I do not intend to be discouraging, but flowering of mophead hydrangeas has been quite disappointing in recent years. Not for a year, but three. Early springs and late frosts have been to blame a few times, but I think this spring should have been ideal. Yet, there were few spring flowers and only a scattered few repeat blooms on remontant varieties (ones that flower on last year’s and new growth).

I am cheered by a single bloom this second week of September, and I believe I am seeing the start of other flower buds. Starting late, an early frost might ruin early autumn blooms, but I am momentarily encouraged while I wait to confirm that these are flower buds and not new growth.

Years ago, a Goldflame honeysuckle (Lonicera × heckrottii ‘Gold Flame’) faded over several years in deep shade, but more concerning than the lack of sunlight, I expect, was the shallow soil and dense roots of neighboring Swamp maples (Acer rubrum). I’ve decided that almost nothing will survive this spot, and the torture required to kill a honeysuckle must be extreme. I’ve considered planting another on and off for several years, but without a plant in front of me the thought passed and I’ve done without, until now. This one is going in a different spot where I’m certain this variegated leaf honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica ‘Aureoreticulata’, above) will flourish. No flowers are expected until next year, but the coloring of leaves was enough to catch my eye, and to earn a prominent position where it will be seen regularly. I like it well enough I might go back for a second.

Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Hint of Gold’ , Blue Mist shrub

While the yellow leafed ‘Worcester Gold’ Blue Mist shrub (Caryopteris × clandonensis ‘Worcester Gold’) has long been surpassed by newer introductions, two shrubs thrive in the reflected heat of the driveway. Only one of two ‘Hint of Gold’ caryopteris (Caryopteris × clandonensis ‘Lisaura’) remains, with the survivor severely diminished after pruning to cut out diseased stems. The source of the troubles of ‘Hint of Gold’ are a mystery as one stem after another wilted and died, and I fully expected that cutting out three quarters of the shrub would not extend its life. But, there’s a chance, and the few stems are now flowering with no sign of previous troubles. The garden’s disappointments are often followed by unexpected successes.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Ruth says:

    Dave, the one hydrangea blossom was beautiful, if that’s any consolation! 🥰. Hopefully next year will bring more! Sometimes the plants do that…have a year or two “off”! Have a good Sunday!

    1. Dave says:

      I’ve read that weather patterns in recent years, with earlier warm temperatures, have become a recurring problem for mophead hydrangeas. When this happens I depend on remontant hydrangeas resetting buds, but these have been sparse the past few years.

  2. Kathryn Watkins says:

    Dave, I have a lace cap hydrangea that has not bloomed well in recent years. I think i got 1 or 2 partial blooms this yr. It gets partial sun in the AM but not much during the day & will get some sun in the evening. It is fairly large & I want to cut it back as it blocks the view from the window but have read that I shouldn’t trim until late winter/early spring. Is this the right time to trim it & any ideas of why it doesn’t bloom like it used to? I usually do trim it every yr because it grows a lot during the summer but want to make sure I’m trimming it at the right time.

    1. Dave says:

      The primary reason non reblooming Macrophylla hydrangeas do not flower is pruning at the wrong time of the year. Buds for the next year form immediately after flowering, so any pruning after this time cuts off next year’s flowers. Pruning must be done as soon as flowers fade.

      Mophead hydrangeas are much more susceptible than lacecaps to stem dieback due to freezing temperatures, but I have one lacecap that did not flower this year for the first time, though it is never pruned. I suspect that it has become too shaded, but I’m less than certain.

      Occasionally, I assess why one thing or another isn’t flowering. I go down the checklist to try to figure it out, but sometimes, as is the case with this lacecp, the reason is not clear.

  3. tonytomeo says:

    Our hydrangeas had been deteriorating for years because no one was pruning them aggressively enough. I tent to prune them too aggressively. I sort of compromised, which was less that I wanted to do, but too much to allow them to bloom well this year. Fortunately, they reacted nicely, and should bloom nicely next year. There are enough new canes that almost all of the remaining old canes should be pruned out this winter. Anyway, part of the problem is that they are a random mix of hydrangeas that have been added to the mix for decades. Some are ‘florist’ cultivars that look great in pots, but not so great in the landscape with bigger but less profuse cultivars. They were left behind after various events, and ended up planted into the landscape. They work nicely, but the various types need various degrees of pruning.

  4. SO says:

    when is the correct time to cut back Hydrangeas? I have one in the front that grew nice and tall – seemed to me a bit ‘leggy’, if you will. Not one bloom but figured it may be due to the torture it received last year when I had the roof redone. (won’t use that roofer again.)
    would love any advice on Hydrangea’s.
    thank you!!

    1. Dave says:

      It depends on the type of hydrangea. Mophead hydrangeas (H. macrophylla) should be pruned immediately after flowering to avoid pruning flower buds for the next year, though many newer introductions flower on new and old wood so this is much less important. Summer flowering hydrangeas develop buds on new growth, so they can be pruned after flowering or in late winter/early spring.

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