Answer: Brown spots are normal on hydrangea stems, but not on the leaves. I don't think the problem is serious enough to warrant returning the plant; in fact the problem may very well be a result of being in the garden center and enduring overcrowded conditions and inconsistent watering. Various fungal spots may develop on hydrangea leaves, triggered by too much or too little water or inconsistent soil moisture. Spots also may develop when hot sun strikes wet foliage. You can't do anything about rain, but when you water, water the soil, not the foliage. And, maintain consistent soil moisture; mulch to help preserve it and keep soil temperatures down.
Hydrangeas are best in organically enriched, well-draining but moist soils. Good air circulation discourages fungal diseases. Remove fallen, diseased leaves to prevent additional fungal infection.
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