Is Your Hydrangea Plant Dying? (7 Reasons and Solutions)
If you notice your hydrangea plant turning yellow, brown, or black, as well as drooping, drying, and wilting, these are signs that it is most likely dying. However, worry not, because you have come to the right place.
On average, direct sunlight, underwatering, waterlogged soil, frost, excessive fertilizer, inappropriate pot size, and transplant shock can all cause a hydrangea plant’s death. To ensure proper hydrangea growth, provide moist, well-drained, nutrient-rich soil, a shaded location, and large containers.
Can a dead hydrangea be brought back to life? This is one of the most intriguing questions I have come across, and I am also excited for you to find out the answer.
1. Direct Sunlight
Direct sunlight causes burning which causes the leaves of hydrangeas to become crispy and turn brown or black. Furthermore, excessive sunlight exposure also promotes the yellowing of leaves.
Burning is a common result of excessive heat going to your hydrangea leaves. When exposed to that condition for a long time, the plant tends to be crispy and dries out. Thus, causing browning and blackening of its leaves.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind that your hydrangea plants must be in the shade and away from the sun to avoid burning and drought stress.
Hold up! You might be wondering why I mentioned yellowing in the first paragraph of this section. This will be further explained in the next section.
Hydrangea leaves initially turn yellow, then brown or black due to dehydration and a lack of moisture.
Here’s the reason why I mentioned yellowing in the first section. When hydrangeas are grown in direct sunlight, the soil where they are planted is frequently dry. Moisture is insufficiently available in such condition.
Important: Remember that water transports plant food to the various plant parts.
When hydrangea plants are deprived of water, nutrients from the soil are not transferred to the leaves, causing them to turn yellow. Both of which contribute to the green color of the leaves!
Overtime exposure to this condition leads to browning and/or blackening of leaves and even flowers.
3. Waterlogged Soil
Exposure to soggy saturated soil and insufficient drainage are reasons for dying hydrangea plants. These conditions promote the growth of a detrimental fungus, Phytophthora, that causes root rotting.
It is not a secret that poor drainage in pots or even in slow-draining soils, such as heavy clay, can lead to root rot! Hydrangeas exposed to this soil condition are usually brown, yellow, or wilted in appearance.
If you look at their roots, you will observe a dark color with a soft texture.
Under these soil conditions, the growth of fungal diseases such as root rot is more likely to develop. Root rot causes drooping with brown or yellow leaves and the death of hydrangea plants.
Pro Tip: To avoid root rot, hydrangea plants should be planted in a well-draining pot and soil mix. To improve drainage you can use soil amendments such as perlite and coarse vermiculite.
Learn more about perlite in our article on perlite features.
You may also compare vermiculite as a soil amendment in our article perlite vs. vermiculite.
Late frost will turn the leaves of hydrangea plants brown or black. This symptom is observed initially on the leaf margins in the form of crispness, which will spread eventually to the leaf surface.
The crispy leaf margins are more observed for hydrangeas exposed to direct sunlight, due to the sudden change of the temperature.
Pro Tip: Prune the affected leaves up to their base to encourage growth of new stems.
5. Excessive Fertilizer
Excess fertilizer causes salt and mineral buildup, which can clog root pathways and deprive the hydrangea plant of water and nutrients. When this happens, the hydrangea leaves will turn yellow.
The inorganic particles of fertilizers are the culprits for salt and mineral buildup! They accumulate in the soil after some time and block water and oxygen to pass through the roots.
When water is blocked, the leaves of hydrangeas cannot produce the pigment, chlorophyll, that makes the leaves green. Additionally, plants will also be hindered from respiring properly when oxygen is absent.
Pro Tip: Use organic compost. Although it does not contain inorganic salts, it can still provide the necessary nutrients needed by the hydrangea plant.
6. Inappropriate Pot Size
Small pots are not suitable for hydrangeas because the soil dries out quickly. When this happens, the hydrangea plant wilts and dies.
Hydrangeas require space to grow because they form shrubs. They can develop to be 4 to 12 feet tall. Given this growing habit, it is obvious that you will need a large container to plant them in.
Pro Tip: Plant your hydrangeas in pots 18 to 20 inches in diameter. These are the best pot size for thriving hydrangea plants.
7. Transplant Shock
Hydrangea can experience transplant shock, causing its leaves to wilt, turn brown, and die after being transferred. This commonly happens because there is a significant difference between the growing condition of the plant from the nursery and its new environment,
The rapid transition from the nursery garden—where the plant is accustomed to optimal temperature and nutrients, water, and sunlight—to the unpredictable environment when planted outdoors makes it difficult for the hydrangea to adapt to its new environment.
Pro Tip: Begin transplanting hydrangeas in the best possible conditions, such as using an appropriate pot with good drainage, appropriate amounts of good compost, suitable soil, and adequate moisture and nutrients.
This condition will allow them to adjust to their new environment and thrive with minimal modifications to their growing conditions.
5 Signs of a Dying Hydrangea
Hydrangeas are nearing death if the following symptoms are observed:
- General yellowing of leaves
- Brown or black leaves and flowers
- Drooping of leaves
- Frost damages
- Drying and wilting of some portions
You may be wondering why your hydrangea plants are dying after being planted. The answer is in the environment you provide for them.
For the hydrangea plant to thrive, it needs:
- Moist soil (drip irrigation is a good option)
- Well-drained soil
- Nutrient-rich soil, preferably compost
- Shaded location
- Big pot or container
How to Save Your Hydrangea: Tips and Tricks
Cultural management is critical to the growth and development of hydrangeas. Thus, appropriate changes in the hydrangeas’ environmental conditions are required to keep them from dying.
When we say cultural management, it is simply managing the environment where your plant is growing. It encompasses various factors such as the soil structure, nutrients, pH, water, temperature, and relative humidity.
I summarized the tips and tricks in the table below to give you an easier view of the ways to save hydrangeas.
|5 Hydrangea Issues||5 Ways to Save Hydrangea|
|Yellowing of Leaves||Moist the top two inches of the soil.|
|Brown or Black Leaves and Flowers||Prune the damaged leaves and/or flowers up to the base.|
|Drooping||Check for root rot; cut the damaged roots, clean the roots using hydrogen peroxide overnight and repot.|
|Frost Damage||Prune the damaged leaves up to the base.|
|Drying and Wilting Portions||Prune the damaged plant parts up to the base and provide favorable environmental conditions.|
Can You Revive Dead Hydrangeas?
Dead hydrangeas can be revived if only a portion of the plant is affected. One can prune the affected leaves and/or flowers and provide the necessary nutrients and the optimal environment for it to thrive.
After that, all you have to do is provide plenty of water, apply compost, and relocate the plant away from direct sunlight and strong winds.
Also, take note to remove frost-damaged and sun-burnt leaves to ensure the optimum growth and development of your hydrangeas.
How to Revive Hydrangea Plants After Winter?
Pruning the frost-damaged leaves using prune shears is an effective way to revive hydrangea after winter. This procedure will lead to the development of new hydrangea shoots.
When pruning, it is vital to consider the temperature. You should prune at a warm temperature (20 to 25℃) to ensure that the hydrangea plant will recover well.
Pro Tip: Wait for the pruning cuts to heal before applying fertilizer to help provide energy and nutrients to support the plant’s recovery and new growth.
How can I prepare my hydrangea plants for the winter?
Water hydrangea plants until the temperature freezes to avoid them from running out of water hastily during the winter. One can also add mulch and compost around the hydrangea plants to provide supplemental nutrients and help them survive the winter. Using mulch can also insulate the plant’s base.
Why do plants have brown leaves?
Plants turn brown as a result of underwatering, overwatering, too low or high amount of nutrients, over-draining of soil, too compact soil type such as clay, insufficient or excessive lighting, improper temperature and humidity, pests, diseases, and aging. Learn more about these factors in our article on brown leaves.
Summary of Is Your Hydrangea Plant Dying?
Hydrangea plants are dying when one observes discoloration to yellow, brown, or black, as well as drooping, drying, and wilting. Underwatering, waterlogged soil, frost, excessive fertilizer, inappropriate pot size, and transplant shock are all major culprits of hydrangea plant death.
To ensure optimum hydrangea growth, it must be planted in soil that is moist, well-drained, and nutrient-rich. Plants must be in a shady location and planted in large containers.
Dried up and dying hydrangea plants can be revived through delicate pruning down to the base of the affected stems. This will encourage the growth of new shoots.
- “Hydrangea Diseases” by Woorman, G.W. in Pennsylvania State University
- “Hydrangea: Identify and Manage Problems” by Maloy, R. in University of Maryland Extension
- “General care for hydrangeas” by VanHoose, K. in Oregon State University
- “Growing Hydrangeas” by Clark, R. in University of Massachusetts Amherst
- “Root Diseases of Hydrangeas” by Baysal-Gurel, F. et al. in Tennessee State University