Why Are My Hydrangea Flower Blooms Turning Brown?

Are you noticing the flowers on your hydrangea starting to turn brown? There are a couple common reasons why this happens. In this article, gardening expert and hydrangea enthusiast Jill Drago examines why hydrangea blooms turn brown, and how you can fix it once you've noticed it's happening.

hydrangea flowers turning brown

Summer is in full swing and your hydrangea blooms are bursting with color. Or are they? These beautiful flowering shrubs are low maintenance but sometimes they can cause gardeners some anguish. On the top of the list is anything to do with disappointing blooms, especially the browning of the flowers.

Hydrangeas can have a reputation of being high maintenance, and I think this is because of their beauty. How could something so beautiful be so easy?! The truth is, they are simple plants to care for as long as you put in some basic TLC.

If your hydrangea flowers are turning brown, there are a few different causes for this. Let’s dig in and take a look at the most common reasons you might be experiencing this unpleasant problem, and how to address it!

Why Do The Flowers Turn Brown?

hydrangea with brown flowers
Their flowers may turn brown before frost, due to heat or insufficient watering.

Nothing lasts forever they say. This is true about the beautiful colors of our beloved hydrangea flowers. No matter what color your flowers begin as, they will all end up some shade of brown come the frost.

Sometimes these flowers will brown prematurely due to growing conditions. This could be a result of a heat wave, inadequate watering, or poor plant placement.

Check Your Water Schedule

Hydrangeas require about one inch of water per week to look and feel their best. They are best watered at the base of the plant. Too much moisture on the leaves can cause issues with fungal disease. Watering the foliage doesn’t do anything beneficial for the leaves. Aim for the roots and you will be in good shape.

Too Much Water

Flowers turn brown due to over watering
Over-watering can cause smaller flowers to turn brown.

If you have been a bit too generous with your watering you may notice some effects of overwatering. Too much water can cause hydrangeas to have small blossoms, or none at all. If your flowers are already blooming you may notice the petals of the flowers turning brown.

An easy way to tell if you’ve been over or under watering is by taking a look at the leaves. Over watered plants may have leaves that turn yellow and fall off the plant. You can also play around in the dirt and see how wet or dry it feels. It should feel moist, but not muddy.

The best way to resolve over watering is to just take a break from watering altogether. When your soil seems to have dried out a bit and you are ready to start watering again, make sure you water slowly.

It might also be a good idea to use a rain gauge to track how much water your garden is actually getting. If you are getting an inch or more of rain you may not need to water at all.

Not Enough Water

Flowers began to dry out due to lack of water
With insufficient watering, the leaves will begin to fade, and the flowers will turn brown.

When hydrangeas do not get enough water they begin to get crispy; their leaves, their flowers… it’s not pretty. It is very common to see them in a mid day slump.

The leaves will droop towards the ground and the flowers will begin to droop and look sad. Typically this happens because the sun is hot in the afternoon, and the flowers and leaves will pop back as soon as they get relief from the sun.

However, if you allow this to happen repeatedly, the symptoms will not be as reversible and you will notice the flowers will begin to turn brown usually from the tips down.

Supplemental water in the heat of the summer is often necessary. If your plants are not getting an inch of water per week you will want to add some extra watering sessions. It is best to water slowly and deeply. Dumping a bunch of water onto a dried out plant won’t help much.

Usually the soil has become dried out and a heavy downpour of water won’t be able to saturate the soil. Run a hose on a light stream and let it hang out until you notice that your soil has become nice and moist.

Once your plants seem to recover, it is probably a good idea to water once or maybe even twice a day throughout the hot months. I like to water early in the morning, and again in the evening if needed- this seems to give them enough moisture to minimize the mid day droop and also to help with the recovery.

Too Much Sun

Flowers have started to turn brown due to excessive sun
Large-leaved hydrangea prefers to grow in partial shade.

If you have planted Hydrangea paniculata, or panicle hydrangea, this should not be a problem for you because they thrive in full sun.

However, if you have planted a bigleaf hydrangea or really any other type of hydrangea your flowers could be browning because of too much sun. These types do best in partial sun which is about 4-6 hours of sun per day. It is even better if this sun is in the morning so that they are well shaded when the temperatures begin to rise.

One way to remedy this issue would be to transplant your shade loving variety to an area that gets less sun. Wait until the fall or spring to transplant, and once you do so make sure to keep it nice and watered.

If you do not have a free shady spot in your yard, you can always transplant into a container. Oftentimes containers offer flexibility to gardeners because you can move the pot around as needed. Purchasing a pot base with wheels can make this even easier.

If you have tons of full sun in your garden, panicles are the way to go. This type is larger and are very beautiful when planted alone or in a mass planting. There are also some compact varieties available that are equally as pretty.

What Should You Do?

gardener watering potted shrub
If brown flowers appear, cut them off and adjust your sun orientation or watering schedule.

In some instances if you notice that your flowers have just started to turn brown, and if you know why you may be able to salvage the flowers. For instance if you have found that your hydrangeas are drought stressed and you adjust your watering schedule to provide them with more water, you may be able to save most of the flower.

If you aren’t so lucky the best thing to do is snip off those flowers. Use clean garden snips and remove the blossoms just as you would if you were deadheading. Since brown flowers are mostly an aesthetic issue, this should solve your problem.

Removing these blooms will also allow the plant to use its energy elsewhere. Usually that energy will be redirected into producing beautiful new blooms.

Final Thoughts

Try not to despair if your hydrangea flowers are browning. While it may be disappointing that your flowers for the season have turned brown, the good news is this usually does not have long term effects on the plant. Taking good care of your gardens in the fall and into the winter will set you up for a great blooming season in the following year.

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