The Q&A Archives: Non-blooming Hydrangeas

Question: I have 2 Nikko Blue Hydrangea bushes on the north side of my house. They do receive moderate sunshine. One bush is a few years older than the other; the other I just planted this year. I have read over some of the answers on your website as to why my hydrangeas may not be blossoming. The older bush has bloomed beautfully since I planted it and did bloom earlier this summer. Since it bloomed, it has substantial new growth on it but no new flowers. The newer plant has not bloomed at all. I'm thinking that perhaps I need to add something to the soil - - perhaps a 5-10-10 - - fertilizer as you have suggested to others with the same question. But, I'm also wondering if I'm pruning them incorrectly. The new shoots each spring for the older bush always seem to come directly from the ground, so I have always assumed that it was not growing on last season's wood as it looked dead and I pruned it off. Is this incorrect? I'm always confused as to whether or not I have hydrangeas that bloom on old wood or not. Any suggestions?

Answer: Your hydrangeas form flower buds on last year's wood. So do not prune them in the early spring or summer. Many live branches look a bit dead for a while in the spring. Later, when you are sure a stem or branch is truly dead and the rest of the plant has leafed out, you could remove it.

If you are seeing a lot of winter kill, then it may be that they are in too cold a location. Protection from wind may help if that is the case. Keep in mind too that an established plant will be more able to handle cold than a newly planted one.

To prune, wait until right after they have bloomed and trim -- if they need any pruning. It's best to make sure they are planted where they have enough room to grow.

Finally, when fertilizing, follow the label instructions. Too much fertilizer is not any better than too little and may cause overly lush foliage growth at the expense of flowers. Established plants will normally outperform more recently planted ones. It sounds like your plants are growing well and should bloom for you next summer.

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