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Climbing Hydrangea failing to leaf

I have a mature climbing hydrangea on the west wall of my home. I inherited it from the previous owner and for 3 years it bloomed beautiful. Last year we had some slabs cut in April in the garden and the dust got on to the leaf buds & young leaves. That year it didn't flower well and some of the leaves had brown tips: I put it down to the dust. This winter we gave it a prune, cutting back just one of the several mature stems where it was going in front of a window. This year, while some of it has come into leaf, I'd say almost half the plant has put out ripe buds only for them to fail to open properly - it is ad though they have dried or burned. Also, in among the healthy leafing, there are only 2 areas of flowering. The rest of the plant has either put out no buds, or the buds have dried and gone brown.

Was it that last frost at the start of May? Was it my hard November prune? Or something to do with slab dust? Or something else? I love this plant and would hate to lose it... 

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  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,171
    Probably lack of water last year, and into this year, at the critical times. It can be hard to realise there's a problem until the growth isn't appearing as it should. 

    Often, even a mature plant can struggle if it's gone short of water during a long dry spell. They have a lot of top growth to support, and can often manage to produce buds of new foliage, but it then becomes difficult to sustain and produce that foliage.
    I wouldn't worry about having pruned it either - that often helps rejuvenate these  big plants, and in the long run, it'll have been beneficial. It would be worth cutting any dead stems/branches back to a healthy joint. Loads of water - by the bucket - every couple of days. 
    If there's a lot of other planting nearby, that's also competition for everything, so a general slow release feed each spring, and a mulch of compost or bark etc, after watering, will also help. West facing can still be quite a difficult aspect, depending on your local climate and conditions too, and especially when they have the wall too, as the foot of them can be very dry. They're generally at their best on north or east facing sites.

    If it's any consolation - there's been lots of queries this year on the forum re H. petiolaris - all with the same sort of problem  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • Thank you, that is so very helpful. And hopeful, too... I was worried itnwas a goner. I shall give it lots to drink, as it is indeed competing with other planting. Is it too late to mulch? Itll be a challenge, what with the other growth around the base of the plant outward, but I can try if it's not the wrong time....

    Thanks again  so much! 
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,171
    Never too late - you can mulch at any time really  :)
    Just do your best with whatever you have too. Always harder if there's other planting, but even a little layer every so often can pay off, after you get some moisture back into the soil. Hopefully, it'll pick up, especially of the weather cools down a little bit.
    Even if you get some good rainfall, it may not get right in where it's needed, so just keep an eye on it for a while  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


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