Why Isn’t My Hydrangea Flowering?

“I have hydrangeas but each year they only get leaves and no flowers what can I do?” Question from Nancy of Campbell, Ohio

Answer: Generally when gardeners have trouble with hydrangeas that refuse to bloom, they are largeleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla hybrids). These survive just up to USDA Hardiness Zone 5, your zone, but you should be able to get them to bloom.

Largeleaf hydrangeas bloom on “old” or last year’s stems, so it is important not to prune them back in spring or fall. If trimming is needed, they should only be pruned right after they flower in summer. On occasion, harsh winters will cause stem dieback–killing all of the flowering stems down to the ground. Deer can also nibble them. When this happens, expect few to no flowers that year.  (Click here for an excellent schematic by Proven Winners that visually explains why some hydrangeas won’t bloom.)

Another factor is that largeleaf hydrangeas bloom best in partial sun. If yours is in deep shade, consider moving it. In your zone, the best garden spot for a largeleaf hydrangea is a partially sunny, protected location. Planting it near a building or wall will give it some protection from the harshest winter weather.

If you don’t feel like bothering with all of these steps, we recommend planting smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) varieties, which are very hardy and bloom on new wood. Two really exceptional types are Incrediball® and Invincibelle® Ruby. These grow best in fertile soil and like the addition of fertilizer formulated for flowering shrubs. I recommend amending their planting hole with Black Gold Garden Soil, which feeds plants for up to six months.

I hope that these tips help!

Happy hydrangea growing,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist


Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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