Hydrangeas are a popular plant type well-known for their robust blooms and beautiful colors.
Hydrangeas are also quite easy to grow once you know the basics and are one of those plants that can survive a near-death experience and come back kicking.
But there are times when your hydrangea may be exhibiting signs of distress.
Sometimes, these could be a warning of a serious condition, and sometimes it’s mostly drama.
The good news is that a drooping hydrangea is often the latter than the former.
Here’s what you need to know about the most common reasons for these plants to droop and how to fix it.
Why Is My Hydrangea Drooping?
Hydrangeas most commonly droop when they’re overheated or stressed.
The good news is that the problems are generally easy to remedy and will not harm your plant.
There’s a difference between underwatering a plant and going through drought conditions.
As long as you’re using the soak-and-dry method, you’ve likely upped the watering frequency naturally to counteract the drier soil.
However, several conditions, such as temperature, lack of water, and sunlight, can exacerbate a drought. Remember that direct sunlight can scorch the hydrangea leaves and dehydrate your plant.
Signs of drought stress on your hydrangea shrub will include brown edges on the blooms or leaves, and they may feel a little crispy.
Leaf drop may also become a problem as the stress advances.
You may have to do a deep soak one or more times per week to solve this.
Normally, saturating the soil is bad, but if you don’t overdo it, the excess water will work its way down into the ground and revitalize the plant.
One way to do it is by using a hose at the base of the plant for a few minutes to submerge the plants and rehydrate them.
In many cases, the plant will bounce back even fuller than before.
However, ensure to avoid overwatering because it can cause root rot.
You may also need to prone back severely affected portions of the plant by as much as ⅓ if the stress was severe.
Just be careful, as new blooms most often grow on older branches, and removing too much crispy foliage can cause the plant to focus on new foliage rather than new blooms.
In other words, try to preserve the woodier growth, as this is actually the sturdier and more prolific portion of the plant, while the newer, more tender stems are the ones you’d want to prune first.
Have you ever heard the story of the Lazy Gardener and the Thoughtful Gardener?
At one point, Lazy Gardener decides to use timed-release fertilizer for his garden so he won’t have to apply fertilizer as often.
Thoughtful Gardener, meanwhile, uses a liquid-soluble fertilizer.
After a time, Lazy’s plants begin to show signs of malnutrition and chemical burns, but Thoughtful’s thrive.
Why is this?
Thoughtful did his homework and discovered that different nutrients would dissolve at different rates.
This means that a time-release pellet will give off a burst of nitrogen at one point and not enough at another, with the same problem for each nutrient at different times.
But water-soluble fertilizers will spread out into the soil, so you don’t have to worry about the nutrients dissolving.
When fertilizing your hydrangeas, using liquid-soluble fertilizers as instructed is best.
Consider using a higher nitrogen mix when the plant isn’t blooming and a higher phosphorus mix when it’s in bloom.
Also, don’t be afraid to invest in a soil test every 3 to 5 years, as this can tell you when certain nutrients are building up in the soul.
This allows you to adjust the NPK ratio or supplement to keep things in proper balance.
Prune and pinch are other tricks to avoid over-fertilization, especially if you aren’t switching out ratios during the year.
Hydrangea flowers aren’t light, and they’ll weigh down weaker stems. Overfertilizing can lead to droopy flower heads due to excess nitrogen.
Too much nitrogen also results in thin and spindly leaves and stems. So it’s important to use a soil pH testing kit.
Also, you can fertilize with potassium and phosphorus when there is high nitrogen content to rebalance the soil.
So instead of fertilizing in the early days of spring, get rid of any deadwood at the base of the plant, then prune the whole thing back to the first pair of flower buds forming.
As new wood stems appear, pinch them back to 12″ to 24″ inches, forcing the plant to focus on thickening the branches.
This can take a season or two but will create strong, woody branches capable of supporting multiple blooms.
Excess Temperature Or Light
Hydrangeas are pretty comfortable in most summer temperatures and love the morning sun, but when it gets above 86° degrees Fahrenheit, they’ll droop or show signs of wilting.
The good news is they’ll perk right back up again when the cooler evening air hits.
This hotter weather can also mean a more intense afternoon sun, making your hydrangea wilt.
Between the two, the Hydrangea soil will likely dry out more quickly.
If your plant receives too much sun, move it to a spot with partial afternoon shade.
Adding organic mulch, organic matter, or a similar ground covering will help retain soil moisture and keep the soil cooler.
You can also add animal manure or compost to provide nutrients while helping your plants be less thirsty.
This, in turn, can help your hydrangea feel cooler, like dipping your feet in a cool swimming pool can help you feel a little cooler in the summer sun.
In companion planting, we group plants based on their interaction, such as adding certain herbs as natural pest repellants around plants known to attract pests.
One important factor in complimentary gardening methods is considering each plant’s root type and depth.
For example, a carrot has a taproot, so it won’t interfere with a shallow-rooted herb such as mint.
How does this involve your hydrangeas?
When you suspect the plant isn’t getting enough water despite using the soak-and-dry method, it could mean that nearby plants have entered root competition with the hydrangea.
This is especially true of trees, which tend to have large, shallow roots.
Pine trees are notorious for trying to outcompete nearby plants for water.
If you discover a plant is trying to compete with your hydrangea, you may need to move one of them to solve this problem.
While transplanting is far more common in potted plants, you may find the need to move your hydrangea to a larger pot, such as when there’s root competition with a much larger plant.
Ensure the pot has drainage holes so excess moisture can leak through.
Transplant shock is perfectly normal and can cause the plant to droop. When transplanting Epsom salt (Magnesium) can help reduce shock.
However, unless it’s an emergency, waiting until around September to transplant your outdoor hydrangea can greatly reduce the amount of shock it feels.
Bonus: Why Cut Drooping Hydrangea Blooms?
While we’re talking about hydrangeas drooping, let’s take a moment to address cut blooms.
Even when you cut them at the proper 90-degree angle, they can still droop after putting them in a vase.
This is because the stems are oozing a sticky secretion that will block the stem from absorbing water.
To fix this problem, take some hot (but not scalding or boiling) water and dip each cut stem in the water for 30 seconds as soon as you clip it.
This will remove the sticky substance and allow your blooms to drink from the vase.
You can also mist-cut hydrangea blooms to keep them looking fresh a bit longer.