Thursday, June 16, 2011

Garden Thursday - Hydrangeas And Cicadas

I decided to make a departure from veggie gardening this week and share something new I learned – I always thought I knew this but didn’t quite.  But first a final cicada comment.

Unlike locust which devour everything in their path, cicadas do very little damage from what they eat.  There damage, in addition to hearing lose from their noise, is the damage from their egg laying.  They lay them toward the end of young branches by splitting the branch and inserting the eggs.  This usually results in killing the end of the branch, which is no worse for it than pruning.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been a fan of hydrangeas and we have several in our landscape, of varying colors.  Generally, they come in white, pink, or blue and combinations of pink and blue.  The pink or blue color is soil dependent but the white can only be white.  For a long time, it was my belief that it was iron that ensured the blue color so I always included a few nails in the hole when I planted them.

Then I understood that it was the soil acidity that made the difference so I added acid for blue and lime for red/pink.  Now after reading this site, it appears it is the amount of aluminum available to the plant that determines the color.  Making a red one blue is done by simply adding an aluminum source – such as aluminum sulfate.
Making them red is trickier as it requires removing the aluminum or at least making it more difficult for the plant to absorb it.  Actually, removing it is not practical, so making it less available is the best option and as it turns out soil pH has a big influence on this.  The aluminum is more easily taken up by the plant at lower pH so increasing the pH, by adding lime can help.  As it turns out, it is the soil acidity that controls the color.
This one isn’t quite sure what color it wants to be, but I like it like it is.
Remember those shrubs I cut way back in late winter  - here's a before and after of the Butterfly Bush.

A dwarf Crepe Myrtle that was very gangly is now nice and bushy.

The regular crepe myrtles had gotten very tall and needed to be pruned back as well.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.



  1. You are cracking me up with this cicada thing .. hearing loss!! Have you ever seen the hydrangas in bloom in Oregon. Oh my and they're huge huge huge. I've never attempted to grow them and not once ever thought about the colors. Very interesting. My butterfly bush died a couple years ago, I'd cut it down and was always amazed at it's recovery in the spring.

  2. I have a couple of those hydrangeas too that can't seem to make up their mind what color they want to be on the same shrub! Didn't know that about the egg laying with cicadas though - course we don't have them quite as bad as y'all do, and here they seem to be way up in the oaks. I actually enjoy listening to them, but again, they aren't in the numbers you have!

  3. I didn't know that about the egg laying. We usually don't hear them in the north until the dog days of August.

    I wish I could grow crepe myrtle here!

  4. We have only one enormous hydrangea. It was always white, until the year that a freak April 2 foot snowstorm took down most of the arbor vitae in my front yard. They were about 20' tall, so we had a tree guy stand them back up; he added fertilizer sticks, and the hydrangea turned pink! I was happy.

  5. Hydrangeas are one of my favorite. Endless Summer is my favorite variety. People should read up on their Hydrangea care. Some only bloom on new wood like the butterfly bush it needs to be cut back every year. There is a lot more than just digging a hole and plopping a plant in. Keep this up Larry and you'll educate the blog world and we'll all have beautiful beds!

  6. I have always loved hydrangeas, but never grown them. I sort of knew about the pH thing, but apparently there is a lot more to it than I realized. Great info, Larry!

  7. Larry, you must have a 6th, 7th, or 8th sense! Today after going out for our weekly greasy spoon joint breakfast with Bill, I was commenting on how the trees this year seem to have an over-abundance of dead brown ends that I had NEVER seen before. Cicadas, those little deafening devils! Arrgghh! Well, they are now dead and gone here and I am SO glad!

    Hydrangeas, I have such difficulty growing! Planted 3 last year and one made it and it's only about a foot tall with NO blooms. I fertilized it today with Miracle Grow Acidifiying food, so we'll see.

    Tomatoes and green peppers coming out of our ears it seems! Picked my very first heirloom purple tomatoes today (about 5), am excited to compare the taste and textures!

    Crepe 'em, but so do the deer on our acreage. It's a bummer; they keep coming back and trying their best to grow. The bird netting is helping them.

  8. It's difficult to believe how many hundreds of cicadas I saw at your place yet we have not had one around our house yet this year.


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