Sad Hydrangea Tree


I’ve had a hydrangea tree since 1968. It has not bloomed more than one bloom in a long time. Over the past 6 years I’ve gone through a lot including a major home remodel. The tree has been very neglected other than water for several years. Between moving it, the hardship of drywall dust and two cases of white fly my old friend is very sad. About 2 meters with pot, she has gotten very thin with no real shape to her remaining branches. I would appreciate any suggestions, at this point nothing is too drastic.


It’s nice that you want to reward your lovely faithful friend with some TLC!

You mention that the tree hydrangea is in a container, I’ll assume that you keep it on a patio during the summer and move it indoors when cold weather arrives.

Good basic cultural practices should lead to a happier, healthier plant.  Some suggestions:

  • Repot: It’s generally recommended to repot the hydrangea tree every couple of years. Your plant’s roots are likely crowded if it has not been repotted in the past few years. Pull the plant out of the pot and take a look at the rootball to confirm if this is the case – and if so, repot it to a larger container.
  • Good soil: Even if you don’t need a larger pot for the plant, it would be a good idea to freshen the soil – repot the plant using a potting soil that drains well. Hydrangeas appreciate fertile soil, so add compost as a treat. The nutrients from the new soil will help nurture the plant back to good health. Fertilize it at least every spring.
  • Water: Water the plant regularly, don’t let the soil dry out. The plant likes a consistent level of moisture.  Feel the soil around the base of the plant – it should be moist, not wet.
  • Light: Locate it in a spot with full sun or light shade.  If it seems unhappy (leaves drooping, not thriving) move it to another spot.
  • Prune: Pruning the plant will give it shape and will also help to encourage blooming. If you know the variety of hydrangea you have, it’s easy to determine the best time to prune the plant.  Some varieties (e.g., Annabelle) should be pruned after blooming, or in late autumn/early spring before new growth emerges.  Paniculata or PeeGee hydrangeas should be pruned in early spring, before new growth emerges. Other varieties (e.g., big leaf, oakleaf) should be pruned by early autumn at the latest; if pruned later, you’d risk cutting off buds that are being set for the following year.  Good pruning done at the right time should lead to more branches, and a better overall shape.  You may want to speak with someone at your local nursery about the best pruning techniques for your plant.

Finally, think back on what you did for the plant all those years when it was happy – can any of those conditions be re-created?  Is there perhaps a spot in the garden where the plant thrived, where you might place it again?  Remember too that you’ve had it for over 50 years, which is a good long life for hydrangea plants!

Growing Hydrangeas: A Toronto Master Gardeners Guide has good general information about hydrangea care.  Although your hydrangea is in a pot, the principles of caring for the plant set out in this article still apply.

All the best in rejuvenating your dear plant!