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The Surprising Reason My Hydrangea Wouldn’t Bloom

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beautiful blue and white hydrangea flowers in bloom

I used to wonder why my hydrangea wouldn’t bloom.

Do you have that problem with your hydrangeas? I did a little research, well ok then I did a LOT of research which I am sharing with you today. Hopefully, it will save you years of waiting on blooms.

Living in the deep south, we are treated to gorgeous floral showcases every spring and summer. Crepe myrtle and hydrangea are among my favorite showy displays. I have both in my yard and have had to learn proper care of them through the years.

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My Hydrangea Would Not Bloom

My hydrangea simply would not bloom and for the life of me, I could not understand why. I nursed it throughout hot, humid summers every year. Hydrangeas require shade and lots of water, I have provided both along with organic additions to the soil.  I was also cutting it back every winter. Notice the photo below, it just sticks in the wintertime. I was confident those needed to be cut back. WRONG! 

A Hydrangea during winter when it is just sticks with no leaves

DO NOT CUT BACK YOUR HYDRANGEA! That is the one thing I was doing wrong. While it may seem natural to cut back, don’t do it.

Certain types of Hydrangea bloom from the old shoots! Why in the world I didn’t research it sooner is beyond me. I had been cutting mine all the way back for a few years so I think it may take it a few years for the old wood to really produce nice big flowers.

You need to know if your particular type of hydrangea does not need to be pruned. When in doubt, don’t do it.

Pruning is ok when done properly. I read to never prune more than 1/3 of the hydrangea in any given year. Some resources I read actually do say to cut the hydrangea all the way back BUT that advice is only good for a particular type of hydrangea.

There are always variables. Learn the correct method for your type of hydrangea and your geographical location. I have provided a list of resources at the end of this post.

Variegated Hydrangea in late spring with new sprigs beginning to sprout from the ground
New blooms sprouting from the ground in early spring

The above photo is very early spring when the first leaves are just beginning to appear. Notice all the oak leaves on the ground for natural compost. Our soil is terrible and that is putting it mildly.

We have more sand than good dirt so composting is essential. Raking leaves into my flower beds is one of my favorite things to do. We usually also pile on new pine straw once per year on top of the leaves.

a small Hydrangea not in full bloom

Last year was the first time we had a few pretty flowers but still not quite enough to create a bouquet for drying to use in the house. The above photo was taken in late summer when the flower bed had become the ‘Garden of Weeding’. There are always weeds to pull. We like to keep our birdfeeders full so the birds drop seeds which sprout up all sorts of weeds and wildflowers in all the wrong places.

Update: We sold this house and never did get to see our big beautiful hydrangea in full bloom. It really did take years for it to recuperate from being cut back for several years. Now I know.

Also See: How We Sold Our House In One Week

a varigated Hygrangea in bloom

The above photo is one of the flowers on my Variegated Hydrangea. I love the variegated leaves on any plant. It looks like God put streaks in their hair!

My hydrangea advise

  • Don’t cut your hydrangea down to the ground!
  • Most hydrangeas bloom from the old wood, so never prune more than 1/3 of the hydrangea each year
  • Research the proper care of your particular type of hydrangea

Resources for Hydrangea Lovers

12 fresh herbs pictured

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  1. I planted two healthy hydrangeas about 4 years ago but have never seen a bloom. The first few years of growth the deer nibbled back to a stump. This year they have not been eaten and I hope to finally know what the flower looks like.

    1. Janet, I so hope you got blooms this year. Hydrangea are so beautiful in bloom. In our new home, we put in a lots of hydrangea and I know better how to take care of them now. They are new this year so still small but loaded with beautiful blooms so far.

  2. You can easily tell which stalks are ready to be removed by just giving a little tug to the individual branches in the early spring. The dud’s will pull right out and the stalks that are just woody won’t move. Expect beautiful huge blooms. Try watering once every few weeks with a pitcher of warm Epsom salt water to keep the soil acidic, which they love! (avoid getting leaves or blooms wet with this mixture)

  3. I planted a hydrangea in 2008, it bloomed once. I cut it back once and later found out that they were not to be cut back so I didn’t do it anymore. It’s a beautiful plant with leaves galore but has not bloomed since. I do not know why. Any ideas?

  4. Hydrangeas are so pretty and fussy at the same time so thanks for sharing your research! I have two small ones but I am hoping they grow to great big bushes! Thanks for linking up @ #wednesdayswisdom

  5. I have 3 different hydrangea shrubs on the side of my house. After doing some research myself, I’m afraid to do anything to them because I don’t know which variety each of them are. One is passed down from my husband’s grandmother, no pressure there! LOL Anyway, they do bloom so I guess I’m doing something right!

  6. I just moved into my house last summer and it has a hydrangea and I had no idea how to take care of it! Thanks for sharing this, now I know what not to do!

  7. We have about 5 crepe myrtles in our yard as well. Those need to be pruned back a good bit for better flowering. We waited a few years before we started pruning ours and they didn’t bloom as well as they do now. I have a friend who quit pruning his crepe myrtles to see how tall they would get. I think Ga. Power has to cut his out of the power lines and they bloom beautifully! He has much better dirt than we do. I know those are special from UGA!
    I like growing flowers much more than growing food. I know I should be ashamed but I’m not.
    I’d like to root some hydrangea also! That would be awesome.

  8. Oh my gosh, Shirley, I did that one year, too and kept wondering why my hydrangeas wouldn’t bloom! I found out the hard way. This past year they were gorgeous. I’m now afraid to even prune them. A couple of years ago I planted 4 white chocolate crepe myrtles and 2 of them bloom and 2 don’t. What do I need to do to them? I haven’t tried pruning or anything. They were created (or whatever it’s called) at UGA, so they are extra special!! 🙂

    This year I’m going to try rooting some hydrangeas from the ones I have and blogging about it. 🙂

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