How to Identify and Treat Hydrangea Diseases

There are few things more beautiful than lush hydrangea bushes. Unfortunately, their beauty can be sullied by a number of fungal and viral diseases (and two bacterial diseases).

However, there are steps you can take to keep your beauteous shrubs from falling victim to one of these diseases.

Close up of hydrangea leaves showing brown spots caused by disease.

We link to vendors to help you find relevant products. If you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission.

We will introduce you to the major hydrangea diseases, so you know what to look for and how to prevent and treat them.

Fungal Diseases

Botrytis Blight (Botrytis cinerea)

This fungus can severely affect the flower buds and even kill them before they open. In addition, infected flower parts can fall on the leaves and infect them.

The first symptoms are water-soaked spots on the flowers. However, these grow into reddish brown lesions.

Blue hydrangeas with red lesions on leaves indicating The reddish lesions on the leaves indicating a Botrytis Blight infection.
The reddish lesions on the leaves are a sure sign of Botrytis Blight.

Botrytis is more likely to be a problem under cool and damp conditions, such as several days of cloudy, humid, and rainy weather.

You can take steps to try and prevent this infection. Keep the humidity low. Don’t water late in the day, and only water at the roots, so you don’t get the flowers and leaves wet.

If you can, keep good airflow around your plants. Space them properly, and prune branches that are closely spaced. Treat your pruning shears with bleach as you prune, so you don’t accidentally spread any disease.

Also remove dead or damaged flowers and leaves to prevent the fungus from gaining egress into the plant. Clean up debris around the plant, so that Botrytis can’t live on the dead tissue.

If you have a persistent problem, you may need to use fungicides. Options include iprodione, or thiophanate-methyl.

Leaf Spots (Cercospora species and Phyllosticta hydrangea)

Cercospora manifests as circular purple or brown spots on the bottom of the plant. As the lesions get larger, the leaves can turn yellow and fall off the plant.

Close up of hydrangea leaves showing a leaf spot fungal infection.

Watering without getting the leaves wet will help to prevent these diseases. If your hydrangeas do get infected, you have several options, including compost tea, hydrogen peroxide, garlic oil, or liquid kelp.

You can also apply the fungicides chlorothalonil or thiophanate-methyl.

Anthracnose (Colletotrichum gloeosporioides)

Plants that have been heavily fertilized are more likely to contract this common fungal pathogen.

A hydrangea leaf showing heavy signs of anthracnose infection.

Continued rainy weather or heavy fog produces the conditions that favor infection.

The fungus produces large brown spots on the leaves or flowers that will become more lightly colored in the centers. One distinctive symptom is that spots by the veins develop at an angle.

You can also treat this disease with liquid kelp, garlic oil, hydrogen peroxide, or compost tea.

Read more about identifying and treating anthracnose on hydrangea here.

Powdery Mildew (Erysiphe polygoni)

Powdery mildew manifests as a white powdery substance on the surface of the leaves. You can see white, cottony growth on the bottom of the leaves.

A severe case of powdery mildew. Photo via Alamy.

Left unchecked, the fungus can infect the newly developing buds and stunt their growth.

Powdery mildew is most likely to be a problem on hydrangeas when the days are warm and the nights cool.

You can prevent the disease by reducing humidity and increasing air circulation.

One way to control this disease is to apply a fungicide as soon as you discover it. Another option is to use neem.

Rust (Pucciniastrum hydrangea)

Like other rusts, hydrangea rust needs two hosts to survive and does not kill either of them. This rust only infects the smooth hydrangea, H. arborescens, and hemlock as its alternate host.

The first symptoms are orange pustules on the bottoms of the hydrangea leaves and yellow spots on top.

This disease is difficult to control, but you can manage it by cleaning up infected leaves and debris that has fallen to the ground around both hosts. Thin inside the hydrangea making sure to disinfect your pruning shears.

If you know that rust is likely to be a problem, you can grow the cultivar ‘Frosty,’ which is resistant to this disease.

Bacterial Diseases

Bacterial Wilt (Ralstonia solanacearum)

This important bacterial disease first manifests as blight in the leaves and flower clusters. However, more severe infestations can cause both wilting and root rot.

Bacterial wilt occurs mainly in hot weather and heavy rains. There are no chemical options to control this disease.

Bacterial Leaf Spot (Xanthomonas campestris)

The bacteria that cause this disease can enter the plant through natural openings like stomata or through wounds.

Top down view of of an oak leaf hydrangea leaf showing splotches of bacterial leaf spot.
Bacterial Leaf Spot (Xanthomonas campestris) on oak leaf hydrangea. Photo (cropped) by Elizabeth Bush, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Bugwood.org via via CC 3.0.

The first symptoms are water-soaked spots. The spots darken and become angular in shape. These spots become larger lesions and can kill the leaves.

If you have a susceptible plant, you can protect it with copper hydroxide (Kocide).

Viral Diseases

Fifteen different viruses afflict hydrangeas! Hydrangea macrophylla is the most susceptible.

Transmission can occur by knives, leaf contact, and insects like aphids. In some cases, plant parasitic nematodes can transmit the viruses.

Prevention is the key in these cases. Quickly remove infected plants and their parts. Sterilize your pruning shears before cutting the plants, and plant clean stock in soilless media to avoid the viruses that are transmitted by nematodes in the soil.

These three are the most common viral infections that you are likely to encounter:

Hydrangea Ringspot Virus

If your hydrangea has brown spots or rings on its leaves, there is a good chance that it is infected with hydrangea ringspot virus. Then the leaves of the plant will start to be distorted and rolled, and the growth of the plant will be stunted.

Close up of brown spots and rings on hyrdrangea leaf indicitive of Hydrangea Ringspot Virus.

Aphids do not spread this disease. However, it spreads mechanically, so tools can transmit this virus. Sanitizing your pruning tools will help to prevent the spread of this disease.

Unfortunately, if your hydrangea contracts this disease, you will have to purge it. Varieties that are tolerant to this virus are available.

Hydrangea Mosaic Virus

Hydrangeas infected with this virus will have a pattern of yellow mosaics on their leaves.

Top down close up of yellow rings on a hydrangea leaf indictive of Hydrangea Mosaic Virus.

This is another virus that is not transmitted by aphids. However, once again, you can spread the virus with your tools. So be sure and disinfect your pruning shears to avoid inadvertently spreading this virus.

Tomato Ringspot Virus

This virus causes the leaves to turn yellow and become distorted, and the growth of the plant will be stunted.

Nematodes, not pruning tools, spread this virus.

If you are growing your hydrangeas in containers, you can avoid tomato ringspot virus by using a soil mix that is free of nematodes.

Such Beautiful Plants and So Many Diseases

There are a number of different organisms that can infect hydrangea plants and sully their beauty.

However, you can take steps to keep your plants from becoming infected:

  • Prune your plants, so that the insides are open and will not accumulate moisture. (And disinfect your pruning shears or flower-cutting knives whenever you use them!)
  • Pick up dead flowers and leaves, since they can harbor fungi.
  • Water your plants at the bottom, so the tops will not get wet.
  • Control insects, since they spread many of these diseases.

Have you encountered a disease on your hydrangea? If so, let us know in the comments.

And if you want to know more about growing hydrangea bushes, then check out some of our other guides such as:

© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.

About Helga George, PhD

One of Helga George’s greatest childhood joys was reading about rare and greenhouse plants that would not grow in Delaware. Now that she lives near Santa Barbara, California, she is delighted that many of these grow right outside! Fascinated by the childhood discovery that plants make chemicals to defend themselves, Helga embarked on further academic study and obtained two degrees, studying plant diseases as a plant pathology major. She holds a BS in agriculture from Cornell University, and an MS from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Helga then returned to Cornell to obtain a PhD, studying one of the model systems of plant defense. She transitioned to full-time writing in 2009.

392 thoughts on “How to Identify and Treat Hydrangea Diseases”

  1. I have a problem fungus that I can’t seem to identify or treat properly. These hydrangeas are heirloom, 7th generation plants, and they’re dying quickly. Help!!

    Reply
    • Oh no! That’s horrible! Can you describe the fungus or post a picture of it? Are you sure it’s a fungus? Could it be a virus? Are there any particular symptoms?

      Reply
        • Dear Amanda, I’m so sorry that your photos won’t upload. Is there anyway that you can reduce the size of them and try again? Often fungicides only kill certain types of fungi, and it’s also possible that the infection could be bacterial or viral, so it is important to figure out which organism is killing your hydrangeas. If you would like me to, I can delete your previous message.

          Reply
          • Your poor plants! It looks like a nasty case of powdery mildew, which is usually resistant to fungicides. Fortunately, this fungus usually doesn’t kill its hosts. You should definitely remove the diseased tissues. And disinfect your pruning shears with 70% alcohol afterwards. Thinning out the plants so they will have better airflow will help them to resist this disease. (And keep disinfecting your pruning shears.) There is an organic treatment called neem oil that might help. If you can’t get it locally, Arbico Organics carries it. Hopefully you can save them, and please keep us posted!

          • I’ve thinned the plants and actually have been using the neem oil on it for a few weeks and it hasn’t helped. Is there anything a bit stronger that may work?

          • It sounds like you are doing everything right. There is one other possibility. There are two types of mildew. I thought the disease on your hydrangeas was powdery mildew because there are spores on the top of the leaves. However, it could possibly be downy mildew. That is actually not a fungus, but it acts like one. Different chemicals are required to kill it. There is a compound called metalaxyl that is sold as Ridomil, Subdue, or Apron that should be available at home improvement stores and should be effective on downy mildew. Try that and see if it works.

          • Hi Amanda, It’s been a while, and I was wondering how your hydrangeas are doing. Did the other spray help at all?

        • Hi Japjeet, I’m sorry to hear that. Is there a chance that you could post a picture? Are the leaves folded and stuck together? That could indicate an insect problem. Or are they crinkled? If they have a white powder on them, it’s probably powdery mildew or downy mildew. Viruses can also cause leaves to be distorted. If you could provide more of a description of what is going on, that would help me give you advice.

          Reply
  2. I purchased a hydrangea tree about 3 months ago. I potted it with the idea of bringing it into my home this winter (always bring my tree hibiscus in). However, the hydrangea is not doing well. Not sure if I did not give it enough water, but there are spots on the leaves. Will I make a mistake to bring it into my home? We live in Indiana.

    Reply
    • Hi Christine, I’m sorry that your hydrangea has spots! It could be stressful for the plant to be inside, since the humidity in houses is typically low, and light is limited. Do you have the tree on stones in a tray that you can keep wet? Do you mist it? Could you describe the spots? Are they brown, rust-colored, or white? Are they round circles of one color, or do they have rings around them? Would it be possible to upload a picture of the spots? That would make it easier to diagnose them.

      Reply
    • Hi Tina, Without a photo, I can only guess. There are several things that could be going on. 1) Is your Hydrangea in the bright afternoon sun by any chance? That can scald the flowers, so they turn brown. The leaves can turn brown from having wilted if the plant is not getting enough water. 2) Is there grey fuzzy mold over the brown flowers? That could by Botrytis, a fungus that attacks both the flowers and leaves. 3) Are there round orange spots on the bottom of the brown leaves? That can be rust – another fungus. 4) Do the brown spots have a bullseye appearance on the leaves? That could be anthracnose – yet another fungus.

      Reply
  3. Can you tell me what is killing my hydrangeas? They have not flowered in a long time & have been planted in front yard for 5+ yrs

    Reply
    • Hi Andy,
      I’m so sorry that your hydrangeas are afflicted with a disease. Thank you for posting a picture!
      It definitely looks like an infection. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to diagnose from a picture because several pathogens produce spots that look similar. It could be fungal or bacterial leaf spot, and the treatments are different. Are you near a county ag extension office by chance? If you provide a leaf, they might be able to help diagnose what organism is responsible. One thing I would advise, especially if it’s a fungal disease, is to cut off the leaves with the symptoms. They could be spreading the disease by producing spores. Disinfect your pruning shears or scissors with bleach or rubbing alcohol, too, to keep from spreading the disease.

      Reply
  4. Please help, Helga! We have had an ongoing problem with dieback on certain plants in our yard for years. I’m not sure it is the same disease in all the plants, but it acts the same. The branches wilt and then die back, usually in the fall, and the brown leaves cling after the other leaves drop. It affects both our oakleaf and mophead hydrangeas, our pawpaws, dogwood, and azaleas. We have heavy shade and heavy soil in our yard, and hot summers here in Columbia, SC. Our yard stays quite dry due to a combination of the heat, a sloping terrain, and competition from the existing trees. Thank you for a possible diagnosis and treatment recommendations. Harriet Dreier

    Reply
    • Dear Harriet, I’m so sorry that your plants are under siege! Unfortunately, it sounds like you might have the serious fungal infection Verticillium wilt. The fungus lives in the soil for many years, and there is no way to get rid of it. You should prune off the infected areas to keep other fungi from growing on them. Be sure and sterilize your pruning tools between cuts with bleach or rubbing alcohol, so you don’t spread the infection. There are no chemical treatments against it at the moment. However, to be sure that it is Verticillium and not something else, you might want to have your local university’s extension program test a sample for you. They should provide you with instructions on how to collect a sample. Preventative measures can help prevent future infections, and drought stress is one of the factors that can predispose trees and shrubs to this disease. You may need to plant resistant species if it continues to be a problem for you. Let us know what the diagnosis is, and we may be able to help you select resistant plants.

      Reply
      • A million thanks, Helga! I was afraid that might be what has been going on. I will just plan on replacing the plants with other selections as it becomes necessary. ????????????

        Reply
  5. I planted my first hydrangea a couple of months ago and I’m afraid it’s not doing well at the moment. It is still small and today I went in the backyard where it is and noticed spots on many of the leaves as well as several leaves having large sections missing. I fertilized the plant a month or so ago with Miracle Gro and it gets watered weekly by my sprinklers. I don’t want to lose this plant that I hope to be a beautiful addition to my back yard. Any guidance you could give me would be much appreciated!!

    Reply
      • Hi Dan, Thank you so much for posting photos! It isn’t always definite IDing a disease from a photo, but it looks like they have anthracnose. It’s a pretty nasty disease. You should start by cutting out the diseased sections and disinfecting your pruning shears as you go (70% alcohol or bleach). Then spray the plants with a fungicide containing copper (unless it’s cool and wet). Watering from the bottom will help keep the disease from spreading. Some people recommend natural remedies like garlic oil, liquid kelp, or hydrogen peroxide (diluted), but you would probably be best served by using a fungicide. I hope that will help.

        Reply
  6. Hello, thanks for the very informative article. I have around one hundred hydrangeas throughout my yard. I’m used to seeing and treating many of the listed diseases or just letting the hydrangeas be hydrangeas in the fall with the brown spot. This is the first spring I’ve really noticed a white spotting of the leaves. It’s only on the macrophyllas I notice it. Panicle, arborscens, querciflora and anamola aren’t showing the spotting and mild leaf distortion. It’s been cool here and just a storm the past couple weeks don’t seem to be conducive to most diseases I deal with during hot and humid weather.
    Any info on what I may be seeing here would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    • Dear Gary,

      Wow! Your property sounds quite delightful with so many hydrangeas! I’m sorry that your macrophyllas have a new affliction. White spots and cool weather with a storm immediately made me think of powdery mildew. It afflicts macrophyllas the most seriously, although it will attack some of the others. Is it worse on the undersides of the leaves by chance?

      If it is powdery mildew, there are several fungicides that you could apply. Two are available from Amazon (and probably other places, too):

      Axozystrobin

      Thiphanate-methyl

      The other fungicides include paraffinic oil and fenarimol. It’s a good idea to rotate the fungicides used among different classes, so the pathogens don’t develop resistance.
      If you can, let us know if this treatment helped you!

      Reply
  7. Hi Helga,
    Every year I have problems with oak leaf hydrangeas. I can never find info online of anyone having the problem. I get them with the leaves curled and crunchy, some varieties more then others. I take off the bad leaves, but throughout the growing season they keep getting ugly leaves. I’ve had another grower say “they just don’t like being potted” but I’m not sure if it’s another reason.

    Reply
    • Dear Ryan,

      I’m so sorry that your hydrangeas are showing such horrible symptoms. Thank you for providing pictures! Would it be possible to provide any pictures of earlier stages of the disease when the lesions are small? That would make it easier to diagnose what is causing the disease.

      One disease that can be bad on oakleaf hydrangeas is Cercospora leaf spot. It starts out with lesions that are angular shaped and dark brown to purple, and it also starts from the bottom of the plant. It can turn whole leaves purple, which makes me think that it might be the culprit. Would this symptom match that on your hydrangea? I look forward to hearing back from you and will discuss control once I have a better idea of what is going on.

      Reply
      • I’m sure I can soon. I just received these hydrangeas the day I sent them to you. I’ve gotten them from three suppliers in the past. All normally come with the leaves like that. I’ve only had one variety in the past that has not. I normally take off any bad foliage and pick up any in the pot but eventually it always comes back. I planted one in my personal garden and it ended up being fine. It’s always the ones I have in pots.
        As the season goes on I’ll try to get more pictures. But typically it just starts with a brown edge and just continues in until most of the lead is brown or black and crispy.

        Reply
        • I just noticed another person describing the same problem below.
          I just got fresh water hooked up to my main water this season because I hate having a constant fertilizer for my plants. I’m hoping it has just been over fertilized.

          Reply
  8. Hello, I’m having serious problems with two plants I bought last summer for large containers. They survived the winter with no obvious problems but over the last few weeks have started going brown at the leaf edge and the new buds. Please help

    Reply
    • Dear Ruth,
      I’m sorry that your hydrangea plant is manifesting symptoms. Had you just fertilized them by chance? Or added ammonium sulfate to turn the flowers blue? That type of browning looks like fertilizer damage to me. If that is the case, flush the soil with water and let it dry for a couple days. Then go back to watering as usual. Let us know if that helps!

      Reply
  9. I received a beautiful hydrangea plant for Easter and the blue blooms were beautiful. Now I noticed the blooms are starting to die from the inside out. I live in Michigan and have the plant in my house. What do you think the problem is?

    Reply
    • Hi Nancy, I’m sorry to hear that. It’s difficult to diagnose without seeing it. Is there a chance that you could post a picture of the flowers?

      Reply
  10. Hi! Thank you for this article, as it is hard to find information related to ALL of the diseases that affect hydrangeas. I recently purchased two Oakleaf hydrangeas from a local nursery. They looked fine at first but since they’ve been planted (about 2 weeks) the leaves have started looking awful. They are turning black around the edges and have some black spots in the middle. Not all the leaves have black spots in the middle of them though. The nursery is not very willing to work with me. I have already experienced one diseased plant from them that I purchased the same time as the hydrangeas: a yellow twig dogwood with anthracnose that they tried to tell me was just twig winter dieback. I’m really hoping this hydrangea disease is something treatable since they are so unwilling to cooperate. Any ideas? Thank you for all your help!

    Reply
    • Dear Shannon, I’m so sorry that your hydrangeas came with problems! Thank you for providing pictures. That is always a huge help. I’m not positive, but the symptoms make me think that your hydrangea might have Botrytis blight. That starts with a gray film over the flowers. Does that fit the symptoms? I’m also debating Cercospora leaf spot. However, that usually manifests as spots in the middle of the leaves rather than causing dead tissue around the edges of the leaves. Fortunately, both diseases can be treated by the same fungicides:

      Chlorothalonil
      Thiophanate methyl
      Mycyclobutanil

      Sanitation can also help if you prune out the infected leaves. It is important to sterilize your pruning shears as you go, so you don’t spread the disease. You can use 70% rubbing alcohol or diluted 10% bleach.

      Another possibility is that the plants could have been overfertilized. If that is the case, flush the soil with a lot of water to wash the fertilizer out. Let the plants dry for a couple days, and then resume normal watering. I would start with that first. Hopefully, that is the problem, and you will not have to resort to fungicides.

      Reply
      • They don’t have flowers yet, so I’m not sure about the first problem. I do think it could be cercospora leaf spot because the circular spots on the veins do look purple. Do you think the purple and dead patches on the edge could be frost damage? A couple days after I planted them we had frost for about 3 mornings.

        Reply
  11. I have beautiful endless summer hydrangeas. The 1st blooming in early June is always gorgeous! However, the second blooming in late summer is really ugly. The blooms all look sort of dead… They don’t have any color. They are sort of tan colored. Why does this happen? I am in zone 7 (East Texas) and we have sandy soil. These plants are 8 yrs old. The leaves are always green and healthy – it’s just the blooms during the 2nd bloom period that are a light brownish color.

    Reply
    • Dear Julie, I can’t be sure, but one possibility is that the flowers later in the season are reacting to the hot midday to afternoon sun. If your hydrangeas are planted in the ground, there isn’t much you can do to stop this from happening. If possible, plant them where the direct sun will be in the morning, or late afternoon and evening.

      Reply
    • Hi Julie, I’m sorry that your summer blooms look so ugly. One possibility is that they are getting sunburned. Are the plants in full sun? I’m not sure that you can do much about it. If they are in pots, I would suggest moving them to a less sunny spot, but that’s not feasible if they are in the ground.

      Reply
    • Hi Brian, I’m sorry that your hydrangea has such horrible symptoms! I can’t be positive, but it looks like Botrytis blight to me. That disease is usually treated by fungicides. However, the fungus quickly evolves resistance to fungicides, so it’s a battle to stay one step ahead. Also, this resistance varies depending where you are in the country. I would suggest contacting your county extension agent to see what s/he recommends. Also, I would cut off the diseased foliage, so the infection doesn’t spread. Be sure and disinfect your pruning shears periodically in 70% rubbing alcohol or diluted 10% bleach as you work. Please let us know if this strategy works.

      Reply
    • Hi Monica, I’m sorry your hydrangea is under siege. It looks like the plant has powdery mildew. Are the plants in the shade? Definitely avoid overhead irrigation, because moisture spreads the fungus. Fungicides are available to control it, including paraffinic oil, axozystrobin (Syngenta Mural Fungicide Azoxystrobin Benzovindiflupyr, and thiophanate-methyl, Cleary’s 3336 Turf & Ornamental Fungicide Southern Ag Thiomyl Systemic Fungicide). However, fungi can develop resistance pretty quickly, so rotate different fungicides. When you alternate with fungicides that act differently, the fungi are much less likely to develop resistance. Good luck!

      Reply
  12. My ydrangea is starting to bloom in some places, but on other branches it is all dead with a dark brown leaf. If I remove the dead portion it just looks like the plant is dead, yet there are flowers blooming on other branches. I don’t understand. Help.

    Reply
    • Hi Jerry, I’m so sorry to hear about your hydrangea! That sounds awful. I can’t be positive, but that can be a response to stress or root damage. Have you been through a drought lately? Look at the base of the plant and see if there is a canker there. That’s a sunken lesion in the bark. That could indicate that a secondary infection has developed because your tree is weakened. That can often cause some of the upper branches to die. From what I understand, there isn’t much you can do but prune back the dead limbs. Also look and see if something has been digging around the roots. Voles can cause that sort of damage, too.

      Reply
  13. My hydrangeas have some kind of disease, I can not seen to find any pictures of it on the web. Do you have any idea what it is please?

    Reply
    • Hi Michele, I’m sorry that your hydrangeas are afflicted by something. It is very difficult to diagnose, but I have a couple of ideas. The leaves that are misshapen make me think that the problem might be a virus. Your third picture looks like insect damage to me, but I can’t find anything that looks precisely like them either. Insects often spread viruses, so both are possible. I would suggest you check with your local extension agent.

      Please write back and let us know what the cause is if you do get a diagnosis for it.

      Reply
  14. Hi Helga, please help. My hydrangea has some illness that I cannot identify. We have had it for many years and it was a healthy plant. I am worried that it would be too late to save it.

    Reply
    • Hi Victoria, I’m so sorry that your hydrangea is showing signs of disease. It looks like you caught it fairly early.

      There are several diseases that it could be. It looks like anthracnose to me. Are there any circular lesions on the leaves? If they are purple, that could be Cercospora leaf blight. Are the flowers okay? If it’s Botrytis blight, that would also attack the flowers, which would be covered in a grey mildew.

      There are several things you can do if it is anthracnose. Focus on keeping it from spreading. Prune out the diseased parts and destroy them. You will want to disinfectant your pruning shears as you go. You can use either 70% rubbing alcohol for 10% bleach. Getting rid of mulch will help keep the spores from spreading, too. You should spray the plant with a fungicide that is designed for anthracnose. Your home garden center should be able to help you with that.

      Please let us know if that cures the disease for you.

      Reply
      • Hi Helga, many thanks for getting back to me. I have pruned yesterday the most affected leaves and branches.
        The flowers are too small yet to see if they are attacked, however to me they look as they are.
        There are no grey mildew and there are no circular lesions on the leaves. They all start to drying out from the end of the leaf.
        I am attaching more pictures. Could you please kindly look again if it would help to identify the disease?

        Reply
        • Hi Victoria, I’m glad that you were able to prune them. It still looks like anthracnose to me, although there is another possibility. Have you fertilized them recently? Sometimes overfertilization can cause symptoms like that.

          Reply
          • Hi Helga,
            Thank you. I have fertilized it couple of weeks ago. If this diagnosis is is correct, what shall I do next? Will it go away by itself?
            In case it is anthracnose, what is best to buy to prevent it in the future? How often to use?
            Thank you.

          • Hi Victoria, Thanks for checking back for more information! I am happy to provide more details.

            1) Fertilizer burn: There are a couple things you should do. The first is try and flush the excess fertilizer out of the soil. Water thoroughly past the shrub’s root zone. Wait three hours and flush it again. After that, resume regular watering. The other is to put mulch down. That will help the roots by keeping them cool and maintaining moisture in the soil.

            2) Anthracnose: You should pick up any plant debris like leaves that is on the soil and dispose of it away from your garden. That will help to reduce the risk of spores spreading. And then you should probably use a fungicide. There are a number of options: chlorothalonil, mancozeb, sulfur, and copper. (Don’t use copper if it’s cool and moist.) Your local hardware store or garden center can help you choose a fungicide with those ingredients. You can also order chlorothalonil from Amazon as Bonide Fung-onil Concentrate and mancozeb as Bonide Mancozeb Flowable with Zinc Concentrate. There is a classic copper fungicide called Bordeaux mixture that still works. You can get that from Arbico Organics as Bonide Copper Fungicide dust. Spray every 10-14 days, or more frequently if the infection seems severe. You should also alternate which fungicide you use. Fungi can quickly evolve resistance to a fungicide if it is used too often, and switching the one you use can help to prevent that from happening.

            I hope one (or both) of these strategies will help your hydrangeas. Please let us know how it goes if you have the time.

          • Hi Victoria,

            Thank you for the pretty picture! That is wonderful news! I’m so happy to hear it, and I’m glad that they are a pleasure for you now instead of a stressor.

            Happy gardening!

  15. I hope you can offer some advice concerning my hydrangeas. Last year, I started noticing the brown spotting. I treated with an organic anti-fungal spray that seemed to help, but I noticed I had to use it more often than the every two weeks recommended on the bottle. This year, I have been doing the same about once a week, but now I’m also noticing browning around the edges of leaves. This appears days after the anti-fungal spray and I’m wondering if the brown edge is a different problem than the spot fungus I was originally treating. I am spraying about once a week currently and could possibly do it more given the issues continue to return.
    I regularly remove damaged leaves and have pulled back old mulch around the base. I have not been cleaning my tools, but when I remove leaves, I do it by hand.
    Also notice the stem is spotted. My younger green stems all have small spots. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Ann, I’m sorry that your hydrangeas are afflicted with a disease. I can’t be positive from the pictures. The spots and the browning on the leaves could be the fungal disease Cercospora left spot. There is also a very nasty fungus that can cause spots on the stems and the leaves to die back. It’s anthracnose.

      Spots are normal on some hydrangea stems, but if they are new, that is definitely bad.

      I would strongly suggest that you switch to a different spray. Even if it’s an organic one, the fungi can develop resistance to it. Which spray have you been using?

      Also, it may be worth providing samples to your local county extension agent to get a formal diagnosis.

      Reply
      • Hi Helga,
        Thank you for your response and suggestions. I’m currently using Natria Disease Control. I will look for something different and perhaps stronger. I think I read Hydrogen Peroxide could help for Anthracnose. Is that correct? If so, are we talking the typical strength found at the drug store or some other strength/diluted formula for plants?

        Reply
        • Hi Ann, Thank you for providing that information! I have some doubts about using hydrogen peroxide to treat anthracnose. There are some commercial products that contain it, but I suspect they have other chemicals to modify the solution. Hydrogen peroxide is pretty unstable over time, and you will want something that will keep providing protection against the fungi.

          It sounds like you want to use a natural treatment. Sulfur and copper can both act as fungicides and are effective against anthracnose on hydrangeas (except that you shouldn’t use the copper if it will be cool and moist). They are permitted for use in organic gardening/farming. There is a classic fungicide called Bordeaux mixture that works, and your local hardware store or garden center should be able to provide appropriate formulations to use. If you want to order online, Arbico Organics carries an updated version of Bordeaux mixture called BONIDE® Copper Fungicide Dust.

          I hope that you will able to cure the disease! Please let us know how it goes.

          Reply
  16. Hi Helga… Look at the pic. I planted two limelight hydrangeas last year, and last year they developed the same lesions. I’ve treated with fungicide daconil, but haven’t seen any reduction in the lesions… I’m inclined to think it is due to over fertilization… I did use fertilizer spikes, what confuses me is that I have another limelight (a year older) that I also fertilized using spikes and it’s fine… they are planted next to each other, maybe 5 feet apart. What do you think? Fungus or chemical injury? Thanks, Jorge

    Reply
    • Hi Jorge, I’m so sorry about the scorched leaves on your hydrangeas. Fertilizer burn is an excellent suggestion, but the symptoms from that usually develop on the edges of the leaves. That makes me think that you are right about a fungal infection.

      Daconil can work on a number of different types of fungi, and its active ingredient is chlorothalonil. But fungi are very good at developing resistance to fungicides. I would suggest that you switch to another type of fungicide with a different mode of action. Mancozeb might be a good one to try. Your local hardware store or gardening center should be able to help you choose a fungicide that contains it. If you want to order online, you can try Bonide Mancozeb Flowable with Zinc Concentrate from Amazon.

      It’s a good practice to rotate fungicides from different chemical families over time, so resistance doesn’t develop.

      If you have a moment, please let us know if switching fungicides cured the disease.

      Reply
      • Hi Helga… I applied mancozed per instructions but I haven’t been able to control the disease. I cut the affected leaves/branches and now I can see new lesions in other sections of the plant. I ordered Bonide’s “Infuse”, which is a systemic fungicide… I’ll hit using both types, contact and systemic… hopefully that will get the situation under control. I’ll let you know how things work out. Jorge

        Reply
        • Hi Jorge, Thank you for your update! I’m sorry that the mancozeb didn’t work. There have been some problems with resistance, so it’s a great idea to try a systemic fungicide. I hope it works out for you and look forward to your next update!

          Reply
        • Hi Pam, I’m so glad that you found the article useful! Your picture didn’t upload, so I can’t comment on the disease. I hope that you are able to cure it. Would you like to try uploading your images again?

          Reply
  17. Hi Helga
    We bought these Hydrangeas few weeks ago, transplanted them and a week ago or so, they started to look bad. We don’t know if it is a fungus or something or if it could be the result of cat urine. We have seen cat present around our flower beds. What do you recommend?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Veronica, I’m so sorry that your beautiful hydrangeas are so unhappy. The pictures are a little small, but I think the problem might be a fungal disease called gray mold (Botrytis). It starts on the flowers, and they can look like they have a gray film on them. Does that fit with the symptoms? That disease also spreads to the leaves, and it looks like that is the case from your photos.

      That disease would definitely call for fungicides. Unfortunately, this kind of fungus develops resistance very quickly. Some biofungicides (living organisms that kill fungi) have been used against it successfully. The types of resistance vary all over the country. I would suggest contacting your county ag extension office to see if they agree with this diagnosis, and if so, to ask what fungicides they could recommend for your area.

      I’m not an expert on cat urine, but I do know that it can hurt plants. The USDA extension office in your area should be able to help figure out if that could be the problem. I really do think it’s a fungal infection from the pictures, though.

      Please let us know if any treatments improve your plants, if you have a moment.

      Reply
  18. I have four endless summer hydrangeas planted in front of my shed. They have been there for seven years. This year I took a lot of the deadwood off early in spring. Also did a little bit of pruning. Fertilized on March 31. Mulched a week later. They were beautiful and green. Two days later I started noticing some browning on some of the leaves. Thought maybe it was due to a very cold night close to freezing. But it continued to get worse. Had to heavily prune the other day. Having trouble identifying what is going on. From my research could be anthracnose or spider mites. Could also be something else. I treated them with neem oil, which I had on hand. Going to see how they do. Some of the leaves are not forming completely now. Very upsetting. Please help. Thank you

    Reply
    • Hi Terence, I am so sorry to hear about your hydrangeas. Thank you for posting pictures. I doubt that they are spider mites. Look for little webs on the leaves. Also, they like hot and dry weather, which doesn’t sound like an issue at the moment. If you do have them, ladybugs work wonders.

      Fertilizing hydrangeas can cause the leaves to brown on hydrangeas. Or you could be right about anthracnose. I haven’t read about neem oil being used to treat anthracnose on hydrangeas, but it can be a great fungicide. If the symptoms get worse, you should probably switch to a synthetic fungicide. Choices include mancozeb, chlorothalonil, copper, or sulfur. One brand of chlorothalonil is Bonide Fung-onil Concentrate, and mancozeb is Bonide Mancozeb Flowable with Zinc Concentrate. You can order those on Amazon, but your local hardware store should have fungicides with those active ingredients in stock. Spray your plant every 10-14 days (or more often) if the infection seems severe. (Don’t use copper when the weather is cool and moist.) Also, get rid of any fallen leaves or debris on the ground, which could be a source of spores. Be sure and dispose of it away from your garden.

      I hope that one of these options will cure your plants. Please keep us posted about how they do!

      Reply
      • Thank you so much Helga! Will see how they look after first week of neem oil treatment. Going to order other fungicide you suggested and have it standing by. Will let you know how it goes.

        Reply
  19. Hi Helga ~ I can’t tell you how pleased I was to find your site, as it’s thorough and clear without being dauntingly technical & long.
    So, I’ve been involved in some indoor projects recently, and hadn’t been out paying much attention to my hydrangeas as they were coming back to life. Yesterday, I was shocked to find that my pride and joy seems to have (tentatively diagnosed using your site) a case of Anthracnose (?) I am sending a couple of photos. I also realized this a.m. that in addition to the leaves browning and dying around the edges, there are some spots on the leaves themselves, which makes me worry that there might be other problems as well. We have an irrigation system, so we water at the roots. We have a couple of other hydrangeas, but this plant in particular has been a fabulous bloomer for 12 years or more, so I feel like we’ve HAD the light and water formula right in the past. Any thoughts and info would be greatly appreciated. I’m heartsick.

    Also, quickly, I have an azalea that’s about 6-7 feet away, and it’s looking terrible also. Not so much at first, but it’s gradually gone downhill in the last couple of weeks. Is this disease something azaleas can get as well? It’s manifesting somewhat differently, but I figured I’d see if you had thoughts. The last photo is the azalea branch.

    Thanks so much!

    Oops…I’m running into a photo problem. I’ll post shortly.

    Update: I had to send them in a separate message. Sorry.

    Reply
  20. Sorry~ I couldn’t figure out how to add the photos on my first comment, so they’re coming separately. 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Wende, I’m so sorry that your long-term hydrangea has an infection. It looks you are right about anthracnose. That can also cause spots on the leaves, so I don’t think you have to worry that it might have two diseases at once. A few things you can do immediately are to prune out the dead and damaged areas and get rid of them out of your garden. You should disinfect your pruning shears in 70% rubbing alcohol or 10% bleach. Also collect any fallen leaves or plant debris and get rid of those also.

      You should probably apply a fungicide to keep the disease at bay. Choices include mancozeb, chlorothalonil, copper, or sulfur. One brand of chlorothalonil is Bonide Fung-onil Concentrate and mancozeb is Bonide Mancozeb Flowable with Zinc Concentrate. You can order those on Amazon, but your local hardware store should have fungicides with those active ingredients in stock. Spray your plant every 10-14 days (or more often) if the infection seems severe. (Don’t use copper when the weather is cool and moist.)

      I hope those techniques will help you to cure your hydrangea! Please keep us posted.

      And thank you so much for your compliments on the site! 🙂

      Reply
      • I’m sorry – I got distracted and forgot to mention your azalea! That looks heartbreaking, too. I’m not an expert on azaleas, but my guess would be that it is Cercospora leaf blight (caused by a fungus, too). You should also get rid of any fallen leaves. Fungicides are appropriate to treat that disease also, and I think you could use the same one that you use on your hydrangea.

        Reply
        • Thank you so much for all the information! Normally, it would have taken me weeks to learn what it was and how to treat. Now, I can get get started immediately! 🙂

          Reply
          • Hi Lynn,

            We are so glad that you found the article informative!

            The amount to use depends on the percentage of hydrogen peroxide you are using. For 35% HP, add 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon to a gallon of water. For HP that is 3%, add 1 cup to a gallon of water.

            Hope that helps.

  21. I’ve had several different varieties of hydrangea in my yard that have done well for 15+ years and am now having problems with most:
    1. (not sure of variety): Last spring stems became leggy and foliage discolored. I sprayed with an organic insecticide/miticide and cut back most leggy stems. This spring began with abundant new foliage from the roots but in the last few weeks leaves are again discolored.
    2. Maybe Endless Summer (not sure): spring began well but leaves are again discolored, brown and dry.
    3. Oak Leaf-purple-reddish leaves dispersed throughout plant at a rate of about one per branch. I’ve removed them. Good news is flower buds are appearing.
    4. Lace Cap: last year had many fewer blossoms than previously and some leaves slightly discolored. I sprayed with the same insecticide/ miticide. This year leaves are again discolored, much less foliage than usual.

    In addition to spraying, I have removed debris from base of shrubs as best I can.
    I’m attaching photos in two different posts.

    I live outside Philadelphia (and am originally from Delaware, which I see from your site we have in common).

    Looking forward to receiving advice.

    Reply
  22. I made an error in my post about my hydrangea problems. Last year I sprayed a broad spectrum insecticide/fungicide/miticide: Monterey Lawn and Garden Fruit Tree Spray Plus. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hi Ruth, Hello from a former Delawarean! We are rare on the West Coast.

      I’m so sorry that your hydrangeas are having such a variety of problems. And thank you for providing pictures!

      1) Foliage discolored, brown, and dry
      This looks very much like an anthracnose disease to me. The spray you provided contains neem oil, a natural fungicide, but it might not be strong enough to kill this kind of fungus. Plus, fungi can develop resistance if you use the same chemical over time. That is awesome that you removed the debris! That is definitely the right thing to do. You should also prune out the diseased tissue. Be sure and disinfect your pruning shears afterwards – 70% rubbing alcohol or 10% bleach. You should probably switch fungicides. There are a number of options, including chlorothalonil, mancozeb, copper, or sulfur. If you have a good garden center locally, they could advise you. Otherwise, you can buy them online. You can buy chlorothalonil from Tractor Supply as Bonide Fung-onil Concentrate. Mancozeb is available from Amazon as Bonide Mancozeb Flowable with Zinc Concentrate. Copper is another option. There is a classic formulation called Bordeaux Mixture that has been used for a number of years. You can buy it from Arbico Organics as Bonide Copper Fungicide Dust. You should probably switch which one you spray every few months, so the fungi won’t develop resistance. Spray every 10-14 days or more often if the infection is severe.

      2) Purple-reddish leaves
      There is a fungal infection called Cercospora leaf spot that starts out with purple spots, but this looks more like phosphorus deficiency to me, since the whole leaves are purple-reddish. That can happen if you added a lot of a chemical to change the color of the flowers. You should have a soil test done to see if your soil is low in phosphorus. (This can happen when other chemicals bind it at pH extremes.) If it is, gradually change the pH of the soil to free up the phosphorus. If your soil is too acid, you would make it more alkaline. For alkaline soil, make it more acidic.

      3) Leggy plants
      That can happen when the hydrangea plants don’t get enough sun. Are they shaded more than normal? For example, did you plant a new tree above them? Hopefully, that is what is wrong, since you can fix that.

      I hope you are able to solve these problems! If you have time, please keep us posted about the fates of your plants.

      Reply
      • Thank you so much for this wonderfully specific and helpful information. I have already put in an order with Amazon for Mancozeb. I have a few more questions and an answer to your question: 1. Does it make sense to use the fungicide on the hydrangeas that are planted close to the ailing ones or will it hurt them? I have some, including a variegated variety, that don’t look awful but not especially healthy either. 2. We have had an unusually cool spring with some nights in the 40s. Do you think this is a factor? 3. The hydrangea with the leggy stems is in the same spot where it has been for 15+ years. It gets morning sun and afternoon shade. On some hot, sunny days, leaves droop in the afternoon but perk up later on. Thanks again!

        Reply
        • Hi Ruth, Thank you so much! I’m so glad that you found the information helpful. In answer to your question about spraying the plants nearby: Yes! That is an excellent idea, especially since you know there are fungal pathogens right next to them. Treating them with mancozeb should help protect them from the spread of anthracnose.

          Was it also a rainy spring? Cool weather favors many types of fungal infection, but I’m not sure if that is the case with anthracnose. However, a cool rainy spring would definitely be a problem.

          Honestly, I’m not sure about the cause of the leggy hydrangeas. Too much fertilizer in the spring can cause them to become leggy, but I find it worrisome that they wilt in the sun. I would suggest sending a sample to your county extension person to see if they can diagnose it. See our article on soil testing for more information.

          Good luck with your hydrangeas! If you have time, check back with us, and let us know how they are doing.

          Reply
  23. Hi Helga,
    I have hydrangea that I planted a year ago and they came back, however some leaves have a yellow discoloration. The plants themselves look fine.
    I also have two hydrangeas that I planted from pots a week ago. The picture shows the leaves are crumbled and dead looking, however the plants are showing tiny leaf growth. The new leaves look green and wrinkled, so I thought that it might be a fungus. What do you think?
    Phyllis P.

    Reply
    • Hi Phyllis, I’m so sorry that your hydrangeas are suffering.

      Plant 1: Pink flowers
      Unfortunately, that looks to me like it has anthracnose. The damage to the leaves and that fact that it affects the flowers, too, makes me think that. You should pick up any leaves and vegetation under the plant and get rid of it away from your garden, so it won’t spread spores. You should also prune back the infected parts of the leaves and flowers. Be sure and disinfect your pruning shears after you are done. 70% rubbing alcohol or 10% bleach. You should probably use a fungicide, too. Options include mancozeb, chlorothalonil, sulfur, or copper. You can consult with your local hardware store and/or garden center to buy an appropriate one. If you want to order online, you can buy chlorothalonil from Tractor Supply as Bonide Fung-onil Concentrate or mancozeb as Bonide Mancozeb Flowable with Zinc Concentrate from Amazon. Another option is a copper based product called Bordeaux Mixture that is a classic fungicide. Arbico Organics sells an updated formulation as Bonide Copper Fungicide Dust. Don’t use that if it’s cool and moist. You should spray every 10-14 days or more frequently if the infection seems severe. Also, consider switching which fungicide you use over time, so the fungi don’t develop resistance to it.

      2) The plants that came from pots

      Unfortunately, those look like they are infected with a virus. The mottled spots on the leaves and the distorted new growth are classic symptoms of viral infection. Often, those are not treatable. There are several viruses that infect hydrangeas, and it can be hard to tell them apart. If it’s due to hydrangea mosaic virus, you can take cuttings from the healthy part of the plant. However, if it’s tomato ringspot virus, there isn’t much you can do. That is spread by nematodes (little roundworms) in the soil, and they can come in pots from nurseries. One option to figure out what is going on is to send samples to your local county extension agent. They will know what it going on in your area. If you do so, please keep us posted as to what they find.

      Good luck with your plants!

      Reply
  24. We have 4 hydrangeas that have done well for 10+ years. This year one has not come out “well,” its leaves are small and “scrunched up.” Oddly, we lost a Japanese maple (one of 6) that was almost 20 years old, and one of our ginkgo trees looks weird too. I do not see any insects or borers or fungus on them… Sevin dust didn’t help.

    Reply
    • Hi Tina, I’m so sorry that your hydrangeas and other plants are showing such dramatic symptoms. It looks like a fungal infection to me, which could explain why the sevin didn’t help.

      It looks to me like it might be the deformed growth that you can get from anthracnose on your hydrangeas. Anthracnose is a very common fungal disease in other plants, too. I don’t know if it’s host specific for hydrangea. That could be why you had problems with your other trees.

      Anthracnose can be fatal to the plant, so it’s important to treat the infection. Collect all the fallen leaves and other plant debris, and get rid of this material away from your garden, so it won’t serve as a source of infection. Prune out the infected sections on the plants. Be sure and disinfect your pruning shears in 70% rubbing alcohol or 10% bleach.

      This kind of infection merits fungicide treatments, since it could conceivably kill your plant if it spreads. You have several options: mancozeb, maneb, chlorothalonil, copper, or sulfur. Your local hardware store or garden center should be able to help you buy an appropriate formulation. If you want to order online, you can buy chlorothalonil from Tractor Supply as Bonide Fung-onil Concentrate and mancozeb from Amazon as Bonide Mancozeb Flowable with Zinc Fungicide Concentrate. Spray the plants every 10-14 days. One option for fungal control using copper is Bordeaux mixture. Arbico Organics offers a current formulation of this fungicide as Bonide Copper Fungicide Dust. Spray every week to 10 days unless it is moist. It is a good idea to alternate the fungicide that you use, so the fungi won’t develop resistance.

      I hope this approach will work for your hydrangeas. Please let us know if that helps your plants. If it does not, I would recommend sending a sample to your county extension again to get a formal diagnosis. You can find out where your local office is located here.

      I wish you the best in treating your plants.

      Reply
  25. One of my hydrangeas have just started blooming but the little flower heads have turned black and are drying up. It is only this plant that has this condition. The others are blooming normally. What can be causing the blooms to dry up and turn brown and wither up? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi Kathy, I am so sorry to hear that your hydrangea is having problems with its flowers. It’s difficult for me to figure out what is going on from your description. Would it be possible to post pictures? Thanks so much

      Reply
  26. Hello, I wonder if you can help me with my hydrangea. Some of the leaves have curled up and have gone brown and dry on the ends of the leaves. Is this a viral disease, I wonder? Is there anything I can do for the plant? Should I cut off the stems with the curled up leaves, leaving the healthy looking ones in place? Thanks for your help.
    Janet Waters

    Reply
  27. Hi there Dr. Helga! My family has two oak leaf hydrangeas that have yellow spots and are not doing very well. This post was very informative. My dad tried a broad spectrum fungicide and that has not helped them bounce back. Based on your post I am thinking maybe bacterial? Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Please and thank you! We also have a ruby red slippers hydrangea and that one is blooming fine with no problems or spots.

    Reply
    • Hi Kayla! I’m so sorry that your hydrangea are afflicted with something. Thank you for providing pictures! It looks like an insect infestation to me, so that makes sense that the fungicide didn’t help. I think the bottom of the leaf is the key to diagnosing the problem, but I am having a hard time seeing it. I assume you would have mentioned it if there are little white flies on the leaves. I can’t figure out what type of insect it could be, though. I would suggest sending some leaves to your county extension office to see if they could diagnose the problem.

      Please let us know if they can diagnose the problem for you. I am highly curious to find out what is causing the spots.

      Reply
      • Hi Dr. Helga, We are now thinking it might be an armored insect problem! I have not seen any white flies hanging around them, but we started noticing our Ruby Slippers with the same spots on lower leaves closer to the ground, after it has exploded with blooms this spring so when the fungicide didn’t work we looked to some other potential problems. We have a company coming to treat around the plant and hopefully save it!

        Reply
        • Hi Kayle, Mealybugs are white, and they are dreadful insects that are really difficult to get rid of. I’m glad that you are bringing a company in. Hopefully, they can exterminate them! Let us know when your hydrangeas have been cured.

          Reply
  28. Hi Helga,

    What do you think is wrong with the leaves of my hydrangeas? They spots appear to have a hint of red and they start from the leaf tips. The white in the photo is from a fungicide my dad used, but I think the overall problem could still be powdery mildew. Let me know what you think. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hi Susanna, I’m sorry that your hydrangea has an infection. It definitely isn’t powdery mildew. The infected areas would all have white patches in them.

      It can be difficult to diagnose leaf diseases. Anthracnose can look like that, although the reddish tint makes me wonder about another fungal pathogen called Phoma.

      I think you should prune off the infected leaves to keep the disease from spreading. Be sure to disinfect your pruning shears using 10% bleach or 70% rubbing alcohol. I would recommend the same fungicides listed in the response to the second to last question below. It would be a really good idea to alternate the fungicides you use, so the fungi don’t develop resistance.

      I hope that will help! Let us know if it cures the disease.

      Reply
  29. My very healthy hydrangea went from a lush green bush to this mess in a matter of weeks. We had weeks of beautiful weather but then some frosty nights. Could this have caused the decline? TIA.
    Aine in Ireland

    Reply
    • Hi Aine, Your poor plant! I’m so sorry. I don’t know of any pathogens of hydrangea that would cause the total death of limbs in weeks. I suspect that you are right about frost damage. I am glad to see that there is some growth in the center of the plant. I think the only thing you can do is prune back the dead limbs, so they don’t get colonized by secondary fungal or bacterial pathogens. Be sure to disinfect your pruning shears to be safe with 70% hydrogen peroxide or 10% bleach. Hopefully the new growth will come quickly.

      Reply
  30. Hi There! Three weeks ago, I transplanted a few hydrangea paniculata pillow talk. I live in Nor Cal in warm inland temps. The leaves of the plants were green and flourishing. We had some rain on sunday and then humid weather. Today I had to clip the leaves off by 50%. Can you please help?

    Reply
    • Hi Dlyn, I’m so sorry about the transformation of your hydrangea plants. It looks like the rain and humid weather unleashed an attack of fungi on them. It can be difficult to tell the fungi that cause leaf spots apart, but it looks to me like it’s caused by Phoma. You are doing the right thing by cutting the diseased leaves off. That is the best line of attack for this fungus. I can’t find recommendations for a particular fungicide for this pathogen. You can try a product called Serenade. It’s natural bacteria that prevents additional infections. You can find it on Amazon. Hopefully, it will be successful in preventing further spread. If you have time, please let us know how well it worked for you.

      Reply
      • Thanks Helga! The product just arrived and I used it Saturday. However, the bacteria is continuing to spread. I just pruned more leaves and feel defeated. Not sure if I really have a green thumb. I will continue to treat the hydrangeas and try not to give up. I’ll keep you posted.

        Reply
        • Hi DLyn! Please don’t doubt your gardening abilities. It’s a difficult disease to treat, and it’s not your fault that your hydrangeas got infected. Those fungi are really widespread, and the weather must have been perfect for them to infect. Also, most treatments will take longer than two days to start kicking in, so don’t give up yet. Even the best gardeners have issues with plants now and then. Give them 10-14 days to see an effect. If you don’t see any improvement, I would suggest switching to another fungicide. Please do keep us posted!

          Reply
          • Hi Helga! Thank you for the words of encouragement. I will continue to treat the plants and circle back with you in two to three weeks. I appreciate all of your help!

          • Also, I was using Neem Oil mixed with water and dish soap mix every 7 to 10 days for preventive. Should I continue or discontinue? I do not want to stress the plants.

          • Hi DLyn, I would discontinue the neem oil for now. It was a great thing to try, but fungi develop resistance if the same chemical is used for too long – even natural ones.

          • Helga! You are the best. It is week three of treating my hydrangeas for the fungi and the treatment is working. I have stopped the spread and my the branches / leaves are growing green. I even have a few blooms too. I will continue to monitor the situation. But I want to thank you.
            Also, I have not fertilized the soil. Any organic recommendations? Or do you think its too soon.

          • Hi D’Lyn,
            That’s fantastic news! Thank you so much for letting us know and posting pictures of the new growth! I really am delighted that your hydrangeas are coming back. I would wait a bit to fertilize. Some experts think that too much fertilizer can increase the susceptibility to the fungus. It would probably be fine, but I’m all for an abundance of caution in situations like these.

          • Hi Helga! I hope you are enjoying the summer. My hydrangeas are blossoming! But the leaves are starting to turn brown. Not sure if it is due to the hot weather and causing the flower to burn. The plants are in direct sun light for 15+ hours day. Also, I still use the serenade treatment. Its a mist spray and I do it close to sunset for shade. I hope this is not causing it to be a water from top approach. As the watering is done at the roots with an irrigation system throughout the day. I don’t know if it can be another fungi. As the green leaves are doing well. But I do not have many due to the pruning i did earlier. Appreciate your help!

          • Hi DLyn,

            Welcome back! Lots of plants blooming, so I am enjoying the summer! Thanks for asking.

            i think the problem with your hydrangea flowers could be the amount of sun. They tend to like partial shade, and too much sun can cause the flowers to turn brown. Too much sun can also cause the leaves to turn brown, so hopefully it’s not another fungus! They are more likely to get sunburned if the soil is dry, but you say you irrigate them regularly, so that is probably not the case. I’m not sure how to advise you to provide more shade. I would monitor the situation and see if it gets worse.

            I think you should be okay misting with Serenade, and it’s smart to spray near sunset.

  31. Hi Helga, have discovered this sticky problem on my 5+ year old hydrangea bush in my front garden. I am in the UK, it’s been unseasonably sunny and dry so far this year, but this fungus has appeared – I’m worried it’s honey fungus but no mushrooms are apparent. Any ideas? Thanks so much in advance for your help!  Helga George, PhD

    Reply
    • Hi Summer, I’m so sorry about your hydrangea! I don’t think it’s a fungus. I think it’s an insect – the dreaded mealybug. They can be very difficult to get rid of. Spray as many as them off with your hose as you can. Next, try an insecticidal soap or oil. Neem oil might be a good one to use. It should be readily available at your local garden center.

      Good luck, and let us know if you get rid of them.

      Reply
  32. This is happening on a limelight and a strawberry vanilla hydrangea. The are maybe half of the leaves not fully developing. I’m not sure what could be causing it.

    Reply
    • Hi Kay, I’m sorry to hear that! Could you possibly post pictures? It would help me to figure out what the cause is.

      Reply
  33. Hi, I live in south of UK with a small garden. Our borders grow shrubs vigorously so we tend to plant in pots. We acquired 2 hydrangeas last year and planted in fairly large pots. We had a Wonderful display of flowers and vigorous growth. Feed: Miracle-Gro. In the Autumn (Fall) we pruned the branches back by 2/3rds. The Spring brought early growth with one plant doing better than the other, both started leaf production and is still fine but the other plant leaves have withered as though lacking water, both plants have been watered the same, usually once a day, as they are in pots and the weather has been very dry (no rain) and hot, 20C. Then suddenly, as happens here, we are plunged into 7C, back to fleecing up at night.
    The poorly one looks as though it has given up, any ideas?

    Reply
    • Hi Alan, I’m so sorry to hear that one of your hydrangeas is afflicted with something! I have some ideas, but it seems a bit puzzling, since it sounds like you treat them both the same, and yet one has severe problems. The symptoms sound like the plant might have Phytophthora root rot – a hideous disease. It destroys the roots, so the plants can’t take up water and wither away. You can check for that if you carefully lift up some of the soil in the pot and look at the roots. If the roots look brittle and mushy, the symptoms are probably due to that disease. There isn’t much you can do if that is the case.

      I have some questions about your watering. You said that the plants needed to be watered every day, because the weather was hot. Do you check the pot to make sure the soil is dry? It’s best to water deeply and less frequently. However, that still doesn’t explain why one plant suffers, and the other does not.

      Could you let us know after you have checked the roots? If that is not the problem, I will have to think about it some more.

      Reply
  34. Thank you for the informative article! I’m still struggling to identify and therefore treat my two hydrangeas. Can you help? They get morning sun and pm shade. It’s been a very wet spring. Zone 6b Pennsylvania. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Courtney, Your poor plants! If it’s any comfort, I’m struggling to identify the problem, too! Anthracnose can cause large dead spots on leaves, but it’s usually brown. There is a fungus called Cercospora that can cause purple spots, but they usually start as small lesions and don’t take over whole leaves from the tips. I am wondering if the cause could be a deficiency of phosphorus. That can cause leaves to turn purple. Have you added anything to change the color of the flowers this year? If so, those compounds can bind up the phosphorus and make it unavailable to the plants. If that is the case, it might be worth having a soil test done. If your soil is below pH 7.0 (acidic), aluminum might be reacting with the calcium, or if the pH is higher than 7.0 (alkaline), it might be calcium or magnesium. If that is the case, just gradually change the pH back to neutral (7.0).

      Please let us know if you did add a chemical to alter the flower color. If not, I may have to revisit my answer.

      Reply
  35. I have 4 snowball hydrangeas that were started from a bush at my parents’ house. These particular plants are about 6 years old. I knew last year there was a problem with one of them and I treated it with a fungicide. This year we transplanted them and apparently the problem was worse than I anticipated. When we transplanted we started with 2 plants and one of them was divided into 3. The one that is all sticks was the one that was iffy last year and they have not bloomed in 2 years. Am I too late to save them? I don’t even know where to start. Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Pam, What distressing pictures! I think you are right that it is due to a fungus. The way the spots have a clear zone in the middle strongly suggests that they are infected by a fungus called Cercospora. Not every fungicide will work on every fungus. Plus, using the same one repeatedly can cause resistance.

      It may be too late to save your plants. However, you can try a different fungicide to see if the new growth will be enough to save them. Also, cut off the infected leaves (and disinfect your pruning shears with 10% bleach or 70% rubbing alcohol). And pick up any leaves and plant debris on the ground, because they will spread spores.

      There are several fungicides recommended to treat this disease.
      I’ll provide the technical name, so you can see if your local garden center might have them, and the common names, so you can order them online if that’s what you would prefer. 1. chlorothalonil from Tractor Supply: Bonide Fung-onil Concentrate, 2. thiophanate-methyl from Amazon: Clearys Systemic Fungicide, and 3. mcylobutanil from Amazon: Monterey LG3216 Fungi-Max Brand Concentrate.

      It would be a good idea to get two of these and alternate them, so the fungi do become resistant to them.

      Please let us know if you are able to save your plants!

      Reply
  36. Maybe Helga can help with this hydrangea problem we are having now for the second year. The leaves have this odd deformed and curly appearance. Last year the blooms it tried to put out we even stranger looking. Almost looked like mini grapes. Anyway here is a photo of what we are now seeing.

    Reply
    • Hi Joel, I’m so sorry about your hydrangeas. That kind of leaf distortion is usually from a viral infection or an insect infestation. I’m not positive, but I suspect it might be due to Hydrangea Chlorotic Mottle Virus. It only affects Hydrangea macrophylla. Is that the type you have? I can’t find a lot of pictures of the symptoms, but here is a photo from the University of Minnesota Extension – it’s number 3 here.

      Does that look like what you are seeing? Unfortunately, if it is this virus, there is no cure. You may have to destroy your plants.

      However, before it comes to that, I would advise getting a diagnosis from your county extension agent.

      If you do that, please let us know, so we can learn from your experience! Best of luck.

      Reply
  37. Hi Helga- thank you for your expertise. We have two limelight hydrangea trees that are three years old. I pruned them both back this spring and one of them is already growing some full leaves. The other is struggling to push out new buds and looks like the other did 4 weeks ago- bare with small leaf buds. There is also some brown sap running from some cut branches. Photo is attached. Do you have any guidance? Thank you!!

    MCooke

    Reply
    • Hi MCooke, I’m sorry to hear about your problems with the hydrangea. I have an educated guess, but I can’t be sure whether this is the culprit or not. There is a fungus called Nectria that causes cankers on trees and shrubs. It can spread throughout the plants and cause them to die back. Often it isn’t noticed until the spring. However, this fungus usually produces colored fruiting structures on the infected branches. They look like little colored balls. Here is a page from the Missouri Botanical Garden that shows the structures on various trees. Unfortunately, I can’t find a photo of one on hydrangea, but it is susceptible.

      If this is the case, it can be a severe problem. I would suggest consulting with your county extension person to verify that this is the problem. They could advise you on what to do.

      If you have time, please let us know what you find out.

      Reply
  38. Dr George. Thanks for the great website. I have a couple of shirobana gaku ajisai that are being hit really hard with what looks like Anthracnose and some kind of leaf curl. I’m going to cut off the impacted leaves and spray the rest with fungicide. I didn’t fertilize but it’s pretty wet this year. Any more advice? How about the leaf curl?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Roger, I am delighted that you like the website. Thank you so much!

      The symptoms look like those of a fungal pathogen, so I think you are on the right track to spray with a fungicide. Another thing to do is pick up all the leaves and debris from under the plants and dispose of them away from your garden. Disinfect your pruning shears with 70% rubbing alcohol or 10% bleach. I would also prune off all of the infected leaves.

      Honestly, I’m not sure about the leaf curl. Spider mites can cause that, but they like hot and dry weather, which doesn’t fit with yours. Viral infections can cause the leaves to be distorted, but it doesn’t look as widespread as I would expect from a viral infection. Plus, it doesn’t look like the leaves have the mottled yellow pattern that you often see with viral infections.

      I would treat the fungal infection and monitor the leaf curling to see if it gets worse.

      Let us know if you were able to cure the infection and if it caused the leaf curling to go away. You may need to switch fungicides if this one doesn’t work. Fungi can develop resistance to certain fungicides if they are used heavily.

      Reply
      • Thanks for the quick answer! It’s raining here in Portland so I’ll wait a couple of days on the spray. Maybe drier weather and the spray will work.

        Reply
        • Hi Helga. Status report: I trimmed off all the effected leaves and sprayed the rest with chlorfirinal (sp?). Two days later most of those leaves were showing brown spots. I don’t like to use the toxic fungicides so switched to a copper one. Pretty much the same result. If I keep cutting off the impacted leaves I’m afraid the plant will die. But I’ll keep at it spraying every 7 days as instructed.

          Reply
          • Hi Roger, Thanks for the status report! I’m sorry it’s not better. Copper works, too, so that was a good choice. I would give the fungicides more time to work. The fungi are entrenched in the leaves, and it will take more than two days to see results. Also, it won’t remove an existing infection. What it should do is keep the infection from spreading to other leaves and flowers. Let us know how it’s doing in a week or two, and I hope it will be a good status report!

  39. Hi, Helga! Two of my hydrangeas are dying. It seems like their stems are stung by an insect which suckles the juice, the stem shrinks and then dies! Thank you for your answer

    Reply
    • Hi Angela! I’m so sorry to hear that. I think I can figure out what is going on from your description, but a picture would help immensely. There are two prominent insects that suck on hydrangea stems and damage them. One is the four-lined plant bug, and the other is the tarnished plant bug. Are there brown, sunken areas around the puncture wounds? If these are the problem, you can control them with horticultural oil or insecticidal soap. You could start with neem oil. That is effective on many plants. Hope that helps!

      Reply
  40. I bought two pots of endless summer hydrangeas last year from Lowe’s. They were doing great with abundant nice green leaves and lots of flowers. However, they got frost damage last winter from a freezing night because I forgot to bring them inside. Since then I moved the pots indoor to protect them from further damage. The leaves/blossoms were all dry and dead, but I gave them a chance to recover. This spring I removed all the dead flowers and leaves and I was surprised to see some new shoots and flower buds. They were doing fine at the beginning, with new leaves growing out both on the old woods and from the ground and there were lots of flower buds, though the new shoots are short. However, after one or two flowers were nicely open, the leaves were soon infected with powdery mildew and gradually lost color and died. The rest of the flower buds also became brown and died before they were even open. It looks like my plants revived for a short period of time and then suddenly died back. The infection was continuous even I applied some home made insecticide, but doesn’t seem to be very severe. I’m attaching some pictures for you to see. The first one are the plants after recovery at beginning of this March. The second one already shows some flower fading and powdery mildew on the leaves. The rest are what it looks like now for one of the plants. I removed most of the dead leaves and it barely has any new grows any more. Whenever it grows new buds the leaves will soon fade away and died out. I don’t know what happens to my hydrangea, they used to look so nice and even survived from winter frost, why suddenly it became like this? Can’t really figure out what I did wrong to them. Please help! 

    Reply
    • Hi Jiyu, I’m so sorry to see the pictures of your poor plants. I’m not quite sure what is wrong. What remains doesn’t look like powdery mildew to me. You said you used an insecticide. That would not help with powdery mildew, since it’s a fungus. Many different fungicides would work against this pathogen.

      It might not be anything that you did wrong. It could be the conditions of your house. Hydrangeas like cool temperatures (50-60) and ideally should go back outside when the weather improves. Also, drafts from a heater can cause problems, too. The plants also grow better with distilled water or rain water. Most tap water is alkaline, which can affect the color of the flowers.

      I would suggest treating them with a fungicide from your local garden center. I don’t know where you live, so I don’t know if it’s warm enough to put them back outside, but I would try that as soon as the weather warms back up. Please let us know if that helps. I hope they recover for you!

      Reply
      • Hi Helga! Thank you very much for your reply. I live in Michigan, which has very cold winter. Now the outside temperature have gone up around 50-80 degrees, is that good for hydrangeas? I thought hydrangeas loved partial shade so I kept my plants indoor but near a south-facing window. Actually I did try to move my damaged hydrangeas outside one day in the balcony when it was nice and sunny but the tiny new leafs soon got sunburned, the leafs became pale and quickly died. However by that time they already got some leaf and bud damage, so they were not healthy. Now, one of the pots looks very dead, it barely had any new grows, the other one looks ok because I saw some newly grown buds and leaves, although it is growing slow. so shall I try to move them outdoors again and wait them for recover? And sorry for confusion but I did apply a home-made fungicide to my hydrangea plants by mixing soap, baking soda, vegetable oil and water. But it didn’t seem to work. Shall I try the fungicide sold in a department store?

        Reply
        • Hi Jiyu! Thank you for your reply and clarification. You are right – hydrangeas do like partial shade, and your spot inside sounds like a good one for it. Your current temperatures would be fine for hydrangeas, but if the only partial shade is inside, I would go ahead and keep it inside. i would strongly suggest buying a commercial fungicide. I don’t think that the mixture you made would be very effective against fungi. Ask the people in the garden center for a fungicide with copper, chlorothalonil, or mancozeb. They should be able to help you. I hope your hydrangea gets better!

          Reply
  41. Hello Helga! I have an Oakleaf Hydrangea that is about 12 years old that I am concerned about. While the leaves on my other Oakleaf are getting large and full, the leaves on this hydrangea have stopped growing. They are also a very dark green and powdery looking. They feel a little spongy. The underside is also powdery looking. There are no spots. I will attach some pictures.

    Reply
    • Hi Tina! Thank you for providing pictures. Your poor plants! Actually, I don’t think it’s powdery mildew. That would have spots and look patchy. The leaves are pretty uniformly discolored. Also, the stems look like they have bumps on them. That combination makes me think that it might be an insect known as oyster shell scale. The infestation looks severe to me, so I would definitely suggest treating it. You could start with neem oil, which is readily available. If that doesn’t work, I would move onto a more aggressive insecticide, such as pyrethroids. This is the time of year to get the “crawlers,” which is the most susceptible phase of the insect’s life cycle. They come out in May to early June, so I would act quickly. I hope that works for you! Please let us know if you are able to control the infestation.

      Reply
  42. My hydrangea has “rust-like” spots on the stems of the plant….. they are currently getting ready to bloom. They are blue, pink and white in color! I am aware of the “rust” blight that hydrangeas sometimes have but I thought that was specifically a leaf issue.

    Reply
    • Hi Rosemary, I’m so sorry to hear that. Would it be possible to post a picture? You are right that hydrangea rust is usually a leaf issue. That makes me wonder if something else might be going on. If you rub against the spots, do your hands turn rust colored? That is a good way to tell whether the spots are due to a fungal rust infection or to something else. I also wonder if your hydrangea could be infested with scale insects. Some of them can be reddish in color. If so, now is the time to treat them. The scale protects them from insecticides, but they are vulnerable when they are in the crawling stage. This usually happens in late May or early June. Neem oil should help to kill them. Hope that helps!

      Reply
  43. Hi Helga,

    I posted last month about my endless summer hydrangeas possibly having anthracnose. You suggested that could be the problem or possibly that I overfertilized. Fortunately overfertilization seems to be the problem. I put my hose at the base of each plant and let it trickle on the root ball for about 30 minutes. Did this once a week for three weeks. Seems to have flushed away the fertilizer from the roots. Plants are looking much better. Had to prune them severely To get rid of the burned out leaves. So we did not get the early May bloom. But it appears the New wood which usually blooms in August is coming in now. So we will have summer blooms after all. Thanks so much for your help

    Reply
    • Hi Terence,

      They look wonderful! Thank you so much for providing the pictures and sharing your good news. That’s great that you were able to save them and have summer blooms. I’m glad that it wasn’t anthracnose.

      Reply
  44. Hello!

    my father in law brought me hydrangeas for my front porch and all the sudden one of them isn’t doing well. The flowers turned brown and the leaves have holes in them. I have attached pictures of both.

    Reply
    • Hi Eden, I’m sorry that your hydrangea is unhappy. I think there are two separate things going on. Something is definitely eating the leaves. I can’t be sure, but it looks like it might be Japanese beetle damage. Have you seen any of them on your plant? Here is an article on how to deal with them: https://gardenerspath.com/how-to/disease-and-pests/japanese-beetles/

      Now about the flowers. A really common reason for hydrangea flowers to turn brown is that they are getting too much sun. Are they in full sun, or do they get sun in the heat of the day like noon? Varieties differ in their sensitivity to sun, so I wonder if the two plants could be different varieties if they are in the same location. Another reason can be if the flowers have wilted too many times. Could that be a possibility?

      Reply
    • Hi Ken, Oh dear. I think that’s an insect. It looks very much like mealybugs that can be difficult to treat. The only thing I wonder about is the size. Mealybugs are very small, and those insects look rather large from the picture. If they are mealbugs, you can dip a Q-tip in rubbing alcohol and use it on the ones that you see. Then spray a horticultural oil like neem oil on both sides of the leaves to kill them. These types of infestations are difficult to treat, so you will have to keep at it. Keep us posted on how it goes.

      Reply
  45. I have two large potted hydrangeas growing on my deck in Houston. I’ve had them for several years and experienced no problems. One plant is fine and the other is losing leaves. Can you identify the problem and suggest treatment? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hi Judie, I’m sorry that one of your hydrangeas is turning yellow. I can’t be positive from the pictures, but yellowing leaves in hydrangeas are usually due to a nutrient deficiency. A shortage of iron or manganese is the most probable cause. However, it seems odd that the plants are both on your deck, and only one is showing symptoms. I would start by having a soil test done to check the level of these nutrients and go from there. Please keep us posted, and let me know if the plant develops any additional symptoms.

      Have you checked the bottom of the leaves? What do they look like?

      Reply
  46. In our neighborhood in Denver we have Japanese Maples and tree hydrangeas with loss of peripheral leaves and preservation of proximal trunk leaves. What does this represent?

    Reply
  47. Wondering if this is fungus of mites or something else. I have 3 Ruby Slippers Oak Leaf Hydrangaes in my garden, but this is the only one with symptoms.
    What is it and what do I do for it? I live next to Toledo Ohio, in Sylvania.

    Reply
    • Hi Karen, I’m sorry that your hydrangea plant is under siege. Thank you for providing pictures! I have studied them carefully, but to be honest, I’m not exactly sure what the problem is. If it were spider mites, there would be tiny webs on the bottom of the leaves that you could see with a hand lens. Also, the leaves would be stippled with many yellow spots, which doesn’t seem to be the case. They also tend to be a problem in hot, dry weather.

      My guess is a fungus, but it’s difficult for me to tell which one from the symptoms. You could try neem oil, which is effective on insects and fungi. I would also suggest that you contact the OSU Extension Office to get a diagnosis, which they advise in their fact sheet on hydrangeas. That would give you a much better idea of how to proceed.

      I hope that they can identify the problem for you. Please let us know if you get a diagnosis.

      Reply
  48. I can’t figure out what happened to my poor big leaf hydrangeas. I live in gulf coast area (Zone 8B/9A) and these plants get sun from 10 AM – 1:30 PM almost to the dot because the roof shaded it the rest of the day. At first I thought it was sun burn… but now I’m wondering if the leaf mottling is caused by root rot!

    Reply
    • Hi Jordan,

      I am so sorry about your hydrangea leaves! I don’t think it’s root rot. The whole plant would be affected. It does look like the plant is diseased to me, though. I think it is a leaf spot pathogen. Those can be caused by fungi and bacteria, and the treatments for each are different.

      One strong possibility is bacterial leaf spot. That primarily happens in hot weather after heavy rains. I’m sure it is hot, but has it rained lately? Are there smaller spots that look like they are soaked in water?

      I am hesitant to recommend a treatment, since I’m not sure what is causing it. I would suggest contacting your county extension agent to get a formal diagnosis. S/he should be able to advise you on treatments, too. Please keep us posted if you do this and get a confirmed diagnosis.

      And thank you for providing your location!

      Reply
  49. Hi Helga! I have three hydrangeas that “came with the house” we purchased two years ago. One plant is beautiful and blooming, one is so-so, and the third looks awful. Just tiny leaves coming out. The so-so plant has some healthy leaves but also some strange growth – they almost look like mint leaves. (No mint nearby!) Suggestions? Is it a disease and should I dig one or both up?

    Reply
    • Hi Mary,
      So sorry for the delayed response – serious computer problems.
      I am sorry about your hydrangeas. Herbicide damage can cause distorted growth, but I think it’s more likely that the hydrangea with the leaves that look like mint is infected with a virus. That is a classic symptom of them. Unfortunately, the hydrangea viruses are not treatable. I think that you should remove the plants exhibiting symptoms. Viruses are easily spread on tools, so I would strongly suggest disinfecting your tools when you are done. I am glad that the other plant is beautiful!

      Reply
  50. Hi there, not sure if this page is still monitored but I can’t find what is wrong with my hydrangeas. See attached image.
    the flower themselves are browning but it doesn’t look like it’s from the sun at all. I move it around so it doesn’t get too much direct sunlight.
     

    Reply
    • Hi Michelle,

      I’m sorry for any delay in responding to messages. I had a severe computer problem that took a while to get fixed.

      I was going to suggest that too much sun could be the culprit, but it sounds like you are being very careful to ensure that the plants are not getting too much sun. A lack of adequate water can also cause those symptoms. Could that be the case? I know that watering can be tricky with plants in pots. If they wilt too many times, the flowers can turn brown. Another thing that can cause hydrangea flowers to turn brown is if they get splashed with water. Are you watering from above? If so, I would switch to watering at the pots. Hopefully changes in watering will help future flowers from turning brown.

      Reply
  51. Hi there! I am having some problems with one of my hydrangeas. I planted 6 this spring but this one has not grown like the others. I am new-ish to gardening and I am not sure if my hydrangea is lacking water, too much water, or is diseased. I do have a rose several plants down that has brown spot but I’m not sure what is going on with this hydrangea and don’t want it to die on me. I would appreciate your help! Thanks.

    Reply
    • I will also add that this variety is a Little lime. We are in Idaho and this spring has had some hot days (90 degrees), followed by days dropping to 60 with a lot of rain. We used to run our drip at night but now have changed it to mornings (about 1.5 wks ago). I’m not sure if any of those factors play a part but thought I would add those details. Thanks!

      Reply
      • Hi Ashley, Thank you. I caught them both. The extra detail is a huge help. Thank you for providing it! Your timing is impeccable. I was just wondering why only one of your plants is afflicted. Hydrangea leaves usually turn yellow because of overwatering or a lack of nutrients, which is discussed in the response to Anthony below.

        However, some of the leaves do look like they are infected with a pathogen. The way the brown spots border the leaf veins is diagnostic for certain pathogens. The high temperatures followed by rain are prime conditions for the anthracnose fungus to infect hydrangeas. There is an article on how to manage that pathogen (https://gardenerspath.com/how-to/disease-and-pests/anthracnose-hydrangea/). I would strongly suggest quickly removing the infected leaves as the first thing that you do before you follow any of the other advice in the article. Please let us know if it helped!

        Reply
  52. I just recently planted 2 white Incrediball hydrangeas. They are starting to bloom and look overall healthy. It’s been 90 degrees where I live for the past 2 months. They have been plants for 3 months. I water then every other day at the root. My issue is that I’ve been noticing yellow leaves in the middle more towards the bottom. I’ve been pulling them off. I’ve sprayed with organic fungicide but doesn’t seem to help. Since they are starting to bloom and seems to be healthy other than the leaves, should I do anything different?

    Reply
    • Hi Anthony, I’m sorry that your plants have yellow leaves. In hydrangeas, that is usually due to nutritional problems or overwatering, so I would stop spraying the fungicide. I do wonder about your watering. Do you live in a very dry area that you water them every two days? The best practice is to soak the root ball deeply once a week.

      Reply
  53. Hello,

    I have 3 beautiful hydrangeas, I believe they are mountain hydrangeas. However, two of them started dying due to a disease that I cannot find what it is online. Please help.

    I have attached the pictures of the leaves.

    Best,
    Taner

    Reply
    • Hi Taner, Thank you for providing pictures! I’m so sorry about your hydrangeas. I can understand why you couldn’t find pictures online. The distortion of the leaves makes me think that it’s a viral infection, which unfortunately there is no cure for.

      However, since this is such a dire disease, I would suggest getting a professional diagnosis from either a local ag school or your county extension person. If you do, please let us know what you found out.

      As I think further, herbicide damage can cause those kinds of symptoms, too. However, I strongly doubt that the top of your plant would have been sprayed with one.

      Reply
  54. Hello, I believe I have leaf spots on my hydrangea. Does Neem oil help this? I didn’t see that in the article. Also, how would I apply the hydrogen peroxide if I went that route? Thank you!!

    Reply
    • Hi Kelly, I am sorry to hear that. Yes – neem oil would be a good choice. There are fungal and bacterial leaf spots on hydrangeas, and neem oil can control them both. Some organisms can become resistant to it, though.

      If you go the hydrogen peroxide route, you add it to water and spray it on the plant. The amount you mix up will depend on the strength of the hydrogen peroxide. If it’s a 3% solution, and 1 tablespoon to a cup of water or 1 cup to a gallon. If it’s a 35% solution, add 1/4 teaspoon to a cup of water or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon to a galloon. It inactivates pretty quickly, so I would mix it up right before use.

      I hope that one of these approaches works for you!

      Reply
  55. Found a summer crush hydrangea plant on clearance at walmart and it broke my heart. Brought it home and cleaned it up by removing al dead leaves. Can you tell me if this looks like a disease? The last picture is after pruning. It has a lot of new growth on it which is why I wanted to give it a try.

    Reply
    • Hi Elizabeth, How kind of you to rescue the plant! It looks like you are doing a good job of bringing it back. That does look like a disease to me, but it can be difficult to diagnose leaf spots from photos. Since I’m not sure what is causing it, I would suggest using a general spray like neem oil that works against a variety of diseases and see if that helps. That should be available at your local garden center. Please keep us posted as to its progress.

      Reply
  56. Hi Dr. George,
    My Oak leaf hydrangea and I need your help. As you can see in the pictures I have 3 plants and 1 is dying, and it looks like a second one is starting to have the same issue. Ive scoured the internet looking for similar pictures and haven’t found anything that looks like this. The problem started early spring right after it started to leaf out we got a cold snap for about a week and I noticed a few of the leaves on one branch started to turn red, it looked exactly like it does when it turns red in the fall. I assumed it was just related to the cold weather as the leaves otherwise looked healthy, there was no noticeable insect or fungus or other problems evident on the leaves. Clearly I was wrong as now the leaves are wilted and the plant looks like it is dying. I have a drip irrigation system so I know it is getting sufficient water. Early spring I fertilized it with an organic acidifier and some holly tone. I have also watered it with a little miracle grow twice this season. Otherwise it hasn’t received any other fertilizer and I have not treated it for anything because I have no clue what this is and didn’t want to cause more problems with treating it incorrectly.
    I would greatly appreciate any thoughts or advice you could give me. Even if I can’t save this plant, I hope to save my other two.

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Jennifer, Thank you for providing pictures. Your poor plant! I think two separate things are going on. I think you are right about the red color being due to the cold. Oak leaf hydrangeas are known for their bright autumn foliage. Unfortunately, I think your plant also has a root rot, which can be a severe problem. That can happen if the plants get too much water. This article on root rot on trees may help: https://gardenerspath.com/how-to/disease-and-pests/tree-root-rot/

      There are two common kinds on hydrangeas.

      1) Phytophthora root rot. This is an organism related to the one that caused the Irish potato famine. It is no longer considered a fungus, and most fungicides will not work on it. Look at the crown of the plant at the soil line and above, and see if there is brown discoloration. There are a few fungicides that you can use on it, and one is Monterey Garden Plus sold on Amazon.

      2) Armillaria root rot. This is a very aggressive and nasty fungus that can live for thousands of years. There is no cure for it. If this is the cause, you will need to remove the plant as soon as possible and consider digging out the soil. Here is an article that may help: https://gardenerspath.com/how-to/disease-and-pests/prevent-control-armillaria-root-rot/ One way to diagnosis this is to look around the roots for structures that look like shoestrings. They are a classic symptom of this fungus.

      You may also want to send a sample of your roots to your local extension agent to get a firm diagnosis. Please let us know what you found out!

      Reply
  57. I have 2 hydrangeas and they both have leaves like these. How should I treat this awfulness? Thank you so much.

    Reply
    • Hi Claire, I’m so sorry that your picture(s) didn’t upload. Sometimes that happens when they are large. Could you possibly upload a smaller version? Thank you so much.

      Reply
  58. Wow, it was hard to get this to post….these are from 2 bushes that are next to each other…please help me save them. Thank you SO MUCH.

    Reply
    • Hi Claire, I’m so sorry. Your link gives a 404 error. I will try to get some technical help for you, so you can post your photos.

      Reply
      • Here is one of the photos. The originals were in a Microsoft Edge PDF format that were massive in size rather than a standard JPG or PNG. The second photo is nearly identical so I didn’t convert it.

        Reply
        • Thanks so much Mike!

          Hello again Claire. The unsightly mess on your hydrangea leaves is a fungal infection called Cercospora. The good news is that it should be treatable. First, get rid of all of the infected leaves on the plants, and remove the fallen debris under the plant to get rid of any spores it might spread. Be sure and disinfect your pruning shears between cuts.

          Then I would strongly advise treating with a fungicide. You can use the same fungicides that you would use to treat anthracnose on hydrangea. They include copper, chlorothalonil, or mancozeb. You can buy chlorothalonil from Tractor Supply as Bonide Fung-onil Concentrate(https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/bonide-fung-onil-fungicide-concentrate-16-oz-880?cm_vc=-10005) and mancozeb from Amazon as Bonide Mancozeb Flowable with Zinc Concentrate(https://www.amazon.com/Bonide-BND861-Fungal-Disease-Control/dp/B000BWZ9JO/). Spray every 10-14 days until the infection is gone.

          Hopefully, these treatments will take care of the disease. Please let us know how it works out for you.

          Reply
  59. I’m in Stockport UK. Our weather is alternate drought and lots of rain.
    My plant has hydrangea scale insect. Also some of the flowers have not emerged. they are tiny and black. Is this another problem?
    My hydrangea is in a pot and is about 2 1/2 feet tall and wide.

    Reply
    • Hi Denise, I am sorry to hear that your hydrangea is having problems. For scale insects, you can treat with horticultural oil or insecticidal soap. I’m honestly not sure why the flowers would be tiny and black. Could they have suffered frost damage? Could they have been exposed to cold winds this spring? I hope you get new buds soon! Please let us know if you continue to have problems with the flowers and post a picture if you can.

      Reply
  60. I have yellow or pale yellow green spots and don’t see any disease that matches it online. The underside is good no mildew. Now I just noticed one leaf that is different with a brown spot. Maybe this is what they all will turn into

    Reply
    • Hi Kristina, I’m so sorry that your hydrangea has a disease. It’s good that you posted the picture with the brown spot. At first, I thought it was the early stages of powdery mildew. However, the water soaked lesions on the bottom of the leaf and the brown blotches on top make me think that the cause is bacterial leaf spot.

      Did it start on the lower leaves? Bacterial leaf spot typically does that and then spreads upwards. Irrigation can be a factor. The plants are more likely to contract this disease when they are watered overhead, so I would definitely water at the base of the plant if you are not already.

      I think your best bet is to treat the plant with neem oil. Studies have shown that it can control existing cases of bacterial leaf spot on hydrangea. I hope that will help you. If you have time, let us know how the treatment works out. Kaolin clay (Surround) is another option.

      Reply
  61. Oak leaf hydrangea looking stressed. Not sure if over water. I have a moisture reader. From 1 to 10. About 12in down it registers a 4/5. It gets sprayed by our lawn sprinker twice a week and I was then watering drip once a week. I stopped the drip for a week now and it seems more stressed? It was planted 5 years ago and this year suddenly my babies are sad. Thank you for your thoughts and recommendations.

    Reply
    • Hi Laura,

      I’m so sorry about your hydrangeas. I suspect it doesn’t have to do with your change in watering. There are several things that can cause hydrangea leaves to turn purple. One is frost, but it seems late for that. There is a fungus that causes purple spots, but I don’t see any signs of that. To me, it looks like phosphorus deficiency. That can happen if you changed the pH of the soil to change the color of the flowers. Have you done that recently? I would advise doing a soil test to check your soil’s pH. Here’s an article on how to do that: https://gardenerspath.com/how-to/composting/soil-test-tips/. If the pH is below 6 or above 7, you should gradually adjust it. If that doesn’t help over the course of a week, consider adding phosphorous fertilizer to your soil. I hope that helps. Please let us know if they get better!

      Reply
  62. I have a limelight hydrangea tree that is 14 years old. Looked perfectly healthy, then dropped almost all it’s leaves in 48 hours. The leaves are green and curling backwards. My husband thinks someone poisoned it. I appreciate your feedback!

    Reply
    • Hi Riki, I’m so sorry to hear about the problems with your hydrangea. Would it be possible to post a picture? What is going on with the leaves could be an important clue, and I would feel better about providing a diagnosis if I could see them.

      There are several pathogens that can cause the plants to wilt very suddenly. Both tend to be a problem when the soil is wet. Look at the crown at the soil line and some of the roots. If there is a brown discoloration, the problem is probably Phytophthora, while if you see white growth and what look like shoestrings in the soil, that would indicate an Armillaria (honey mushroom) infection. However, I will reserve judgment until I see a photograph of your hydrangea.

      And herbicide spraying can cause the leaves to look weird, too. Hopefully, nobody has poisoned it!

      Reply
  63. Hello Helga, I came by your site by looking at what could be the problem with the hydrangeas we bought recently. I’ll attach the photo and would appreciate any advice you could provide. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi Dan,

      I’m so sorry to see the picture of your afflicted hydrangea. It looks to me like the problem is an infection by a fungus called anthracnose. It is a really common fungus that can attack both the leaves and the flowers. It’s such a common problem that I wrote a whole article on how to control it. This should provide information that can help you: https://gardenerspath.com/how-to/disease-and-pests/anthracnose-hydrangea/ Please let us know if you are able to control it.

      Reply
  64. My oakleaf was planted about a month ago and it looks to be dying with rusty looking stalks,wilting tops and some hint of holes from insects,,,can you help ?

    Reply
    • Hi Jeff,

      I’m sorry about the onslaught on your hydrangeas! I can’t be positive, but it looks to me like flea beetles are the main culprit. They eat holes in the leaves and give them a “shot hole” appearance. The red-headed flea beetle is the one most likely to attack hydrangeas. Insecticides don’t tend to help, since there will be a constant stream of new adults emerging from larvae in the soil. While their damage is not that horrific, they can spread pathogens that cause wilt and other types of blights on hydrangea. I suspect that is how your wilting hydrangea got infected. There are a series of ways to attack flea beetle infestations, and Gardener’s Path has this article on doing so: https://gardenerspath.com/how-to/disease-and-pests/flea-beetle/

      I’m not quite sure what is going on with the deformed leaves. That looks almost like a viral infection to me, and insects often spread viruses.

      My advice is to try to restrict the population of flea beetles before they introduce any more diseases and then manage the diseases.

      Please let us know how this strategy goes, and I will be happy to help you with the disease caused by pathogens.

      Reply
  65. My hydrangea plant has completely changed color. I took photos just now. Any ideas? It was a beautiful deep burgundy a few weeks ago.

    Reply
    • Hi Annette, I’m so sorry that your hydrangea is being problematic. I am a bit puzzled about the symptoms. You said it was a deep burgundy, and it looks like the flowers are in photo 1. However, photo 2 shows green stems with some browning on them. The only thing I can think of is to ask if you changed the pH of the soil to change the colors of the flowers.

      Could you possibly show a picture of the flowers now? That could help to provide a diagnosis. I’m sorry that I can’t be more definitive at the moment.

      Reply
  66. Hi, I’ve been trying to identify what’s wrong with these white hydrangeas. I’ve read about many types of diseases but none of their descriptions seem to fit with the issue here. As seen on the pictures, whenever I purchase white hydrangeas and put them on a vase they start showing these rusty spots right in the middle of the petals. It happens within such a speed that after cutting off the affected petals in matter of minutes I see new rusty spots. I’ve previously also purchased other colors that had shown the same problem but never as quick nor to a broader extent as with the white ones. Any ideas on what this could be? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Mel, I wish I could help you, but unfortunately the pictures are not displaying. Would it be possible to upload them again? Are they from a cell phone? Photos that are really large sometimes will not post on this site.

      Reply
  67. My Blue Bunny lace cap hydrangea’s leaves have brown spots on top and bottom surfaces. The leaves then wilt and I’ve been pruning off many
    branches in the last couple of weeks.

    Reply
    • Hi Ruth,

      I’m so sorry about your hydrangeas. It looks like they have a bad case of bacterial wilt. Severe infections cause blotches on the leaves, followed by wilting and root rot. Unfortunately, there is no chemical you can use to treat this disease, and it is likely to be fatal. I would suggest removing the plants to keep the disease from spreading. I’m sorry that the news isn’t better!

      Reply
  68. Hi. Our hydrangeas seem to be dying quickly. We’ve tried two kinds of anti fungal with no results. The first plant affected has lost all its leaves. We’d appreciate any advice you can offer!

    Reply
    • Hi Virginia,

      Your poor plants! The first picture is particularly distressing. I can’t be positive, but it looks like the plants have a severe case of fungal anthracnose. A lot of gardeners are having a problem with it this year. What kind of fungicides have you been using? How long have you been using them? They can take a couple weeks to work. That is a logical approach, but this fungus frequently evolves resistance to particular fungicides. Since this disease is such a problem for so many people, we have a whole article specifically for this disease that provides advice on how to fight it. You can find the link in my response to Ashley’s post above. Please let us know if your hydrangeas do not get better, and I will revisit the diagnosis.

      Reply
  69. Never had a problem until this year. Spots, white little spots, saw a ting eye shaped white bug, flower pedals turning brown, sent pictures

    Reply
    • Hi Carol,

      I’m so sorry that your hydrangea are infected! The pictures make me think that the culprit is the fungus anthracnose. It’s been such a problem for gardeners this season that we now have an article specifically on how to treat that disease. You can find advice about it and the link to the article in the answer to Ashley’s post up above. It looks like you caught the disease fairly early. I’m glad you were vigilant. Best of luck with it!

      Reply
  70. Hi i have this issue with my hydrangeas could you please see the attached pics they looked so beautiful and then they all just started to look like this.
    please see the attached pics they are a before and after.
    Greatly appreciate any advice you can give me.

    Reply
    • Hi Nathan,

      The first picture is so stunning! I’m so sorry that your plants have contracted a disease. There are a number of pathogens that cause spots on the leaves, but they usually don’t affect the flowers. I think it’s anthracnose – a fungal disease that can be fatal. It looks like you caught it early, so that’s good. This disease has been such a problem that we have an article just on that one fungus. You can find instructions on how to manage it in the link in Ashley’s post above. We advise that you remove all the infected tissue ASAP and then apply fungicides.

      Reply
  71. My white hydrangea flowered beautiful but now the flowers look like they have soot on them close up now look grey

    Reply
    • Hi Linda,

      I’m so sorry to hear that. It sounds like the classic symptoms of Botrytis blight (gray mold). This is an aggressive fungus that attacks a large variety of plants. Has your weather been cool and rainy lately? It is more likely to develop under conditions like that. I don’t know how you water the plants, but I suggest avoiding overhead irrigation and watering them in the morning. More aggressive steps to take include:

      1) Remove the infested leaves and damaged flowers and destroy them! Do not add them to your compost pile. Be sure and disinfect your pruning shears afterwards (10% bleach or 70% rubbing alcohol). Avoid taking this step when there is dew or moisture on the plant, because that will help spread the spores.

      2) Treat the infected plants with either a fungicide or a biofungicide. Gray mold is notorious for developing resistance to synthetic fungicides, so you might be better off using a biofungicide. If you do use a synthetic fungicide, look for ones with mancozeb, iprodione, or thiphanate-methyl listed as the active ingredient. Your local garden center should be able to help you choose an appropriate treatment. You might want to buy several to alternate them, so the fungus does not develop resistance.

      3) In general, do whatever you can to ensure that your plants have plenty of airflow. This may involve pruning some of the inner branches, so air gets into the canopy.

      I hope those steps will help! Please keep us posted on the status of your hydrangeas.

      Reply
    • Hi Marianne,

      Thank you for providing a picture! I’m so sorry to see that your hydrangea is infected. It’s a little hard to tell. It looks like the flower buds are brown, too. If that’s the case, I am pretty sure that it’s afflicted with the fungal disease anthracnose. It can be fatal to hydrangeas, so I would implement a program of sanitation and fungicide sprays. It’s such a common problem that we have a whole article devoted to it that specifies what to do. You can find the link to it in my reply to Ashley’s post above. The disease is treatable, and I wish you the best with the treatment.

      Reply
  72. I planted a hydrangea late last summer. It survived the winter and started to bloom although blossoms were not full, rather one blossom from the entire bud. I’ve been careful watering but now the buds have dried and are dying. The leaves are very green. Help.

    Reply
    • Hi Marie, I’m so sorry that you hydrangea buds are dying. Is there a chance you could post a picture? I’m really not sure why the plants would only produce one blossom from a bud. The only thing I can think of is that the plant might be getting too much sunlight. That can cause the flowers to do. Hydrangeas do best with morning sun and afternoon shade. How much sun is the plant getting?

      Reply
  73. I have had hydrangeas for years without any real problems, however, I have noticed a large furry mealybug type pest on the underside of the leaves. Over a couple of weeks, these leaves turn brown and fall off. I have researched but can’t find out what these pests are, or how to treat them. My mum had the same pests on her plants last year, which completely killed the plants. Has anyone else had this problem before?

    Reply
    • Hi Frances,

      I’m so sorry to hear that. It sounds awful. If you could post a picture, that would be a huge help. In the absence of one, it could be a massive infestation of scale. The egg cases can pile up and look white. If that is the case, you should spray all of the plant with horticultural oil or insecticidal soap. Your local garden center should have them, or you can order the brand Bonide All-Season Horticultural and Dormant Spray online.

      I hope this will help! Please let us know how your plants fare with this treatment.

      Reply
  74. Hi Helga,
    I put in a hedge of Incrediball hydrangea a couple of years ago. Four out of ten have wilted and died from some type of disease. The leaves and buds all turn yellow/brown and wilt. Are you able to help me diagnose? I tied to upload a photo but it doesn’t seem to be working. I’d really appreciate it if you could email me!

    Reply
    • I did fertilize with hydrangea fertilizer. I’m hoping this is anthracnose and not bacterial wilt since I can treat the Anthracnose!

      Reply
      • Hi Bethany,

        Thank you for the update. I also hope that is anthracnose and not bacterial wilt! Wishing the best for your hydrangeas.

        Reply
    • Hi Bethany,

      Thank you for the picture! It is definitely a wilt, but I can’t diagnose it from the photo. The key clues will be at the crown of the plant above the soil line and in the roots. There are several organisms that can cause wilt – a fungus, a water mold, and a bacterium.

      Look at the crown. Does it have a brown discoloration? If you peel off the bark, does it look like there is a white fan? The brown discoloration would be from the water mold Phytophthora, while the white fan would be from the dreaded fungus Armillaria. Look around the roots to see if there are structures that look like shoestrings. That is telltale for Armillaria.

      If it’s Phytophthora, you can treat it with the fungicide Ridomil (metalaxyl). You can buy it as Monterey Garden Phos from Amazon(https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01NC37WFU/?tag=prettyac-20). If it’s Armillaria, there is nothing you can do to keep the plants from dying. Here is an article on Armillaria: https://gardenerspath.com/how-to/disease-and-pests/prevent-control-armillaria-root-rot/ Unfortunately, there is no chemical treatment for bacterial wilt. It might be worth having a sample of the roots analyzed to get a professional diagnosis. If you don’t have an ag school nearby, you can contain your local county extension agent. Please keep us posted as to what you find out.

      Reply
  75. I have a PeeGee hydrangea tree that is about 6 yrs old. Last year it was beautiful, this year it never leafed until July and it’s only on the bottom few inches. There are spots on the branches and trunk. I’ve enclosed photos, one of which shows last year’s dried blooms. Will it come back or is it a lost cause? I do have bee balm near it which gets powdery mildew but the hydrangea never had it. I also have rose bushes and spiderwort in the vicinity.
    Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    • Hi Hyla, I’m so sorry about your hydrangea tree!

      The powdery mildew on the bee balm shouldn’t be a problem. Powdery mildew is an unusual fungus that requires a living host, and they are very specialized for particular plants. Because of this, they don’t generally infect other species of plants, so your hydrangea should be safe from the fungus on the bee balm.

      The problem doesn’t look like a disease to me – it looks like an insect infestation. I can’t tell whether it is mealybugs or really well-established scale. It should be possible to control either of these and bring your tree back. The remedy for scale and mealybugs is horticultural oil. You can buy that at your local garden center or order online as described in my reply to Frances above. Make sure and spray the whole tree, because these pests can get in every crack and crevice. I hope this will work for you! Please keep us posted.

      Reply
  76. Can someone tell me what is going on with these little lime hydrangeas? An agricultral dept. at a college said it was systemic.

    Reply
    • Hi Karla, I’m sorry that your hydrangeas are displaying symptoms. That was smart to go to the ag college.

      I’m not quite sure what they meant by systemic. Based on the way your flowers look, it looks me like they could be infected with a virus. However, it’s hard to tell from one picture. Unfortunately, if that is the case, viral diseases on hydrangea are not treatable.

      It would be good to get a definitive diagnosis. I would suggest that you contact your county extension agent to see if they can provide a formal diagnosis. You can find the link to find out how to do that in my reply to Bethany’s question above. If you have time, please keep us posted as to what you find out! I would love to be wrong and have the symptoms be due to something less serious.

      Reply
      • To add to Helga’s reply, the symptoms of disease in a plant may be referred to as local or systemic. While local symptoms may be more limited in their scope (such as leaf spots, for example,) systemic symptoms affect most or all parts of the plant (such as leaf yellowing).

        Reply
  77. My climbing hydrangea leaves look like rust lace. We are near drought and I thought it was just dry. It has moved to the oak leaf, which seems to fend it off better. But now it’s in climbers behind the house.

    Reply
    • Hi Barbara, I’m so sorry to hear that. A picture would help, but it really sounds like your hydrangeas have a disease known as rust. The symptoms are a rust-colored powder. Cultivars vary in their susceptibility, which would fit with your experience. Minimizing moisture is recommended, but you say you are near a drought, so that is not an issue. I think your best option is to apply a fungicide. Chlorothalonil is recommended to control rust on hydrangeas – but only treat the leaves. You should be able to buy that at your local garden center. If you want to order it online, it’s available from Amazon as Bonide Fung-onil Concentrate. Follow the instructions on the label, and know that it might take a little while to work. Please keep us posted about how they are doing after treatment.

      Reply
  78. Hi Helga,

    My hydrangeas have lots of spots and a few other patchy dark places. Also, some of the blossoms looked burnt out in places. I don’t remember them looking like that in the past. There was a rose bush nearby that had black spot. Could it have migrated? How would you suggest I treat it? Thank you. Trying to upload some photos.

    Reply
  79. Hi, I have two hydrangeas (endless summer I think) that I’ve had for years. For the past two years they have had this brown spot thing going on. I treated it with a fungicide last year with Daconil as recommended by a different site. It didn’t clear up last year, I cut off all the infected leaves and this year they came back much healthier, but this one has continued to struggle and get worse. I was going to cut it back and remove the dead leaves again, but I’m not sure if it is too late and needs to be dug up altogether as it’s started to spread to my healthier one. I tried the same spray earlier this year and it didn’t seem to help. Neither has bloomed this year.

    Reply
    • I also showed the stems as they are also spotted and some are completely black which is not what my other hydrangeas do! If it’s treatable, do I need to do anything to the mulch too? It’s definitely not overwatered if that helps with diagnosis.

      Reply
    • Hi Katherine,

      I’m so sorry about your hydrangeas. It looks like they have a bad case of anthracnose. It’s a very common fungus and is such a problem on hydrangeas that we have a separate article on it. Daconil is a good choice, but this fungus is fairly aggressive about developing resistance to commonly used fungicides. The active ingredient in Daconil is chlorothalonil. I would recommend trying a different fungicide. There is a link to a fungicide called mancozeb in the article. Try that. If that doesn’t work, maneb is another option. You are doing the right thing by cutting off the infected leaves.

      Reply
        • Hi Katherine,

          That’s a great question! I would suggest that you cut them at the base, since those lesions would help to spread the infection.

          Reply
  80. I moved here 6 months ago and these mature hydrangeas were outside my kitchen window. I do not water, feed or do anything to them. Today I noticed a lot of the blooms were brown and the leaves with rust spots.

    Reply
    • Dear George,

      Your poor plants! I have some questions for you to help with the diagnosis. It sounds like you just noticed the problem on the first. It looks like a fungal disease, but figuring out which one is the problem.

      1) Can you tell me if the leaves have a rust-colored dust on their bottoms? There is a disease called rust that affects hydrangea.

      2) The fact that so many of your flowers are dead makes me wonder about a disease called Botrytis blight that starts on the flowers and then spreads to the leaves. It would have started with a gray film of mold on the flowers (if it was moist enough), but they could be past that phase.

      The treatments are different depending on which pathogen is attacking the hydrangeas, so hopefully your answers could provide some clues.

      Reply
    • Dear John,

      Thank you for providing the pictures! I’m sorry that your hydrangea has that problem. There is some possibility that it could be due to one of the many viruses that can infect hydrangeas, but I am not sure. I would suggest that you contact a local authority to help with a diagnosis. Is there an ag school nearby? Another possibility could be your county extension person. You can find the appropriate person here. Please let us know if you discover the cause!

      Reply
      • Thank you for your response. I took some leaves to our local horticulturalist and he diagnosed it as 2,4-D damage likely from volatilization and drift when they sprayed the lawn in our neighborhood. He said it should grow out fine next year and to cover with a breathable cover (bed sheet) when they treat again.

        Reply
        • Hi John,

          Thank you SO much for relaying your diagnosis to us! That’s terrible! I’m glad that you found out, so you can prevent it from happening again in the future.

          Reply
    • Hi Kim,

      Your poor plant! It looks like it has a nasty case of anthracnose. Fortunately, that is usually treatable with fungicides. It’s such a problem that we have a whole article on it, which recommends specific fungicides. I wish you the best. Please let us know how the treatment went if you have time.

      Reply
  81. After reading through your very informative site, I was able to confirm that my limelight hydrangea tree is infected with Anthracnose. I’m located just outside of Washington DC and the weather conditions the last couple of weeks have been wet and humid, ideal for fungus. I’ve ordered the Fung-Onil Multi-Purpose Fungicide Concentrate but in the meantime, I took your advice and cut out the infected leaves. I may have gone overboard though and cut back too aggressively. I took the “better safe than sorry” route and cut any leaf that showed even the slightest bit of infestation. I’ve attached a couple of photos. One is from last week after 3 days of heavy rainstorms. The tree was not happy. Then a couple of the heavier diseased leaves as well as those slightly diseased that I ended up cutting out anyways. Branches also have raised white spots all over them. And tree post-cut with my fingers crossed I didn’t do permanent damage. Thanks in advance for any advice you can provide.

    Reply
    • Hi Helga – I haven’t seen a response so just wanted to check on whether you can provide any insight into the path I took to hopefully eradicate the disease to my limelight tree. I’ve started treating with the fungicide and there is growth coming back to many of the areas where I cut off the leaves so I am hoping this is a good sign. Is there anything else I should be doing at this point to help the tree bounce back? Thanks

      Reply
    • Hi Liana,

      Thank you for reposting and alerting me to the fact that I had overlooked your wonderfully detailed question! I’m so sorry. I’m not sure what happened.

      It sounds like you are doing everything right. I don’t blame you for being worried about your tree, and I am very happy to hear that it is growing back. That is indeed a good sign!

      It looks like you take very good care of it. The only thing I would add is to make sure that you have removed any debris from fallen foliage under the tree. There might not be any, though.

      I am concerned about the raised white bumps. I don’t think they would have anything to do with the anthracnose infection. I’m not sure, but I wonder if they could be an insect infestation of scale or mealybugs. If so, you should spray them with horticultural oil or neem oil.

      My condolences on your weather! I am all too familiar with it having grown up in Delaware. I lived in Tucson for a few years and strongly preferred their summers to the ones in the midAtlantic.

      Please keep us posted on the growth of your tree! It should continue to come back.

      Reply
      • Hi Helga – I wanted to follow back up with you on how my tree was doing after a month of treating it. I was hopeful after the first couple of weeks that it was on the mend as a good amount of new growth was beginning to appear but about a week ago, the newly formed growth that was starting to branch out started snapping off and hanging on by a thread. I’ve attached a couple pics. Have you seen anything like this before? It seems like such an odd thing to happen.

        Thanks – liana

        Reply
        • Hi Liana,

          Most of the leaves look wonderful, but I really don’t know why some of the leaves are hanging down and not others.

          At first, I was thinking about wilt, but that wouldn’t affect some leaves and not others.

          Some types of hydrangeas will close their stomata in high heat and droop until they open up again at night. Are you in the deep South by any chance? However, I think that would affect all of the leaves and not just a few.

          I’m sorry I can’t be of more help. Please let us know how they are doing in a week or two to see if it has progressed.

          Reply
  82. My really healthy beautiful macro phyla is dying!! The leaves look as though they have been covered with white dust and have gone red/brown, or they turn pale yellow and just drop off… there is lots of new growth/buds but many flower heads have also died… I water daily and have fed 2-3 times this spring/summer.. would really appreciate any help, thank you.

    Reply
  83. Hi – Could you please help me to identify which disease my hydrangea has and how to treat it? I sprayed it fungicide but doesn’t make any difference. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hi Kyle,

      Thank you for providing the picture! Do the lesions start at the bottom of the plant and work up by chance? I can’t be positive, but it looks to me like it is bacterial spot. That would make sense why the fungicide had no effect. (Although fungi can develop resistance to fungicides that are used a lot.)

      There are two things that make me think it’s the bacterial disease:

      1) The lesion is very angular and bounded by the leaf veins.
      2) It’s turning purple.

      Neem oil is commonly used as a fungicide, but it is also active against bacteria. I would try spraying with that and discontinue the fungicide. Also, you should avoid overhead irrigation if you are using that, and water at the base of the plant instead. Please let us know if that takes care of the infection.

      Reply
  84. Dear Helga,

    Would you kindly assist me with your opinion concerning my hydrangeas’ sickness? Should I use IMMUNOX?

    Thank you for your advice.

    -Nick

    Reply
    • Dear Nick,

      Thank you for posting pictures! That is a great help. Unfortunately, your hydrangeas look like they have a nasty case of powdery mildew. Yes – Immunox is a good treatment for this disease. However, given how entrenched the infection is, I suspect that it will take some time to cure it. Please let us know how the treatment goes.

      Reply
    • Hi Gerrie,

      Could you possibly post a picture? A lot of hydrangea pathogens cause brown spots. Most are fungi, and a few are bacteria. The treatments differ depending on whether it is due to a bacterial infection or a fungal one. Different fungi respond better to different types of fungicides, too. I’m sorry, but I can’t give you good advice without a picture.

      Reply
  85. Hi Helga,
    I have 15 hydrangeas planted on a 3 level terrace getting at least 6 hours of morning sun in Southern Minnesota. I planted the flowers at the end of June and have spent the last month and a half getting weed fabric and mulch down. I have noticed over the last 3 weeks that the flowers are having issues. I have been using neem oil per my garden center, however the plants are not getting any better. Thirteen of the plants are Arborescens and the other two are Paniculata. I’m not sure what to do.

    Reply
    • Hi Annette,

      It sounds like you have done a tremendous amount of work for your hydrangeas, and I’m so sorry that there are issues with the flowers.

      I have a key question for you: early on in the infection process, do they look like they have a gray film over them? That would be a key sign of gray mold or Botrytis blight, which starts by attacking the flowers and moves on to the leaves.

      If it is this fungus, it would make sense that neem oil would stop working. These fungi have an amazing ability to evolve resistance to fungicides – sometimes in the first season they are used. I think your best bet is to contact the ag extension person in your area to find out what fungicides are effective against Botrytis this season. It’s such a large agricultural problem that tests of which fungicides are currently working are usually conducted each year.

      My reply to Linda discusses what to do if hydrangeas are infected with Botrytis blight and recommends a biofungicide to treat the infection with. That is another option.

      Another possibility is hydrangea anthracnose – another fungus. That is such an enormous problem that we wrote a whole article on just that fungus. You can find the link to it in my reply to Rebecca’s post. This fungus also tends to develop resistance to fungicides, although not as quickly as Botrytis. It is common that gardeners will need to switch fungicides to treat this disease, because of this tendency.

      Please keep us posted about what you find out! Wishing the best for your hydrangeas.

      Reply
  86. I have this plants x 2 years now, Out of the blue 2 of them start having this problems and looking initially wilt. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    • Hi Jay,

      I’m so sorry about your hydrangeas. Thank you for providing pictures!

      I’m not positive, but I think the infection is due to a fungal pathogen called Myrothecium leaf spot and blight. The combination of blighted leaves and the spots on the stem combined with the wilt is what leads me to think that this particular pathogen is the problem.

      However, it can be difficult to diagnose on the basis of pictures. I would like to be wrong, because there is no cure for this disease. I would suggest that you get a professional diagnosis from a local ag school or your county extension person. You can find the link for that in my reply to John’s post above. If you do, please let us know what you find out!

      Reply
  87. Hi Helga! I suspect this is leaf spot disease. Can you confirm? The hydrangeas are older and well established, but last year suffered in a drought. This year, they didn’t flower, but did produce leaves. Now, those leaves are all falling off and have these spots. The third photo is from a different group of hydrangeas and I noticed some spots on those as well.

    Reply
    • Hi Rebecca,

      I am so sorry about your hydrangeas. You are right in that they are infected with a pathogen that causes leaf spots. The question is which pathogen!

      It can be difficult to diagnose leaf spot diseases from pictures, but it looks to me like the infection is caused by Cercospora leaf spot (a fungus). It can cause different symptoms on different hydrangea cultivars. Round purple spots with tan colored centers are a good indicator that this fungus is on the march.

      Remove and destroy all the infected leaves – do not add them to your compost pile. You should also treat with fungicides, and ideally alternate between them, so the fungus does not develop resistance. The fungicides recommended in my hydrangea anthracnose article are also usually effective against Cercospora leaf spot.

      Good luck, and let us know how the treatment goes! It might take a couple weeks to see results, so don’t give up.

      Reply
  88. Hi Helga,
    I desperately need your help! I have several hydrangeas that seem to be sick. These plants are several years old and a couple of them are about 10 years old. It seems like the leaves start to wilt, turn yellow and brown, fall off and it happens in sections. I have sprayed with a fungicide but it doesn’t seem to be helping. It started with one plant. When that plant died, we dug it up to look at the roots. We found tiny white insects that resemble a very young termites. I’m not sure if that has anything to do with the issue but whatever it is has moved on to other plants.

    Reply
    • Hi Margaret,

      I’m so sorry to hear that your hydrangeas are wilting. The primary disease that causes wilting in hydrangea is caused by bacteria, so a fungicide wouldn’t help. Unfortunately, there is no chemical cure for bacterial wilt in hydrangea.

      You can try cutting back the infected areas and see if that helps. (Don’t do it during wet weather, though, since the bacteria will spread more easily.) Dispose of the infected tissue away from your garden. And be sure and disinfect your pruning shears between cuts. You can dip them in rubbing alcohol or 10% bleach. Putting mulch under your uninfected plants could help by preventing spread from the soil.

      I’m not sure about the white insects on the roots. Severe cases of bacterial wilt can cause root rot. My thought is that insects have invaded the decaying roots to feed off them. They might not have anything to do with the symptoms on the leaves.

      I wish the news was better! Keep us posted about how they are doing!

      Reply
  89. purchased and repotted hydrangea about 7 weeks ago. It didn’t have any blooms but I figured had just been cut back at nursery and would produce next year. Spent last few weeks in Steamy hot Philly summer with direct sun from noon til 1. Has seemed dark green and lush the whole time, except for a few super hot days where it went lumpy, but was revived by next AM, or if not by morning dew, then when I watered at the base. Good drainage.
    I just noticed that the first leaf from central plant on 6 out of 16 main Green (not woody) branches turned yellow over last few days.
    I don’t see any other pics like it. (I’ve attached 3 pics)
    Any thoughts or suggestions?
    kind regards

    Reply
    • Hi MB,

      I’m sorry that your hydrangea is producing yellow leaves. Thank you for uploading pictures! They are a huge help.

      There is a long list of reasons why the leaves can turn yellow. The top one is lack of light or excessive lighting.

      Hydrangeas typically need about 6 hours of sunlight a day (preferably morning sun). The fact that your shade plants, especially that fern, look so lush makes me think that the location is great for shade plants. Do you have a location that gets morning sun?

      Another reason is soil dryness. That’s perfect that you water at the base. However, the leaves turning limp does suggest that the plant gets stressed for water. I would also suggest watering more frequently.

      Hopefully that combination of changes will cure the problem.

      I’m sorry about your summer weather, too! I am from Wilmington/Newark and preferred summers in Tucson to those in the Mid-Atlantic.

      Reply
  90. Hi,

    We have a disease of some sorts on our Hydrangea. Can you help id it please? We aren’t gardeners and it was given to us years ago and has been fine for years.

    Thanks
    Steve

    Reply
    • Hi Steve,

      Surely you are a gardener if you have such lovely hydrangea blossoms! I’m sorry to see that your plant has a disease. It looks like hydrangea anthracnose to me. It’s a very common fungus, and it’s such a large problem that we have a whole article on it.

      How you water can make a difference. It’s much better to water them at the base rather than putting water on the leaves. (You may well be doing that already.)

      First, you should get rid of the infected leaves and flowers. Sanitize your pruning shears between cuts with 10% bleach or 70% rubbing alcohol. You should also treat the plant with a fungicide. The article on hydrangea anthracnose says which ones to use and where to buy them online if that is what you prefer to do.

      Give the fungicide some time to work. However, some isolates of this fungus are resistant to fungicides, so it’s a good idea to get two of them. In general, it’s a good practice to alternate them, so the fungus doesn’t develop resistance.

      That should work. Please keep us posted about your hydrangea is doing.

      Reply
  91. Hello Helga

    What a wonderful site to come across when trying to ascertain what the problem is with my hydrangeas.

    Even though I live in the UK, I’m wondering if you could help me identify an issue that has occurred recently to my very young hydrangeas. They are only a few months old so have never flowered, but the leaves have turned yellow with brown patches on and are covered in a silvery powder.

    It has been warm in the daytime (high 20degrees) and cold in the evenings here, with lots of rain in recent weeks. They are places in pots where they get sun in the morning and shade from about midday onwards.

    I’ll post pictures so you can have a look.

    thank you so much!

    Reply
    • Hi Kim,

      Thank you so much for your kind words about the site! The hydrangea diseases tend to be problems worldwide, so I can diagnose this one. Thank you for providing pictures!

      It sounds like you have the right conditions for hydrangeas to thrive. I’m sorry that your plants are infected.

      A silvery powder is a classic symptom of powdery mildew, and leaves do tend to turn yellow and purple as the infection progresses. The good news is that it won’t kill them. However, it does sap their vigor.

      It looks like the infection is pretty well established, so I would recommend treating it with fungicides. There are several options, and you should buy a couple and alternate them, so the fungus doesn’t develop resistance to the treatments.

      The options are thiophanate-methyl, which is available as Cleary’s 3336 Turf & Ornamental Fungicide Southern Ag Thiomyl Systemic Fungicide on Amazon. Other options include fenarimol, paraffinic oil, or azoxystrobin. Typically, they should be applied at 7-14 day intervals, but check the label just to be sure. Your local garden center should be able to help you choose the right ones.

      These should help. Please keep us posted as to their status, and thank you again for visiting the site.

      Reply
      • Thanks for coming back to me so quickly with some reassuringly sound advice. It’s comforting to know that the condition is treatable.

        My visit to the local garden centre was fruitful although they didn’t stock the fungicides you suggested.

        I have purchased two that state they are suitable for powdery mildew. The first application went on today, and I need to reapply in 10 days ‘if necessary’ according to the instructions. The maximum number of applications allowed per year for this one is 2 (it contains mycobutanil) so I have another which contains triticonazole which I can follow on with if needed. This can be resprayed at 14 day intervals if needed, and the maximum number of treatments is 5pa.

        I don’t understand why they have maximum dosages per year but I’m guessing it could be to do with environmental/ecological issues?

        I’ll see how they get on for now.

        Thanks again for your advice.

        Reply
        • Hi Kim,

          Thank you for your comment! I am delighted that you found the information helpful, and I’m glad you have fungicides that are labelled against powdery mildew.

          I’m pretty sure that the applications are limited because of concerns about the fungus developing resistance to them.

          That is particularly important for triticonazole. The fungicides that have “azole” in their name are in the same class as anti-fungal drugs commonly prescribed for humans, so there is a lot of impetus to guard against resistance developing even more than it already has. Fungicides in the same class are typically sensitive to resistance developed in other chemicals in that class.

          Hope that’s not TMI, but I wanted to address your comment thoroughly. If you want to read up on that, we have an article on rotating fungicides to prevent resistance.

          I hope the treatments work quickly for you!

          Reply
          • Not TMI at all and as an amateur gardener with limited knowledge on science, I think it is imperative that the implications are understood.

            Had it not been for the caution you have advised about fungicide resistance, I may have been tempted to save money, or been ignorant of the safety precautions on the label, and used the same spray multiple times in the hope that it works.

            But reading up on the issue of resistance and the consequences this could have, I most certainly will heed all the advice in this area!

            So thank you very much.

            Day 3 today and the ‘old’ leaves are still yellow and brown with patches of powder, but I can see lots of new growth and the leaves look green and healthy so far. I’m guessing the ‘old’ leaves stay as they are and do not return to their usual green colour.

          • Hi Kim,

            Thank you for your interest and for being such a responsible gardener!

            That is wonderful that you are getting new growth that looks healthy. But I’m very sorry – I think that I forgot to advise you to cut off the diseased leaves. They won’t ever get better. This fungus lives so intimately with its host that it’s not going anywhere.

            It sounds like your hydrangea is well on the way to recovery, which is great!

  92. My hydrangea’s have a disease that’s not shown in your list. I’ve uploaded a pic. They haven’t flowered for 3 years now. Can you help?

    Reply
    • Hi Frank,

      I’m sorry that your hydrangeas are infected. To be honest, I’m not quite sure what the cause is. A lot of pathogens cause blotches on the leaves. Would you have any leaves at an earlier stage of infection? It would help to see what the lesions look like when they are small.

      Are they flowering? If so, are there symptoms on the flowers? Some of the pathogens will attack the flowers and leaves, while others just attack the leaves.

      I hope that you can provide a picture of less infected leaves. I really would like to diagnose it for you.

      Reply
  93. My whole plant’s leaves have gone red looking. It was beautiful and green but pink flowers though I bought a blue plant. My friend suggested coffee grounds so I’ve tried that. I think I’ve killed my plant and I bought it for my husband when he passed away… please help x

    Reply
    • Hi Liz,

      I’m sorry to hear that! It sounds very sad.

      How did you apply the coffee grounds around the plant? If you just put them in a layer, they can stick together like clay and block water from getting into the soil.

      Since a dry spell can be part of the reason for red leaves in hydrangeas, that could possibly be the reason.

      I would suggest watering thoroughly and slowly with a dripping hose to make sure that the water seeps into the ground and see if that helps.

      It’s possible that caffeine in the coffee grounds could have negative effects, too. It tends to inhibit other plants, and scientists think that is the reason that it is in the coffee beans.

      Even if the problem is fixed, the leaves may stay red, but hopefully any new growth will be green.

      I hope that helps!

      Reply
  94. Hi
    I have a hydrangea in my front garden, it is probably about 20 years old. Recently it
    is really suffering from what I can only describe as some sort of rust. Can you give me any advice on how to deal with it. Photo attached.

    Reply
    • Hi Kathrine,

      I’m sorry that the flowers are turning brown. I’m glad that you posted a picture, though.

      I was all ready to diagnose rust after reading your message. However, it doesn’t look like rust disease from the photo. That would cause little spots on the leaves. One diagnostic test is if you rub your hand against the rust color and get what looks like automotive rust on your hands.

      To me, it looks like it’s only the flowers turning brown. There are two main reasons for that in hydrangeas.

      The first one is too much sun, but if your shrub has been there for 20 years, and this is a new problem, that’s not likely.

      The other reason is wilting too frequently in hot weather. You didn’t provide your location. Has it been unusually hot? How frequently and how do you water?

      I would suggest that you water deeply every few days. Really soak the ground there. Another thing you can do is put mulch down. That will help keep the moisture in.

      And cut back the dead flowers to encourage new ones to form.

      Hopefully, that will do the trick. Let us know how your plant is faring.

      Reply
    • Hi Sue,

      I’m sorry to hear that. Could you possibly post a picture? Unfortunately, I can’t tell what is wrong from your description.

      Reply
  95. Hello.. I’m thinking I have a fungus growing on my hydrangeas. They bloomed beautifully in the spring however after the 1st bloom it looks awful. Your thoughts are greatly appreciated. Thank you

    Reply
    • Hi Mary,

      I’m sorry to say that you are right! Your plants do indeed have a fungal infection. It looks like Cercospora leaf spot.

      The good thing is that it won’t kill your plants.

      I would suggest pruning off the leaves that are heavily infected to keep the disease from spreading more. Since it’s late in the season, you don’t have to worry about applying fungicides to control it.

      Also, be careful with your watering, and don’t water overhead – water at the base.

      Let us know how they do next year.

      Reply
  96. Dear Helga,
    I bought a climbing hydrangea last year. From day one it never grew well and had burned/brown leaves. This year it has developed a lot of small leaves on the stem, but didn’t grow much else. The hydrangea is climbing against south-west facing stucco. We are located in Toronto, Canada. Is it too hot at this location? I watered it daily this summer, and at the roots not leaves. I see that there are also pest bites, but I am mostly wondering if the brown leaves is fungus or just the location. I am debating whether to transplant to another location this fall. THANK YOU for your advice!

    Reply
    • Hi George,

      I’m sorry that your hydrangea isn’t doing well. A picture of the leaves would be a great help. However, I can comment on the location.

      It might not be a matter of the heat as much as the amount of sun it gets. Hydrangeas do best with about six hours of sun a day – preferably in the morning. I would guess that your plant gets a great deal of sun in a southwest location. That can cause the leaves to burn and turn brown.

      I think you are on the right track to transplant it to another location. Keep us posted about how it does next year.

      Reply
  97. Hi Helga, our Annabelle hydrangeas started dying this year. At first it was one plant, but now it pretty much affects all of them. They are about 6 years old but started exhibiting this this year. At first the flowers bloom but then wilt very quickly or even fail to grow at all. Please help!

    Reply
      • Hi Jason,

        I’m afraid you have me stumped. I am torn between thinking that it could a viral infection or the after effects of Botrytis blight.

        What did the flowers look like earlier in the season? Did they have a grayish mold over them, or did they always look like they do now?

        Reply
        • Hi Helga, thanks for the reply. I don’t recall any “grayish mold” over them. They just seem to dry up and don’t bloom. It’s like the flowers are shrunken or curled up.

          Reply
          • Hi Jason,

            Thanks for getting back to us! I went back and looked at the pictures some more.

            There is a disease called virescens that is caused by a phytoplasma (microbes similar to bacteria). I hope it’s not that, since it’s like a virus. On hydrangea it’s incurable and contagious.

            I think you should get a professional diagnosis, since there is a lot at stake here. They can confirm whether or not it is due to that organism.

            You could do that through a local ag school if there is one nearby. Another option is your county extension person with the USDA. There’s a link to figure out who to contact in my reply to Bethany above.

            I hope it’s not that disease. Please keep us posted about what you find out.

  98. Hello. Any idea on what is going on with our Hydrangea? We live in Georgia so it is hot but I feel that this might be a virus. Please see photos. Thank you

    Reply
    • Hi Sherry,

      Thanks for providing your location! It’s a fungal infection called Cercospora leaf spot. It is treatable and usually not fatal.

      First, cut off all the infected leaves, and throw them out (not in your compost pile).

      Next, I would suggest treating it with a fungicide. You have a couple choices. Chlorothalonil and mancozeb are commonly used to treat this disease. There are links to buy them in the article on anthracnose in hydrangeas that is linked to in my reply to Steve above. It’s a different type of fungus, but the same fungicides work on both of them.

      That should help. Good luck with your heat!

      Reply
  99. Hi, I live in Boston and my hydrangea macrophylla was thriving and growing all summer. Then in Sept it developed brown spots on the leaves. I removed and discarded the affected leaves and replaced the mulch. It has now spread to all leaves. Is this a fungus and can my plant be saved?

    Reply
    • Hi Caroline,

      I’m so sorry about your hydrangea. You should be able to save it, and you did the right thing by discarding the infected leaves and replacing the mulch.

      It looks very much like a fungal infection, although I can’t be sure which one. It could be Cercospora leaf spot or anthracnose.

      Fortunately, the treatments are the same for both. Fungicides should be able to control the infection. Our article on hydrangea anthracnose describes the fungicides and has links on where to buy them.

      Give it a week or so to start working, and be sure to reapply as specified on the label. Please let us know how the treatment works!

      Reply
      • Hi Helga, thanks for the quick response. I noticed that several fungicides are supposed to be diluted with water and sprayed. I also saw that watering from above is bad for hydrangeas. What’s the best way to use the fungicide without exacerbating the problem by getting the leaves wet? Thank you so much.

        Reply
        • Hi Caroline,

          That is an amazing question that never occurred to me!

          You don’t have to worry about getting the plants wet. It’s necessary to treat the fungal infections. And ideally – the fungicide should keep any additional infections from taking root.

          I hope they work well for you! The infection doesn’t look that entrenched to me, so I am optimistic that you will be able to cure it.

          Reply
  100. Hello.
    I am contacting you from Ireland.
    my new hydrangea bought this Summer is dying. It was exquisite and after the first bloom all the leaves went red and fell and now the new leaves and also new looms are red spotted and dying before even getting big. Can you help please. I will post photos. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi Sylvia,

      Thanks for posting pictures. I’m sorry that your hydrangea has taken a turn for the worse.

      There are two common things that can cause the leaves to turn purple like that. One is a deficiency in phosphorus in the soil. That can happen if you changed the pH of the soil, so that the flowers would turn a different color. pH values that are too high or low can cause chemical interactions that tie up the phosphorus. That would explain the coloring, but many of your leaves have lesions that strongly suggest an infection.

      There are two common fungi that infect hydrangeas. One is a fungus called Cercospora. That can cause the leaves to turn purple, but it usually doesn’t infect the flowers. The other is a disease called anthracnose that can be fatal to hydrangeas. It affects both the leaves and the flowers.

      I would start by pruning out the leaves and flowers that are showing symptoms and discarding them elsewhere. Then, I would suggest treating the plant with a fungicide. There are several that are active against both of these fungal infections. Anthracnose in hydrangeas is such a problem that we have a whole article dedicated to it. You can find the link to it in my response to Steve above.

      Effective fungicides include chlorothalonil and mancozeb. You may want to get both and alternate them, so the fungi don’t develop resistance to them.

      Give them some time to start working. Let us know how the plant is doing in a month or so. Hopefully it will be on the mend by then.

      Reply
    • Hi Mary,

      I’m so sorry to hear that. I’ve never heard of that happening with hydrangeas. Is there a chance that they were sprayed with herbicide?

      Is there any chance that you could post a picture? I would suggest posting in our forum, so other people can weigh in.

      Reply
  101. Hello 🙂 great info here. I’m having a bit of a time trying to figure out what’s happening to my hydrangea, it’s still young and would like to help it however I can. Its leaves are browning, curling and falling off. It never bloomed (we have only had it since July) it is in a pot as well. I’ll try to upload a picture Any suggestions on course of treatment?

    Drew.

    Reply
    • Hi Drew,

      We are so glad that you liked the article!

      It definitely sounds like your hydrangea has an infection – probably fungal – but it’s difficult to know which one without a picture of it.

      One thing you can do for any infection is cut all the infected parts off the plant and discard them in the garbage. Be sure and disinfect your pruning shears afterwards with 70% alcohol or 10% bleach.

      I hate to recommend a fungicide without knowing what the culprit is, but neem oil is a pretty safe bet. If you can’t buy it locally, you can order it from Arbico Organics.

      I hope that helps! Keep us posted about how it’s doing.

      Reply
  102. I planted a climbing hydrangea in spring near a wall. It has yellow leaves coming up from the bottom, does not look healthy. Help! I live in Ireland.

    Reply
    • Hi Catherine,

      I’m so sorry to hear that. Is there any way that you could post pictures of the leaves? That would be a great help in diagnosing the problem.

      Reply
  103. Hi Helga,, I bought a Hydrangea and all of a sudden it has a disease I think caused from watering from above. The leaves turn yellow the brown and fall off. I has almost none on it now. My question is can i cut it back almost to the ground for the winter? What will it do to the blooming process in the spring.. It really is almosy bare of leaves..

    Reply
    • Hi Jeannene,

      I’m so sorry to hear that. The answer depends on the kind of hydrangea you are growing.

      Some bloom on old wood (big leaf and oak leaf hydrangeas). If you have one of those types, you definitely should leave the branches, or it won’t bloom next year.

      On the other hand, if you have panicle or smooth hydrangeas, they bloom on new wood. You would be safe cutting those kinds back substantially.

      I hope that helps!

      Reply
  104. Hi Helga,
    Just a few days ago we noticed that most of the hydrangea leaves on just this plant were dead and there were spots on most of the rest. There are also spots on the stems. This came on all of a sudden. We did have a light frost a few days ago, but don’t know if that contributed to this condition. Our two other plants in different areas don’t appear to have this damage.

    Reply
    • Hi Jeanne,

      Your poor shrubs! There is a disease called anthracnose that affects the leaves and the flowers. However, the symmetrical browning on the flowers looks odd to me. It doesn’t look like a disease, so I wonder if you are right about frost damage.

      I find that our yard has a lot of microclimates. Some areas will be hit with frost and not others, so that would fit with the differential response of your hydrangeas.

      I would suggest pruning back the damaged areas, so they don’t get colonized by secondary organisms. Be sure and disinfect your pruning shears just in case there is a disease.

      Hopefully, they will grow back fine in the spring.

      Reply
  105. My hydrangeas all had a white creamy substance on the stems this year but it seems to have gone now. Any idea what this was. It was on the wood stems looked like cream. Nearly all my plants are in pots but my garden soil is very sandy and I first noticed this on the one jn the back garden.

    Reply
    • Hi Robert,

      I’m glad it’s gone!

      I can’t be sure, but I wonder if it could be an insect. There are white scale that could look like cream from a distance. Mealybugs are an incredibly annoying insect that causes white clumps, but they usually affect the leaves, too.

      If they come back next year, I would spray them with a horticultural insecticidal oil or neem oil.

      If you do get them again, send us a picture. It would help with diagnosis and could help other readers.

      Reply
  106. Hi thank you for this article! My poor hydrangea are going through some problems as well. I think it might be Anthracnose based on others pictures and what you describe above. I tried taking off the worst leaves but it seems to have affected a lot of it. Do you recommend using fungicide over the winter or should I wait until spring to start spraying? Or is it hopeless and my hydrangeas are goners? These were their first season. I’m sad they became infected 🙁

    Reply
    • Hi Michelle,

      I’m sorry about your poor hydrangeas! It is a fungal infection, but I’m pretty sure that it’s Cercospora leaf spot based on the picture where there was a tan spot in the lesion.

      It is treatable with the same fungicides used to treat anthracnose. I think that you should treat them over the winter, or else the fungus could continue spreading its spores (assuming you don’t live in a very cold climate).

      I don’t think all is lost. You should be able to cure this type of infection.

      Let us know how your plants are faring after treatment!

      Reply
  107. Hi, I am hoping to help ID what is wrong with this hydrangea (not sure which type). I treated with copper which didn’t seem to do anything. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Frank,

      That picture is classic for the fungal infection Cercospora leaf spot. You can tell by the way the lesions have a tan spot in the middle of them.

      In theory, copper should work on that pathogen, but sometimes the fungi develop resistance. I would suggest the chlorthalonil fungicide that I recommended in my answer to John’s post above.

      Hopefully that will work. And don’t forget to cut the infected leaves off and dispose of them!

      Reply
  108. Hello Dr. George,
    Two months ago, I purchased a hydrangea (September) here in Southern California (Zone 7 – 11). The plant was doing fine until recently. The leaves started to turn brown, and there were no new buds/leaves. Could you assist me with identifying the problem and solution? Thanks, I greatly appreciate it.

    Reply
    • Hi John,

      I’m sorry to see that your hydrangea is suffering! It looks like a fungal infection, although I can’t be sure which kind it is. Are there white patches on the bottom of the leaves by chance?

      It looks to me like it could be Cercospora leaf blight or possibly hydrangea anthracnose. I would suggest that you treat it with a fungicide. There are several that can control both of these types of diseases.

      Chlorthalonil is a good choice. If you can’t find it locally, you can order it online as Bonide Fung-onil Concentrate from Amazon. Spray every 10-14 days.

      I would also strongly suggest cutting back the infected leaves. Otherwise, the fungi will spread the infection by producing spores.

      Hopefully, that will do the trick. Please let us know how it works for you if you have time.

      Reply
  109. Hi

    Please help me with my hydrangeas. Its been out in the garden in shafdy spot for past years and now its dying. Its cold and the apot dont get sun at all

    Please advise whats wrong with it. I have attached photos.

    Thanks

    Sana

    Reply
    • Hi Sana,

      I’m so sorry that your hydrangeas are infected.

      It’s difficult to tell without a closeup (and even then it can be difficult). However, I think it is the fungal infection Cercospora leaf spot.

      I would start by cutting off the infected leaves, so the fungus doesn’t spread. Be sure and disinfect your pruning shears when you are done! Then, I think you should consider using a fungicide. My reply to John a few posts above yours has the details on how to treat Cercospora.

      That should treat the infection. I think there is hope for your hydrangeas. 🙂

      Reply
  110. Hi Helga, I was wondering what’s wrong with the leaves on my hydrangeas & also the flowers is not as large as before. Appreciate your advise. Thank you  :wpds_smile: 

    Reply
    • Hi Rosalind,

      I’m so sorry that your hydrangeas are showing symptoms of infection. It’s difficult for me to tell from the pictures, but it does look like a fungal disease.

      I think there is a good chance that it is anthracnose, and if so, you caught it early at least. I would suggest following the advice in the hydrangea anthracnose article. That would cure a number of other fungal diseases, too, so hopefully you will be covered.

      Please let us know how your hydrangeas are doing after treatment and let us know what zone you live in.

      Reply
  111. I read your article but I am still unsure what is affecting my hydrangeas They have brown/rust colored spots all over them and one plant has some reddish leaves. I don’t know if it started at the bottom. I have attached photos.

    Reply
    • Hi Gwen,

      I’m sorry to tell you that it looks like your hydrangea is infested with a fungal disease. It could be Cercospora leaf blight or anthracnose. Fortunately, I think it’s Cercospora leaf blight because of the tan spots within the lesions.

      My reply to John’s question above describes how to manage that disease. The good news is that it should be treatable with a combination of sanitation and fungicides.

      I wish you the best for your hydrangeas and am optimistic that you can cure them.

      Reply
    • Hi Ruth,

      I’m so sorry to hear that. There are several different kinds of fungi and an insect that can cause that symptom.

      Are the spots raised? Scale insects could be one possibility.

      I really can’t do justice to your question without a picture. Is there any way that you could upload one?

      Reply
  112. Hi, bit of a novice here so I’ve attached a picture of my hydrangea. Any ideas what this is and what I can do?

    Reply
    • Hi Saz,

      Oh dear. I’m so sorry about your poor plant. I can’t be positive, but it looks like a nasty case of hydrangea anthracnose. It’s such a problem that we have a whole article on how to treat it. You can find the link in my answer to Rosalind’s post above. The good thing is that it is usually treatable!

      Reply
  113. Help Please!
    I have recently moved into a rental property in Sydney, Australia. There is a beautiful (or what could be) hedge of hydrangeas in the yard, unfortunately there seems to be something wrong with it. I’ve done a bit of research on the cause of the lack of leaves, yellow or browning leaves, brown stems etc but I am unable to pin point what the actual issue(s) are. Would it be as simple as they haven’t been cared for and they just need to be pruned and watered or is there something else going on?
    Thank you for your help

    Reply
    • Hi Erica,

      Congratulations on your new home! I’m sorry that the hydrangeas are suffering.

      Thank you for all the pictures! They are a huge help. It looks like a number of things are going on.

      1) Given the lesions on the leaves, the plants clearly have a disease. However, they can be difficult to diagnose from a photograph. I would start with neem oil. If that doesn’t help, I think you should move on to a synthetic fungicide. Chlorothalonil is commonly used to treat the main fungal pathogens of hydrangea that cause leaf spots.

      2) It looks like insects are eating the leaves, too. The neem oil is also insecticidal, so it should help with that problem.

      3) The plants look unhealthy in general. Do they get enough light? They usually do well with morning sun, although that can vary with climate.

      4) It’s hard for me to tell the status of the flowers. Is this after they were done blooming? Or did they look brown during their period of blooming? There is a nasty disease called gray mold that can attack hydrangea flowers. It would also cause lesions on the leaves.

      It is very difficult to treat, because the fungus rapidly develops resistance to fungicides. I’m not sure what your options are in Australia. Could you contact a local ag agency to ask about your plants? If it is gray mold (Botrytis), they could advise you on what fungicides work in your area.

      I hope something here is helpful! Please keep us posted if you find any additional information, and hopefully if your plants improve.

      Reply
    • Hi Holly,

      I’m so sorry to read and see that. I was ready to diagnose your hydrangea with powdery mildew based on what you wrote, but the leaves would be whiter and fuzzy.

      To be honest, I’m not sure what is going on. There is a disease called silver leaf fungus, but I can’t find any evidence that it attacks hydrangeas. It primarily attacks plants in the rose family.

      Do you have an agricultural university nearby that you could consult with? They might know if there is some local problem with hydrangeas.

      I’m sorry I can’t be of more help. Your plant looks healthy otherwise. I would closely monitor it.

      Please keep us posted if you get a diagnosis!

      Reply
    • Hi Shawn,

      Could you possibly post a photo of the spots? I’m sorry if you tried in vain. I see you have two posts.

      They could be scale insects or a disease. I would need more information to be able to help you.

      Reply
  114. Could someone help me. I pruned my hydrangea this year and some of the stems look to have a mold or fungus… can someone identify so maybe I go the correct treatment route?

    Reply
    • Hi Ashley,

      I’m sorry that your hydrangea has an infection. I am pretty sure that it is a fungal disease called anthracnose.

      It usually affects the leaves, but it can form a canker on the branches.

      It is such a common problem on hydrangeas that we wrote a whole article on it. The article discusses treatment options for this disease. This can be a severe infection, so you will probably need to use fungicides.

      Reply
  115. I have had my lace cap in a large pot for about 17 years . Always been ok but this spring the new leaves are not growing properly. They are curling up and stunted in growth. It looks like the plant is dying . What can l do to save it please ?

    Reply
    • Hi Pat,

      I’m so sorry that your hydrangea is showing symptoms. Unfortunately, I can’t diagnose it from your message. A photo would help immensely. Is that a chance that you could upload one?

      Reply
  116. Hello, can you please help me? My hydrangea is not doing well. I have it only few weeks. I have used only rain water and did not fertilize. Thank you very much.

    Reply
    • Hi Eva,

      I’m so sorry that your hydrangea is not doing well.

      It is very diligent of you to water it with rain water!

      Thank you for providing pictures! That is always a great help.

      It looks like your plant has the beginning of a fungal infection. I would start by spraying the whole plant with neem oil and seeing if that helps. If it doesn’t, there are synthetic fungicides that I can recommend.

      Give it a week or two and then let us know how it is doing.

      Hopefully, that will help.

      Reply
  117. I have just noticed a blistering appearance on the leaves of my heuchera and my Endless Summer hydrangeas. The hydrangea leaves are also shriveling. Does anyone have any thoughts on why this is happening and what do I need to do? These plants have been in this spot for 6 years or so now. I live in zone 6b, in the St Louis Metro Area, USA. Thank you in advance!

    Reply
  118. Hi there!
    I’m not sure what exactly has happened to those. Planted them about 3 weeks ago and recently, maybe a week ago they developed those brown spots. It’s raining every day atm, so I thought maybe it’s something to do with that, but can it be an infection / over fertilisation? (I have used “Westland Hydrangea Hight performance liquid plant food” ) twice now. Please, help…

    Reply
  119. I have a new hydrangea that has something wrong. I’ve attached a photo of the top and back of a leaf. I would really appreciate your help.

    Reply
  120. Can anyone take a look at these photos and identify for me what’s going on with these? Any help is appreciated!

    Reply
  121. Hello!
    I have a Proven Winners Let’s Dance series hydrangea. It had this same problem last year, but I never could figure it out. It is in the sun most of the day. I plan on moving it in the fall or spring. But I wonder what could cause this leaf problem? Too much fertilizer? I have fertilized with Miricle Grow all purpose dissolvable fertilizer a couple weeks ago.
    I only water at the base.
    Thanks for your help!

    Reply
  122. Dear Helga, I hope you will be able to give me some advice and help my hydrangea. Last year I planted my hydrangea in this pot and no flowers bloomed. New leaves started to grow this year with a pale green color and I add copper 3 times a week when I water them mixed with 1/2 l of water. Thus far I have put in liquid fertilizer twice every 2 weeks. I have cut out many discolored leaves with the brown spots. Now the blooms are drying out and dying. The discoloration of the leaves continues. I’m not sure what I am doing wrong, so I would appreciate your advice and hopefully would be able to save my plant.Thank you.I will try to attach a picture of my hydranea.

    Reply
  123. Our beautiful hydrangea blossoms have thrived with almost-daily rain, but the lovely blossoms are suddenly dying back, all at once. Is this a disease problem, a pest, or just an overwatering issue?

    Reply
  124. I have never seen this before.. My hydrangea was repotted about 2 months ago in a new pot with new potting soil. I have attached pic of what I thought were growths on the stems until I touched them. They broke up and were filled with a black, dust like powder. Looked like soot on my hands! It is also growing on the pine needles around the stems. The rest of the plant has not been affected (yet). The plant is 10 + years old and I’ve never had problems. Any help is greatly appreciated. Tanis

    Reply
  125. Hydrogen peroxide? How much , ratio to water ? Water bottom of plant ? Put on damaged leaves? Cut off leaves?

    Reply
    • Thank you for responding. I have not used hydrogen peroxide. Have only used water at the bottom of the plant. New potting soil has fertilizer for flowering plants. Leaves are not damaged, recently cut off 6-7 spent blooms that were a good size for the plant. I have thought about removing the growths, clean up the stems and remove the pine straw from around them, and see if they come back.

      Reply
  126. I have a hydrangea that I recently bought and haven’t planted yet. I just noticed the leaves have circular spots that you can see when the sun hits the plant. Could you help me with a diagnosis please?

    Reply
    • Any chance you can bring this plant back to the nursery for a refund? It’s difficult to tell at this early stage, but these could be the beginning symptoms of Cercospora leaf spot. An abundance of rainy weather, or watering directly on the leaves instead of at the soil line, can lead to this type of infection.

      Reply
    • This is a common pest known as hydrangea scale (Pulvinaria hydrangeae). These sap-sucking soft insects congregate on the stems and leaves of plants. You can remove them by hand or with a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol, trim away affected branches and dispose of them in the trash, or try a pyrethrum spray to get rid of the infestation. Stay tuned for an article on dealing with scale in the garden, coming soon!

      Reply
  127. My hydrangea has brown areas on leaves, no spot or spores, and whole sections of it are dying. How do I prevent this from spreading to my other hydrangeas?

    Reply
    • Can you describe the brown areas in a little more detail Kathie? Are they along the margins, just on the tips, or something else? Are leaves falling off, and do the brown spots grow and spread? Please feel free to share photos as well!

      Reply
  128. Could someone please help me identify the issue with these hydrangeas? I live in south Louisiana and have been getting a lot of rain. Half of this hydrangea looks dried out and dying. Other stems look ok but not great. The two nearby hydrangeas look great. Some of the leaves look like they are being eaten by an insect.

    Reply
  129. My lacecap hydrangea has a filmy web (similar to Gypsy Moth) on one of its branches. (See picture.) We’ve had an unusually wet summer for our region. Any ideas?

    Reply
  130. I planted seven of these little quick fire hydrangeas this Spring. I am not sure what is on the leaves? It is not impacting blooms as far as I can tell. Should I apply a fungicide now (late July) or remove all affected leaves? I am in Michigan and it has been a wet Spring/Summer.

    Reply
  131. Hello Helga, I hope you can help me by telling me what is wrong with my hydrangea and what the options are to cure it. I took photos but I don’t see a place to upload them.
    Thanks very much

    Reply

Leave a Comment