Why Your French Hydrangea Never Blooms

March 17, 2016 | By | Comments (8)
French hydrangea

Photo: Steve Bender

Like a lot of Grumpy’s faithful readers, Heather in Raleigh wants to know why her French hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla — the one with blue or pink flowers) always looks green and healthy, but never blooms, even though it gets plenty of sun and water. Our email exchange reveals the probable cause.

Grumpy: Have you ever pruned it? When?

Heather: I think my husband pruned it in the fall after the leaves had died and fallen off.

Grumpy: And THAT’S why it didn’t bloom. Most French hydrangeas set flower buds in late summer and fall. He cut them off.

Heather: OK. So if he doesn’t prune them back this year, will we have blooms next year?

Grumpy: I can’t guarantee it, but I think it’s likely.

Notice that I said most French hydrangeas set flower buds in late summer and fall. If you prune these shrubs then, you cut off the buds. However, many newer types of French hydrangea, like the Endless Summer series, Forever and Ever series, ‘All Summer Beauty,’ and ‘Dear Delores’ and ‘Big Daddy’ from the Southern Living Plant Collection bloom on flower buds that set on both last year’s and this year’s growth. They’re called repeat bloomers. So even if you prune them in fall, winter, or spring, you’ll still get flowers.

Two other possible cause for no blooms — lack of sun and cold winters. French hydrangeas like morning sun and light afternoon shade. Very cold winters can also kill the flower buds.  If you have the old, once-blooming type that only sets flower buds the previous year, forget about flowers this year. However, winter cold isn’t a problem for repeat bloomers. If last year’s flower buds bite the dust, they’ll still bloom on buds set this spring and summer.


  1. What’s Wrong With My Hydrangea? | Southern Living Blog

    […] Related stories you will learn from and enjoy: “Why Your French Hydrangea Never Blooms” […]

    August 14, 2016 at 10:05 am
  2. debdtexas

    I bought Endless Summer late last summer and put them in large but lightweight containers. We live near Dallas and had just a few freezes this past winter. Each time before a freeze we moved them into the garage. This is their first spring with us and both of them are loaded with flowers, I love how it takes so long to actually flower that we get to enjoy them for so long. A few have turned pink but most are still huge green buds. I can’t wait to see them all in bloom at once. Maybe next year we’ll turn them blue.

    April 27, 2016 at 2:20 am
  3. Katie M.

    I have a hydrangea that has NEVER bloomed. It was in the ground when we bought the house and this will be the 4th year we have lived here. I have never pruned it or bothered it. Other than a little love and TLC (fertilizer, water etc.) It gets morning sun and afternoon shade. It isn’t very big. What could be the problem?

    April 18, 2016 at 6:50 pm
  4. Tim

    I bought a “Big Daddy” from the Southern Living collection and the tag says “part shade or full shade”. Everything I read online says part sun. If I plant this in full shade (there is some filtered sunlight, but it would be beneath a tree (weeds do grow in that spot I might add), would it bloom?

    March 21, 2016 at 6:52 am
  5. kao

    It’s a crock they sell Endless Summer in the north. It doesn’t matter if you prune or not. Tops always die off. I have tried various fertilizers all summer and given ample water. They are huge nice green plants with one or two total blossoms by end of summer. Total waste.

    March 20, 2016 at 7:58 am
  6. Dona G

    When should I prune my hydrangeas?

    March 19, 2016 at 8:42 pm
  7. Carol Jo Black

    Tess, I’d cover them-just in case!

    March 17, 2016 at 8:59 pm
  8. Tess

    In Virginia and all of my hydrangeas have leafed out. We are expecting snow Sunday. Will the snow harm them or should I just be worried about frost?

    March 17, 2016 at 10:36 am

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