there any hope of getting a taller hydrangea? I know there must be hydrangeas that get big in my area, I had one growing up. Any help is appreciated!
First of all, how big is it getting? ES is listed in Plant Files as only 3-4 ft to begin with, so it's not a really large plant in the first place relative to some other hydrangeas. But if it's not even getting close to that, you may need to protect it over the winter so that it doesn't die back all the way. After a few years when its roots are really well established it might put out a little more growth, but if it's dying back to the base every year it will probably not reach its full height. Also I don't know how you're fertilizing, but if you're not fertilizing it regularly you might try that and see if you can get it a little bigger, but still without winter protection (or lots more global warming!) you're probably never going to see it get as tall as it would in a warmer climate.
The big ones you're seeing are probably either other macrophylla cultivars that are being protected for the winter, or they're cultivars of H. arborescens and H. paniculata, both of those species are hardier and won't die back.
Well, mine is maybe 12-18 inches tall at the most. I do fertilize it...last year religiously, and this year just whenever I think about it, and it still got as big as it did last year. I know the hydrangea I grew up with never was protected, although it was between two houses, and I'd say it got to be 3-4 feet tall. It did die back all the way, it was just a large bush of sticks until spring. Which, the one I have now, dies all the way back, but the stems are still there, dead. I wasn't sure if I should prune them or not, this old/new wood thing has me confused. I was actually considering digging it up and using it as a houseplant, I've read that they can be house plants. I'd rather it be outside and 3-4 foot tall though!
What color flowers did your hydrangea that you had growing up have? If it had whitish or maybe pale pink flowers, it was probably a cultivar of H. arborescens or H. paniculata which are hardier than H. macrophylla. They won't die back in your climate, although they will also lose their leaves and look like sticks over the winter. Or if it had pink/blue flowers, it was probably a macrophylla and just the spot it was in was extra sheltered or an extra warm microclimate. Being in between two houses as you described could have really helped it especially if the houses were close together, or if it was planted right up next to one of the houses. An area like that will be a little more sheltered from cold winds and frost and will tend to stay warmer. Or if it was dying back and regrowing from scratch every year, it could be it was a different cultivar that was supposed to get 6-8 ft tall, so even though it wasn't growing to its full height it might have gotten taller than your ES would.
As far as pruning, dead is dead and regardless of whether something blooms on old or new wood, if the old stems are dead there aren't going to be any flowers on them anyway so you can safely prune them out. It's best to wait until you see new growth starting though, otherwise you won't know for sure which branches are actually dead and which ones just haven't started to grow their leaves yet. The good news about Endless Summer is that it blooms on both old and new wood, so even if the old branches die and you lose those flowers you'll still get blooms later in the year on the new growth.
For the height, if it continues to die back every winter it's probably never going to get 3-4 ft tall since it has to start from scratch every year. There are a couple things you could do if you really want it bigger...you could build a cage around it and throw leaves over it in the winter to protect it and keep it from dying back. Or if you've got another area in your yard that might be more sheltered or a warmer microclimate, you could move it there and see if it stops it from dying back. Or you could go find a cultivar that's supposed to get a lot taller than Endless Summer (I'm not sure if there are other rebloomers that are taller or not though), then even if it dies back chances are the new growth it puts out each year will be a bit taller than what you have now.
Glad to hear that Endless Summer blooms on both old and new wood. I couldn't remember. I have an ES and it dies back to the roots here, which actually surprised me. I thought that in my zone it would not. It's about 2'-2.5' tall now. I'm hoping that I'll see blooms this year since last year was it's first year in the ground.
Well, I just came from watering, and I thought my ES looked even shorter than 1', so I measured. Its only 10 inches tall at its highest point. *sigh. The hydrangea we had growing up was bluish pink, very pretty. The house were pretty close together and it was set back in a nook, so it was probably well sheltered. Every year I throw leaves or pine needles over the bush, but no cage. Its in an area that gets a lot of wind, so by summer some of the leaves have blown off. Perhaps caging it will help. It just looks so funny, this little 10" tall "bush". It grows very nicely and seems healthy, just little. The only other thing I can think of is that it doesn't get sun until about 4-4:30 in the afternoon. I know it should get morning sun instead, but I have no place that would just get morning sun. It blooms really well, but I wonder if it needs more sun? Oh well, guess I'll just have to live with a short bush. Thanks for the input, its much appreciated!
I would guess that hydrangea you had growing up was in a very sheltered location if it wasn't protected and still bloomed--reblooming hydrangeas like Endless Summer haven't been available for very long so whatever it was you had growing up had to be one of the old sort that only bloom on old wood, and in your zone those generally won't bloom unless they're well protected. For your current plant, if it's dying back to the ground every winter it's only going to get so tall, having more sun most likely won't make it go from 10 inches to 3-4 ft. So if it's healthy otherwise and is blooming for you I don't see any reason to move it unless you have a spot that you think will provide better winter protection for it. If you do leave it where it is, if you don't mind taking a little extra time and effort on it you might try doing the cage & leaves for protection next winter and see if that helps.
Karen--they shouldn't typically die back to the ground in zone 7 (you can grow non-reblooming hydrangeas without protection in zone 7 and they should bloom fine, which means they wouldn't normally die back too much). With yours I imagine it's because it's still fairly recently planted, but if you give it a year or two in the ground I think it'll die back less and less in future years.
I didn't think it should have died back in this zone. I have a Little Lamb hydrangea which also died back. However, there's no doubt that they both did. Both were small and planted last year, so hopefully they will get over that in future years.
Hhhmmmmmm,... my Endless Summer has been doing the same thing. I told my husband if it didn't get any taller after this year, it was going to be moved and something else would go into that spot as I have it in the front yard.
Guess I am looking at moving it and putting something else in there - especially if it is dying back in zone 7b. Now what to plant...
As I already mentioned, they wouldn't normally die back in zone 7, I think that's because it's a young new plant and they will always be hit harder by winters than something that's been in the ground for a few years. However in 5b, you're likely to have the same problem that Kristie is having, most winters it will probably die back for you unless you protect it. So if you want something bigger there, you'll either have to protect it for the winter or replace it with something else. If you really want a hydrangea in that spot, any of the H. arborescens and H. paniculata cultivars would work better for you, they are hardier than the macrophyllas and once they're established they shouldn't completely die back every year.
When you said you shrub was dying back, to the ground, am I right in thinking it just looses all it's foliage and you are left with bare stems, any Hydrangea that I grow does this, even the climbing wall shrubs do this, it is there natural habit, they are not evergreen in any zone, they need a rest period like most plants,/ shrubs that are NOT evergreen, also as Ecrane has said, the type of Hydrangea you are growing has been cultivated to stay smaller that it's other cousins that can grow huge in certain conditions, but even they defoliate after flowering there socks off all summer, also you sound as if you are over feeding yours with the amount of times you are adding fertilisers to the root system, you are probably causing the roots to either burn or cut off there growing habit as these shrubs dont like a lot of fertilisation, maybe a handfull early spring when you see new buds (leaf buds) break as the shrub starts into it's new seasons growth, and if you have poor soil conditions, you can fork in another handfull at the end of summer before all the foliage starts to die/slow down, the type you have will never get the huge big ball size flowers as it was bread for smaller areas in the borders therefore wont ever end up the same size as the ones you know from old. Hope this helps you find a better position for your plant as they are lovely shrubs, but always smaller. Good luck. WeeNel.
In colder zones (zone 5 and maybe sometimes zone 6), this type of hydrangea actually will die back to the ground each year, all the branches will be killed by the cold each winter (unless they're protected), but the roots aren't killed so the plant will send up new sprouts from the base every year. But last year's branches typically are killed and won't leaf out or put out new growth as they would in a warmer zone.
In the case of my hydrangeas, Endless Summer and Little Lamb, they both died back to the ground -- dead stems left above ground -- then new stems grew from the roots in the spring. As ecrane3 said, they really shouldn't have done this -- however, it's hard to argue with reality. So, I'm hoping that this was just because it was their first year in the ground and they were small plants.
Hope all is well for you next summer, dont give up, if it happens again, you could always try moving them to another area as it is always a shame when something you like does not perform as you wish, good luck. WeeNel.
I have the same problem with mine. It sure isn't living up to all the hoopla we heard about it. Mine has barely grown over 2 ft. I was talking about moving it & it started blooming ! I guess I'll give it more time.
You'll be in the same situation as Kristie where it's likely to die back every winter unless you protect it--once the plant is established you should still get some blooms every year on new wood, but the plant is never going to achieve it's full height if it's got to start from the roots every year.