Why Isn’t My Hydrangea Blooming?

My Garden Life
June 19, 2020
Table of Contents

Hydrangea Not Blooming? Here’s what to do

If we wanted a green shrub, we’d plant a green shrub, right? While the leaves might be beautiful, we plant hydrangeas mainly for their lavish blooms, so it can be frustrating when they don’t flower. To keep your hydrangea blooming and maximize your
bigleaf hydrangea flowers, here are five things to consider:

1. To Bloom Hydrangeas Need The Right Sun Exposure

Row of big leaf hydrangea in a landscape border.

Morning sun and dappled afternoon shade is ideal. Direct sun in the afternoon hours can add stress to the plant and burn the leaves or flowers. The number of hours of direct sunlight varies based on location, but generally if you’re in zone 6 or cooler, your plant can handle six to eight hours. As you move from zone 6 and warmer, you want to limit that direct exposure to three to five hours.

2. When to Prune Hydrangeas to Encourage Blooms

Leaf buds on a hydrangea shrub

There’s one main rule as it applies to pruning bigleaf hydrangeas: don’t! Never prune in fall, especially if you have a plant that only blooms on old wood growth (meaning the flower buds for next year are set the fall before). If you fall prune, you’re cutting off all the blooms. In spring, wait until at least Memorial Day to cut off anything that didn’t survive the winter. Hydrangeas can be slow to wake up, so be patient. At that time, cut back to the green leafy growth and leave the rest alone.

3. Fertilizing Helps Keep Your Hydrangea Blooming

Beautiful row of blue hydrangea macrophylla shrubs along the foundation of a house.

When you see green leafy growth emerge in spring apply a slow-release, granular fertilizer high in phosphate (the middle number of the NPK ratio). If you have a reblooming hydrangea like Endless Summer, apply again in late June or early July to help produce more late-season blooms. Ensure your fertilizer is high in phosphate and low in nitrogen (nitrogen promotes green growth, but not blooms). With that, planting your hydrangeas next to a fertilized lawn could reduce hydrangea blooms, as many lawn fertilizers are high in nitrogen.

4. Watering Hydrangeas

Person watering a hydrangea shrub with a garden hose.

Yes, hydrangea has “hydra” in the name, but it doesn’t mean it needs to be continually doused in water. These plants prefer consistently moist soil. The best test is to stick your fingers in the soil and if it’s dry, give it a good soak. If it’s moist or wet, leave it alone. If you see the blooms drooping in the afternoon, that doesn’t mean it needs water. Check the soil or leave it until late evening, and if it doesn’t pop back up go ahead and water.

5. Overwintering Hydrangeas

Birds sitting on the dried flower clusters of a hydrangea shrub in winter.

Especially if your hydrangea only blooms on old wood, overwintering is especially important. You don’t want to lose those precious old wood buds! If you planted your hydrangea recently, be sure to mound oak leaves, pine straw, or mulch over the base and stems. If your plant is established, still add that layer of protection to keep moisture in and to keep the roots safe from fluctuations in temperature. If you want to be extra safe, put a cage around the hydrangea once it goes dormant and fill it with leaves until you pass the final frost the following spring.

Hydrangea 'Endless Summer' planted along a walkway - hydrangea not blooming reasons

Whenever you find yourself wondering why your hydrangea isn’t blooming just follow these five tips to make sure you are caring for your plant in just the right way. A little know how and you will be treated to a sea of stunning hydrangea buds all summer long.
Did you know that you have the power to affect the color of your bigleaf hydrangea? Learn how to turn your hydrangea’s flowers to blue or pink in our article How to Change the Flower Color of Bigleaf Hydrangea.


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