Why are my hydrangea leaves wilting and turning brown?

Why are my hydrangea leaves wilting and turning brown?

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There is nothing more frustrating than to work incredibly hard cultivating new plants, caring to their every need day in and day out only to see your hydrangea leaves wilting and turning brown.

Transplantation woes

Problem: If you have recently transplanted your hydrangeas they might not take to their new location effectively. Some plants taken from a nursery come in a potting soil mixture that is very high in peat moss. This is a cheap filler that nurseries rely on and it dries out very quickly. So if you recently transplanted your hydrangea it could simply be browning as a result of insufficient moisture through lack of watering.

When you get plants from a nursery you always want to check the roots. If you see the roots are compact, woven together, soak the root ball in water and then carefully loosen the roots with your hand before you plant them. You can incredibly carefully try to recreate this loosening movement around the root ball if you just planted your hydrangeas.

Solution: Overall you want to keep the soil uniformly moist thereafter. Remember that hydrangeas prefer moist soil so you should water them regularly.


Hydrangeas are very easy to care for but they grow best if you feed them once or twice in the summer.

Problem: In some cases, if the leaves of your hydrangea shrub are wilting and turning brown it could be indicative of burned leaves the result of excess fertilizer or pesticides. While fertilizer and pesticides alike serve important purposes, too much of a good thing can cause toxicity symptoms in your hydrangeas. These symptoms can include browning leaves, burnt leaves, increased susceptibility to pests or infection.

Check how much you are using if you are using fertilizer. It is recommended that you apply no more than two cups of a balanced fertilizer for every 100 square feet so those with very small hydrangea shrub potted throughout their garden might very well be using too much.

There is a risk of toxicity during the summer months when the sun is at its highest.

Solution: To rectify this you can water your plants after you have fertilized them to disperse the chemicals throughout the soil and read the application rates of feeds carefully.

Miracle-Gro Continuous Release Plant Food, 2 kg Tub
Ideal for feeding hydrangeas except blue

Fungal foes

Fungal diseases will produce purple spots on your hydrangea leaves. If you have purple spots it might be indicative of cercospora leaf spot, a common leaf fungus.

Problem: There are many species of fungus that go after hydrangea leaves, resulting in that brown spots you might see on your shrubs.

Solution: The solution to this is multifold. First, you want to take preventative measures by keeping water off of your hydrangea leaves whenever you water your shrubs. Try to water at the base if at all possible.

The time of day you choose to water is important. Watering under the direct afternoon sun will promote better blooms but too much sunlight coupled with excessively wet leaves from irrigation leads to fungal spots. Most hydrangeas like dappled shade.

If you notice that any leaves have been damaged or disease, prune them off immediately and get rid of them. Remove plant debris and dropped flowers from under your hydrangeas. Fungus thrives in moist, darker areas so don’t create an environment they will love.

Only hydrangeas that produce flowers in spring will need to be pruned in the spring. These are the flowers that produce new growth and new buds come summertime. With these, you should prune them as soon as the flowers are no longer blooming. Cut away any old flowering stems or overgrown stems so that energy can be diverted to the new growth. When you do this, be sure to use your sharpest set of pruning shears and sanitize them in a mixture of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water in between each cut.

Tangentially before you go out to prune anything, disinfect your pruners using a household disinfectant or a mixture of 9 parts water to 1 part bleach, then rinse in a solution of household dish soap and water.  If you prune just one infected branch or leaf from another part of your garden and forget to disinfect, you can transport that fungus from one plant to another. Take measures to avoid spreading disease.

If you are able to, give your shrubs at least six feet of space between one another. This allows for better air circulation. Poor air circulation is conducive to the development of fungus just the same way as excess moisture and darkness.


With hydrangeas, the most common pests and diseases include leaf spot which can be brought about by problems with water and soil. There is also a risk of powdery mildew when the plant doesn't get enough air circulation and there's too much water in the soil. Another risk is mold and aphids such as hydrangea scale so be cognizant of where you live and what issues you might face giving your soil environment and weather.

Problem: On a rare occasion, you might have a problem with pests like aphids or scale insects. These will result in your leaves shrivelling up and turning brown.

Solution: The solution is to use a direct stream of water to physically wash the pests off the leaves. But aphids are a tricky bunch. You have to make sure you remove each of them because if there are any survivors they will continue to propagate and damage your hydrangeas.

Be careful with the power of the water stream used; you don’t want to damage the leaves themselves in the process. Also, try to avoid insecticides because these kill off other insects that are necessary and at times can scorch your leaves. A good natural mixture to use is diluted dish soap which coats the aphids and other insects with the soap solution, suffocating them gently.

Neudorff BugFree Bug and Larvae Killer, 750 ml
See availability from the best retailers

If you really need to, you can turn to pesticides but we recommend trying other methods first if at all possible.

Last update on 2024-06-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

One thought on “Why are my hydrangea leaves wilting and turning brown?

  1. I have several Endless Summer Bloomstruck hydrangeas. They got too much sun when I first planted them so I have moved them to more shade. I am keeping them moist – lots if watering. It looks like some of the leaves were eaten, but I’m not seeing beetles, webs or any sign of insects. Is it possible the leaves were sun damaged and look that way? I have some curling but not much. I’ve been trimming the affected leaves off the plants. Any thoughts?

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