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Overwatered Hydrangea? Signs and How to Fix
While hydrangeas love moist soil, there are certain situations in which they can get too much water. If you fear you’ve overwatered your hydrangea, don’t worry! Here’s how to tell whether your hydrangea is actually overwatered, along with how you can fix it and how to prevent overwatering in the future. These tips apply to both potted and in-ground hydrangeas.
Signs of an Overwatered Hydrangea
The following signs are all an indication that your hydrangea has had too much water or needs better drainage. While some also count as signs of underwatering, it’s usually easy to tell from the dampness of the surrounding soil and the plant’s leaves whether the damage is from over or underwatering.
Yellow or Brown Leaves
When a hydrangea has been overwatered, one of the most obvious signs is yellow or brown mushy leaves. Touch your hydrangea’s leaves just to make sure – dry leaves can be a sign of underwatering, so feeling them will help you tell the difference.
Wilted or Dropping Leaves
In addition to changing color, an overwatered hydrangea’s leaves may wilt. In extreme cases, the leaves will begin to drop off the plant.
Fewer or Oddly Shaped Blooms
You may notice that your hydrangea has fewer blooms if it’s getting too much water. The blooms you do see may be oddly shaped and sized or not fully formed.
When a hydrangea receives too much water, its roots begin to rot. It can be difficult to tell whether the roots are rotting just by looking at it (although the other signs mentioned here are usually symptoms of root rot), but you may notice an unpleasant, rotting odor near the plant if root rot has set in. If you dig gently near the roots with a fork or other tool, you may find slimy, dark brown roots – sure signs of root rot.
Slow or Stopped Growth
Depending on the variety, hydrangeas can grow very large. If your plant has significantly slowed down its growth (or stopped growing altogether) during the growing season, there’s a good chance something is wrong. If coupled with some of the other symptoms, it can be an indicator of overwatering.
If you see mold anywhere on or around your hydrangea, it’s a sign that the plant has had too much water.
How to Fix an Overwatered Hydrangea
First, look around the base of your hydrangea and check for poor drainage. Can water drain away, or is it pooling in a low point around the plant? If drainage is the problem, add high quality soil around the base to help with drainage.
If the damage is minor and your hydrangea is in a pot, place it in a warm place where it can dry out. Wait until it’s almost entirely dry before watering again.
If your hydrangea is more severely damaged, you’ll need to replant. Gently uproot your hydrangea from either its pot or the ground and shake off excess soil. Using a clean set of pruning shears, carefully snip off any rotten roots and leaves. Afflicted roots will appear discolored or slimy. Let the roots dry in a warm, but shady, place for a little while.
Then, in a partially sunny, well-draining area (or in a fresh, large, well-draining pot) replant the hydrangea. Add good quality soil and possibly hydrangea fertilizer. Don’t use the same soil, pot, or garden area, in case any fungi remain that could reinfect the hydrangea.
While it may seem counterintuitive, water the plant well after you’ve finished transplanting. Even an overwatered hydrangea can go into shock after being transplanted, and moisture helps ease the strain.
For potted plants, consider keeping them out of direct sunlight for a while until they get their strength back.
How to Avoid Overwatering Your Hydrangea in the Future
Your hydrangea’s age and growth stage determine how much water it needs. A young plant needs a great deal of water, while well-established ones typically require less. Hydrangeas require much less water while they’re actively blooming and during their dormant winter period.
Hydrangeas appreciate regular, deep, scheduled waterings. Make sure they get 1-3 thorough waterings a week, either from a storm or by watering them fully at the base of their stems. Try not to get the leaves or blooms wet if possible.
Test the soil before watering. If it’s dry two inches or more down into the soil (you can test with a finger), it’s time to water again. Water all around the base of the plant, not just on one side.
Water in the morning, as it gives the hydrangea a chance to enjoy the water throughout the warm, sunny day to come.
Happy Hydrangea Growing!
With these tips, you should be able to identify, fix, and avoid overwatering your hydrangea in the future. Enjoy your blooms!
For more perennial tips, check out how to overwinter a geranium.