‘Why Won’t My Hydrangea Bloom?” As seen on KDKA’s PTL

An oak leaf hydrangea is a more reliable bloomer in our climate than the usual mophead varieties most gardeners grow. Photo by Doug Oster

Well, it’s the number one garden question. “Why won’t my hydrangeas bloom?”
There are many answers. One common problem is that the most popular type of hydrangea grown in our area is hydrangea macrophylla, often referred to as mophead.
That type of hydrangea isn’t best suited for our climate. Often times the buds will freeze out.
What I do to help them during the winter is to surround the plant with burlap, leaving the top open. This protects the buds from very cold winter winds.
The other thing that stops hydrangeas from blooming is improper pruning. Mopheads and some other types of hydrangeas bloom on old wood. Meaning after they bloom, they put buds on that will sit all winter and then bloom in the summer. If those buds are removed, the plant can’t bloom.
Wait until right after the plant blooms to do any pruning. Wait too long and your risking the buds.
In my garden, I’ve slowly converted to other types of hydrangeas that are more reliable bloomers. One of my favorites is the oak leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). The plant has many seasons of interest. In winter the plant sports a beautiful orangish exfoliating bark. Then beautiful conical white blooms which fade to pink. In the fall the large green oak leaf shaped foliage turns deep red.
The Endless Summer brand of hydrangeas offer a plant that’s a reliable bloomer. Many of the plants put buds on new and old wood.
‘Annabelle’ (Hydrangea arborescens) is one of the only hydrangeas that can be cut to the ground at the end of the season and blooms profusely every season.
Find the right hydrangea and enjoy the blooms for years to come.

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