How to Save a Dying Hydrangea

The reason for dying hydrangea usually is due to the soil being too dry or the hydrangea has been placed exposed to too much direct sunlight that causes the leaves to become brown, wilt, and die. The new growth that springs up is susceptible to damage from frost which results in the flower and leaf buds to become brown and mushy , giving them an appearance of dying.

This table provides a reference that lists the most frequent causes of dying hydrangeas as well as the symptoms they present:

Continue reading to learn why Hydrangeas are dying and the strategies for saving your dying Hydrangea…

1. Hydrangea Wilting and Dying (Drought Stress)

The reason why hydrangeas are dying and dying is due to the fact that there isn’t enough moisture around the roots because of the absence of rain or water and the soil drains too quickly, and too much sun or wind can sap moisture off the leaves. The flowers of hydrangeas can drop because of excessive fertilizer.

If the hydrangea is stressed by drought, the leaves may begin to curl and then turn brown.

The Hydrangea is a native of woodland areas where they thrive in the shade, protected from the sun’s rays, excessive winds and thrive in soils that retain moisture, made of leaf mold and regular rainfall.

Hydrangeas are extremely sensitive to drought because they have a very shallow and fibrous root system. They require a constant supply of water at the root to keep the leaves from becoming swollen in appearance.

The hydrangeas may wilt during summer because of extreme temperatures and low rainfall or they may die after planting because it takes time to allow the root systems to grow enough so that they can draw in water.

Here are the most significant environmental factors that cause the wilting and death of hydrangeas:

  • Hydrangeas will wilt when they are in stony or sandy soil that drains too fast. They require soil that has been amended with organic matter that aids in retaining moisture around the roots.
  • Insufficient or inadequate rainfall. Hydrangeas that are mature and established usually don’t require watering when they are planted in the correct soil and away from the sun, but smaller or transplanted hydrangeas must be watered well, at least every other day, to ensure that the soil remains damp.
  • If you water too little, the roots to become less deep, which increases the risk of drought for hydrangeas therefore, always give an adequate amount of water to allow the roots to expand deeper into the soil, allowing them to access the required moisture once they have established.
  • Hydrangeas thrive in dim light under the canopy of of woodlands and cannot take well to full sun and could cause the hydrangeas to shed more water from its leaves. This could draw it up through its roots, causing the leaves to turn brown, wilt and eventually die.
  • Wind can suck the leaves of moisture faster and the roots then draw in water. Hydrangeas are in high need for moisture, and excessive wind can dry out the leaves fast, leading to them to turn brown and the hydrangeas to die from drought.
  • The excess nitrogen fertilizer causes the Hydrangeas to shrink because it encourages less vigorous, sappy growth that shrinks under its own weight, creating the appearance of hydrangeas dying.
  • The Hydrangea is a woodland plant that thrive in a tree’s shade, but the dense canopy of trees with plenty of leaves could block rain and block it getting to the ground, resulting in dry conditions.

hydrangea flowers pink purple close up

The Solution…

To save a dying and dying hydrangea, it is essential to make changes to the environment around it to help it recover from wilting by increasing the amount of soil moisture around the roots as the primary goal.

  1. The hydrangea should be watered as often as you need to ensure that the soil remains evenly damp. The frequency at which you need to water your hydrangeas will depend on the climate, soil type, weather and the maturity of your hydrangea. However, if the hydrangeas are wilting and wilting, you can water it with a hose to make sure your soil remains moist enough so that the roots are able to draw in water.
  2. Make sure to water the plants with a large amount of water instead of a gentle watering. The watering that is thorough soaks the soil around the roots and helps the roots to expand into the soil and to establish correctly, which improves the hydrangea’s resistance against drought.
  3. Spread a 2 inch layer of mulch on the soil’s surface around the Hydrangea. The leaf mold, compost or well-rotted manure are excellent options for mulch because they can retain the soil’s moisture following irrigation. The mulch on top of the soil can also block the sun from shining directly on the soil surrounding the hydrangea, which helps ensure that the soil stays cool, and to decrease the evaporation of soil.
  4. If your hydrangea’s location is located in a windy or sunny location, you could either move the hydrangea into an area of shelter , or make shelter by planting other shrubs and plants. If your hydrangea is tiny and is not fully planted in soil, I suggest moving it to a protected area (under the protection of a tree , if it is possible).
  5. You can also make use of a taller plant like bamboo or even trees to plant alongside your hydrangea plant to protect the hydrangea from dry winds and to shield it from direct sun (hydrangea thrive in the morning, followed by the afternoon sun or diffused sunlight all day).
  6. Reduce the use of fertilizers if the hydrangea’s leaves are turning brown. A high concentration of nitrogen can cause hydrangeas’ drooping, that could be caused by fertilizer that is applied to the hydrangea , or the run-off of lawn fertiliser. Reduce any growth that is drooping due to the use of fertilizer using pruning scissors that are sharp because it is more prone to disease and pests, and more susceptible to damage from frost.

If the soil in your garden is especially stony or sandy and your hydrangea is turning brown and dying shortly after it was planted, I suggest digging the hydrangea up for a short period as well as amending your soil using plenty of organic matter (compost or leaf mold, or well-rotted manure) to replicate the hydrangea’s soil’s moist conditions in its natural habitat.

Making sure that the soil is prepared so it retains more moisture could be the most effective way to combat the issue of wilting hydrangea over the long run.

Spring or fall is the ideal time to plant an Hydrangea because the weather is cooler, whereas planting in the warmer temperatures of Summer could aggravate the issue and the plant will be dormant during winter, so replanting during this time could lead to root decay.

If there is enough water around the roots and shielding from wind or sun The Hydrangea will recuperate from its dying appearance in the coming weeks.

2. Hydrangea Leaves Turning Brown at the Edges and Dying (Too Much Fertilizer)

The leaves of hydrangeas turn brown around the edges due to excessive fertilizer. A high amount of nitrogen fertilizer could cause hydrangea roots to be burned and cause the leaf edges to become brown and crisp with the appearance of dying.

If the hydrangea’s had a little too much fertilizer, then leaves will droop, and you will see fewer flowers (nitrogen stimulates growth of foliage which is detrimental to flowers Read my article on what is the reason my hydrangea’s flowering not happening).

If fertilizer is applied frequently or in a high amount it can cause the edges of the leaves to turn brown and lose their appearance.

Be aware that lawn fertilizer may be diluted after heavy rain and then run through the lawn to garden boarders (and toward the hydrangea roots) and even burn your plants because of their nitrogen content.

It’s not just fertilizer that is applied in high doses that causes hydrangea leaves to turn brown and then die, however, applying fertilizer too frequently could also result in an accumulation of salts in the soil around roots of the hydrangeas.

The accumulation of salts in the soil due to of excessive fertilizer use can hinder the hydrangea’s capacity to draw in moisture (by Osmosis) and may result in drought-like symptoms like dropping leaves and dying leaves that are brown.

The Solution…

  • Reduce the use of fertilizers in any way.
  • Remove any leaves that have been badly damaged with the sharpest pruners.
  • The excess fertilizer can cause a build-up of soil salts that can affect the roots capacity to draw in moisture and therefore give the soil surrounding the hydrangea an ample soak to dissolve the any salts left by fertilizers to bring balance back to the soil and aid in the revival of the bloom of the hydrangea.
  • Make sure to water the hydrangea thoroughly every couple of days (ideally using the help of a water hose) that helps keep the soil moist that hydrangeas like and also to reduce the amount of salts and fertilizer around the roots to aid in recuperation.

The best hydrangeas thrive in fertile soil, and mature plants don’t require fertilizers when they’re in good soil because they have a well-developed root system that are able to access nutrients.

However, fertilizer in the spring will encourage the growth of younger Hydrangeas as well as encourage flowering

The leaves and roots of the Hydrangea are extremely sensitive to fertilizers that contain too much therefore it is essential to select the correct fertilizer to avoid any future problems.

For hydrangeas, I suggest an all-purpose well balanced fertilizer that is granular, such as Miracle-gro because it has all the nutrients that a hydrangea needs in the correct amount to prevent problems caused by excessive fertilizer use and also to help support the health of your plant by providing high-quality flowers.

The granules release the nutrients slowly as they dissolve , rather than all at once like a liquid fertilizer.

They are resilient, and as they are watered them frequently to dissolve salts in the soil, then the hydrangea will recover next year.

(Read my article on what is the reason my hydrangea’s bud dropping?)

3. Hydrangea Leaves Turning Brown and Dying

The most common reason for the leaves of hydrangeas turning brown is due to being exposed to too much light, that burns the leaves brown with a dying look. Hydrangeas have evolved to grow in partially shaded or in dappled light and their leaves change color and then turn back when exposed to direct sunlight.

The Hydrangeas, aka woodland plant species have adjusted to the shade with light dappled throughout the daytime.

If the hydrangeas are situated located in an area with full sunshine, the leaves may become brown, crisp and then curl up at the edges, particularly when they are exposed to high temperatures and dry conditions.

The sun’s rays burn the delicate leaves and causes browning. It also increases transpiration, which causes the leaves to shed a significant amount of water and then die back.

While too much sunlight is often the primary reason behind hydrangea leaf turning brown drought stress as a result of the lack of water and high temperatures, as well as poor soil that doesn’t retain enough moisture , and winds all can contribute to leaves turning brown.

The hydrangeas that are exposed to too much sunlight suffer from stress from drought, or the leaves burn become brown, then fall back that prevents photosynthesis of the hydrangea and it ceases to bloom.

The Solution…

While hydrangeas are able to thrive in complete shade, the majority of species of hydrangeas require sunlight to encourage blooming.

The trick is finding the right balance between shade and sun to keep the leaves of hydrangea from browning due to excessive sun, and to ensure there is enough sunlight for blooming.

The most effective way to get the ideal balance is by placing your hydrangea in an area that is sun-drenched in the morning and afternoon shade, followed by and a dappled area beneath a canopy of trees.

Morning sun is not as intense as the afternoon or midday sun, and the temperature tends to be less in morning, so the hydrangeas will benefit from sunlight (to encourage flowering) without the risk of drought stress, burning and becoming brown.

If it’s not feasible to move your hydrangea into another part of the garden, then I suggest plant a tree, a bamboo or perhaps a shrub near the hydrangea. This will aid in reducing wind noise and to give the light dappled conditions that hydrangeas like.

The leaves of hydrangea that are turning brown and crisp are not able to recover, so it is recommended trimming them back using a the sharpest pruners (this is possible anytime of the year).

Since brown leaves are frequently connected with drought stress, I suggest you follow the same guidelines as described above for blooming hydrangeas that are wilted and give the soil a generous soak to allow the roots to draw in moisture.

Spread a layer of mulch on the soil around the plant’s base to aid in preserving moisture.

With adequate water around the roots and shielding from wind or sun, the hydrangea will begin to show signs of healing over the next few weeks.

4. Potted Hydrangea Dying

The reason why potted hydrangeas are dying is usually because the pot isn’t big enough or has no drainage holes in its base. Smaller pots can dry out rapidly which causes dying and wilting hydrangea leaves. Pots that aren’t draining result in water accumulating around the roots, and the hydrangea dies from root decay.

Hydrangeas have a extensive roots system that is characterized by numerous leaves that require a lot of water.

Pots that are smaller have less capacity for soil, and thus retain less moisture.

The thirsty hydrangea roots swiftly draw in and expel every drop of moisture that is available within the pot, resulting in the hydrangea displaying an look of wilting and leaves which may become brown and then curl upwards due to stress from drought.

If the pot is not equipped with drainage holes in its base, then the water will pool over the root of the Hydrangea.

It can cause root rot or deprives root of oxygen. This hinders the root from breathing and hinders the ability of roots to absorb water.

The leaves shrink and then turn yellow, with a the appearance of dying.

The Solution…

  • The pots for hydrangeas should be that is larger than 16 inches in diameter and the same depth. This size pot will ensure that the soil is sufficient to provide more moisture the roots of the hydrangeas to draw up and lessen the chance of them dying due to the drought. But hydrangeas can get large , and their roots could be confined to the pot, so it is recommended to repot your hydrangea in a bigger pot every two years, but make sure to check the roots each year to be sure.
  • It is important to water your hydrangea as frequently as you need to ensure that the soil remains damp. Pots’ soil naturally dry faster than garden soil, therefore it is essential to water your hydrangea more frequently since hydrangeas rely on having a always moist soil.
  • Particularly, how often you water your potted hydrangea will depend on the climate you live in, but during the summer heat potted hydrangeas may require regular watering. But a pot that is large and has well-drained potting soil that is away from the midday and afternoon sun typically, it only requires watering twice every week during Summer.
  • Always give your plants a good soak instead of a gentle watering. Hydrangea water with a thorough soak to ensure that the excess water drips down out of the base in the planter. This will ensure that the water is reaching the roots exactly where it is needed and helps the roots grow. If you are watering too sparsely it is only the upper inch of soil is moist, and the water doesn’t get to the root. The watering is too light also results in the roots growing closer to the surface of the soil in order to get access to the limited water, which can increase the hydrangea’s susceptibility to drought.
  • Make sure to plant them in pots that have drainage holes at the base so that excess water can escape and prevent root decay. Hydrangea needs the soil to hold moisture, but they also have a porous drainage structure to ensure that water doesn’t accumulate around the roots , causing root decay.
  • If you want to plant hydrangeas before planting them in a pots, place the gravel layer at the base of your container or pot to ensure that any drainage holes are free of compacted soil that can slow drainage and lead to root rot.

If the hydrangea in the pot is suffering from drought stress due to the small size of the pot, which dries out too fast, the hydrangea will be showing signs of healing after repotting and thorough irrigation

If the hydrangea has suffered from root rot because of the soil being saturated, it’s much harder to rescue the hydrangea, that is why using pots with drainage holes at the base are so crucial.

5. Hydrangea Turning Black or Brown and Dying (Frost Damage)

The leaves and flowers of hydrangea may turn brown or black when they’re damaged by frost. The emergence of hydrangeas in spring is extremely sensitive to cold temperatures and may die off due to a late frost. The cold weather can cause the leaf’s outermost layer to fall, preventing blooming.

Hydrangeas are hardy and cold-tolerant plants that can withstand cold temperatures if the have had the time to get ready for the winter.

But the newly-formed blossoms and leaves in the spring are especially vulnerable to harm from late frost or wind that can make the leaves brown and become mushy.

It is typically that combination of frigid winds and frost that harms the hydrangeas, as they adapt to growing in areas with shelter.

The Solution…

Hydrangeas are woodland plants which grow in the canopy. This buffers cold winds and creates a stable microclimate that can ward off death of the hydrangeas due to winter’s harsh weather and frost.

To protect your hydrangea, it’s a good idea that you plant (or transfer) your hydrangeas close to the fence or a tree, or in a an area that is protected rather than in an area that is more open to the garden.

Others taller plants like bamboo, trees or shrubs can be planted alongside the hydrangea plant to create an air buffer that can be quite effective in keeping hydrangeas safe from damage caused by frost.

You can trim any damaged or frosty growth by using a pruning tools that are sharp and can cut and then revert to a healthy growth to aid in reviving the plant.

It is typically the most outermost part of the hydrangea which gets damaged due to frost, and the growth is protected by the stems and leaves of the mature hydrangea. generally remain.

Frost damage may limit the amount of flowers displayed, as it’s the buds of flowers that are known to be most vulnerable to frost damage in winter, but the hydrangeas have a variety of buds on each stem, and numerous opportunities to display the flowers.

The flowering hydrangea may have some flowers, even though they usually appear longer than usual and maybe not as abundant.

The hydrangea is expected to be able to make a strong recovery in the next year.

(Read my article on what is the reason my Hydrangea’s flowers isn’t flowering?)

6. Hydrangea Dying After Planting or Transplanting

The reason for hydrangeas to wilt and dying following planting is due to the fact that the hydrangea’s root system needs time to adjust to to the new soil conditions before it can draw in moisture effectively, that causes the leaves to turn brown for a short period of time. The shock of transplants can cause the leaves of the hydrangea to drop and then turn brown, with a dying look.

Hydrangeas experience transplant shock following plantation due to an abrupt contrast in growing conditions.

If you’ve purchased a the hydrangea from a nursery, or are transferring your hydrangea from one part in your yard to another your hydrangea is specially adapted to its present conditions of growth and may be affected by the contrast in sunlight and the flow of air, moisture in soil, the structure, watering temperatures, and shelter.

The hydrangeas that are planted in controlled greenhouse conditions are a lot less robust and may suffer when they are planted outside

The most frequent sign is a wilting or shivering of the flowers and leaves of the Hydrangea.

The stress of transplanting is increased when planting in summertime dry and hot weather because the roots of the hydrangea aren’t able to absorb enough moisture to support the hydrangea’s massive leaves, causing them to shrink and then turn brown.

The months of spring and fall are the ideal times for transferring or planting hydrangeas because the temperatures are cooler and the roots of the hydrangea’s can grow and adapt to the soil, so they are able to draw in water faster prior to any summer temperatures that are high.

Hydrangeas are extremely hardy after they’ve established, but they are especially susceptible to dying and wilting after the planting.

The Solution…

  1. It is recommended that you purchase the plants (or transfer) your hydrangeas during the spring or fall to avoid any stress caused by the higher temperatures in summer.
  2. When planting hydrangeas, it is recommended to amend the area of planting by adding compost, leaf mold or manure that has been well rotted in a width and depth that is 18 inches. Organic matter, such as compost is able to hold a lot of moisture, ensuring that the roots of hydrangeas are in the best soil conditions, which includes optimal levels of moisture as well as a drainage soil structure to aid the roots in drawing in moisture following the planting.
  3. Hydrangeas that have been planted in the spring should be watered frequently to ensure that the soil remains damp but not completely too saturated. It is possible to water an hydrangea each day following planting, with a good soak if you established the plant in Summer.
  4. Spread a 2 inch thick layer of mulch at the base of the hydrangeas to conserve the moisture.
  5. Shade the hydrangea temporarily if it’s in the sun (perhaps using a sun umbrella) because more sunlight increases its rate of loss. the hydrangea’s water is lost through its leaves, causing the hydrangea’s leaves to turn brown and die.

The most important thing to do when growing hydrangeas and keeping their death is the preparation of the soil.

Hydrangeas are woodland plants which thrive in soils that remain moist and have an abundance of organic matter. They are the ability to act as a mulch for leaves each fall.

Organic matter and leaf litter retain moisture, yet they possess a porous well drainage structure that lets excess water be drained away from the hydrangeas ‘ roots.

This allows for the ideal level of moisture to allow the roots to absorb the water that the hydrangea needs and ensures that the roots do not sit in soil that is saturated, which could cause root decay.

Incorporating organic matter prior to planting mimics the natural habitat of hydrangeas and guarantees that your hydrangea will more efficiently draw water or

Make sure your hydrangeas are well-watered and shaded (with an adequate blanket of mulch) and the leaves will increase in the next days.

While moist soil is essential for reviving the hydrangea plant, it is essential to ensure that the soil isn’t overly boggy and saturated because this could cause root decay.

Key Takeaways:

  • The reason why a hydrangea dies hydrangea usually is due to the soil is too dry around the roots because of submerged sandy soil that does not hold enough moisture and sun, or wind that dry out the leaves, causing the leaves to become brown, with an appearance of dying.
  • The reason for a wilting hydrangea can be due to drought stress caused by underwatering and dry soil that has excessive wind, high temperatures, or too much sun. Hydrangeas require a constant supply of humid soil around their roots to keep the leaves from dying and dying.
  • The leaves of hydrangeas turn brown as a result excessive sun exposure or because of excessive fertilizer. The hydrangeas like dappled light and the leaves are sensitive to excessive sun which burns the leaves and turns their brown. A lot of fertilizer burns the roots and can cause the edges of leaves to brown, giving them a the appearance of dying.
  • The reason why hydrangeas die after their planting is due to the fact that their roots aren’t established and aren’t able to hold sufficient water in order to sustain the huge and abundant hydrangea leaves, causing the plant to die. Hydrangeas require watering to ensure that the soil stays always moist and protected from wind and sun to avoid the hydrangeas dying after the plant has been planted.


Went from a bad gardener to a half-decent one over 10+ years. Super happy to share my tips and tricks with you :)