Why Aren’t My Hydrangeas Blooming?

Having trouble with your hydrangeas not blooming? Find out how to fix the problems so that you can grow these beautiful flowers in your garden.

I love Hydrangeas!

They have such big, beautiful blooms. They bloom all summer long. They’re great for flower arrangements. And they come in my favorite color…blue!

What’s not to love?

I’ll tell you what…when you plant one in your garden, making sure it is well taken care of so you can have more of those big beautiful blooms.

You get excited when the leaves start coming out.

Watch while the plant grows and looks really healthy.

Wait patiently for those big beautiful blooms to appear. ..and what happens? Nothing! Nada! Zilch! Not a bloom to be seen.

I think it’s one of the biggest disappointments I’ve had in my garden.

So I finally decided to find out what to do about it.

And I’m sharing what I found with you, in case you have the same problem.

Keep reading to find out why your Hydrangea isn’t blooming.

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What Type Of Hydrangea Do You Have?

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The first thing I found out is that there are many different types of Hydrangea, and they have different blooming requirements.

So before you can figure out why it isn’t blooming, you need to know what kind of Hydrangea you have.

Here are the most common garden varieties:

H. macrophylla – Big Leaf Hydrangea, Mophead Hydrangea, Lacecap Hydrangea

Mophead Hydrangea macrophylla
Mophead Hydrangea macrophylla

The Big Leaf Hydrangea is the variety that most people think of when they hear the word Hydrangea.

These are the 4′ to 5′ plants with big balls of white, blue or pink flowers that are often used to line driveways, fences, or the front of the house (especially in the South).

As the name implies, they have fairly large leaves that are rounded to a point.

The mophead variety is the one with the flowers that form large round balls.

Lacecap Hydrangea macrophylla
Lacecap Hydrangea macrophylla

The lacecap variety is the one with flatter flower heads that look more delicate.

H. paniculata – Panicle Hydrangea

Hydrangea paniculata
Hydrangea paniculata

The flowers on Hydrangea paniculata are more oblong than the ones on the big leaf hydrangea, but they are equally as showy.

They tend to start out as a white or greenish color and then turn to a shade of pink.

The brightness of the pink varies depending on which variety you get.

H. aborescens – Smooth Hydrangea, Annabelle Hydrangea

Hydrangea aborescenes 'Annabelle' By KENPEI [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.1 jp], via Wikimedia Commons | Why are my Hydrangeas not blooming? | Having trouble with your hydrangeas not blooming? Find out how to fix the problems so that you can grow these beautiful flowers in your garden.
Hydrangea aborescenes ‘Annabelle’ By KENPEI [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.1 jp], via Wikimedia Commons

Hydrangea aborescens is a native species of Hydrangea that grows wild across much of the United States.

Traditionally, it was mostly available with large white balls of flowers, but recently some varieties with pink flowers have become more popular.

H quercifolia – Oakleaf Hydrangea

Oakleaf Hydrangea (H. quercifolia) - By Anne Norman (oakleaf hydrangea) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Oakleaf Hydrangea (H. quercifolia) – By Anne Norman (oakleaf hydrangea) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Oakleaf Hydrangea is another native species.

It has oblong (rather than round) balls of flowers that are usually white.

The tell-tale sign of the oakleaf variety is the shape of the leaves, which (as you may have guessed) are in the shape of oak leaves.

H. petiolaris – Climbing Hydrangea

Climbing hydrangea
Climbing hydrangea

The Climbing Hydrangea is a vine with beautiful, lacy white or pink blooms that takes some time to get going, but is a great addition to the garden once it gets going.

Now that you know which type(s) of Hydrangea you have, you can look at the reasons why your particular plant has decided not to bloom.  (And skip over the ones that don’t apply your variety).

1 | Pruning At The Wrong Time

Prune Hydrangeas at the right time to prevent from losing blooms | By olyapon / Adobe Stock
Prune Hydrangeas at the right time to prevent from losing blooms | By olyapon / Adobe Stock

Applies To: All Hydrangeas

I think this is one of the most common causes of Hydrangeas that aren’t blooming.

The buds were accidentally cut off.

The tricky part is that different varieties of Hydrangeas should be pruned at different times.

Hydrangea macrophylla blooms on old wood
Hydrangea macrophylla blooms on old wood

H. macrophylla, H, petiolaris and H. quercifolia all bloom on old wood (ie. last year’s stems), and should not be pruned much at all.

You can cut the ends off the branches, up to the first set of 2 leaves, if you want to dead head the plants immediately after blooming.

But cutting any more than that is probably removing some of next year’s blooms…and that includes cutting blooms for your dining room table flower arrangement.

The one exception is the reblooming “Endless Summer” series of Hydrangea macrophylla which blooms on both old and new wood.

So technically, you can prune them and still get some flowers.

However, you will get more flowers if you prune them as if they were old wood bloomers.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Pee Gee'
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pee Gee’

H. paniculata and H. aborescens bloom on new wood.

That means they can be safely pruned in the early spring before the branches start to grow.

And H. aborescens often does best if you cut it right down to the ground.

Of course, in all cases, pruning to remove dead branches is always a good practice.

2 | The Plant Is Too Young

Mature Hydrangea petiolaris with pink Monarda and purple Clematis

Applies To: H. paniculata, H. aborescens, H. petiolaris

Both H. paniculata and H. aborescens require a couple of years to get established before they will start to produce mass blooms.

H. petiolaris takes even longer than that to get established…give it about 5 years to really start putting on a show.

3 | Late Frost

Hydrangea macrophylla buds can be killed by late frost
Hydrangea macrophylla buds can be killed by late frost

Applies To: H. macrophylla, H. quercifolia

Both H. macrophylla and H. quercifolia have buds that are very sensitive to late spring frosts.

So if you live in an area that can get a cold spell after it has been warm for a while (like I do in Upstate South Carolina), be prepared to cover them if necessary.

Planting them in a protected area by the house can also help.

4 | Too Much Fertilizer

Lacecap Hydrangea macrophylla 'Penny Mac'
Lacecap Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Penny Mac’

Applies To: All Hydrangeas

This one sounds a little strange.  Fertilizer is supposed to make plants grow better, right?

With Hydrangeas, too much fertilizer actually encourages lots of leaves and fewer flowers.

If you want to use fertilizer, one application of a well-balanced slow-release fertilizer in the spring should be enough.

5 | The Soil Is Too Dry

Hydrangea macrophylla with Hibiscus
Hydrangea macrophylla with Hibiscus

Applies To: All Hydrangeas

All Hydrangeas dislike dry conditions, and won’t grow (or bloom) very well if they aren’t watered regularly.

Adding a layer of mulch will also help to get the soil moist.

If you are looking for a variety that is more likely to grow successfully in dry conditions, try H. paniculata.

Once they get established, they actually tolerate dry conditions fairly well.

6 | Too Many Deer

Incrediball Hydrangea aborescens*

Applies To: All Hydrangeas

Apparently, deer love Hydrangeas as much as I do!

If you live in an area with deer, they may be doing some unneeded pruning for you…and preventing your Hydrangeas from blooming.

This can be a difficult problem to solve (as anyone who has tried to stop deer from feasting on their garden probably knows).

Building a 6-foot fence around my yard was the only way I stopped them from coming into my yard. (You can find more ways to keep deer out of your yard HERE.)

7 | You’re Too Impatient

Applies To: H. paniculata

H. paniculata blooms later in the season than the other hydrangeas.

So don’t be too impatient waiting to see its blooms…it may just be taking its time getting started.

8 | Not Enough Light

Hydrangea paniculata 'Pee Gee' in bloom
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pee Gee’

Applies To: All Hydrangeas

The general rule of thumb for most Hydrangeas is that they require about 4 hours of sun per day, and they prefer to get it in the morning.

But it also depends on where you live.

The further North you go, the more sun they can stand.

The further South, the more shade they like.

The one exception is H. paniculata which blooms much better everywhere in full sun (at least 6 hours per day).

This standard variety of the Pee Gee Hydrangea beside my deck gets sun almost all day long and it is always covered in blooms.

Solving this problem usually requires moving the plant to a better location…it is much easier to make sure that it is planted in the right place to begin with…

The great thing about most of these problems is that Hydrangeas are very forgiving plants.

So even if you don’t get any flowers this year, all you have to do is correct the issue and you’ll be rewarded with big, beautiful blooms for years to come!

Have comments or questions on why your Hydrangeas are not blooming? Tell us in the section below.

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8 reasons your Hydrangea isn't blooming

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70 Responses

  • I have an Endless Summer hydranga that I planted about13 years ago. The first year it blossomed buy none since then. It gets morning and early afternoon sun and watered every day. Why is it not blooming now? I keep threatening to dig it up but ……………..

    • Hi Dian…The main reasons that Endless Summer Hydrangeas don’t bloom is too much or too little sun, too much fertilizer, too much or too little water and too much pruning. It sounds like yours are getting the right sun exposure, so it may be one of the other reasons. Watering every day may be too much…they like soil that is moist but not wet. Deep watering once a week usually works best.

  • Hi my name is Lanye, we have the hydrangeas that are balls, pink and blue, every year we get flowers, but for some reason this year we haven’t gotten any, they are in perfect locations and get alot of water and care, just wondering what is going on with them

    • Hi Lanye…is it possible that you had a late frost this year? Or that someone accidentally pruned them in the spring? Both of those can prevent them from flowering.

        • The most common reasons for no flowers are pruning at the wrong time or a late frost that kills off the buds. Since your plants are fairly new, it could also be that they haven’t settled in yet. It can take Hydrangeas 2 or 3 years to get going.

  • Last year our hydrangeas bloomed beautifully for about 2 weeks and then the leaves got brown spots and the blooms turned brown. We cut them back to about 6 inches and they grew back very well, all about 3.5-4 feet high. We got 0 blossoms. Do you think it was the pruning?

  • I have the hydrangeas with the big white balls. In early June we had a big thunderstorm with lots on wind. It really knock the flowers down. Since then all the flowers have turn brown looking dead. There are plenty of new leaves coming out and growing. But the plants looks ugly. Do I cut off the dead flowers and will it still bloom this year or will I have to wait until next year?

    • Hi Kim…you can cut off the dead flowers to make the plant look better. You probably won’t get many a lot of new blooms at this point, but it may surprise you with a few.

  • I have a big beautiful Hydrangea macrophylla that gets full sun.
    It is full of blooms every year but the blooms never finish. The outer petals open but not the center.
    I fertilize in the spring

    Any thoughts?
    Thank you

    • Hi Carrie…it sounds like you have a lace-cap variety. They have a tendency to do that. (I don’t know of a way to force all of the petals to open). The mophead varieties will open all the way out.

  • I received a hydrangea for a gift one Easter and it was blooming then.
    I planted it outside where it gets sun for at least 6 hours in the morning. It has never bloomed again and it’s been several years since I received it. I water my flowers so it isn’t dry or too wet. I can not understand why it won’t bloom. The plant looks really healthy. Maybe they won’t bloom because of force blooming when they are sold at Easter?

    • Hi Judy…I have never had very good luck getting those florist Hydrangeas to bloom after they have been planted outside either. Most of them will do better in part shade than full sun, so that may be one thing for you to try. Sorry I’m not much help!

  • I don’t know what kind of hydrangeas I have. They have not bloomed since we bought this house 16 years ago. The plant itself is a lush shiny green.

    • Hi Marion…If a Hydrangea bush has lots of leaves and no blooms, it usually means one of three things: 1. It is getting too much fertilizer (if it’s planted close to the grass, the run-off from lawn fertilizer can cause issues), 2. it is being pruned at the wrong time (when in doubt, remove only the blooms right after it has finished flowering to avoid cutting off next year’s buds) or 3. it isn’t getting the right amount of sun (it’s hard to tell if it’s too little or too much sun without knowing what kind of Hydrangea it is). Hope this helps!

  • We just moved into our new house 3 months ago. It looks like i have a hydrangea Macrophylla plant in my front yard that gets full sun. It’s not as full as it should be and the leafs look like they are burnt at the end.

    • Hi Penny…it sounds like it might be getting too much sun or maybe not enough water. Hydrangea Macrophylla usually likes part shade, especially in the afternoon. Hydrangeas can be moved successfully, so you could dig it up and put it somewhere with a little less sun. It may take it a year to get established but it should come back better if it’s in a better location. Now is the right time to do that if you want to try it. The other alternative is to give it another year where it is and water often to see if that helps.

  • I moved into my house about 4 years ago. I have ,I think a big leaf hydrangea. It is a huge plant but has never bloomed! I’ve tried cutting it back in the fall, And not cutting it back at all and it still doesn’t bloom.it only gets afternoon sun.I water it frequently. I fertilize in the spring.I’m at a loss as to what to do!

    • Hi Sandra…it sounds like you are doing everything right. There are 3 things I can think of. If you you live in an area that is in a borderline zone for Hydrangeas or you typically get frosts in the spring after it has started to leaf out, the buds may get killed off by the cold. If this is the case, try winterizing it by surrounding it with burlap or mounding with straw over the winter (and cover it with a blanket if a late frost comes through in the spring). The second is that the fertilizer you are using has too much nitrogen in it, which causes lots of leaves but not blooms. Look for one that has more Phosphorus (the middle number). If it’s close to the lawn and you use a lot of grass fertilizer, the runoff from that can also cause this problem. The third is that it’s one of the Hydrangeas which likes full sun. In which case, you would have to move it. (If you send a picture, I can tell you if it looks like a sun-loving variety).

  • I cut my hydranges back in late winter almost to the ground. All i got back is green.

    Your advice is too general and no help at all. Is this all you have?

    • Hi Tom…Without knowing what type of Hydrangea you have, it’s hard to say for sure what the issue is. (If you don’t know what kind you have, they are all described at the beginning of the article). However, I suspect point #1 is your problem. Many Hydrangeas set their buds the summer before. So if you prune them in the fall, winter or spring, you will cut off all of the flowers. If you read the article more carefully, you’ll see there’s only one variety of Hydrangea that we recommend cutting all the way down to the ground.

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