why no blooms?

Atlanta, GA

Hi--my hydrangeas, which have bloomed happily in previous seasons, this year have no blooms. They do have luxuriant foliage, however. Why aren't they blooming? And how can I make them bloom?

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Did you prune them? You may have pruned off the buds for any blooms for this year.

Atlanta, GA

I haven't pruned them any differently than I've done in previous years, and like I said, they bloomed happily in previous years--I'm so distressed! I LOVE my hydrangeas; they and crepe myrtles make summer for me!! :(

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I know there's been a lot of weird weather around the country this year. Did you have any late freezes or really unusually cold weather during the winter? I know some people in Atlanta and I seem to recall them talking about some unusual freezing weather so that definitely could have been the problem--freezing weather particularly as you're getting into late winter/early spring can zap the flower buds. Or if you've been having tons of rain and lots of cloudy weather lately that could be holding things up a bit. Also out of curiosity, when are you pruning? It's possible you are pruning at the wrong time and in previous years haven't taken off enough branches to cause problems with the blooming so you didn't realize it. The other possibility given the description of lush foliage is if you've given them fertilizer that's high in nitrogen that can sometimes stimulate green growth at the expense of blooms.

Atlanta, GA

So, do you think I should look for a fertilizer high in phosphorous? Espoma probably has something that is solely phosphorous, should I use something like that once a month to counter the overabundance of nitrogen?

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

The weird cold weather is my first suspect, pruning is second, and the fertilizer was just one last thing that was possible but it wasn't high on my list. So I would want to rule out the weather or improper pruning before you jump on the fertilizer thing. If you can answer some of the other questions I posed in my previous post, it would be easier to know if we can rule out cold weather and pruning or not. It would also help to know what fertilizer you have been using--if it's a balanced fertilizer then that's probably not the problem (and if you've been using the same fertilizer for the last couple years, that also makes it less likely).

Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

tons of blooms here...most of them are done blooming already.

Hurst, TX(Zone 7b)

Sorry you are having difficulty, marsinger4. When I lived in Atlanta, I used to enjoy seeing the hydrangeas after most azaleas were done flowering.

Unless your soil has some mineral deficiencies or you are growing them in pots, I would just feed them once in April and again in late June/early July. And that would be it for the whole year. Coffee grounds and weak fertilizers can be had during the growing season but stop in July. Also, make sure that fertilizer used on your lawn does not get into the hydrangeas because lawn fertilizer is high in nitrogen.

By now, most hydrangeas in the South should have shown flower buds resembling broccoli florets. Some exceptions that vary from year to year might be paniculatas such as tardy Tardiva. These may be late bloomers in some years.

If you did not get any flower buds then the weather could have caused the buds to be aborted. Weather conditions that can damage aboveground parts of the shrubs can reduce flowering; they are sometimes called winter damage. Too little moisture during winter in dry years is a common cause (solution: water every 2 weeks if the soil does not freeze). Pruning after June can also cause problems because flower buds develop in mid-July in the South. On old-wood flowering shrubs, stop pruning this month and do not prune again until after blooming in 2010. Another cause is weather that is early/late and unusually cold. Early frosts (when the plant is n-o-t dormant) can cause buds to be aborted in the Fall. Late frosts, when the plant is awakening, can also cause problems. Pests such as squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, deer, etc can eat the flower buds.

I usually recommend checking cold weather problem, pests and moisture problems when all or most hydrangeas are affected. If your neighbors have hydrangeas with the same problem then reduce the list to these two: cold weather and pests.

Damage from early frosts can be minimized by choosing plants that are hardy on your zone and by letting the plant go dormant "at its proper time". This can be accomplished by stopping all fertilizers at the start of July. Obviously, Mother Nature can send unusually cold weather at any time so protect any non-dormant plants when freezing temps are forecast in early Fall or in Spring. A piece of burlap can help if the dip in temperatures is not too extreme.

But sometimes this just happens. About three years ago, warm Fall temperatures here lasted into mid December and then we hit a rough patch of sub freezing temperatures that lasted almost a whole week. I got a total of two blooms on that year.

Some times, varieties are advertised as hardy on a certain zone but a lot of people discover the opposite. Hydrangea Endless Summer originally was advertised hardy to Zone 4 until people in Zone 4 started having trouble. Now it is advertised hardy to Zone 5 instead and winter protection techniques are required in Zone 4.

This then brings me to the last thing that you can do, winter protect. Maybe this plant is weak or maybe you have some type of micro-climate and the plant needs some help during the coldest parts of your winter. If all the suggestions given still produce no results next Spring then consider applying winter protection techniques.

Here is some additional information that you can read when you have free time: www.hydrangeashydrangeas.com

Does all this help you, marsinger4?

Atlanta, GA

Ecrane3, I haven't forgotten your questions! My father is having a bad week with his Parkinson's, though, so I'm a little preoccupied. I'll answer as soon as I can! And thank you, Luis, for all your information--it certainly gives me a lot to think about!

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Sorry about your dad--take your time on answering, we'll get to the bottom of it eventually! There's not much you can do for them this year anyway, either yours is one of the later blooming ones and will get going eventually, or if something happened to the buds this year then all you can do is figure out what went wrong and hopefully prevent it for next year. So there's no rush as long as the plants look healthy.

I too am having trouble getting my climbing hydrangeas to bloom despite vigorous growth
and great leaf structure and color. I live in Central Virginia and would expect them
to be cold hardy; but maybe I'm too far north. Suggestions, anyone.

Hurst, TX(Zone 7b)

Your zone should be fine for the climbing hydrangea Barretson, as this variety is hardy to Zone 4. H. Anomola subsp. Petiolaris (its weird but formal name) is not picky about the type of soil that it is planted on and is well known for blooming gangbusters... once it has reached the top of the structure that it is climbing. If you give it a 70 feet tall tree to climb, it will effortlessly climb it. Note... I am not saying that it will not bloom but rather that it will not bloom as well as it will once it reaches the top. For that reason, you see lots of growth during the first few years and average to low bloomage. So, give it time. A nice specimen in full bloom is awesome. If you ever decide to sell the house, I recommend doing it while the hydrangea is in bloom. All things being equal, it will make your property command top dollar.

Tokyo, Japan(Zone 10a)

Poor you! I rather suspect frost damage.


Thanks, Luis_PR-at least you've given me hope. Hyd. now at 30ft. and vigorously climbing up an old oak tree-only 40 ft. more to go!!

New Richmond, OH

Well, I guess that does it for me to see my climbing hydrangea in full bloom in my lifetime...several years ago I planted one at the base of our silo...it is about 3 feet tall, full and there were a few blooms this year, which actually surprised me. But to bloom its best once it reaches the top...:-) well, maybe my grandchildren will get to enjoy it! :-)

Hurst, TX(Zone 7b)

Hee hee hee. Yes, I have observed the same when they are at that height. Most of the growth in their first few years happens under the ground (the roots). Continue mulching and maintaining the soil moist and, to a certain degree, ignore them.

Forked River, NJ(Zone 6b)

I planted 5 all at the same time...2 have bloomed every year without fail...3 have never had 1 flower. They all have the same weather conditions...the same pruning (actually those 3 I have never touched)...no pest or disease damage...and the soil test is exactly the same for all 5. I keep hoping every year but I think it is time to give up and get new ones. Any ideas for hope?

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

How about a five gallon container of some Bloom Buster type product? If you're giving up anyhow you wouldn't have anything to lose by trying. I'd still mix according to directions and not go over the recommended amount of food per gallon.

Hurst, TX(Zone 7b)

Can you give us some more information, ERIKRYAN? Such as the variety's name? Can you also post a picture showing the hydrangeas together to maybe get some ideas?

Other thoughts...

* Are you getting any flower buds in Spring? If there are no flower buds then something happened between the time they develop (July-August) and Spring. Moisture issues during the summer or during winter can abort the flower buds so water at reduced levels (once every two weeks) if your winters are dry and the ground does not freeze.

* How much water do you water and how often?

* Do you have any other plants crowding these guys and competing for water, etc?

* How about any juglone-producing trees in the vicinity?

* Could there be any debris under these problem plants? From past gardening or construction projects?

* When do you fertilize (if you fertilize), with what product and how much do you apply? Too much of fertilizers high in nitrogen (Miracle Gro) will keep some plants green and result in no blooms. Fertilizers used on the lawn are also high in nitrogen so make sure that these do not end up near the hydrangeas. A single application in June should be all you need for the whole year.

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