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Plant Rx: Hydrangea Won't Bloom

Photo by 4nadia, courtesy of iStock.

Typically a show-stopper in the midsummer garden, a hydrangea bereft of blooms can be frustrating and perplexing. If you’ve found yourself in this position before, here are some things to watch out for and try this season.

  • Check your pruning timing! Different types of hydrangeas need to be cut back at different moments. Pruning at the wrong time will cost you next season’s flowers. Hydrangea macrophylla, quercifolia, or petiolaris (the vine): Blooms on last year’s wood, so prune them in late-summer shortly after they’ve finished flowering. Only remove dead wood if pruning in late winter/early spring. Hydrangea paniculata or arborescens (“Annabelle” is the most popular): Blooms on new wood, so feel free to prune in late winter/early spring.

  • Reevaluate your light conditions. While hydrangeas typically bloom well in part-shade, too much shade can lead to minimal blooms. Transplant to a sunnier spot in fall or early spring for better flowering. If it’s not too large, your shrub will be happy to grow in a container, too.

  • Use a fertilizer high in phosphate (the middle number) which is the nutrient that promotes flowering.

Image courtesy of

We're big fans of organic granular fertilizers like this one from Dr. Earth. Pro Tip: To apply, sprinkle this around plantings as if you're seasoning a steak.


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