Hydrangea buds coming out in December


Hi, I had planted Hydrangea 2 years ago. They were blooming while I got them, and continued to bloom all summer.

The leafs dropped in fall and I didn’t pruned the stem as this particular hydrangea has bloom in old stem.

Last December the stem started to bud due to mild temperature. The buds dried out as winter weather set in. Summer time no buds came on old stem and no flowers can from new growth/stemp. All old stem died.

This fall the leafs were green and did not fall until November, December this year I see new bud coming out of stem that grew in summer. I am afraid I will not get any.bloom come summer.

What can I do to prevent buds coming out in December, and why am I not getting bloom on new stem. I live in the GTA and the hydrangea is planted in my back yard which faces south and gets lots of sun.

I wrapped all four plants in burlap today but buds are already coming out. I did not cover the plants last year.


Thank you for sending your question to Toronto Master Gardeners — even though there is no image attached, in this case you have supplied sufficient details for us to give you some good advice.

First, you confirm that your hydrangea plants develop blooms on old stems, which means they are Hydrangea macrophylla, commonly referred to as big leaf hydrangea. This is key information, as this differentiates your hydrangea species from those that bloom on new wood. And you have wisely resisted the urge to prune.

(The Hydrangea arborescens type, called smooth hydrangea, grows both stems and buds next summer: like the varieties Annabelle, or Incrediball.)

Secondly, your macrophylla have formed buds by now, December, as they should have; that is, you could not have prevented the plants from budding. Hydrangea macrophylla come in two different types: Mophead and Lacecap. Mopheads are the most popular of the big leaf Hydrangea.

Either way, regardless of the varieties you may own, there is always the weather, as you mention, to take into consideration. While your shrubs live in your southern-facing backyard, the plants can still definitely suffer from cold, desiccating winter temperatures and winds. Dense mulching is a first, easy, course of action. Use wood chips, oak leaves, pine straw or other mulch. Or, as you mentioned, you have wrapped them in burlap: take care to not touch the stems, to allow air to circulate.

Another consideration for Toronto gardeners, is to ensure our plants have enough water resources to see them through the winter. Right now, Dec.31, the ground happens to be still soft and absorbent. Watering all conifer and deciduous perennials to get them through the winter months can be crucial. Hopefully with burlap as a buffer, and extra watering, your macrophylla will survive the winter elements, and repay you with blossoms!

Lastly, we are pleased to suggest you refer to our TMG guide to growing hydrangeas.