Episode 3: Will My Hydrangeas Ever Bloom Again?


About This Episode

In this episode of Southern Living’s Ask Grumpy podcast, Steve Bender aka The Grumpy Gardener helps a reader with a hydrangea issue and also introduces us to the Plant of the Week, Little Miss Figgy.

Question: My poor hydrangeas were full of new growth and buds, and then a freeze came and turned them all black and crispy. Will they bloom again? Should I trim them back?

French Hydrangeas
Ralph Lee Anderson

Grumpy Gardener Answer: Okay. This is very common, happens, usually late winter, early spring. Happens to lots and lots of people. You can't control the weather. Now, when the things turn black, whether it happens to be the stems, the leaves, or the buds, those particular parts of the plant are dead, and nothing much is gonna come from that. But that doesn't mean it's the end for your hydrangea. It will bud out again. So if you have are blooming type of hydrangea, the type that you see in garden centers called Endless Summer, and there's lots of other ones, they bloom on both new growth and old growth. So even if the growth this year in the early spring looks dead, they'll bud out again and they will bloom. Now, if you have a once-blooming type, the older type, probably most popular, is one called Nikko Blue; they bloom only on the growth made next year. So if they get wiped out in the spring, and they all turn black, you might as well cut them back because all the flower buds are dead and you won't get anymore until next year.

If you have a re-blooming type, you can cut them back in the winter, you can get them back in the spring, you can cut them back in the summer. and they will still form new flower buds and new flowers, and you'll get more blooms. If you have a once-blooming type that only blooms in the spring, what I do is, first of all, hydrangeas don't need a lotta pruning. You don't have to prune them every year. So you gotta get outta this mindset that you got to go out there and prune these things. You don't. What you want to do is you go out and you take your fingernail, or something sharp like a little knife blade or something you scratch the bark to see if the stem is still alive. If you can find green underneath, it means it's still alive. If it's brown, it means that part of the stem is brown. So you can prune down to the topmost part on the stem that's still green and don't go any further. Now, if you have problems, you say, "Well, I don't know if that's a leaf bud or if that's a flower bud," flower buds would be much bigger, be fat and plump, and also when they start to open, the flower will look like a little head of broccoli.

Plant Of The Week

Every Wednesday, Grumpy shares the plant he is loving right now. This week he raves about Encore Azalea.

About Little Miss Figgy

Well, this is a new type of fruiting fig. Fig is a plant that is very popular, down here in the South, where it's hardy where I live. We love the, uh, the taste of all the fruit. And, it does very well in our climate, it's not a fussy plant and people like to pick it and eat the fruit fresh, or also they'll, you know, they'll use it in cooking, they'll use it in desserts and stuff. They'll put it into jams and all sorts of stuff like that.

One thing that you have to remember about a regular fig tree though is that it gets big. I had one at my house, and I, you know, planted it out in the front yard. I had it in a container for a while, but when I planted it in the front yard, it got really, really happy, and it grew about 15, 20 feet tall and wide. Which, if you don't know that's gonna happen and you put it by your front door, it's gonna eat up your front porch, right? And you probably won't like that.

Well, now, in the Southern Living Plant Collection, we have a new introduction called Little Miss Figgy. And what's really nice about this one is it stays in a nice, compact shape. It only grows maybe to five to six feet tall, and you can leave it for its entire life in a container if it's hardy in your area, and it produces these, uh, really tasty, kind of, dark purple fruits. And it has several crops a year. What's nice about growing things in containers is that you're not stuck. Let's say your whole backyard is shady, and you couldn't plant it in the ground there, and fig does like a sunny location, so if you had a container, you can just move it to the conditions where the fig plant is gonna like.

This plant really has no serious pest problems at all, but you need to give it some good drainage, and keep the soil evenly moist. Don't drown it, don't forget to water it a couple times a week, especially in the hot summer time.

About Ask Grumpy

Introducing Ask Grumpy, a new podcast featuring Steve Bender, also known as Southern Living’s Grumpy Gardener. For more than 20 years, Grumpy has been sharing advice on what to grow, when to plant, and how to manage just about anything in your garden. Tune in for short episodes every Wednesday and Saturday as Grumpy answers reader questions, solves seasonal conundrums, and provides need-to-know advice for gardeners with his very Grumpy sense of humor. Be sure to follow Ask Grumpy on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen so you don't miss an episode.

Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript does not go through our standard editorial process and may contain inaccuracies and grammatical errors.

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