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Why Won't My Hydrangeas Bloom?

If your hydrangea is not blooming, try answering these questions:

hydrangea-old-wood-compressor.jpg1. Did I prune my hydrangea back drastically in the fall, winter, or spring?

2. Did my hydrangea leaf out early in the spring, during a warm spell and then get frozen back in a late spring freeze?

If the answer is "yes" or "possibly," then try to remember if the most of the new growth came from the ground rather than the old stems. This is illustrated in the picture at right taken by hydrangea expert Michael Dirr.

New growth that comes only from the ground is a bad sign that the hydrangea will not bloom this year.


Three Common Reasons Mophead Hydrangeas Fail to Bloom:

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1. A late spring freeze arrives and ruins the developing bloom buds. The freeze may be light and even go unnoticed until one realizes that the blooms are not forming. Or it may kill all the emerging leaves, too. As a result, most of the new growth comes from the roots (as in the picture above). When this occurs, you know you have a problem.

Most flower buds develop on the old stems. Once these stems are damaged in a late freeze, new flowers will not appear until the following year and only then if it is a milder spring. (This is the rule for the vast majority of mopheads [macrophyllas] but there are exceptional hydrangeas that will bloom despite this damage)

Go to Winter Protection for information on covering your hydrangea for winter protection

2. Improper pruning. If you have pruned your hydrangea this year, you may want to check out the section on Pruning Hydrangeas to see if this could be the problem.

3. Planted in wrong zone. If you have had the bad luck to plant a hydrangea that has not bloomed after the first year you planted it, you may finally have to concede that this particular variety is not cold hardy in your area. Another variety may succeed famously. 'Endless Summer and 'Blushing Bride' are two wonderful hydrangeas that will bloom almost anywhere. If your hydrangea has never bloomed, don't give up hope. See What Type Hydrangeas Can I Grow?

I have found that often the hydrangea that is not cold hardy was received as a gift or bought wrapped in foil. The foil is a sign that this hydrangea is directly out of a greenhouse and may not adapt well to your location. Some "gift type" hydrangeas are perfectly hardy, depending on where you live. But one will probably have better success growing hydrangeas if they are purchased them from a local nursery. Most local nurseries try to stock hydrangeas that are known to do well in the area. It also helps to ask the nurseryman (it pays to shop where there is an expert!) if this particular hydrangea is temperamental in cold climates.

Go to Winter Protection for information on covering your hydrangea for winter protection

The Big Hydrangea That Wouldn't Bloom

As some of you may know from experience, one of the big mysteries we encounter with our hydrangeas is "Why won't they bloom?" Some hydrangeas are faithful bloomers, but some just bloom a little or won't bloom at all.

I received the following email from a visitor to this site who was gracious enough to let me know her story. There is even a little romance involved. Here is the story of Amy-Beth and David [don't miss the great video link after the story]:

"Dear Mrs. King,

Even though you and I have never met nor corresponded, I wanted to express a heartfelt thank you for the plethora of information you provided me via your Hydrangea website.

When I met the love of my life he had this enormous green plant next to his house. When I asked him what it was he said "It's supposed to be a hydrangea, but it never blooms. Every year it grows larger and larger..." (he has lived in what is now our home for over 17 years)".. and once in awhile it gets a few flowers."

I did not know much about hydrangeas at all, but one day I spotted one and realized something was very wrong with ours. It had beautiful blue flowers on it, and more than just a few. So, I spent some time last year researching and came across your website which provided me all the knowledge I needed.

I explained to my dear David that the problem with the Hydrangea was not that it was too old, but that he was cutting it down to the ground every year in November. He tried to explain to me that if he didn't cut it, we would end up with ugly brown sticks next to the house all winter long. I shared your website with him and pleaded with him to let me try, just this year to not cut back the Hydrangea. He reluctantly agreed, and every day he would mention how ugly the brown sticks and messy dead leaves were looking.

We weathered a terribly snowy winter and never covered the hydrangeaa. I was worried that the bad winter might mean that I might not see the flowers as I had hoped.

March came and some new green growth started blooming at the base of the plant. "See" David would say, "i told you the sticks were dead. Now can I cut them down? they look horrible!". I stood my ground and resoundingly said "No, wait until May". April came and some new leaves started to pop out of the sides of the big ugly sticks. "Well, can I at least cut off the top of the sticks?" David would plead. I would just look at him and say, "Wait until May." Then May came... At first we saw little clusters of green [the beginning blooms], with each passing day they grew larger. David and I would check each day to see how many more blooms popped, first one, the next day ten, then 50, then we couldn't count anymore....And well, it is a Very Large masterpiece - 15 feet wide by 6 feet tall, we are estimating well over 1000 flowers.

And we owe you all the thanks, because you took the time to make a website and share with the world that I am part of that you shouldn't cut a Hydrangea anytime after July 31.

Now, I am heading back to your website to read about the best way to cut them for a pretty vase on my desk at work.

Take care,

Amy-Beth and David"

And here is the proof. The picture at the beginning of this article was her shrub before. Now you can see the hydrangea absolutely covered in blooms!

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