7 Causes of Hydrangea Not Leafing Out [Effective Treatment]

With lush foliage, hydrangea shrubs are absolute peace to the eyes. Their various vibrant flowers all over the green leaves alleviate the look to another level. But most hydrangea gardeners are noticed to complain about their hydrangea not leafing out. 

Even though these shrubs are low-maintenance yet they fail to leaf out and bloom sometimes. It happens especially after winter. No sign of leaves means stunting of growth. And we are pretty much sure, you are on this site to find out the reasons and solutions. 

Luck on you! Serving exactly the same purpose, we have found some remarkable causes that are the reasons why your hydrangeas have no leaves. The causes might include too much sunlight, soil that lacks an essential nutrient, lack of water, attack of pests and diseases, or planting hydrangea in the wrong season. 

These are some possible reasons. However, to stop permanent damage to your hydrangea, let’s have an in-depth discussion.

Why Does Hydrangea Have No Leaves? [Causes and Solution]

1. Excessive Exposure to Sunlight

Excessive and direct sunlight causes stress to hydrangea plants. It slows down the growth of the plant. Consequently, leafing out also becomes delayed. At some point, the growing process is totally stunted. 

Instead, the shrub conserves energy inside them to survive till the last. Nevertheless, there are a number of hydrangea varieties available worldwide. Each one shows specific characteristics. You better know which one you have got. 

Control Measure

  • Treat your hydrangea according to its own properties
  • Know in which USDA Hardiness Zones your hydrangea will grow better 
  • Determine the required sunlight condition for your specific hydrangea. 

If you are looking for more information, then let us tell you H. macrophylla requires a part-shade condition. That too with an 8 to 9 USDA Hardiness Zones. This creates a hot environment and it helps in growing your hydrangea with leaves and flowers.

Again, you can keep this specific hydrangea under the full sun only when it is planted in the 5 to 7 USDA Hardiness Zones. 

2. Improper Site Selection and Root Bound of Hydrangea

Hydrangea with a problem of root bound lack in developing a strong root system. In fact, surrounding the root ball, the roots keep declining to grow season over season. Consequently, upper shoot growth also becomes stunted. This is a reason for your hydrangea not growing and leafing outback after winter.

It matters since site selection affects their thriving and the power of growing leaves. If the soil of the site does not drain well then it might affect the plant causing root bound. 

Furthermore, it is important to ensure sufficient space for the uninterrupted growing of their roots. Root bound also occurs if the soil is harder than it should be. Dry and hard soil does not allow the hydrangeas to grow their roots properly.

Control Measure

  • Soften the soil of your garden before planting hydrangeas. 
  • Must select a site where the soil provides a good drainage system.
  • Select a site where the shrubs get afternoon shade.
  • Go for a site where there is no chance of drought or heat stress.
  • If your hydrangeas come in a pot, repot them in a container that is twice in size.

3. Improper Watering

Well, it is another big reason why hydrangeas do not show any development or leaf out. All hydrangea species require a great deal of water to leaf out. Without water, the shrubs will not thrive even a bit let alone leaf out. 

Even dehydration leads to the death of hydrangeas. A shallow root system and winder winds work combinedly for this situation. 

Nonetheless, hydrangeas are known for going into dormancy in winter. But still, the soil requires moisture to let the plant survive.

Hydrangea requires soil that has constant moisture. Especially if your hydrangea is supposed to grow big leaves and the climate is hot. In this case, you need to water the plant on regular basis. Otherwise, it will dry out barely growing any leaves.  

Control Measure 

  • Depending on the climatic factors keep checking on the soil moisture where you have planted your favorite hydrangea. 
  • Do not forget to water your plant regularly.
  • Plant your hydrangeas in a place where they can get enough rainwater.

Nonetheless, it is important to keep track of the amount of rainwater your hydrangea shrubs are receiving. Try out a rain gauge (our pick: La Crosse Handcrafted Colombian Metal Finish Spiral Rain Gauge) to determine the rainfall.

4. Wrong Season to Plant Hydrangea

Hydrangea requires a lot of time and water to adapt to a new environment. Thus, planting it in the right season is the key to having a fully bloomed hydrangea. That is why professional gardeners suggest planting them during late spring. 

It is also the season of early fall when the hydrangeas get a lot of rainfall necessary to thrive. This time the weather is also a bit cooler. It allows the hydrangeas to stay moist and cool promoting new green leaves.

Many do the wrong by planting them in the mid-summer. As a result, the hydrangeas struggle to cope with the heat while thriving and growing leaves.

Control Measure

  • Always plant your hydrangeas during early fall or late spring.
  • Let not struggle the shrubs with any environmental stress while establishing themselves.

5. Soil Having Nutrient Deficiency

It is another important reason why your hydrangea is not leafing out. Like other plants, hydrangea also requires some specific essential elements in the soil. Without them, the plant cannot grow. The nutrients are not even substitutable.

So, the soil must have all the nutrients hydrangea requires. Specifically, it must have phosphorous and nitrogen. Nitrogen deficiency makes it harder for the plants to grow leaves and flowers. Also, phosphorous deficiency hampers root development. 

Again, determine the soil pH where you are growing hydrangeas. These shrubs will never grow leaves in alkaline soil. Instead, they prefer soil that is slightly acidic.

Control Measure

  • Use phosphorous and nitrogen-based fertilizer in the soil.
  • Fix the pH level according to the requirement of the plant.

You can always use a soil pH meter (Our pick: Atree Soil Soil Tester Kits with Moisture, Light, and PH Test for Garden) to determine the soil pH of that specific site.

6. Being Overwhelmed While Pruning

Hydrangeas require pruning for their perfect leafing and blooming. So, you prune all your hydrangeas only to realize they are not leafing out anymore. It is because the task is a bit challenging. There are chances you get overwhelmed with the process and end up pruning too much.

However, some hydrangeas do not require pruning. So, pruning them would not be wise at all. Also, pruning during winter affects the growth of hydrangea. The main target of pruning is only to cut down and trim off the dead branches. 

Control Measure

  • First, make sure your hydrangea can tolerate pruning.
  • Never prune off the portion of live growth in hydrangea.
  • Try the process only in summer when the flowers are faded.

7. Pests and Diseases Attack

Healthy hydrangeas can resist attacks from pests and diseases. But sometimes adverse climatic and soil conditions compel the shrubs to suffer from these things. Some common pests that can attack your hydrangea are aphids, mites, and scale insects.

To talk about the diseases, hydrangeas are more prone to anthracnose and armillaria root rot disease. These are fungal diseases that most occur in hot and wet weather. Again, soil with a poor drainage system also causes this root rot disease. 

Control Measure

  • Use jet water to blast away the aphids from hydrangea
  • Encourage the entrance of predators or beneficial insects like parasitic wasps, lady beetles, or soldier beetles. 
  • Never let the hydrangeas be dehydrated. It helps them fight against scale and mite attacks.
  • Prune off an infested portion and then dispose of them.
  • Or, you can go for homemade remedies.

#Spraying Rubbing Alcohol

Required Materials:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Water
  • Spray bottle


  • Mix rubbing alcohol and water in a ratio of 1:7
  • Take the mixture into a spray bottle 
  • Then apply over the pests 
  • Keep spraying after every two or three days

#Applying Neem Oil

Required Materials:

  • Neem oil
  • Dish detergent
  • Water


  • Take neem oil and dish detergent in a 1:1 ratio
  • Mix one gallon of water with it
  • Take the mixture into a garden sprayer
  • Apply them over scale insects

This homemade neem oil recipe contains azadirachtin in it. This component is considered one of the best organic pesticides. However, for severe cases of insect and fungal attacks, you can use commercial pesticide and fungicide. Our Recommendation-

  1. Monterey LG6150 Garden Insect Spray, Insecticide & Pesticide with Spinosad Concentrate
  2. Bonide 811 Copper 4E Fungicide

How Do I Get My Hydrangea to Come Back to Life? (Preventive Care)

Moist the Soil Generously

Where your hydrangeas are growing make sure the soil is moist especially when the shrubs are competing for nutrients. 

Use Organic Matter

Using organic matter is important when you want your hydrangea to come back to life. You can use compost of cow-dung, leaf mould, and microorganisms to revive your plant.

Mulching can Help

Mulching along with organic matter also helps in reviving hydrangeas. Just cover the surface with a layer of well-rotted manure and compost. You can also use leaf mould. These components help in conserving soil water and nutrients.

They also add essential elements to the soil. Moreover, by improving the structure of the soil, they make the soil moist enough to bring back the life of the hydrangeas. 

What Do I Do if My Hydrangea is Dormant?

Since hydrangeas are deciduous shrubs, they tend to be dormant during winter. However, sometimes even in spring, your hydrangea might show dormancy. There might be several reasons for that like adverse climate, poor soil condition, planting the wrong variety of hydrangea, or not knowing proper care. 

Nonetheless, showing dormancy at the wrong time might lead to a slow death of a hydrangea. So, if you see this sign in your plants then it is better to ask for help from an extension service or local nursery. 


Will hydrangeas grow back if cut down?

Hydrangeas grow better after their pruning operation. You can even cut down your hydrangeas to the ground level during their dormancy. Yet they will grow back in spring and you will also see them blooming.

Do hydrangeas grow back every year?

Until a hydrangea is dead, it will keep growing back every year when its dormancy period is over. 

Is my hydrangea dead or dormant?

It is a bit tricky to determine if your hydrangea is dead or just dormant. Dormant hydrangea shows live stems or green portions under their bark. But if there is not any live stem or visible sprouts in your hydrangea months after months in late spring then unfortunately your hydrangea is dead.

Final Word

Hydrangeas are a bit sensitive. They require generosity and extra care when planted in a garden. Since this plant remains dormant for a period and then again grows back leaves and blooms, sometimes the process fails. 

Your hydrangea looks precious only when it grows leaves and flowers. Without leaves, it is just bald. 

So, hope our article will help to bring back leaves to your precious hydrangea if you follow. If it does let us know your feedback.

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