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Drooping hydrangeas aren’t always thirsty, and other summer watering tips

I hope you’re walking around the garden at least every other day to spot plants that desperately need a drink, and not waiting til the weekend (or later) to do it.   Plants are dying out there in this 90+ degree heat with no rain in weeks, but that doesn’t have to happen to yours.  The secret to keeping plants alive during hot, dry periods is first, noticing the weather.  (Long-time gardeners, like farmers everywhere, can tell you roughly how long it’s been without a rain that counts – not a quick thunderstorm).  And then, like anxious parents, checking up on your plants, especially the new ones.

Drooping Hydrangeas

Now about these hydrangeas in my garden –  the unidentified lacecap variety on the left and the oakleaf hydrangea on the right – drooping on hot sunny days like today.   The natural assumption is that they need watering – now!  But I once heard the president of the American Hydrangea Society, no less, say to wait til the next morning before judging whether or not the plant really needs to be watered.  That’s because drooping is a natural response to the heat and sun, not necessarily a sign that watering is needed.   If it’s still drooping by morning, it definitely needs a drink.

What almost died in my garden

Just the other day I was horrified to notice one of my year-old Iteas (also known as Virginia Sweetspire) looking awfully crispy – gasp!  So I gave it and its companions (a group of seven) a long drink and am happy to report that they look fine now, though I think one more day without water would have killed one or more of them.   That’s despite the fact that I walk my garden every day, so I guess I wasn’t looking carefully enough, huh?

Keeping a list of thirsty plants

I Do keep a mental list of the plants in my garden that need special attention during hot, dry spells, but I hadn’t added Itea to it because my older ones had done just fine without any coddling.  The difference?  These new Iteas are in a spot that gets a bit of late afternoon sun.  Okay, mental list amended now.

by Susan Harris


Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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