Why Your Hydrangea Didn’t Bloom

June 21, 2012 | By | Comments (50)

Hydrangeas 028
Many people across the land are very unhappy right now. They’re unhappy because their neighbor’s hydrangeas are blooming and beautiful, their hydrangeas aren’t, and they’re afraid their shrubs’ lack of cooperation is a sign of displeasure from the Big Guy.

If you’re among those unhappy folks, relax. Believe me, if the Big Guy is mad at you, He has much more effective ways of demonstrating disapproval than taking it out on your hydrangeas. No, when hydrangeas don’t bloom (and Grumpy is talking about all types of hydrangeas here), it’s almost always due to one or more of the following reasons.

1. You pruned at the wrong time.

2. Your hydrangea isn’t getting enough sun.

3. The flower buds were killed by a late winter freeze.

4. Your hydrangea doesn’t like where it’s growing.

5. Your hydrangea hasn’t bloomed yet this year, but it will.

OK, now let’s consider the main classes of popular hydrangeas (French, smooth, panicle, and oakleaf) and see how these 5 factors relate to each.

French or Bigleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)

Let me get the name out of the way first. French hydrangeas come from Japan, not France. They’re called French because many selections of this species were made and named in France. Due to their incredibly gaudy clusters of blue, purple, pink, or white flowers, they’re the South’s most popular kind. Here’s what you need to know about blooming.

When They Bloom: Older, once-blooming selections like ‘Nikko Blue’ shown in the photo up top, bloom for 6 to 8 weeks, starting anywhere from late spring to midsummer, depending on your location and the selection. Newer, repeat-blooming types (‘Endless Summer,’ ‘Forever & Ever,’ ‘Mini-Penny,’ ‘Twist n Shout,’ ‘Let’s Dance’) bloom repeatedly from spring until fall if they’re happy, well-watered, and actively growing.

How Much Light: They bloom best if given sun in the morning and a little light shade in the afternoon, particularly during the hot summer. If you plant them in all-day shade, they won’t bloom.

How Much Water: French hydrangeas are water hogs. Due to the huge amount of water transpired by their large leaves during hot weather, they wilt in a flash. You may have to water them as often as every other day in the South in summer if it doesn’t rain. Repeat-bloomers will not repeat bloom if they go dry. Obviously, French hydrangeas are not good plants for low-rainfall areas.

What Kind of Soil: Rich, fertile, well-drained soil containing lots of organic matter to retain soil moisture. Acid soil (below pH 7) gives blue or purple flowers. Alkaline soil (above pH 7) gives pink or red blooms. White French hydrangeas stay white no matter the pH.

Where Not to Plant: Don’t plant in poor, rocky, dry soil. Don’t plant at the foot of big shade trees that compete with them for water and nutrients.

When to Prune: Once-blooming types flower from buds made last year. If these buds are killed by a late freeze or cut off by mistake, you don’t get blooms. So prune the once-bloomers very lightly. Remove any dead growth in early spring. Shorten live branches only in summer immediately after the blooms fade. Repeat-bloomers, on the other hand, bloom on buds made last year and the current year. So even if a freeze killed last year’s buds or you pruned the plant to the ground this spring, they’ll still make new flowers this year. Just remove old blooms as they fade.

Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens)

Native to the South, smooth hydrangeas are less fussy, more cold-hardy, and easier to grow than the French. ‘Annabelle’ (below) is the most popular selection because of its huge white flowers. New pink-flowering types, such as ‘Bella Anna’ and ‘Invincibelle Spirit,’ are now heavily promoted.

Hydrangeas 024
When They Bloom: About the same time as the French. They’ll bloom later if pruned in spring.

How Much Light: They take more sun than the French, but morning sun and light, afternoon shade in the South is still a good rule.

How Much Water: They prefer moist soil, but don’t need as much water as the French.

What Kind of Soil: Fertile, well-drained; pH doesn’t really matter, unless you live in a peat bog or lime pit.

Where Not to Plant: In full shade under big trees.

When to Prune: Smooth hydrangea blooms on new growth. Prune in winter or early spring. If you prune it back severely, you’ll get massive flowers, but fewer of them. These big blooms may need support.

Panicle Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata)

Native to Japan and China, this is the toughest and most accommodating species described here and a great one for beginners. It tolerates heat, drought, full sun, and bitter cold. In fact, Grumpy considers its most popular selection, the treelike ‘Pee Gee,’ the crepe myrtle of the North. “Pee Gee’ grows up to 20 feet tall, blooms in summer, and thrives all the way to Canada. ‘Limelight’ (below) is a more compact, bushy plant growing 5 to 8 feet tall with upright blooms that age from whitish-green to pink. I’m currently trialing a new dwarf, ‘Bobo,’ that tops out at 3 feet.

Hydrangeas 029
When They Bloom: Summer into early fall. The flowers of most turn from white to pink or rose as they age.

How Much Light: Full sun preferred.

How Much Water: Likes moist soil, but tolerates drought. Needs much less water than French.

What Kind of Soil: Well-drained.

Where Not to Plant: Shade (it won’t bloom)

When to Prune: Blooms on new growth. Prune in winter or early spring.

Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

Native to the Southeast, this is a unique hydrangea in several ways. It likes shade and will even bloom in the woods. It’s the earliest to bloom of the species described here. Its oak-shaped leaves turn red, orange, yellow, and burgundy in fall. And it’s far easier to grow than the French. My favorite selection is ‘Snowflake,’ named by nurseryman Eddie Aldridge of Birmingham, Alabama. As each flower cluster ages, stacks of new florets open atop the old ones. The new ones open  white, while the old ones turn rose, giving a beautiful bicolored effect. ‘Snowflake’ grows 7 to 8 feet tall. ‘Pee Wee’ is dwarf and only grows 3 to 4 feet tall.

Hydrangeas 023
When They Bloom: Usually start in mid-to late spring and continue into early summer.

How Much Light: Dappled sun to shade.

How Much Water: Does well in moist soil, but tolerates drought very well.

What Kind of Soil: Well-drained, acid soil containing lots of organic matter.

Where Not to Plant: Full sun; near hot, paved surfaces; in alkaline soil (foliage turns yellow between the veins); in poorly drained, heavy soil.

When to Prune: Blooms on growth made the previous year. Seldom needs pruning, but if you must, do it in early summer.


  1. Steve Bender

    Last year’s drought killed my hydrangeas to the ground. They’re sending up foliage from the base. If yours goes anopther couple of weeks without any signs of life, I’d assume it’s dead.

    April 16, 2017 at 8:57 am
  2. Stephanie Wheeler

    I have a newish hydrangea, we planted it about 3 years ago. It bloomed the first two years, and last year, even through the drought, and we kept it watered all summer.

    This year, there is no greenery at all on the plant. It looks dead. We have an older, more established one a few feet away, and it looks like it’s on its way and should do great this summer.

    What could have happened? Should I dig it up and replant, or is it possible it could come back? Thanks!

    April 12, 2017 at 11:52 am
  3. Steve Bender

    It may be due to changing growing conditions (more shade, less sun), pruning (don’t prune what you think is dead growth until leaves sprout that show you how far back to cut), or it could use some fertilizer (sandy soil doesn’t hold nutrients well).

    April 9, 2017 at 9:00 am
  4. Kathy

    My Oakleaf Hydrangea bloomed very nicely and grew the first couple of years. Now it is acting like a ground cover, not blooming and spreading over the flowerbed. It has mixed sun and shade in central Florida with mostly sandy soil. I did prune it back when the stalks looked dead. Can I get it to grow tall and bloom again?

    April 2, 2017 at 3:44 pm
  5. Donna Cushman

    Thank you for confirming what I suspected! My hubby is going to adjust the watering so that my beautiful hydrangeas get MORE WATER!

    June 16, 2016 at 6:49 pm
  6. Grumpy Gardener


    Hydrangeas need lots of water when they’re blooming. Your soil is sandy, so it dries out quickly. Regular watering should stop the blooms from turning brown.

    June 15, 2016 at 2:51 pm
  7. Donna Cushman

    I live in Florida’s Panhandle, Zone 9. I have French Hydrangea bushes which are about 5 years old — and produced 1-5 blossoms all summer!
    I learned my lesson about pruning after seeing a vacant house’s hydrangea bloom more than mine did! Light bulb — No one pruned it! So, I did not prune mine last fall/winter — and I have a MILLION blossoms coming out on my hydrangeas! The problem is that only 1/3 of the 3 bushes have FULLY blossomed flowers. They start to blossom around the edges and then stop — and the little blossoms dry up and fall off like seeds. Why???

    June 14, 2016 at 4:46 pm
  8. Donna Cushman

    I live in Florida’s Panhandle, Zone 9. I have French Hydrangea bushes which are about 5 years old — and produced 1-5 blossoms all summer!

    I learned my lesson about pruning after seeing a vacant house’s hydrangea bloom more than mine did! Light bulb — No one pruned it! So, I did not prune mine last fall/winter — and I have a MILLION blossoms coming out on my hydrangeas! The problem is that only 1/3 of the 3 bushes have FULLY blossomed flowers. They start to blossom around the edges and then stop — and the little blossoms dry up and fall off like seeds. Why???

    June 14, 2016 at 4:44 pm
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    January 12, 2016 at 11:46 am
  10. Steve Bender

    M. Edwards,

    I think the extra cold winter this last year killed the flower buds. This happened to many people. If the upcoming winter is nicer, you’ll see lots of blooms next year.

    September 14, 2015 at 12:35 pm
  11. M. Edwards

    I need HELP. We moved into a rental home in the mountains of western North Carolina (valley of the Roan Mountain). Anyway the beautiful blue hydrangea bloomed that spring and the following 3 spring and summers and now nothing. I am at my wits end trying to figure out what went wrong. I thought I trimmed at the right time (after all the blooming had ended and before the first frost. I covered the bush for protection then that spring I got 1 bloom and this year nothing. The bush is beautiful, green leaves and all but no flowers. I have several dead stalks but lots of viable ones. Someone suggested loosening up the soil and using 1 part Epsom Salts to 3 parts water and spreading that all around the root system. Can you help?

    September 7, 2015 at 2:33 pm
  12. stacy crillo

    thanks for all the good info, steve. i am so disappointed that only 3 of my big leaf plants bloomed and only very few blooms at that. 3 other smaller plants didn’t bloom at all. and my neighbor has had beautiful blooms all summer long. i guess i need to wait til next year since the 1st 4 reasons for no blooms don’t apply to me.

    August 26, 2015 at 1:50 pm
  13. Steve Bender


    the reason your hydrangeas didn’t bloom was that winter cold killed the flower buds. You have the once-blooming type and if the flower buds made in fall are killed, they don’t form new ones in spring. You need to plant reblooming types like ‘Endless Summer’, ‘Pennymac,’ and ‘Forever & Ever.’ These form flower buds on both old growth and new growth. So even if the plants are killed to the ground in winter, they’ll still bloom the following year.

    August 23, 2015 at 2:56 pm
  14. Sylvia Gunn

    I have read a lot on hydrangeas but I can not find my answer. I live in New Brunswick Canada. I believe my hydrangeas have suffered winter kill. I had beautiful blooms about 3 years ago but only leaves ever since. I am trying to figure out if you have to have blooms on the hydrangea in order to set buds for the next year. I have mophead and about 20 of them. How do the buds develop. If I protect the hydrangeas this year is there a chance I will get blooms next year. I guess my question is if you plant does not flower how will buds develop. My plants have not been pruned so I know I have not pruned them incorrectly. They get the correct amount of sun and shade and look very healthy. I would really appreciate your help. I will be fertilizing them with 10-30-10 and when I had flowers they were huge blue blooms.

    August 15, 2015 at 5:38 pm
  15. Steve Bender

    Tina & Bonnie,

    Many readers report the same thing this year. The cause was a very cold winter that killed the flower buds, which aren’t as hardy as leaf buds. Repeat-blooming hydrangeas can still bloom after this, but the once-bloomers, like you have, won’t bloom this year. You have to hope that this upcoming winter is milder.

    August 6, 2015 at 2:39 pm
  16. Tina McQuillen

    My hydrangeas bloomed beautifully last year, huge pink blossoms. The plants are beautiful this year, just no blooms. Several of my other ones bloomed. What’s up .

    August 3, 2015 at 3:59 am
  17. Bonnie Johnson

    My hydrangeas didn’t bloom this year, I think because of improper pruning. If I don’t prune it at all this this, will it bloom next year? I miss those beautiful flowers.

    August 2, 2015 at 9:27 pm
  18. Tina McQuillen

    my hydrangea has bloomed last year, nothing this yea. These plants are very healthy looking. What do you think is going on? Help please!

    July 30, 2015 at 5:34 am
  19. Steve Bender


    Mis-timed pruning and the cold winters are the causes. While you can correct the first cause, you can’t do anything about the weather except to hope it’s kinder this year.

    July 1, 2015 at 1:10 pm
  20. Steve Bender


    A plant that doesn’t bloom is telling you it isn’t happy where it is. I’d move it to a new location after it drops its leaves this fall.

    July 1, 2015 at 1:09 pm
  21. Steve Bender


    Not to worry. A new plant needs to grow a healthy root system before it can make lots of blooms. Just give your plant some time. I bet you’ll have lots of blooms this time next year.

    July 1, 2015 at 1:08 pm
  22. Catherine

    I live in Tennessee. I have several hydrangeas. My favorite is in a perfect spot, morning sun, it is huge. It is about ten years old. However, it has not bloomed for the last three summers. My husband did accidentally prune it about three years ago. (Probably at the wrong time). Any suggestions on how to get it to bloom again? Also, we have had unusually harsh winters for this area. Thanks!

    June 30, 2015 at 4:06 am
  23. Anita


    I live in Mississippi & have two mop heads, about 4 years old each, planted about 5 feet apart, morning sun, afternoon shade; one blooms profusely all summer, the other has never bloomed! The non blooming plant has grown quite large & the foliage is beautiful but no blooms; help!

    June 28, 2015 at 4:15 pm
  24. Jetserver

    This spring I purchased a Monrovia Mini Penny that already had 3-4 blooms. I planted it according to the instructions. It gets morning sun, afternoon shade, and with the rain fall we have had in VA this year, it is well hydrated. It has grown, but doesn’t seem to be producing any more blooms. Should I be concerned in this first year?

    June 28, 2015 at 7:08 am
  25. Steve Bender


    I’d return them.

    June 22, 2015 at 3:17 pm
  26. Nikki

    Thanks for getting back to me. All of the stems are actually still green but with no leaves. Since I just bought them April should I return them to the nursery? They received plenty of water and fertilizer.

    June 22, 2015 at 2:03 pm
  27. Steve Bender


    It sounds like your hydrangeas dried out and died. Scratch the bark with your fingernail. If you see green underneath, there’s hope the plants might leaf out again. If you see only brown, that’s bad news.

    June 22, 2015 at 1:36 pm
  28. Nikki

    I planted new limelights this year and all of the leaves have fallen off. The stems are still green but I have no leaves. Any suggestions?

    June 12, 2015 at 8:59 am
  29. Steve Bender


    Unless someone has been pruning them at the wrong time, my guess is that the recent cold winters killed the flower buds.

    June 7, 2015 at 7:13 am
  30. Maureen Escott

    I have a long hedge of blue hydrangeas that are probably 20-30 years old. They used to bloom profusely, but the last two years have had no blooms at all! We live in Blue Ridge, in, North Georgia. The bushes are partially shaded, face south. Why would they stop blooming now?

    June 2, 2015 at 8:35 pm
  31. Steve Bender


    I see no reason for it not to continue blooming.

    April 24, 2015 at 8:53 am
  32. Thomas Waschak

    I live in Pittsburgh, Pa. My son bought my wife a hydrangea for Easter. It’s in full bloom right now. Will it continue to bloom. I have several and up here they bloom in July.

    April 15, 2015 at 8:09 am
  33. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)


    Don’t know how hydrangeas do in India, but the first one would be Limelight.

    July 31, 2014 at 11:16 am
  34. surjit yadav

    Ho dear , I’m from India . Pls suggest me hydrangea breed for hot @ cold temperature for India our temp goes to 2 c to 48c yearly. Thanx Surjit yadav

    July 19, 2014 at 12:35 am
  35. Steve Bender


    It might have something to do with the location. The north side of a house is usually the shadiest. It could be that your hydrangeas aren’t getting enough sun. If that’s so, consider moving them to a sunnier spot this fall.

    June 12, 2014 at 1:28 pm
  36. Frida

    Hi, I planted two annabelle plants last year in our north facing garden. I have another type of hydrangea in between which is doing well. However my Annabelles don’t bloom fully. The plants are healthy and growing but the actual flowers don’t develop fully. Would you know why? Thanks

    June 8, 2014 at 4:58 pm
  37. Steve Bender

    Hydrangeas are native to temperate climates with warm and cold seasons. I don’t think they’d like Indonesia’s tropical climate.

    April 24, 2013 at 11:21 pm
  38. nani lucky fitriani

    can’t i planting hydrangeas in asian weather like indonesia?

    April 24, 2013 at 9:52 pm
  39. Thou Shalt Not (Crape) Murder | Georgia Garden Girl

    […] Hydrangea.  With hydrangeas, you need to know what kind you have.  Bigleaf, French, and Oakleaf hydrangeas bloom on old wood, which means that you should prune after flowering.  Peegee and smooth hydrangeas bloom on new wood and can be pruned back in late February or early March (if you prune back severely, you’ll get huge flowers but not a ton of them).  For information on hydrangea identification and pruning, see http://www.walterreeves.com/landscaping/hydrangea-identification-and-pruning/.  You may also want to read “Why Your Hydrangea Didn’t Bloom.” […]

    February 22, 2013 at 7:11 pm
  40. June

    Forget the hydrangeas. I have a grape vine that is supposed to be a Concord grape, but has put nothing out for the last 15 years but tiny almost ornamental-like grapes. Very bitter, too. What the heck is wrong with it?????

    July 31, 2012 at 11:16 am
  41. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Let me know how your oakleaf does. It needs acid soil, so I’ll be curious to find out.
    Since it sounds healthy, I would give it one more year to bloom. Don’t prune it. If it doesn’t bloom next year, you might consider moving it in fall to a sunnier spot.

    July 3, 2012 at 10:26 am
  42. Helen

    I have a black stem hydrangea that has grown massive in size but to date I have only had one bloom. Any suggestions?

    July 2, 2012 at 12:47 pm
  43. Dee/reddirtramblings

    You know my favorite is ‘Annabelle.’ I placed ‘Limelight’ in a friend’s garden a few days ago. It’s lovely too. I’m just tired of the macrophyllas. They aren’t consistent in Oklahoma. It’s too hot for them, and don’t even talk to me about the Endless Summer versions. Total copouts here. I am trying a quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’ in morning sun. I hope it does as well as it has in Texas. So far, so good. Wonderful post.~~Dee

    June 30, 2012 at 8:24 am
  44. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    This is due to pruning. If you don’t prune at all, your hydrangea will grow bigger and have more, but smaller flower clusters. If you prune in winter or spring, it will stay smaller and have fewer but larger flower clusters.

    June 29, 2012 at 2:50 pm
  45. Melinda

    My Pee Gee tree was planted in October with a dozen or so brown, dried blooms. Loved looking at it all winter!! Now is beginning to bloom but the flowers seem way smaller than the dried ones were. There are lots of blooms. They aren’t yet fully opened. Is there anything I should be doing to get bigger blooms in the future?

    June 27, 2012 at 8:51 pm
  46. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    I love all the hydrangeas you mention. ‘Ayesha’ is my favorite too.
    Read the section above about pruning French hydrangea. They need little pruning, but the time to do it depends on the type you have. If you want blue flowers, feed with a acid-forming fertilizer in spring.
    I can’t tell you for sure without seeing the leaves, but the culprit could be spider mites. Trying spraying the foliage several times a week with the hose. Spider mites hate wet leaves. Do this in morning, so the leaves can dry in the afternoon.

    June 25, 2012 at 12:12 pm
  47. Donna Craig

    I have an endless summer that is not blooming. what causes it to get brown or rust spots on the edge of the leaves?

    June 22, 2012 at 3:36 pm
  48. Sunshine

    I just planted hydrangeas (macrophylla) for the first time. I have perfect location. Could you explain in detail how to prune, when, how often to fertilize. I have been in love with this plant all my life, finally have time to play around with them. I’m retired, kids are on their own,fight fibromyalgia like a crazy person, and watch husband grow old in his lazyboy. Any info appreciated.

    June 22, 2012 at 10:02 am
  49. Linda Christine

    A wonderful well written article. I have 50 different varieties and I love them all..In Aiken, some are starting to fade but Ayesha, my favorite is just beautiful and LimeLight, PeeGee, Tardiva and several others are just making their show.

    June 22, 2012 at 9:00 am
  50. TC

    Excellent article Steve!

    June 22, 2012 at 8:39 am

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