Hydrangea Leaves Curling and Wilting [solutions]

Helping you bring your hydrangea back to health

By Hannah Miller at DIY Gardening

Hello, my name is Hannah Miller, and I’m the co-owner and contributor here at DIY Gardening.

In this blog post, I’ll list the most common reasons why your hydrangea leaves may be wilting, curling, dying or otherwise looking unwell.

I’ll also show what steps you need to take to bring your hydrangea back to health.

Don’t forget that your hydrangea might be experiencing several issues at once so don’t be afraid to try several solutions.

As this is a blog post, I’ll keep this short and sweet:

Problem:Solution:
Frost damage, usually caused by late frost in springProtect from frost with a cover, consider relocating to a more protected spot. Give affected plants lots of water and a dose or feed to encourage new growth
Lack of waterProvide reliably moist soil that's never waterlogged
Excess sunlightRelocate away from overhead strong midday sun
Waterlogged soilCheck drainage holes in pots. relocate hydrangeas in beds to a spot with better drainage
Transplant shockRelocate in cool weather and protect from excess sunlight for 2 weeks. Keep well watered and take care not to damage roots
Pests and diseasesSee suggestions further down this page
Fertiliser problemsUse a balanced fertiliser in spring and summer. Top up potted hydrangeas with multi-purpose compost once a year
It's autumnHydrangeas are deciduous and will lose their leaves in autumn. Discolouration and some wilting/curling of the leaves is normal at this time of year
Vitax Hydrangea Feed 1KG
Westland 20100444 Hydrangea High Performance Liquid Plant Food 1 Litre
Vitax Hydrangea Feed 1KG
Westland 20100444 Hydrangea High Performance Liquid Plant Food 1 Litre
Vitax Hydrangea Feed 1KG
Vitax Hydrangea Feed 1KG
Westland 20100444 Hydrangea High Performance Liquid Plant Food 1 Litre
Westland 20100444 Hydrangea High Performance Liquid Plant Food 1 Litre

1) Frost Damage

Those of us that are a little older can see how much the weather has changed over the last few decades; our winters are warmer, and plants like hydrangeas are putting on new growth much sooner in the year.

A recent report revealed that some spring plants bloom an entire month earlier than they did a few decades ago.

Young hydrangea leaves and stems are tender, and if they’re subjected to a late frost, they’ll turn black or brown and usually die off completely.

A tell-tale first sign of frost damage is the leaves curling up at the edges and discolouring.

If the stems are affected, everything growing on that stem may die off, including the leaves and buds.

Frost can affect all hydrangeas, but potted plants are more prone.

Solution: Protect from late frosts that damage tender leaves, buds and stems with a cover or relocate the plant somewhere with more protection. Affected plants should be well watered and given a dose of fertiliser, once new growth is visible, old dead stems and leaves can be pruned off.

Frost bitten stem

(Photo above) The top of this stem is this year’s growth and has been destroyed by a hard frost in April. Note the healthy buds forming on the old wood that wasn’t affected by the frost.

Curling hydrangea leaf

(Photo above) The same hydrangea also has curling leaves that are discoloured at the tips and edges where the frost bit in April.

2) Not Enough Water

This may seem obvious, but lack of water is one of the most common reasons why hydrangea leaves wilt or curl up at the edges.

Hydrangeas require lots of water and prefer reliably moist but not waterlogged soil.

Locate a hydrangea in dry soil, and it will struggle with wilting leaves and stems, one of the first symptoms.

Potted hydrangeas often struggle as pots need more frequent watering than flowerbeds, especially if the pot is located in a sunny spot or on a hot patio.

Solution: Keep the soil reliably moist but never waterlogged.

3) Excessive Sunlight

This usually affects potted hydrangeas more than those in beds, but if the plant is subjected to the intense midday sun, you may notice the leaves curl up at the edges.

Solution: Keep hydrated with water and consider relocating if it doesn’t recover or the problem reoccurs.

4) Waterlogged Soil

While hydrangeas love moisture, they will struggle if their feet are constantly wet – very few plants survive waterlogged soil, not even the mighty hydrangea.

Telltale signs are yellow leaves that look sickly, underdeveloped, weak and possibly curling at the edges, this is due to the excess water preventing the roots from pulling up nutrients from the soil.

Solution: Check pots have drainage holes. Relocate hydrangeas in beds to somewhere with better drainage. Provide a dose of sequestered iron as a quick fix for the yellowing leaves.

5) Transplant Shock

Many plants struggle to settle in after being relocated, and while hydrangeas typically travel well, poor handling and root damage can cause the leaves to wilt or curl up.

The issue can be made worse by leaving the hydrangea in dry soil where its disturbed roots cannot settle.

Solution: Relocate hydrangeas in cool weather and, if possible, protect them from direct sun for a couple of weeks. Keep the soil reliably moist and protect the root system when digging up and planting. Hydrangeas generally recover from transplant shock but not flower that year.

6) Pests and Diseases

Very few pests cause hydrangea leaves to wilt and curl up at the edges, but some fungal diseases could cause this.

Solutions: 

  • Clean secateurs and other tools to prevent the transfer of diseases from one plant to another.
  • Avoid overhead watering; instead, use a watering can from the side of the plant to avoid splashing.
  • Clear away old leaves and twigs from the base of the hydrangea.
  • Prune to free up space in the centre of the plant as this improves aeration.
  • Consider relocating to improve aeration.

Gardeners Path has published a more detailed guide to the different diseases that affect hydrangeas, complete with photos; it’s a good read and worth your time reading it.

7) Fertiliser Problems

Hydrangeas grown in beds shouldn’t show signs of fertiliser-related issues unless you’ve made a colossal mistake such as massively over fertilising the soil, but potted hydrangeas are far more sensitive to under and over fertilising.

A soil test is a great way to check the pH level, which can indicate an issue.

A dose of specialist hydrangea fertiliser in the spring and again in the summer is usually enough for most hydrangeas. Still, too much of one nutrient can affect the plant’s ability to uptake other nutrients, so it’s best not to overdo it with fertiliser.

Both under and over fertilising can lead to wilting or curling leaves, especially in potted plants.

Solution: Test the soil and stick to specialist hydrangea fertilisers twice or three times per year from the spring to late summer.

Vitax Hydrangea Feed 1KG
Westland 20100444 Hydrangea High Performance Liquid Plant Food 1 Litre
Vitax Hydrangea Feed 1KG
Westland 20100444 Hydrangea High Performance Liquid Plant Food 1 Litre
Vitax Hydrangea Feed 1KG
Vitax Hydrangea Feed 1KG
Westland 20100444 Hydrangea High Performance Liquid Plant Food 1 Litre
Westland 20100444 Hydrangea High Performance Liquid Plant Food 1 Litre

8) It’s Autumn

Hydrangeas are deciduous meaning they lose their leaves in the autumn and like most plants, the leaves will curl and wilt just before they drop off.

If you’re new to growing hydrangeas, are you sure that the wilting isn’t just the leaves dying off due to the time of year?

If the temperature outside drops in the autumn, the leaves will start to turn yellow and then brown and then wilt and curl, this could be perfectly normal.

Solution: Possibly nothing.

More From Hannah Miller:

This guide to wilting and curling hydrangea leaves was created by Hannah Miller and was posted to our blog in April 2022.

Discover more content at Hannah’s Corner.

Hannah is a keen amateur gardener, mother and a former NHS administrator.

She enjoys gardening as much as she cares about the environment and likes to share her knowledge with others.

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Author Hannah Miller

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Hannah Miller
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