5 FAQs About Hydrangeas in Summer

If you’ve got a hydrangea, you probably have a question about it. And it’s no wonder why! Hydrangeas are natural garden centerpieces. Their big blooms play a huge role in the landscape so we want them to be as healthy as possible to keep the show going. As a result, we pay very close attention to them and any intrusive thought or sign of a problem makes us worry. So, we’re sharing answers to the five most commonly asked questions we get about hydrangeas in the summer to help you get back to just enjoying the view.

1. How do you know when to water a hydrangea? Is there a right way to water my hydrangea?

It depends mostly on how new the planting is and your weather. There isn’t a one size fits all formula to apply. Consider these factors:

  • Newly planted hydrangeas need an attentive eye on soil moisture for the first year. They’re more often damaged by over watering than under watering, so only water when you feel that the soil is almost dry or dry. Then water deeply.
  • Established hydrangeas planted in average, relatively moisture-retentive soil only need water during periods without precipitation.
  • Potted hydrangeas will need frequent watering. Check at least every other day.
  • One foolproof way to know what the soil moisture is in your garden is to use a moisture meter. Learn about them here.

Hydrangeas, as with most shrubs, prefer to be watered at ground level.

  • It keeps their foliage free from excess moisture. Constant moisture just sitting on the foliage can encourage diseases like powdery mildew or black spot to move in.
  • It keeps their flowers blemish-free for longer. 

2. Why is my hydrangea flopping?

The key to sturdy stems for any hydrangea is proper pruning. Flopping is most commonly a problem with panicle or smooth hydrangeas, as you don’t prune mountain or bigleaf hydrangeas at all.

3. What sun exposure does a hydrangea really need? How do I know if mine is sited incorrectly?

It depends on the climate you garden in

  • In cooler northern zones (3 to 7ish), most hydrangeas can withstand full sun (6 hours of direct exposure to sunlight)
  • In hotter southern zones (7ish to 9), most hydrangeas will need shade in the afternoon when the sun exposure is the most intense to maintain a good appearance

and the hydrangea species itself.

  • Panicle and smooth hydrangeas are quite sun tolerant, with panicles being the most tolerant
  • Bigleaf and mountain hydrangeas generally enjoy getting afternoon shade
  • Oakleaf hydrangeas are the most shade tolerant out of all the common non-vining hydrangeas, they produce the most blooms with the least sun exposure 
 
Cues that your hydrangea might be getting too much sun:
  • Sunburned leaves – a light brown cast over leaves 
  • Oakleaf hydrangeas are the most shade tolerant out of all the common non-vining hydrangeas, they produce the most blooms with the least sun exposure 

4. How do you get the best, longest-lasting cut flower from a hydrangea?

  • Gather when it’s cool outside – morning or night is best.
  • Don’t gather blooms if they have water on them.
  • Only select fully open flowers as budded blooms wilt quickly.
  • Remove all lower leaves.
  • Immediately put stems into water after cutting.
  • Keep stems out of direct sunlight for at least 24 hours after gathering. 

5. Why are my panicle hydrangea flowers turning brown?

There are three main reasons a panicle hydrangea would turn brown prematurely before giving its fall show of pink or red.

  • Not enough water. If they dry out for a bit they will not be able to make the transition.
  • Frequent water from above, often irrigation or just overhead watering. If water collects on the white blooms frequently, it will cause them to turn brown instead of aging to pink.
  • Very high, sustained nighttime temperatures. If they are subjected to temperatures above 70 degrees for the entire day and night for an extended period of time they will not be able to make the transition.

If summer has you worrying about your hydrangea, but you didn’t see your question, please put it in the comments below. We can help!

Comments (21)

  1. Elizabeth Schipper

    I have 3 Bobo hydrangeas side by side, in Canada Zone 4. Normally they all have abundant blooms. Last year, one of them had almost no flowers. I thought maybe it was because of the prunus that was next to it, so I removed it. This year, that Bobo is full of blooms while the other two have none! They all get the same amount of sun and water and are in the same bed. Why am I getting inconsistent flowering?

  2. Pam

    This is the second year that my hydrangeas are not blooming. One is a shooting star and the other is a mop. The only things that they have in common is that they are in pots and have always bloomed on new stock. The foliage is beautiful, just no blooms.

    • Kristina Howley

      There are a few possibilities! Feel free to send me an email with this info:
      – What growing zone/area of the country are you in?
      – How do you overwinter these pots?

  3. Julia

    How do I tell, if an unlabeled hydrangea (given as a gift), is a panicle or a smooth one?

    • Kristina Howley

      Their leaves and overall habits will be slightly different. Feel free to email me a photo and I can help!

  4. Kristen Morton

    My question is about the “OG” Macrophylla “MopHead” Hydrangeas. (I have had them for so long, no idea on the latin-but they are the variety that won’t bloom for years if they are broken or cut at the wrong node.) I am well versed in pruning, but am curious where to cut on the stem if I wanted to stick the flower stems in vases? I usually don’t bother the plants until it’s time to tuck them in for winter :) My brain says go down the stem and snip above the first leaf that has any sign of bud growth, but I am honestly kinda terrified of screwing the pooch! Thanks in advance!

    • Stacey

      Hi Kristen, When it comes to cutting big leaf hydrangeas for enjoying as cut flowers, it doesn’t matter all that much where you cut. It’s unlikely that the stem you cut will bloom next year, but that will happen no matter where you cut, as older big leaf hydrangeas set their flower buds primarily at the tips of the stems.

  5. Tami Martine

    I just bought 2 PW hydrangeas, a Mini Mauvette and a Let’s Dance Can Do! The size information on their tags is pretty different than the information on your website.
    The Mini Mauvette tag says it will grow 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. Your website says it will be only be
    2 to 3 feet.
    The Let’s Dance CanDo tag says it will grow to be 2.5 to 3 feet tall and wide. Your PW website says it will grow considerably larger.
    I’m in zone 6a. I plan on planting the mini mauvette in morning sun and the Can Dance in all day dappled shade. Is that enough light for them to bloom? Can you advise about their size? I need the larger one in the dappled shade location.

    • Stacey

      Sorry for the confusion – we have changed the heights on those two plants to reflect further trialing and the information on the website is correct. Unfortunately, old tags do end up persisting on the market for a couple of years, even after we have made these updates. I do think that should be enough sun for them, though it does depend on where you are located. The warmer your climate, the more shade they require. In cooler climates, some sun is recommended for best color and stem strength.

  6. Emy rodriguez

    Mine has the botton but are not blooming. Can you please tell what to do . I live in Orange county ny.

  7. John Battle

    Do blooms need to be clipped to enhance new growth like Geraniums?

    • Stacey

      They don’t need to, and doing so won’t generally help the plant rebloom, but if you prefer the look of the plant without the flowers, you can cut them off without risking anything in terms of plant health.
      I

  8. Mary Cowper

    do hydrangeas have long roots. do not have any as yet but would like some but we have a septic bed where they would be planted

    • Stacey

      Hydrangeas are typically very shallow-rooted, but as planting anything on or near septic systems is very risky, we recommend consulting a septic specialist or your local cooperative extension for their recommendations.

  9. Linda Crane

    How, what, when do you fertilize a hydrangea?

    • Stacey

      In most cases, fertilizing hydrangeas once a year in early spring is sufficient, though you can continue to apply fertilizer monthly through late July if you wish. We recommend a granular (not liquid) fertilizer formulated for trees and shrubs, like a rose fertilizer.

  10. Karen Campbell

    I have had my hundrange for several years it is a very big bush !Fir the last two summers full of green pretty leaves & white blooms but does not bloom !please help ? It is almost Oct no blooms but pretty blooms but no buds ?

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Picture of Kristina Howley

Kristina Howley

I am all in when it comes to gardening. Almost every part of the experience delights me – new leaves emerging in spring, pollinators buzzing in summer, birds devouring berries in fall, and the somber beauty of seed heads in winter. Thanks to a background in horticulture and gardening my own clay-filled, flowery USDA zone 5b plot, I’ve learned plenty of practical things as well. I like sharing these joys and lessons with my fellow gardeners and soon-to-be gardeners any way I can.

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