Have you ever seen your hydrangea leaves turn yellow mysteriously, even though your plant seems healthy otherwise? Here’s why it happens and the easy fix!
We’re right in the middle of our late-blooming hydrangea season here, so I thought I’d share a tip for this particular type of hydrangea that I found really interesting. A lot of people have a similar issue with their panicle hydrangeas where they start to see the leaves turning yellow and dropping off at different parts of the season and it can be pretty dramatic and pretty concerning because it can happen really quickly on a shrub that seems like it’s otherwise really healthy. I can’t remember where I learned this a few years ago, but it has been such a handy little hydrangea tip. I’ve shared it on Instagram before, but I realized I’ve never told you about this in a real, full blog post, so today I’m taking care of that. 🙂
What is a Panicle Hydrangea?
When I say that this applies to panicle hydrangeas, that means the type of hydrangeas that typically bloom later in summer, usually around August. They have a more cone-like shape to the blooms than the typical smooth hydrangeas or mophead hydrangeas that you might think of first as “classic” hydrangeas. Where we live in zone 6, they’re quite easy to have success with and they’re really popular in our area, which is great because that means that there are hydrangeas just about everywhere at this time of year. 🙂
What it Means When Your Hydrangea Leaves Turn Yellow
When you see your hydrangea leaves starting to turn yellow, you might think that your plant is dying or being mistreated in some way, but in fact, the opposite is true. It’s common to see panicle hydrangea leaves, particularly the ones on the interior of the shrub, start to turn yellow and drop off, especially at the very beginning of the part of the season when the blooms are forming and this is actually a very clever survival/growth mechanism of this particular plant.
What your hydrangea is doing when you see these types of yellow leaves is putting energy into the most important tasks, which we all know is creating those big, beautiful blooms. 🙂 So, if your hydrangea has yellow leaves, it’s basically just recognizing that it doesn’t have enough energy to both keep those leaves alive and create blooms, so it drops the less important leaves, in this case the ones in the centre of the plant that aren’t getting much sun anyway, and puts that energy into bloom-making instead. Pretty amazing, isn’t it?
What to do About Yellow Hydrangea Leaves
So, as I mentioned, the forming of yellow leaves in the centre of the plant that eventually drop off is a sign that your plant doesn’t have quite enough energy to sustain its growth, create beautiful blooms, and keep all its current leaves alive. That means that what you really need to do is feed it! When you see those yellow leaves, it’s actually a little clue that now is the perfect time to feed your plant because blooms are forming and any energy you give it will go into bloom creation. I try to remember to feed all my hydrangeas every two weeks throughout the growing season, but I don’t always keep up with it and when I see the yellow leaves, I like to increase the frequency a little bit for a few weeks, feeding them maybe about every 10 days.
A little all-purpose plant food is really all you need here, given according to package directions. If you really want to maximize blooms, a plant food with a higher amount of phosphorus (the middle number) will really help increase the number and size of your blooms.
You should see the number of newly-yellowed leaves decrease pretty quickly as soon as you give your hydrangea the food it needs. The good news is that if you do absolutely nothing, the plant will still be fine, it will just have a few less leaves. The following year, growth will be normal and you’ll have a chance to feed them again if you want to reduce the number of yellow, dropping leaves. 🙂
Have you ever encountered this issue with your panicle hydrangeas?
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Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.