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How To Revive Hydrangeas (7 Issues)

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Summer just isn’t summer if you haven’t spent time outside on the porch with a cold drink in your hands and a hydrangea blooming somewhere in sight. These plants are simply synonymous with summer.

They produce large, round clusters of flowers that look like the perfect scoop of ice cream. But, when these beautiful plants aren’t looking healthy, you want to do whatever you can to fix them.

Here in this article, we will be going over everything that can cause these bushes to look bad, and how you can revive your hydrangeas.

A Little Info On Hydrangeas

There are between 50 to 80 different species of hydrangeas depending on who you ask. Fortunately, there are only about 6 types that are regularly sold in nurseries and home improvement stores.

They come in a wide variety of flower colors including pink, blue, white, purple, red, and green. Some varieties will change flower color depending on the pH of the soil, but if you get a green, red, white, or purple species, these will not change.

Hydrangeas are perennial bushes that lose their leaves and flowers in the winter and grow in many different hardiness zones. These plants are native to the southern states of the United States and Asia.

These bushes are relatively easy to grow, but they need partial shade, rich, loamy soil, and a decent amount of water. While they are very hardy, too much or too little of these factors will cause the hydrangea to suffer and look awful.

Let’s go through the list and see what could be causing your hydrangea to be suffering and how you can revive it.

How To Revive Hydrangeas

Wilted blue hydrangeas
Wilted blue hydrangeas

1. Your Hydrangea Is Getting Too Much Or Too Little Water

In a perfect world, your hedgerow of hydrangeas will be getting about an inch of rain or water per week. But here in the real world, drought, and excessive rainfall can make these plants suffer.

The type of soil could also affect how much water is getting to the roots. A very loose, sandy soil may drain water away before the plant is able to get a good drink, whereas thick, clay soil may hold the roots in water way too long.

Hydrangea bushes that are getting too much water may show brown and wilted leaves, yellow, or dropping leaves starting at the base of the plant, or stunted growth. You may also see signs of root rot.

Root rot looks like the bottom half of your plant is dead or dying while the rest looks somewhat healthy. You might also see a white fungus on your plant, especially around the crown.

An under watered plant will show signs of wilting, and possibly yellowing leaves depending on how thirsty the plant is.

Remedies For Overwatered Hydrangeas

Check the soil first to see if it’s muddy or if water is puddling around the base. If that’s the case, scale back on the watering and check your soil. Heavy clay soil will need to be remedied.

Fungus, mold, or mushrooms growing around your hydrangeas are clear signs that too much water is a problem. You can break up the clay with an additive, or move your plant to another area, or a large planter, that does not have such dense soil.

Perlite, such as Espoma Organic Perlite, when worked into clay soil can help to aerate it and allow for better drainage. You can also add compost or clay breaker around the roots to allow for some much needed drainage.

Before you water again, allow the soil to dry out at least a few inches below the surface. Using a rain gauge or moisture meter will help you keep track of how much water your hydrangeas are getting.

When it comes to root rot, depending on how severe of a case it is, you may need to replant a new hydrangea. You can let the soil dry out, and then be very careful with watering, but the plant may not make a full recovery.

Remedies For Under Watered Hydrangeas

This could be as simple as watering your plants a little more. Using a soaker hose or a timer may help get enough water to the roots.

Another great way to keep water in the ground and not evaporate so fast is by adding a thick bed of mulch. This will also help to break up clay soil and add nutrition to loose, sandy soil.

Mulch can help to cool the roots during the heat of summer, and keep them warm during cold winters. It will help to retain moisture so you don’t have to water as much too.

2. Too Much (Or Too Little) Bright Light

Most hydrangeas will thrive in partial, or morning sun. The evening, southwestern sun may be too intense for many species of hydrangea bushes. Panicle hydrangeas are one of the few that love full sun.

If you can, check to find out which species of hydrangea you have. You may need to move it to a shadier, or sunnier spot.

Too much shade on your hydrangeas will result in small, or no flowers. Other symptoms that may present themselves could include fungal infections, stunted growth, and weakened stems.

When your hydrangea is getting too much sunlight, you may notice curled, brown or crispy leaves. The flowers can look brown and dry as well. The best way to notice this is to keep an eye on the plant throughout the day to see how much sunlight it’s getting.

Most hydrangeas like 4 to 6 hours of sunlight, preferably morning sunlight, and evening shade. Panicle hydrangeas want 6 or more hours of sunlight and can usually tolerate some evening sun if the temperatures are not too extreme.

Fixing The Lighting Issues For Hydrangeas

The only real option here is to move your plant. Watch your yard throughout the day to see where your hydrangea will get the right amount of light and move it there.

If the plant isn’t suffering too badly, waiting until spring or early fall is the best time to transplant bushes outdoors. Of course, if the plant won’t wait that long you can go ahead and move it, but you’ll have to baby it for a little while.

If sunlight isn’t the issue affecting your hydrangea, there are still a few more things we can check.

3. Make Sure Hydrangeas Are Getting Proper Nutrition

The soil may look great and drain just right, but is there enough fertilizer in the ground? Too much or too little, just like water and sunlight can be detrimental to your plants.

Hydrangeas usually don’t need much in the way of fertilizer, and too much fertilizer is much worse for the bushes than not enough. Typically they do great with a single dose of plant food in the spring each year.

Too much fertilizer can burn the roots and even kill your plant. Moderate overuse of fertilizer can cause the plant to not grow flowers or only produce small weak looking clusters. You may also see burned leaves that turn brown and crispy.

When hydrangeas don’t have enough nutrients, they usually form what’s called chlorosis, which is the yellowing of the leaves, but they still have green veins. This is typically because of a lack of iron.

Fixing The Fertilizer Issue

To fix an overdose of fertilizer, you may need to rake out the granules and spread them somewhere else. Granules don’t usually cause too much of a problem though because they are typically a slow release plant food.

If you happen to accidentally give your hydrangea too much water soluble fertilizer you can dilute it by over watering your bushes once or twice. The abundance of water will help to dilute and wash away the fertilizer.

Let the soil dry out after that and keep an eye on it. If you still see signs of over fertilization, overwater it again and see if that helps.

Be sure to follow the instructions on fertilizer packages, and remember that when it comes to hydrangeas and plant food, less is definitely more.

When your plants aren’t getting enough nutrition, just add some fertilizer, but try to keep it limited to early spring when you see new growth, or in the fall before it goes dormant.

One way to fertilize without going overboard is to add a yearly layer of compost. You don’t have to worry about burning your plants and the compost adds a small amount of nutrition to the roots over time.

When you notice chlorosis, you can add Espoma Organic Iron-Tone to bring back the green to those broad leaves.

4. Right Plant, Wrong Zone

Most species of hydrangeas will thrive in zones 3 through 9 but may do reasonably well as far south as zone 11. It all depends on the species and what their hardiness is.

Before purchasing plants, make sure you know your zone, and check the tags on the plants to make sure they will survive where you are. If you don’t see that information on the tag, flag down an associate, they should be able to help you out.

Hydrangeas will often die back, or even die back to the roots in some zones, but when the winter is too harsh, they won’t make it at all.

The same goes for the summer. If they aren’t rated for very hot weather, and you plant them where the temps regularly get into the triple digits, they may not survive.

How To Grow Hydrangeas Outside Of Their Comfort Zones

Don’t fret if you love these plants but your zone isn’t hospitable for them. Hydrangeas are great container plants.

In areas that get too hot for them, provide a place of shade like a patio, inside your house, or under some shade trees when the temps threaten to fry your hydrangeas.

The same goes for winters that aren’t suitable for them. When it starts getting cold, place them in a garage, inside your house, or in a small greenhouse to overwinter them.

5. Hydrangea Pest Problems

In the middle of summer, when most plants are suffering, drying out, and not growing as much, hydrangeas offer a green buffet for many hungry insects. Japanese beetles, aphids, scale, whiteflies, and slugs will greedily munch on these plants.

While most healthy, and hearty plants can weather a small insect infestation, sometimes the pests bring on multiple generations of their family. Lately, aphids and Japanese beetles have been a major problem in my area and are difficult to treat.

Dealing With The Insect Invasions

Japanese beetles will be seen munching on your plants and will cut holes and skeletonize the leaves. They don’t usually do a lot of damage, but when these beetles arrive in plague-sized swarms, they can severely damage your plants.

Slugs tend to come out late at night or early in the morning when the temps are cooler. You’ll often see iridescent slime trails on the leaves and ragged cuts in the leaves and flowers.

Aphids are tiny, soft-bodied insects that will drain the sap from leaves and flowers, leaving leaves looking yellow, and brown, and eventually making them curl up and fall off. You’ll see clusters of tiny dots that move very slowly, if at all.

You may also see sticky dots on the leaves and ants. The dots are the secretion called honeydew, and ants love to feed on it and protect the aphids.

Usually, Neem oil or diatomaceous earth are great ways to take care of these insect pests. Just be sure to spray or apply the dust on the undersides of the leaves where most of these pests like to hide.

Japanese beetles and slugs can be hand picked off and dropped into a bucket with water and about a tablespoon of soap. The soap will break the water surface tension and drown the beetles and slugs.

6. Hydrangeas And Dastardly Diseases

Because these plants prefer more shade, they can be susceptible to some fungal infections such as powdery mildew. You’ll see a white powdery substance, black or brown spots, or dying leaves.

While these bushes are pretty resilient, these fungal infections need to be treated at the first sign of infection. And of course, good prevention is the best cure.

Preventing And Treating Fungal Infections

Air circulation is the easiest way to prevent most fungal infections. When planting your hydrangeas, be sure to space them according to the tags.

Allow the soil to dry out before watering, and when watering, just spray the ground around the roots instead of the plant itself. Leaves that are constantly wet are much more susceptible to fungal infections.

Mulch helps also. It creates a barrier between the soil and the plant so when it rains or is watered, the fungal spores are less able to splash up and attach to the plant.

Occasional pruning and deadheading hydrangeas also help to improve airflow.

When you do end up with a fungal infection such as powdery mildew, neem oil, fungicides, and trimming of the affected sections will limit the spread or cure the infection.

Just be sure to dispose of any leaves and stems that are infected properly. Don’t let them decompose around the bushes, and don’t put them into your compost. The spores can spread to other parts of your garden.

7. What About Wilted Cut Hydrangea Flowers?

You have plenty of hydrangea bushes growing outside so you go out and cut some of the bulbous flower heads off. Inside they make a beautiful centerpiece for your dining table, but now they’re wilting just before your guests arrive.

Is there anything you can do to revive the cut flowers, at least temporarily?

We all know that cut flowers are beautiful, but they do have a shortened lifespan. Hydrangeas do too, but there may be something you can do to revive them for a last hurrah.

Soak them

Hydrangeas can absorb water through their flowers so soaking them in the sink or a large bowl for 15 to 30 minutes can help to revive them for a day or two. To increase the water they absorb, cut the stems about an inch or two up and cut them at a slant to let more water into the stem.

You can also spritz them daily with a light mist to help them last a little longer while in the vase.

Add hot water

Boil some water, then let it cool for a few minutes, then add the hot water to the vase. Hydrangeas produce a thick sap that clogs the pores, preventing water absorption.

The hot water dissolves the sap and will allow more water to be soaked up into the stem and into the flowers.

Add some alum to the water

Alum powder prevents the sap from clogging the pores which will let more water soak into the cut flowers. Just put about a teaspoon of alum powder in room temperature water and stir it up.

You can aid this process by cutting an X in the stem before adding the alum to the water.

These processes will typically work one or two times, but eventually, the flowers will not be able to be revived. But they will last longer this way.


Can you revive droopy hydrangeas?

Wilted hydrangeas usually mean they are lacking water and need a good soaking. Check the soil around them and if it’s very dry, give them some water. Hydrangeas usually need about 1 inch of water a week, more in very hot climates.

Reviving droopy cut hydrangeas only requires soaking them in room temperature water for several minutes to a few hours.

Will hydrangeas come back after turning brown?

By finding out what is causing them to turn brown you may be able to save them before it’s too late. Adjust water, fertilizer, or sunlight if these are the problems. Also check for pest problems, because aphids and scale infestations may cause brown, curled leaves.

What does overwatered hydrangea look like?

Yellow and brown leaves can be a sign of overwatering or under watering. Feel the leaves and check the soil to find out which is the problem. Dry crispy leaves are from under watering, but wet soil and soft, possibly mushy leaves are a sign of overwatering.

Closing Thoughts

Wilting or struggling hydrangeas might send you into panic mode, but by stepping back, inspecting them, and then finding out what’s wrong, you can revive them.

Reviving a hydrangea may mean adding more water, or letting it dry out, changing where it’s planted so it gets more or less sunlight, or treating it for pests or fungal infections. Find out what your plants are telling you, and with some planning and a little work, you can bring them back to life.

If you are looking to revive wilting cut hydrangea flowers, add some nearly boiling water, alum powder, or soak the entire flower in water for a while. They should absorb more water and perk right up.

Good luck, and happy gardening.

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