QUESTION: “I have two hydrangea plants that grow every year in a sunny
location, with large bright green leaves. The plants never make
flowers, however, even though the woman who gave them to me years ago
took the small plants from her garden where she had many flowering
“At the end of the summer, I have those long spikes which I carefully
protect through the frosty winter, but by spring they are dried up and
appear dead. As the new leaves start to grow, I lose hope and cut the
pale spikes down. Most of the time, the deer eat the tops anyway. Any
hope? Should I transplant them?” – Faith Gitlow
ANSWER: Hydrangeas can be tricky. According to the experts at
www.hydrangeashydrangeas.com (my favorite hydrangea care site) there
are three main reasons why hydrangeas fail to bloom:
A late spring freeze arrives and ruins the developing bloom buds.
Planted in wrong zone. If you have had the bad luck to plant a
hydrangea that has not bloomed after the first year you planted it,
you may finally have to concede that this particular variety is not
cold hardy in your area.
If you go to their Web site you can find more information about all
kinds of hydrangea problems.
QUESTION: “I have a problem with my blossoming Kwanzan cherry tree.
The leaves are turning brown and falling off. Is it dying? I live in
the California sierra foothills (elev. 1500ft.). It can get very hot
during the summer months. The tree is planted in the middle of my lawn
on an island of top soil with 2" of wood mulch on top. The island is
about a foot and a half high and less as it spreads out.
“I water about every other day for 20 minutes at 4am. There are plants
and flowers around it but not any closer than 2 ft. It also has new
growth coming in. I just don't get it! Do you have any ideas?” – Dan
ANSWER: Over the past four years or so, flowering cherry (and other
varieties including birches) trees have been going dormant earlier and
earlier each year where we live here in Tennessee which is zone 7. For
the most part, it is attributed to the lack of rainfall (actual
drought some of the years).
Around early to mid August, they begin to lose their leaves. Their
coloring doesn’t fade to a lovely fall color, just brown. As long as
there are no other issues with the tree, I would say it is the same
problem. Cheryl and I have been receiving many emails this summer
concerning trees doing this.
QUESTION: “For the past three seasons my pin oak trees have lost their
leaves in August. The leaves turn translucent first before falling
from the tree. I have used an insect treatment that you add to water
and pour at the base of the tree for the past three years and it
doesn’t seem to help. In the spring and during the summer the trees
are full of leaves but in August they turn white and fall off the
tree. The trees are 30 to 40 feet tall (I have two of them on the west
side of my home).” – Susie Brown
ANSWER: Here is a link to the University of California at Davis
Extension site with an article on diagnosing oak tree diseases.
This article will give you a detailed listing to work with, but the
most common reasons for early leaf loss with oaks is lack of water or
cool wet spring/summer weather which typically causes fungus.
If you can’t figure it out with the article, contact your local
agricultural extension agent for their opinion and how to proceed. To
find the Extension Service nearest to you, visit this Web site:
http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/ or go to my Web site www.landsteward.org
find this column and click on a direct link. Good luck!
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and
additional information, including archived columns, visit www.landsteward.org