Hydrangea problems are pretty common and the solutions you read about can often seem overly complicated for this plant that’s supposed to be easy to grow. Try these emergency first aid tactics first before you go too crazy buying the entire pesticide aisle at the garden centre!
I have been working on learning how to get my various types of hydrangeas to thrive for years. I’ve shared some of the challenges I’ve faced and some of the things I’ve learned with you here and there, but this year I think I’ve finally really locked in on a few tactics that are making a world of difference. For the first few years after I planted my hydrangeas, I had sad little plants that failed to grow in size each year. Some years they would even die back a bit and get smaller. I initially planted them with the thinking that they were supposed to get up to about 6 feet in diameter, so my little 2-foot wide plants were really frustrating me. Over the past couple of months I’ve watched my hydrangeas quadruple in size! If you have hydrangea problems and have plants that seem to just refuse the thrive no matter what you do, then you know how exciting this is! Today I’m going to share with you some of the emergency first-aid tactics you can use to really boost the overall health of your hydrangeas in one fell swoop!
The thing I love about these methods is that even if you’re halfway through the growing season and your hydrangea is looking terrible, you’ll start to see an immediate difference if you start them right now. There’s still time to get plenty of healthy new growth on your plants! Then if you start on them right away in the spring next year, you should be able to enjoy beautiful, healthy, full plants all season long!
Step One: Concern Yourself with the Hydrangea’s Overall Health
The thing that I found really frustrating and confusing over the years when I was trying to figure out what to do about my hydrangea problems was that every resource that I came across listed about a million different specific hydrangea pests and diseases that my hydrangea might be suffering with, along with individual, semi-complicated solutions to each problem.
The thing was, a lot of the descriptions of the hydrangea problems sounded kinda like what I was experiencing, but not exactly. Things like spots on leaves, wilting leaves, browning flowers, bugs, etc. etc. etc. I ended up feeling like I was just going to have to buy every pest/disease control solution in the garden centre and camp out every night in the garden to physically remove every bug off of my plants with my own two hands.
And that sounded crazy. I know that hydrangeas can do very well in my area because plenty of other people grow them quite successfully around here. And I’m pretty sure they’re still able to sleep in their own beds at night. 🙂
Tactics I Used to Boost my Hydrangeas’ Health
The first discovery came when I discovered how well my hydrangeas responded to baking soda. You can read more about how I apply that and how I discovered all about this method in this post here. They immediately loved the change in pH, so I knew there was something going on with the soil that wasn’t right for them.
Next, I planted some new hydrangeas (I kept my old ones too) and I read a little more about properly planting them. It turns out that amending the soil with some compost or some store-bought black earth before you plunk your new hydrangeas down in the ground is very important. This frustrated me again, because I always had the impression that hydrangeas were a super easy-to-grow plant that require, and even prefer, no maintenance and no fussing. Kind of like a lilac or a peony. You see these beautiful hydrangea bushes in front of summer houses and it looks like they just pretty much grow wild and no one ever needs to do a thing with them to get them so big and beautiful. That’s just not the case. If your hydrangeas are failing to thrive, maybe you had the same impression when you initially planted yours?
If your hydrangeas are already planted like mine are and you don’t want to dig them up, a great idea is just to layer a bit of compost or black earth around the base of your plant a couple of times each year, the extra nutrients will eventually make their way down to the roots of your plant and over time, the richer soil will mix itself in. Moral of the story: Soil quality is important with hydrangeas. They don’t like neglect like you may have expected them to. 🙂
Hydrangeas are Hungry
You know how you never need to feed peonies and they actually bloom better if you don’t? Hydrangeas are not like that! Those giant over-grown plants full of big poofy flowers require food! For many people this will seem obvious, but if you’re like I was and you were thinking that hydrangeas don’t want to be fussed over, you may have been overlooking this really simple solution to a lot of your hydrangea problems. The good news is that your hydrangeas will respond almost immediately to a little basic plant food about once a month. That’s all it takes! And to think I had a container of this stuff sitting in my gardening drawer all along!
What I’ve been using isn’t anything fancy. It’s just a tub of all-purpose plant food I picked up at Walmart a couple of years ago. 🙂
Hydrangeas also like a good drink of water daily, so if it doesn’t rain on a particular day, you need to water them. I just go out every morning before the sun gets too hot and put the hose on each of my hydrangeas for about 45 seconds. If you can be super consistent with your watering, you’ll be rewarded!
It’s also important to note that if you live in a humid climate like I do, it’s a good idea to water your hydrangeas directly at the base of the plants rather than from above to help reduce the risk of mildew forming.
Here’s how my hydrangeas looked at the end of May-ish this year:
(pardon the old much, we’re working on a big project in the front of the house this summer, so we’ve been moving a lot of landscaping around. We’ll get everything freshened up once we’ve decided where exactly everything’s going to go. 🙂 )
Here’s the same hydrangea at the beginning of July:
It just keeps getting bigger and bigger! In years past it had been well below the height of the bottom of the side porch railing that you can see in that photo. It’s hard to tell from a distance in that last photo, but here’s how beautiful and healthy the flowers look up close.
The great news is that once you’ve upgraded your soil a bit to better suit your hydrangea’s needs, and you’ve fed it a couple of nice meals, a lot of those other mystery problems will magically clear up on their own. No need to worry about which bug, or what fungus might be causing the particular new problem that you’ve seen come up that day!
For Other Lingering Hydrangea Problems
Now, my hydrangeas aren’t perfect, by any means, but they’re a million times better than before. I still have the occasional hole-y leaf or brown-edged flower, but luckily there’s a simple, natural solution that I’ve found can keep these issues in check and keep them from getting out of control, so I end up with a healthy-looking plant overall.
I’ve been hearing about neem oil for years, but hadn’t been able to find any in my garden centres locally. You know I’m hesitant to use harsh, harmful chemicals anywhere around my home or my garden, so it seemed like a great solution for me. I ended up using insecticidal soap instead last year because I couldn’t find the neem oil and it just wasn’t really that helpful. I had unhealthy plants that were suffering from a few different hydrangea problems, and the insecticidal soap just didn’t address enough of them.
I was determined this spring to find neem oil, so I looked once again at my local garden centres, without luck. I finally ordered some off of Amazon and I’m so glad I did. Neem oil is so safe that people often use it to make lotions and salves to address health concerns, so it’s definitely something that you can spray liberally around the garden without worrying about needing to avoid touching your plants afterwards. Neem oil deals with a broad spectrum of insect issues as well as things like mildew, so it really is a great overall plant disease preventer.
So those have been my methods to deal with my hydrangea problems! If you’ve been suffering with sad-looking little hydrangeas that just won’t grow, or if you thought that hydrangeas were 100% low-maintenance, I’m here to tell you that your hydrangeas are probably just asking for a little love and attention. If your hydrangeas are suffering, apply these methods immediately and you’ll start to see improvements right away. 🙂
Once again, the solution to this problem is one of the simplest ones! Happy hydrangea season!
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