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Hydrangea Care : Common Problems and How To Fix Them

Hydrangeas, with their lush foliage and vibrant blooms, are a favorite among gardeners seeking to add a splash of color to their outdoor spaces. However, achieving that picturesque look comes with its set of challenges. Like any plant, hydrangeas are susceptible to a variety of issues that can hinder their growth, affect their health, and diminish their beauty. This article aims to shed light on some of the most common hydrangea problems owners face and offers practical solutions to ensure your plants thrive.

Key Takeaways

  • Recognize signs of distress in hydrangeas early to address issues promptly.
  • Timely intervention can prevent further damage and help preserve the plant’s health.
  • Following best practices in hydrangea care is crucial for vibrant blooms and robust growth.

Common Hydrangea Problems and Solutions

Lack of Blooms

Hydrangeas may experience a lack of blooms due to several factors, including improper pruning, insufficient sunlight, over-fertilization, or the plant’s age. One common mistake is pruning at the wrong time. Many hydrangea varieties, such as those that bloom on old wood, need to retain last year’s growth to produce flowers.

Pruning them in late winter or early spring can remove the buds set the previous year, leading to a lack of blooms. Additionally, hydrangeas require adequate sunlight to bloom—typically, they need at least 3 to 6 hours of direct sun, depending on the variety. Too much shade can inhibit their ability to produce flowers.

What To Do:

To ensure your hydrangeas bloom, familiarize yourself with their specific pruning needs. For varieties that bloom on old wood, prune right after flowering to avoid cutting off next year’s buds. For those that bloom on new wood, pruning in late winter or early spring can stimulate growth and flowering.

Providing the right balance of sunlight is also crucial; if your hydrangeas are in too much shade, consider transplanting them to a sunnier location. Be cautious with fertilization; too much nitrogen can encourage leaf growth at the expense of blooms.

Use a balanced, slow-release fertilizer designed for flowering plants. If your hydrangeas are newly planted, give them time to establish. Some varieties may take a few years to start blooming regularly. With proper care and patience, you can encourage your hydrangeas to produce vibrant blooms each season.

Wilting Leaves

Drooping leaves in hydrangeas are often a sign of water stress, either due to over-watering or under-watering. These plants are particularly sensitive to changes in moisture levels, and their large leaves and blooms can lose water rapidly, especially in hot, dry conditions. Under-watering leads to dehydration, where the plant can’t uptake sufficient moisture to support its tissues, causing leaves to droop.

Conversely, over-watering or poor drainage can saturate the soil, suffocating the roots and preventing them from absorbing water and nutrients effectively, which also results in drooping leaves. Additionally, drooping can be an indicator of transplant shock or root damage, where the plant’s root system has been disturbed or damaged, affecting its ability to absorb water.

To prevent drooping leaves in hydrangeas, it’s crucial to establish a consistent watering routine that keeps the soil moist but not waterlogged. During hot, dry periods, hydrangeas may need more frequent watering, especially if they are in full sun. Mulching around the base of the plant can help retain soil moisture and keep roots cool.

Ensuring good drainage is also key; if the soil retains too much water, consider amending it with organic matter to improve drainage or planting hydrangeas in raised beds. When transplanting, handle the roots gently and water thoroughly after planting to reduce transplant shock.

Monitoring the plants regularly for signs of water stress and adjusting care practices accordingly can help keep hydrangeas healthy and prevent drooping leaves.

Drooping Stems

On some panicle hydranges, when plants are blooming, the blooms will be so big that they will weigh down the stems. Also when it rains, the extra moisture tends to severely weigh down the blooms.

The best way to fix this is with proper pruning in early Spring. Prune off the weaker stems leaving on the stems that are at least the size of a pencil.

Check out this video for a detailed tutorial : How To Prune Panicle Hydrangea

Leaf Spots and Fungal Diseases

Hydrangeas can become susceptible to fungal diseases for several reasons, including excessive moisture on leaves, poor air circulation, and overcrowded planting. Fungal pathogens thrive in damp conditions, especially when water remains on the leaves for extended periods, such as from overhead watering or heavy dew.

These conditions are ideal for the development of fungi like powdery mildew, leaf spot, and botrytis blight. Poor air circulation contributes to these moist conditions by preventing leaves from drying properly.

Additionally, when hydrangeas are planted too closely together, it restricts airflow around the plants and creates a humid environment conducive to fungal growth. Overhead watering can exacerbate these conditions, making hydrangeas more prone to fungal diseases.

What To Do:

To prevent fungal diseases in hydrangeas, it’s essential to adopt cultural practices that reduce moisture on the leaves and improve air circulation. Watering at the base of the plant early in the day ensures that any water on the foliage can evaporate before the cooler evening temperatures set in.

Implementing drip irrigation or soaker hoses can also help keep foliage dry. Proper spacing between plants according to their mature sizes allows for adequate air flow, reducing humidity around the leaves. Regular pruning of dead or overcrowded branches not only improves air circulation but also increases sunlight penetration, making the plant less hospitable to fungi.

If fungal diseases are detected early, removing affected leaves and applying fungicides according to label instructions can help manage the disease.

Pest Infestations

Hydrangeas can become susceptible to pest infestations for a variety of reasons, with common pests including aphids, spider mites, and scale insects. These pests are attracted to hydrangeas due to their lush foliage and the presence of new, tender growth, which provides an easy and nutritious feeding ground.

Environmental stress, such as extreme temperatures, overwatering, or under-watering, can weaken the plants, making them more vulnerable to infestations. Additionally, pests are often drawn to plants that are already stressed or weakened because they are easier targets compared to healthy, robust plants.

What To Do:

Preventing pest infestations in hydrangeas involves several proactive measures. First, maintaining plant health through proper watering, fertilization, and soil management is key, as healthy plants are less likely to attract pests. Regular inspection of the plants can help in early detection of pests, allowing for timely intervention before the infestation spreads.

If pests are detected, removing them manually or using a strong jet of water can be effective for mild infestations. For more severe cases, applying neem oil, insecticidal soap, or horticultural oils can help control the pest population without harming beneficial insects.

Encouraging natural predators, such as ladybugs and lacewings, can also provide biological control against pests.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is a common fungal disease that affects hydrangea plants, presenting as a distinctive white or gray powdery coating on the leaves and stems. This affliction thrives in warm, dry climates with high humidity, especially when plants are crowded, and air circulation is poor.

While it rarely kills hydrangeas, powdery mildew can weaken them by sapping nutrients and reducing photosynthesis, leading to stunted growth and fewer blooms.

Early detection and treatment, including proper spacing, increased air circulation, and fungicide applications, are crucial for managing this condition and keeping your hydrangeas healthy and vibrant.

Yellowing Leaves (Iron Chlorosis)

ellowing leaves on hydrangeas, known as chlorosis, can be a signal of several underlying issues ranging from nutrient deficiencies to improper soil conditions. One common cause is an iron deficiency, which occurs when the plant is unable to absorb enough iron from the soil, often due to high pH levels.

Hydrangeas thrive in slightly acidic to neutral soil, and when the pH is too high, iron becomes less available to the plant, leading to yellowing leaves while the veins remain green. Additionally, over-watering or poor drainage can lead to root rot, which hampers the plant’s ability to uptake nutrients effectively, also causing leaves to yellow and weaken.

What To Do:

To prevent yellowing leaves on hydrangeas, it’s important to start with a soil test to determine the pH level and adjust it accordingly. If the soil is too alkaline, applying sulfur or using an acidifying fertilizer can help lower the pH.

For iron deficiencies, chelated iron supplements can be directly applied to the soil or foliage. Ensuring the soil has good drainage and is well-aerated will help prevent root rot; amending the soil with organic matter can improve its structure.

Regular, but not excessive, watering is crucial to maintain healthy hydrangeas. Mulching around the plants can help retain soil moisture and keep roots cool, further reducing stress on the plants.

Holes in the Leaves

The primary culprits behind these holes are usually pests, such as Japanese beetles, slugs, and snails, which feast on the soft leaf tissue. These pests are attracted to the plant’s moisture and tender leaves, making hydrangeas an ideal target.

In some cases, the damage may also be attributed to a bacterial or fungal infection, where the organism eats away at the leaf, leaving holes and sometimes causing further decay if left untreated.

What To Do:

To prevent holes in hydrangea leaves, an integrated approach to pest and disease management is crucial. Regularly inspecting plants for early signs of infestation or disease can help in taking timely action. For pests like beetles, slugs, and snails, manual removal or the use of environmentally friendly deterrents, such as diatomaceous earth or copper barriers, can be effective.

Encouraging natural predators, like birds and beneficial insects, can also help control pest populations. For fungal and bacterial issues, improving air circulation around the plants by spacing them properly and avoiding overhead watering can reduce the risk of infection.

If necessary, applying appropriate fungicides or bactericides, preferably organic, can help manage these diseases. Maintaining healthy soil, ensuring proper nutrition, and providing adequate water are also key strategies in preventing stress on the plants, which can make them more susceptible to damage.

Transplant Shock

Transplant shock in hydrangeas occurs when moving a plant disturbs its root system, leading to stress that can manifest as wilting, yellowing leaves, or stunted growth.

What To Do:

To prevent transplant shock, hydrate the plant thoroughly before and after transplanting to ensure it’s well-watered but not waterlogged. When moving the plant, be gentle and try to keep as much of the root ball intact as possible. Plant it at the same depth it was in its previous location, and consider adding root stimulator products to encourage root development. After transplanting, provide the hydrangea with shade from the intense midday sun for a few weeks to reduce stress

Frost Damage

Late frosts can damage new growth and affect blooming. Protecting your hydrangeas with frost cloths or utilizing anti-frost sprays can shield them from unexpected cold snaps, ensuring that your plants remain healthy and vibrant.

Preventative Care and Maintenance Tips

Selecting the right location, preparing the soil with compost, and adhering to seasonal care guidelines can significantly reduce the prevalence of common problems. Regular monitoring and maintenance, tailored to the needs of your hydrangea variety, are key to fostering a stress-free environment for your plants.


How often should I water my hydrangeas?

Hydrangeas should be watered deeply once a week, with adjustments made for rainfall and temperature. The soil should remain moist but not waterlogged.

Can hydrangeas recover from fungal diseases?

Yes, with early detection and proper care, hydrangeas can recover from fungal diseases. Removing affected areas and applying fungicides can help restore plant health.

What is the best time to prune hydrangeas to ensure blooming?

The best time to prune depends on your hydrangea variety. Generally, hydrangeas that bloom on old wood should be pruned right after flowering, while those blooming on new wood can be pruned in late winter or early spring.


Understanding and addressing the common problems faced by hydrangeas can lead to healthier plants and more vibrant blooms. By following the solutions outlined in this article, gardeners can enjoy the full beauty of their hydrangeas with confidence.

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