Q: My large hydrangeas that used to have pink blooms have not bloomed in two or three summers. What do I need to do to get them to bloom?
A: If your plants are Hydrangea macrophylla, which is a mophead, or lacecap hydrangea, the problem may be that a late cold freeze damaged the flower buds that form on these varieties. They form on old wood, in late winter or early spring. Pruning at the wrong time may be your problem. Hydrangeas require very little pruning. Do not prune macrophylla hydrangeas in the spring. After they complete their blooming cycle, remove the old flower heads only, unless they have overgrown their space. If so, to prevent the elimination of newly developed flower buds, prune them in late summer or early fall. Another problem could be your soil pH. Applying the wrong fertilizer can have an effect on your hydrangeas. Too much phosphorous could prevent your hydrangeas from blooming. Why not perform a soil test to determine the pH of your soil? You may pick up information on how to take a soil test and all of the materials needed for the test from your local Extension System office. Someone there will answer your questions about performing the test and where to send the sample. And remember, hydrangeas require a great deal of water.
Q: When should I prune my crape myrtles?
A: When crape myrtle trees are young trees, they should be pruned in the fall to help develop the shape of the tree. Remove all the suckers around the base of the tree and remove the less viable of two limbs where they cross or rub together. Once the tree’s shape is developed, crape myrtles do not require pruning unless there is damage to the tree. Nothing is prettier than a large crape myrtle with limbs that flow gracefully, like a fountain of flowers spewing forth.
Q: My irises have stopped blooming. When do I remove the dead stems and foliage?
A: You may remove the dead stems anytime, but do not remove the long foliage blades until late August or early September. Even then, cut the blades down to about 6 inches, in a fan shape. Irises obtain nourishment from the long blades, which helps them to develop flowers for next season.
Carol (Bonnie) Link is an Etowah County Master Gardener and an experienced garden writer. Her weekly column is designed to help and encourage others in their gardening endeavors. Send questions or comments to email@example.com.