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.

Why are my Hydrangeas not blooming?
Why are my Hydrangeas not blooming?

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.

What Type Of Hydrangea Do You Have?

Cityline Mars® Hydrangea macrophylla*

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).

Pruning Mistakes

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 blooms on new wood
Hydrangea paniculata blooms on new wood

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Too Many Deer

Hydrangea Incrediball

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’re Too Impatient

Hydrangea Paniculata 'Pinky Winky'

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pinky Winky’*

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.

Not Enough Light

Cityline Paris Hydrangea macrophylla

Cityline Paris® Hydrangea macrophylla*

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.

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

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 at 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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27 Responses

  • I’m not sure what kind of hydrangea I have the leaves of course are green and come to a point the flowers are creamy white with a touch of very light pink! Gorgeous ! I noticed they usually bloom on old wood. We were getting buds, Then the weather turned cold again and the buds look dead. I have noticed new growth from the base of the plant. What should I expect next. For the first five years all I got was green leaves. Then I added some fertilizer one time during that year and next year I got one beautiful bloom, the next year I saw several blooms coming on but before they bloomed, The weather turned cold and I never got to see them, so sad. What should I expect now?

    • Hi Connie…Unfortunately, late frosts are hard on hydrangeas that bloom on old wood. It should be able to grow back up from the ground but you probably won’t get any blooms this year. Since the fertilizer seemed to help, I would add some more this spring. Hopefully your plant will recover enough to bloom next year. In the future, if a late cold spell is in the forecast, try covering your hydrangea with a tarp or light blanket. That can prevent the buds from being damaged. Hope this helps!

  • I purchased a newer cultivar of H Macrophylla called Zebra which has black stems with snow white blooms. The first year I bought them, they came with the blooms, and last year, no blooms were produced even though I left the old wood, which produced no buds or blooms, but only new growth from the base of the plant. This winter, I left the old wood (which produced not blooms-these were the stems from the new growth at the base) and the same thing is happening-no buds or life on the old wood but plenty of new growth again at the base. The other conditions mentioned are not playing a role and the oakleafs gown under the same conditions and care are growing like weeds with no issues whatsoever Help!!

    • Hi Henry…I have not heard of that variety before…it sounds beautiful! Usually if your Hydrangea isn’t growing on old wood, it’s because the stems died back during the winter, either because of cold weather or lack of moisture. (The Macrophylla Hydrangeas are generally less cold hardy than the Oakleaf ones and require more water). I would try mounding 12 inches of leaves or straw over the plant to protect the stems next winter, which will also help to prevent the soil from drying out as fast. Hope that helps!

  • I will take your advice. Cold likely more of an issues that lack of water. Thanks for your prompt reply!
    Henry

  • My Variegated Hydrangeas (4) don’t bloom. They (3) are planted under an oak tree and one at house foundation on North side.

    • Hi Bonnie…it’s possible your Hydrangeas don’t get enough sun. Although they like shady locations, they do need sun part of the day to bloom.

    • Hi Judy…the dark leaves could mean there’s a phosphorus deficiency in the soil so you can try sprinkling a phosphorus fertilizer around the plants. Or it could be that they are just too dry. I suspect the holes are caused by bugs – could be slugs, beetles or fruit worms. I like to get rid of beetles and fruit worms by spraying the leaves with dish soap and water. For slugs, you’ll probably need to set up some slug traps around the plants (pouring beer in a container is also supposed to work). I hope that helps!

  • I have two limelight hydrangeas that are growing beautifully, lots of greenery but there are just no buds. Last year I had a few on each but not many.

    • Hi Tina…there are a couple of possible reasons why it isn’t blooming. The first is that it may not be getting enough sun. Limelight Hydrangeas prefer full sun. And the second is too much fertilizer. These Hydrangeas really don’t like too much. Hopefully that helps!

  • I have 4 hydrangeas that bloom early spring & change color during the summer months but stay in bloom until the 1st frost. I think they were called Forever, but not sure of that name. 3 yrs ago these four plants produced approx 75 large beautiful flowers. The last 2 years I get beautiful full bushes of big green leaves but only have a total of 8 flowers on the 4 plants. They are all about 8yrs old. What am I doing wrong?

    • Hi Marie…The most common causes of reduced blooms are late frosts, too much fertilizer, or using a fertilizer that is low in Phosphorus and high in Nitrogen.

  • Can I prune my big leaf Hydrangeas on mid August?I only have a few flowers on each plant.Howcan I tell which cane to snip off ?

    • Hi Ray…yes, pruning them in mid August should be fine. Cut off any branches that are dead. Other branches can be trimmed back to encourage branching and fullness. No real trick to it other than getting the shape that you want.

  • Planted Tiny Tuff Stuff hydrangeas in June, zone 5. No flowers this year at all. Heavy rain then killer heat. Will they bounce back and should I fertilize agin this fall ? I really appreciate the advice. Thanks.

    • Hi Sara…it’s probably a combination of a new location and the weather. They should come back just fine next year. I would wait until the spring to fertilize. Otherwise, they may put on a growth spurt just as the cold weather is starting which could damage the plants.

  • I have several City Paris Hydrangeas. Last year the blooms were out of this world, spectacular color and all. This year for some reason, I have tons of beautiful leaves on them, but very few blooms here and there. A bit disappointed, however I need to mention a couple of them had a visitor and it was not a deer. It was a Groundhog, they love to eat the buds, not to mention the leaves off my Mulberry tree, so I understand those that were eaten may not bloom. I also noticed that there are a few that have some leaves that look like they turned a cream color. I am in Michigan, and we have had tons of rain, very wet and at times cooler temps during that time, weather has been ok this month so far. But need to know what I could be doing wrong. I do fertilize them once in early spring with Osmocote. They do get watered well when needed; have a drip system. I haven’t pruned or touched them and just left them as they were last year. Should these be pruned, if so, how?

    • Hi Jinny…the most common cause of lots of leaves and no blooms is over-fertilizing, so you might want to cut back on how much you put down around your Hydrangeas. You might also want to try a fertilizer that has a higher Phosphorus and lower Nitrogen count…the Phosphorus encourages blooms, while Nitrogen is better for leaves. Pruning isn’t usually necessary unless you want to change the shape/size of your plants for some reason.

  • Best information I have read on line about Hydrangeas. Thank.
    you. My question…..I want toi transplant one of four plants.
    When is the best time to do this? Transplant is a small growth from larger plant.
    Again thank you.

    Helene
    [email protected]

    • I’m happy you found it helpful, Helene! I usually transplant Hydrangeas either later in the fall or in the early spring, when the weather is cool but it hasn’t frozen yet.

  • I have the hydrangea paniculata plants that are one year old. There are some blooms but a lot of hearty green areas with no blooms. I did cut them down to the ground in later fall last year. Should I continue to cut them down as I did last year and will the flowering increase in the following years? Thankyou

    • Hi Carole…it does take Hydrangeas 2 or 3 years to really get established, so the fewer blooms may just be because they’re fairly new to the spot. Yes, pruning them back helps to keep the bushes from getting too big, so I always cut mine back pretty hard in the fall or early spring.

    • Hi Cathy…it sounds like maybe part of the plant gets more sun than the rest of it? That’s the only thing I can think of that would cause blooms on only one side.

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