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Loretta Asked

I have had a hydrangea for about eight years. This year it didn’t bloom. Just curious if you knew why.

The Gardener’s Answer

Hi, Loretta: There are a few reasons why hydrangeas don’t bloom. It sounds like you have an established plant that has bloomed previously but did not this season. Pruning at the wrong time of the year, lack of sunlight and/or nutrients are among the most common reasons.

Depending on the type of hydrangea you are growing, they have different pruning requirements. Panicle and Arborescens (smooth) hydrangeas bloom on new wood, or current season’s growth. They should be pruned while the plants are dormant, before the new growth begins in the spring. Macrophylla (bigleaf) and Oakleaf hydrangea bloom on old wood, or last season’s growth. These do not require annual pruning except to shape and remove dead wood. The best time to prune these is after they have finished blooming in the fall.

Lack of sunlight can prevent blooms. Is it possible that your hydrangea is receiving more shade than in the past? If your shrub is growing in dense shade it would benefit from more sunlight, preferably morning light and afternoon shade.

How often are you fertilizing? Hydrangeas will benefit from a side dressing of compost or a slow release, well balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10. Over feeding can also cause a lack of blooms. Feeding twice during the growing season will be sufficient. Avoid fertilizing during the fall since this will encourage new growth which can be damaged by frost. One last possibility is that your hydrangea is being exposed to too much nitrogen which will inhibit blooms. Contact your County Cooperative Extension Service to have your soil tested. I hope this is helpful.

Angie Oakley

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