10 common hydrangea problems and how to avoid them

Fix and prevent problems like hydrangea leaf problems, no flowers, or poor growth with these tips.

<p>Dana Gallagher</p>
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The large, long-lasting flower heads of hydrangeas are a favorite for garden decoration from late spring through fall and are great for cutting for floral arrangements. But there are some common hydrangea problems that can ruin the show. By preventing or remedying the following mistakes, you will be rewarded with lots of gorgeous hydrangea blooms.

<p>Dana Gallagher</p>
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1. Too much sun.

There are different types of hydrangeas and most will grow and flower well if they get 4 to 6 hours of sun a day. The morning hours are best as the late afternoon sun can be very hot. The panicle hydrangea (panicled hydrangea) can handle full sun as long as it receives adequate moisture. Others, such as the broadleaf hydrangea (H. macrophyll), mountain hydrangea (H. serrata), smooth hydrangea (H. arborescens) and the oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia) will look best in partial shade.

If your hydrangea receives too much sun, its leaves will wilt and/or may appear burnt. The flowers often fade quickly and turn brown. Your best bet is to transplant your hydrangea to a spot that gets a little more shade. To minimize the stress on your plant,

2. Too much shade.

The other side of the coin with regards to light is that it doesn’t get enough of it. No hydrangea will flower to its full potential in full shade. Four hours of morning sun or dappled shade all day is best for shade-loving types like broadleaf hydrangea. Planting directly under a tree is usually too shady and established tree roots will outnumber the hydrangea for water and nutrients.

If your hydrangea is growing in the shade, it will often have weaker stems that drop easily and won’t produce many blooms. In spring or fall, move your plant to a spot where it will get more sun.

3. Incorrect watering.

Hydrangeas need a constant supply of water, but they can have too much of the good stuff. If your hydrangeas are constantly wet, the roots can rot and the entire plant could die. This can usually be avoided if you plant in soil that has good drainage. When you water, aim for the soil underneath the hydrangea rather than the leaves. Wet foliage can spread disease-causing hydrangea leaf problems, especially when the plant is growing in a shady spot.

A more common problem is lack of water. Hydrangeas that are grown in more sun than they’d like often soar on hot days. They may recover at night, but if they continue to wilt every day, they can become stressed, making them more prone to damage from pests and diseases. And they will look tired with hanging flowers that often do not reach full size.

Hydrangeas do best when watered whenever the top inch of soil is dry. A layer of organic mulch helps retain soil moisture preventing evaporation and keeps the soil cooler in hot weather, which also helps reduce wilting.

4. Poor drainage.

Poorly draining soil can cause serious problems for hydrangeas. If water settles in the soil, it reduces the amount of oxygen available to roots, something they need to survive. The result is root dieback and the development of root rot. If your soil has poor drainage, consider growing hydrangeas in pots. Use a general purpose potting soil and make sure the container has good drainage holes.

Related: The 13 best potting soils for indoor and outdoor plants

5. Overcrowded plants.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the small hydrangea you buy from a nursery will grow to the size stated on the plant label, but trust that label! Give your hydrangeas room to develop to their full size. If you plant them too close to each other or to surrounding plants, they won’t get the air circulation that helps them avoid disease. They will also compete for water and nutrients which can cause plants to struggle, leading to more wilting and fewer blooms.

A small hydrangea is a smart option for a smaller garden so you can still enjoy big, beautiful flowers without overcrowding the plants.

6. Don’t keep up with the weeds.

Weeds also compete for water and nutrients, and flower beds can have more problems with pests and disease. Remove weeds from flower beds whenever you see them. And keep the soil covered with a good layer of mulch, which creates a barrier that can minimize weed seed germination.

7. Overfeeding.

While hydrangeas appreciate the occasional feeding, it’s important not to overdo the fertilizer. Too much nitrogen, in particular, will encourage lots of leafy growth but few flowers. A quick-release fertilizer can burn plants if it comes in contact with leaves or roots. A slow release fertilizer or compost application are better choices – they will feed the plant gradually throughout the season. Don’t apply fertilizer in late summer because this can encourage new growth that may be subject to winter damage.

Related: Fertilize hydrangeas like a pro with these 6 tips

8. Pruning at the wrong time.

Some hydrangeas only flower on older wood, so cutting back those stems often results in fewer flowers. Many of the newer broadleaf hydrangea varieties like Endless Summer flower on both old and new wood. These rebloomers flower no matter when you prune them. Smooth and panicle hydrangeas bloom on the new wood.

In general, hydrangeas only need pruning to remove dead or damaged wood (just cut back to a bud in early spring) or to rejuvenate the plant by removing older unproductive stems to the ground in late or early winter. of spring. Dead flowers can be cut off at any time.

9. Letting diseases and pests go unchecked.

Hydrangeas don’t suffer from many pests and diseases, but it’s a mistake to overlook this issue. Infestations of Japanese beetles, aphids and spider mites can appear. Hand-harvesting beetles and spraying shrubs with a strong stream of cold water can significantly reduce mite and aphid populations. Wash the plants in the morning so that the leaves dry in the evening.

Fungal leaf spots and powdery mildew are among the most common hydrangea diseases. Avoid them by spacing the plants apart to allow for air circulation and avoid wetting the leaves, especially at the end of the day. Use an approved fungicide as needed.

10. Trying to change the color of the flower.

Not all hydrangeas have flowers that can change color based on the pH of the soil. The only ones that can do this are pink or blue flowered varieties of mountain and broadleaf hydrangeas. To get blue hydrangeas, add aluminum sulfate to the soil to lower the pH. For more pink hydrangea flowers, add garden lime to raise the pH.

Adjusting the pH will have no effect on flower color for other hydrangea species or white flowering selections of mountain or broadleaf hydrangeas. Attempts to change their color will simply lead to frustration.

Related: 8 Surprising Facts About Hydrangea You Probably Didn’t Know

When you choose the right place to grow your hydrangea—one with proper light exposure and well-drained, fertile soil—it’s likely to avoid many of the more common hydrangea problems. Hydrangeas aren’t difficult to grow, but they do have their preferences. Fulfill these and you will definitely be satisfied with the results.

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