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Why Doesn't My Hydrangea Ever Bloom?

I’d like to address that for all of those with the same question.

Some folks out of frustration remove the large lush Hydrangea after years of no blooms.

I say wait it out and change your habits. Here are some things you need to know…

Some Hydrangea bloom on old wood. And some on New Wood.

It is always good to know what kind of Hydrangea you have, so you can prune accordingly. Not always an easy task if you adopt ownership or lose tags. However, the process of elimination can help. More often, refining your pruning habits can determine the outcome of blooms versus foliage.

To help identify:

Hydrangea macrophylla or big leaf Hydrangea, lacecaps, or mopheads….Examples are ‘Endless Summer’, ‘Nikko Blue’, ‘Blushing Bride’, ‘Annabelle’, ‘Twist and Shout’, ‘Strawberries & Cream’. There are tons of cultivated varieties. In our zone 6 climate, they sometimes die back to the ground,, depending on the severity of the winters.

Some Hydrangeas, ‘Endless Summer’ for example, bloom on both old wood and new wood. Only prune if downsizing or cleaning of damaged branches

Exception Hydrangea quercifolia, or Oakleaf Hydrangea

Hydrangea paniculata, or panicled Hydrangea, tend to be winter hardy and do not die back. Examples of these are ‘Tardiva’, ‘Peegee’, ‘Strawberry Parfait’, ‘Limelight’...Hydrangeas typically with triangle shaped blooms (panicles) get the picture. With these Hydrangeas, you can trim back once they are finished blooming if needed, no more than one third of your shrub or tree. Blooms form on new wood, so you still have beauty from year to year. Not blooming is rarely an issue with these.

Hydrangea quercifolia, or Oakleaf Hydrangea has panicles but blooms in the spring on old wood. Only prune to shape or to cut dead wood. Little pruning required.

Timing is everything.

Gardeners like to clean the beds for winter, and sometimes get a little hasty where Mother Nature is concerned. Those big leaf Hydrangea may not take kindly to the close to the ground cuts at that time.

My recommendation is to let your big leaf Hydrangea stand until spring. In the fall, those big leaves drop within the tall stems and form a winter blanket protecting the plant from harsh winters. Old school gardeners would wrap them with burlap for the winter for the same reason. In the spring when you are tempted to cut back early…keep in mind your last frost is in late May here in Pa..When is your last frost? Try to wait closer to that last frost to cut back dead wood. With every ounce of your gardener being, try to wait as long as possible to cut those sticks. Inevitably they will form more and more buds as the weather warms, giving you more blooms than you ever imagined.

***Keep in mind while correcting your timing, that you need a year to establish that old wood, for those that require it. So you may not see blooms on those until next year.

The bottom line is this: Trim your New Wood Bloomers at this time…late winter to early spring. This gets them ‘stimulated’ for working towards new blooms on new wood. Stimulation is required to keep them thriving.

Trim the Old Wood Bloomers as soon as they are finished blooming (simply deadhead) in summer, allowing remaining growth for next year's blooms.

Change your habit, to change the outcome. A valuable lesson in the garden, and in life.


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