In many of our Fine Gardening client’s gardens this season our crew has encountered Hydrangea macrophylla or the Mophead Hydrangea without blooms. Throughout the spring, we were grimly greeted with a mass of dead stems with no signs of leaves and no flower buds. Eventually new growth emerged from the base of the plant surrounding the dead stems. This particular variety of Hydrangea are ones that bloom on “old wood” only (meaning last season’s stems). When in past seasons you could easily lose count of the number of blossoms, this season we saw some plants with only one lonely bloom!
We cut the dead stems out but, although the plant looked green and lush, the main reason we plant and love these Hydrangeas was sadly lacking. The cause of this was a spring freeze that killed the developing bloom buds and all the emerging leaves as well. As a result, most of the new growth for this season came from the roots. Since the flower buds develop on the old stems, once these stems are killed in a freeze new flowers will not appear until the following year and only then if it is a milder spring.
The good news is that there are many exceptional Hydrangeas that will bloom despite this kind of damage. ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea arborescens, Hydrangea paniculata or Pee Gee Hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia or Oakleaf Hydrangea are usually reliable seasonal blooming options. Weather cooperating, our beloved Mophead Hydrangeas will be back in full glory next year!