You can grow PeeGee’s here, but they’ll be a little smaller

I would like to know about the success of growing the PeeGee hydrangea in this part of Colorado. I have not seen any in yards in the five-plus years we have lived here.

When is the best time to plant them? Do they need full sun or part shade? Should I add any fertilizers and mineral amendments to the soil of the planting site?

— Mari

PeeGee hydrangea grows well here, though perhaps differently than in other parts of the country. Hydrangeas as a group prefer cooler, more humid weather with a rich, organic, well-drained, somewhat acid soil. We don’t have any of that stuff!

PeeGee is much less demanding than some of its relatives, but is still happier the closer you can come to those conditions.

The main thing you want to do is thoroughly amend the soil where you’re planting with generous amounts of low-salt, decomposed organic matter such as Soil Pep. Water the PeeGee regularly. It’s not drought-tolerant, but don’t keep it soggy all of the time.

Fertilize it in the spring with Miracle Gro or our Bookcliff Gardens Choice Professional Turf Food.

The other difference you’ll notice here is that PeeGee hydrangea doesn’t get as big as it will in other parts of the country. It can form small trees back east, but around here you can expect it to top out at 5 or 6 feet tall. As a container plant, it can be planted any time.

The past several years a number of great new varieties of PeeGee hydrangea have been introduced. I have three varieties in my yard: Limelight, Pinky Winky and Vanilla Strawberry. The last one I planted this year, so I don’t have a lot of experience with it, but the other two have been wonderful plants.

Limelight is probably the most vigorous variety with large (8- to 12-inch long), cone-shaped, pure white flower clusters tinged with green. We have one planted at the nursery out in the full hot sun and it has thrived.

Pinky Winky is maybe my wife Patti’s favorite plant in the yard. It has the same white conical flower clusters but as the flowers age, they turn rose pink. Since the flowers in the cluster open gradually over several weeks from the base to the tip of the cluster, we get a two-toned effect that is gorgeous

Vanilla Strawberry does the same thing but turns a deeper, more vibrant rose red.

What will be the approximate mature height and spread of a Pecos crepe myrtle and a Zuni crepe myrtle when planted on the Redlands?

— Bob

Well, that’s a bit difficult to say. If we lived in an area with a milder winter, they should get 8 to 12 feet tall.

However, they’re a bit marginal here, and it’s common for them to freeze back to near the ground over the winter. I had a Zuni in my yard for 15 years or so, and it dies back to the ground each winter. I cut it back hard each spring and then let it grow up. Doing this it gets to 2½ to 3 feet tall each year and blooms its heart out through the summer.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t develop that beautiful mottled bark that it does in milder climates, but I figure the flowers are worth it.

 

Will Pieris Japonica do well in our area?

— Christine

Pieris or Mountain Laurel really doesn’t have much of a chance here. Most of them are winter-hardy enough for our area but they want a cool, humid environment with a rich, very acid, well-drained organic soil. We don’t have that.

They’re related to heathers and heaths which are practically impossible here.

If you want to try them, plant them in bright shade (to help cool them), surrounded by other plants (this helps raise the humidity).

Before planting, you’ll need to mix in an abundant amount of well-decomposed organic matter such as Peat Moss or Soil Pep.

I’d mix it in at least half and half with your native soil, but I wouldn’t exceed that ratio by very much.

Mix it in at least 12 inches down and do a large area around the plant. Mulch the plant in well after planting. 

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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