The Q&A Archives: Brown Leaves on Hydrangea

Question: My Great Aunt, who is 93, has a beautiful, old Hydrangea bush. I remember it since I was four and that was thirty years ago. The problem is the leaves and stems are turning brown. There is an abundance of bloom that seems normal but this problem seems to get worse. Does this mean the bush is dying? I hope not, it's been through several generations. When I see this flower, It's like looking at my great aunt herself. I might add that we had an extreme amount of rainfall the first months of the year. Can we save this old and graceful beauty?

Answer: This hydrangea is obviously in an ideal location where it has been happy for a long time. These plants have few disease problems. You may be seeing a bacterial or fungal blight aggravated by the wet spring, but this is doubtful. If this is the problem, it will most likely go away in time and not be a long term problem. Some sanitary pruning to remove diseased areas could be of benefit.

Could it be that something has changed the environment around this plant, such as an overhead tree removed, gutters added to the home to change the seasonal soil moisture content, etc.?

I think the problem will go away. If the problem does not get any better by mid summer a disease control spray may be needed. Visit us again, and we'll try to help, or you can work with a local nursery to develop a plan.

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