Hydrangea Blooms Bent to Ground - Knowledgebase Question

Willmar, MN
Avatar for krhallstrom
Question by krhallstrom
August 26, 1999
We have 6 Annabelle hydrangeas planted summer of 1997 and 1998 on north side of house, where it gets some sun and some shade. The plants that have bloomed this summer have huge flowers, but they are so heavy that the stems totally bend to the ground and it results in an unattractive plant. Will this problem take care of itself as the plant matures (i.e., will the stems become stronger?) I keep reading about hydrangeas' "woody" stems; I would not describe these as woody. I also have a leaf problem. The new leaves are perfect, but they gradually become a bit curled, with some holes, and some brown, brittle areas. Eventually they look awful. Thank you for any suggestions!

Answer from NGA
August 26, 1999
While I don't think I would describe the stems of this type of hydrangea as particularly stiff and "woody" either, and while this type of hydrangea (H. arborescens) is known to be a bit straggly and floppy and the species does tend to drag its flowers, yours do sound unusually weak for the named variety "Annabelle". There are several possible reasons for why the plants are bending but the most common would be overfertilizng with nitrogen and lack of water. These plants really prefer a moist soil although they will tolerate drier conditions when planted in a bit of shade. Your plants might also prefer a bit more light -- stretching for light can also cause weaker stems. These particular hydrangeas bloom on new wood of the season and so should be trimmed back hard in late winter; this may help add some support to the current year's stems.

Unfortunately this type of hydrangea tends to have generally ratty looking foliage by the end of the season; adequate water and moderate fertilizing should keep it in pretty good shape but it is subject to a wide variety of occasional problems ranging from various pests to mildew and rust. You might want to take a sample to your County Extension (231-7890) for a specific diagnosis and suggested controls.

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