Hydrangea Turning Brown? [Reasons & Cares]

In the dead of summer, many hydrangea owners ask themselves (or a professional) one common question: why are my hydrangeas turning brown?

You might have a hydrangea that needs more water or less sun, or it might be under attack from any number of pests. Let’s look at what might have your hydrangea flowers turning brown.

1 Gallon Fire Light Tidbit Panicle Hydrangea (Paniculata) Live Plant, White, Pink, and Red Flowers

Water Issues

  • Hydrangeas aren’t plants you want to grow under drought conditions. They are plants that love water and need lots of it to thrive. If you notice that the edges of your hydrangea leaves are browning and turning crisp, the plant may not be getting enough water.
  • Check the surrounding soil. Hydrangeas like lots of moisture, so if you feel around in the dirt and discover that it’s pretty dry, the chances are that your plant isn’t getting enough water.
  • This diagnosis presumes that your soil is well-drained. After all, it’s possible to over-water your hydrangeas, especially if they live in soil that doesn’t drain very well. If leaves are browning and falling off, you probably have a case of over-watering.
  • In that case, you won’t find arid soil surrounding the plant. If your plant simply has browning leaves and flowers and the soil is dry, your culprit is most likely a lack of water.
  • Another clue that your hydrangea isn’t getting enough water is if your plant looks wilted but perks up a few minutes after it gets a thorough watering.


  • If your soil doesn’t drain well, address that issue. Unless you have acres and acres of hard-packed clay, you can quickly amend your soil with compost. Nearly any organic material will work here, but turning your soil and adding compost, leaves, or even manure can help your soil drain better.
  • It will also make the soil healthier and better equipped to sustain plant life in your garden.
  • If your soil already drains well, keep an eye on your hydrangea. During the summer heat, each plant will want about two gallons of water each day. A good soak is intrinsic to having healthy hydrangeas, so if you soak them several times a week, you should be good. Adding mulch around the plant will help it retain water, too.
  • But if you notice browning appearing on leaves and flowers, and the soil is dry to the touch, water the plant more and, perhaps, more often.

Also Read: Hydrangea Bush Not Flowering [Causes & What to do]

1 Gallon Fire Light Tidbit Panicle Hydrangea (Paniculata) Live Plant, White, Pink, and Red Flowers


  • A subset of insufficient water, high winds can turn your hydrangeas brown, too. It’s not that the flowers are too delicate for anything more than a gentle breeze, but rather that the wind can rob the plant of moisture through evaporation.
  • Even with adequate watering, your plant may not be able to retain all the water it needs if the wind keeps robbing it of moisture.
  • Depending on where you live, this could be a bigger problem. Dry places like Arizona will have hot, dry winds that can suck a lot of water out of all your plants, while a hydrangea in Houston’s high humidity will probably welcome the breeze as much as Houstonians do.


  • You are well versed in the climate conditions of where you live, so if you suspect that sustained winds might cause problems for your hydrangeas, plant them near a windbreak.
  • Once you’ve planted them in a wind tunnel, you’ll have many watering sessions in the future if you want to keep the plant healthy and well.

Check out: Why Is My Hydrangea Not Growing? [8 Reasons & How to Care]

Full Sun

  • Hydrangeas do not like the full sun. Direct sunlight is one thing. Direct sunlight all day is another. Before you plant your hydrangeas, take a few days to not the patterns of shadows in your garden or yard.
  • Too much sun, especially in the middle of the day when the sun is high above and baking everything in sight, will cause the flowers and leaves to dry up.
  • Even with enough water, too much direct sunlight will still cause browning in your plants.
  • Your purple coneflower loves hot, direct sun all day long. But you can’t plant your hydrangeas in the same area, as they need some shade during the hottest parts of the day.


  • Again, you know your yard. You know the spots in your garden that get shade, when they get it, and how long it lasts. You know the spots in the garden that get shade. Plant your hydrangeas so they won’t get a blast of noonday sun with nothing to protect them.
  • Remember, though, that they do like some direct sunlight, so don’t feel you need to plant them on the eternal shade of the north side of your home.
  • If they can get some direct sunlight in the morning or late afternoon but have relative shade for the rest of the day, things will probably work out well for your plant.

Also Read: How to Save a Dying Hydrangea [Easy Tips]

4.5 in. Qt. Quick Fire 'Fab' Hydrangea, Live Plant, White and Pink Flowers

Fertilizer Burn

  • A common mistake many gardeners make is using too much fertilizer. This idea seems to be, “It’s plant food. Shouldn’t I let them eat all they want?” The answer, as we all know now, is that no, you shouldn’t.
  • Fertilizer contains three main ingredients:
  1. Nitrogen
  2. Phosphorus
  3. Potassium
  • There are other ingredients, but those three are the active ones. There is also sulfur, magnesium, and other compounds like salts.
  • By overfeeding your plants, you add more chemicals to the plant than it needs. The salts can burn— or even kill— the roots or throw the pH of your soil off so much that your plants can’t thrive.
  • Some gardeners accidentally add too much fertilizer to control the soil’s pH, as this directly influences the flower colors. Pink hydrangeas need a pH of about 6. Blue ones need aluminum to create that specific color, so adding aluminum sulfate as part of your fertilizing routine can help.
  • Blue flowers also need lower-pH soil. But none of this means adding huge amounts of fertilizer.
  • If your plant has good drainage, enough water, and not too much sun, its leaves may be browning because of fertilizer burn.


  • The short-term solution is to stop fertilizing. That will present further damage, but for the plant to recover from this problem will take a little time.
  • You’ll want to remove the brown leaves and flowers as soon as possible, then get the fertilizer out of the soil. This does not mean digging around and trying to pull out individual grains of fertilizer.
  • It does mean watering really well for a few days to break up and dilute the fertilizer in the soil.

Check out: Can You Plant Hydrangeas Outside?

Potted Hydrangeas

  • When their roots become too constricted, hydrangeas can start to brown because they’ve outgrown their containers. Looking at a browning potted plant, one can quickly deduce the issue if one discovers that under the top soil layer, there are more roots than soil.
  • When the roots grow too much for the container, they’ll displace the soil, and the plant won’t be able to retain the water it needs.


  • Replant your hydrangeas into a bigger pot. When you pull it out of the old one, you’ll see that it’s root-bound, and it will seem like there’s not much dirt in the pot.
  • When replanting in a larger container, remember to loosen the ball of roots so those roots can find new pathways in the fresh dirt they’re about to start living in.

Blue Bird Lacecap Hydrangea - Live Plant - Quart Pot

Early Frost

  • Many of us have hard-and-fast calendar dates before which we would never plant anything but kale or something similarly cold-hardy.
  • But even if your planting day is always Tax Day, April 15, the truth is that sometimes, that last frost of the season waits until after you plant.
  • Early frost will cause your hydrangeas to brown— leaves and flowers both—and those buds that brown won’t ever flower for you.


  • All you can do is make your best effort to shield young plants from a late cold snap. A cold frame is portable, so you can set it over your young hydrangeas the evening of the last frost and protect it.
  • Alternatively, lay a sheet over the plant before you go to bed. That can help trap heat from the ground before it escapes into the open air.
  • As with the issue of too much sun, when you plant, be sure there’s some protection— a windbreak, a hedgerow, or something similar— to help alleviate some of those late-cold-snap temperature plunges.

Also Check: How Often Do You Water Lemongrass Plant

Leaf Spot Fungus

  • Finally, a fungus can turn your plants brown. Leaf spots can come from many sources, but the most common comes from water. More accurately, it comes from errors in watering.
  • Watering in the morning and directing the water to the soil rather than the plant’s leaves are the best ways to ensure any plant can best benefit from watering.
  • If you water too late in the day, any water remaining on the plant once night falls will stay there all night and serve as a breeding ground for fungi.
  • When you water the plant’s leaves, flowers, and stalk, you risk allowing sun damage, as the hot, high sun can have its rays refracted by the water drops, which can act as a magnifying glass.
  • We’ve all seen what a magnifying glass can do to a pile of leaves when the sun is high.


Trim any diseased leaves or flowers immediately. If the fungus is bad enough, you might want to look into a fungicide for your hydrangeas. But before and after, though, water correctly, and do it in the morning.

Hydrangea Turning Brown
Hydrangea Turning Brown

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While hydrangeas aren’t the most delicate plants, they’re not precisely neighborhood toughs, either. They need proper care, including:

  • Adequate water
  • Enough space to grow
  • The right amount of fertilizer.

If you find your hydrangea flowers turning brown, you have several avenues to explore in terms of finding the cause, at which point you can address it and get your plant back to being in good health.