Underwatered Hydrangeas – Signs and How To Revive

Underwatered Hydrangeas - Signs and How To Revive

Hydrangeas are popular plants because of their colorful flowers that come in a multitude of colors, including pink, purple, blue, green and white. These plants are native to Asia and the Americas, with most species found in Japan, Korea and China. They can grow from three to 15 feet tall, and they bloom best in partly shaded areas. They are easy to care for but, like most plants, they will suffer the effects of underwatering if neglected for too long.

Underwatered hydrangeas – Signs and how to revive 

Signs of underwatered hydrangeas

Hydrangeas have a fibrous, shallow root system and do best in moist soil. If they appear wilted or droopy, it is a sign of stress due to drought, or a lack of soil moisture. 

Underwatered hydrangeas are easy to spot because they will start to droop and the leaves and flowers will wilt. The flowers may also turn brown and the number of flowers will be reduced. The most common causes of underwatering are not giving the plant as much water as it needs, and soil that drains too quickly without retaining any moisture. 

Other reasons the plant’s leaves may dehydrate and shrivel include:

  1. The plants are growing under a tree canopy, surrounded by tree roots that have a great demand for water.
  2. The plants cannot access water or rainfall because of a dense tree canopy. 
  3. The plants are in exposed areas with high winds.
  4. The plants have been overfertilized with nitrogen fertilizers, causing the stems to go soft and the leaves and flowers to droop. 

How to revive underwatered hydrangeas

To revive underwatered hydrangeas, you need to soak their soil generously with water. Hydrangeas usually do not require additional water in temperate climates, but they should be properly watered once a week, especially if they are competing with other trees or if the soil conditions are not optimal. Ideally, apply mulch around the plants to conserve moisture, improve soil structure and prevent direct sunlight from drying the soil. 

Hydrangeas grow well in moist soil that contains organic matter, so make sure you create these conditions by using well-prepared soil and appropriate watering techniques. Your watering frequency will depend on the local climate and the soil type. Always test the soil using the finger test to check whether it is moist before watering it. If the top two  inches of soil are dry, soak it generously. If the soil is still moist to the touch, you can wait a few days and then check it again. 

When it comes to watering your hydrangeas, it is better to give them a good soak less often, rather than regular waterings in smaller amounts, as the latter causes the roots to grow too near the surface and the plants will be more vulnerable to drought. 

Most species of hydrangea thrive in partial shade, and the light that filters through a tree canopy provides the perfect balance of sun and shade. Those plants that are in full sun tend to dry out quickly and may become droopy. Provide protection for your hydrangeas using other plants or trees as a barrier, and water them regularly to prevent dehydration. 

Common hydrangea problems and their symptoms:

  • Drooping due to drought, fast-draining soil or too much sun. 
  • Leaves turning yellow and drying out from too much direct sunlight.
  • Leaves are turning black or brown from exposure to late frost. 
  • Dieback of foliage due to transplant shock. 
  • Root rot due to saturated soil or pots without proper drainage holes.
  • Stunted growth or drooping due to pots that are too small. 
  • Drooping or yellowing due to too much fertilizer or manure.

Hydrangea plant care

Hydrangeas do not need any major pruning, but you can prune them to remove old flowers and dead stems, and to improve the plant’s structure or shape. The time and frequency of pruning will depend on the species you are growing. 

Some varieties can tolerate a degree of soil alkalinity, and most prefer well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. The soil composition can also affect the flower colors of some varieties. Mulch the soil with organic materials every year, or add a slow-release fertilizer, watering before and after applying it to the soil. 

Hydrangeas prefer their soil to be kept moist but not saturated with water. Do not allow the soil to dry out; adding mulch can help keep it moist. Those that are kept in containers may need to be watered daily. 

These plants are not usually affected by diseases or insects. However, some species are susceptible to bacterial wilt, leaf spot, bud blight or mildew. Check the plants regularly for any presence of aphids or mites. 


Hydrangeas are popular plants the world over for their lovely blooms that come in several different colors. These deciduous shrubs can grow from three to 15 feet tall and are very easy to cultivate. They prefer their soil to be kept moist, and are susceptible to the effects of underwatering if neglected for too long. The most common signs of underwatered hydrangeas are droopy and wilted leaves and flowers. To revive them, soak their soil thoroughly with water so that all of the roots can be revived, and avoid placing them in direct sunlight. Going forward, try not to allow the soil to dry out again.  

Image: istockphoto.com / Nicola Ricci