Big leaf hydrangeas produce some of the best-loved summer flowers: big, blousy orbs of pink, purple, or blue. Everyone, it seems, has one, but not everyone has found equal success in getting a yard full of fabulous flowers. This is why the number one question we are asked every year is, “Why isn’t my hydrangea blooming?” It’s a pretty easy question to answer yourself, once you have some basic knowledge of the one characteristic that makes these beautiful bushes a little bit different than the others: they bloom on old wood. Let’s take a closer look at what that means!
Shrubs that bloom on old wood create their flower buds for the following year shortly after they finish blooming (or should have bloomed, if you didn’t get any flowers) during the current one. In other words, the flowers are created on wood that is at least one year old, as opposed to developing in spring, once the new growth emerges.
Bigleaf hydrangeas are certainly not the only flowering shrubs to bloom on old wood. Several other popular plants, like forsythia, quince, lilac, and weigela also bloom on old wood. However, unlike those spring bloomers, big leaf hydrangeas bloom in mid-summer. This means that the window where they do not have flower buds for either the current or following year is not only smaller than for other old wood-blooming shrubs – it also occurs much, much later in the season.
In practical terms, this has a major impact on plant care, especially pruning. The normal pruning advice for shrubs that flower on old wood is that if you wish to prune, you should do so immediately after they finish blooming. For lilacs and the like, that leaves nearly six months of recovery before winter comes. However, for big leaf hydrangeas, that leaves only a month or so, which isn’t enough time for them to recover from the pruning and create next year’s flower buds before the days get short, the nights get cold, and the plant grows dormant.
Having flower buds already on the plant through fall, winter, and spring also means that they have to survive a long period without getting damaged by winter weather, or by animals, like deer, rabbits, and pets.
Ultimately, it’s the combination of blooming on old wood and blooming so late in the season that cause the frustration with this plant. Next, let’s take a closer look at the common problems that prevent blooming and how to resolve them.
These are the four most common explanations for why big-leaf hydrangeas may not bloom.
Let’s Dance Can Do hydrangea is a fantastic pick for anyone who has struggled to achieve hydrangea bliss – and even for those who have! Here’s why: it has the unique ability to set flower buds down the entire length of its stem, instead of just at the tip, like most conventional hydrangeas. That means that even if the weather does its worst, even if it gets pruned, there are still flower buds on the plant to enjoy in summer.
Let’s Dance Can Do hydrangea is also one of the top reblooming hydrangeas on the market, with new flower buds emerging even before the first wave of blooms has faded.
Need those big, beautiful mophead flowers in your life? Try Let’s Dance Arriba hydrangea. This special plant is a hybrid between the classic big-leaf hydrangea and its hardier cousin, mountain hydrangea. That builds better cold tolerance into the flower buds so they are less likely to get winter damage.
If the information under the “winter damage” section above sounds like what you’re seeing on your hydrangeas each spring, Let’s Dance Arriba would be the perfect replacement for your existing, under-performing varieties.
Tuff Stuff is a mountain hydrangea, also known as Hydrangea serrata. It’s a close relative to the more familiar big leaf hydrangeas, but instead of occurring on the mild coastline of Japan, it grows up in the chilly mountaintops. As such, it has naturally developed better bud hardiness over time, and that carries through even to selections like Tuff Stuff.
This beautiful lacecap hydrangea truly is tougher than the rest when it comes to withstanding winter weather and spring freezes. It’s also beautiful enough to grow for its own sake, even if you don’t have weather issues impairing your hydrangea bloom.