In the majority of species of hydrangea, drooping is a common problem. Only for the growers though, because in most cases, the wilting is doing no harm to the plant.
Hydrangea plants are drama queens when the environmental conditions don’t suit their preference. That’s partial sun and they do wilt naturally at the hottest part of the day with afternoon sun. If the plant continues to droop in the evening, then there’s likely intervention needed.
If you’re only noticing your hydrangea drooping under high temperatures then perking up in the evening, that’s natural. If it continues to wilt in the evening, then it’s time to investigate the possible culprits.
5 Reasons That Contribute to Hydrangea Plants Drooping
1 – Too Much Fertilizer
Over fertilizing hydrangea plants can lead to sporadic growth. Gardeners feed their plants with the best intentions; however, done too early, the stems of hydrangea can’t support the weight of heavy flower heads. If you’ve given your hydrangea plant a little too much feeding with fertilizer, it can lead to the growth of large flowerheads that are too heavy to be supported by the stems.
For established hydrangea plants that are bowing under the weight of the flowerhead, the trick is to focus on strengthening the stems instead of fertilizing to encourage blooming. Until the plant can support large flower heads, year-after-year, you’ll face the same challenges.
What you want to do instead of fertilizing early in the Spring is to remove the dead wood from the base of the plant and prune it back to the first pair of flower buds.
When the new wood stems start to come through in growing season, pinch them back to 12 to 24 inches tall, so not to ground level. In the early stage of hydrangea growth, it’s beneficial to focus on growing sturdy branches so they can support the weight of full bloom flower heads in later years.
You’ll find within one or two growth seasons the plant will have sturdier branches to support the weight of larger flowers, and that’s when you can fertilize to encourage blooming. In the early stages of growth, if the branches are bowing under the weight of the flowerheads, it’s likely needing pruned back for the branches to be strengthened.
2 – Too Much Light or It’s Just Too Hot
The summer is the most common time of year that gardeners have trouble with hydrangea plants drooping and that’s because of the higher temperatures.
Generally, when the temperatures rise to over 86oF, hydrangeas will wilt. But, if that is the only cause, they will perk up by the evening. If you find that your hydrangea is drooping in the afternoon when you want to be enjoying them in your garden, you can mulch around the shrub to protect the soil from drying out too fast. Three to four inches of organic mulch is all that’s required.
To prevent any fungal problems arising, make a hole a few inches away from the stems. There aren’t any feeder roots within that area as the root balls are flat and compact so the mulch only needs to be a few inches around the plant base. What this does is keeps the soil cooler, helping it to retain moisture for longer.
In the dry heat of hot summer afternoons, the moisture in the plant’s foliage dries out faster, causing it to take in more nutrients from the soil. Mulching helps prevent soil from drying out too fast.
3 – Serious Drought Stress
Hydrangea plants are tolerant to drought stress to an extent. Not for a prolonged period of time though. The best way to water these plants is to water them deeply and frequently. As often as four times a week for ten minutes at a time.
Deep soaking the roots of a hydrangea helps them bounce back stronger after experiencing a lot of drought stress. This can happen, for example, if you’ve been away on vacation for a while, the temperatures rise and nobody’s been there to water the plants.
How to tell if your plant has gone through significant drought stress is to look for browning. When a hydrangea is needing a lot of water, the foliage turns brown and goes crispy, often falling off the branches. If that happens, deep soaking the roots can revive it.
How to deal with significant drought stress in hydrangeas is the same way as you’d deal with over-fertilizing. By pruning the branches back to where the nearest young flower buds appeared.
What isn’t advised is removing crisp leaves as that would encourage the plant to focus on foliage growth rather than strengthening the branches.
As much as 98% of new blooms form on old branches so if you’re finding this year’s blooms insufficient, focus on strengthening the branches for next year instead of forcing fresh blooms this year. The woodier the branches, the better flower heads you’ll have and they’re less likely to cause bowing that make it look like your hydrangea’s drooping when it’s really just a lack of branch strength to support large flowerheads.
4 – Transplant Shock
There’s a number of reasons you’d want to move your hydrangea, and a common one is to move it to a shadier part of your garden. Another reason is finding only one side is receiving an adequate amount of light resulting in one-sided flowering or lop-sided growth.
Whatever the reason, if you need to move a hydrangea, plan the move in advance. High summer is not the best time. Ideally, wait until the end of September before transplanting to prevent transplant shock, which can lead to hydrangeas going limp.
Should you find that you’ve planted your hydrangea in an area of your yard that’s getting too much full sun or dappled shade causing it to droop frequently, the video below gives good advice on transplanting hydrangeas with care, including the preparation of the old and new sites and the parts of the plant that can be cut back.
As the video shows, this was done in the summer months out of necessity, but if you can, wait until the end of the growing season then move your plant to a more suitable location.
5 – Cut Hydrangea Flowers Will Droop When Not Watered at the Time of Cutting
One of the beauties of growing colorful hydrangeas is that the flowers can be cut and put in a vase to brighten up indoors… Until you try and find them drooping the very next day.
To prevent cut hydrangeas from wilting, it’s best to cut the stem at an angle and immediately soak the stem in hot water for 30-seconds and then start to arrange them.
The reason for the hot water is that the stems of hydrangea has a sticky substance that can prevent water absorption. Once you have them in a vase, wilting can be prevented by misting the flowers daily as their petals can take in water.
If you find your hydrangea cuttings drooping despite misting, they can be shocked into revival by dunking the flowerheads in warm water for a few minutes.
Cuttings won’t last forever, but you can prolong the life of them by focusing on frequent misting and watering the petals rather than solely relying on the stems to take in enough water to prevent the cuttings of hydrangea from drooping in indoor floral arrangements.