How can I revive my Hydrangea?

by | Mar 29, 2010 | Resources, Market News, Ask Pahl's Market

I have a two year old pee gee hydrangea tree that refuses to leaf. The first year we planted it, it was beautiful, green, leafy and full of flowers. Then, the following spring, nothing. No leaves or anything. Now, at the base of the trunk there are a few green leaf buds coming up, but nothing on the upper branches. Can you help me bring back my tree? Please and thank you!


Dear Jennifer,

The good news, the leaf buds indicate the tree isn’t dead.  The bad news, the trunk is probably damaged and the upper branches probably won’t produce any leaves or blooms.
Pee gee hydrangeas are usually very hardy.  Without more information I am guessing that the trunk was girdled by rodents, rabbits or some other small animal.  Girdling is when some little critter chews the outer bark of a tree or shrub all the way around the trunk.  When this happens the tree or shrub cannot transport water and nutrients to the portions of the tree above the girdling.  Another possibility is some sort of storm damage to the tree trunk resulting in die back to the base of the plant. I can’t be sure you won’t see some growth on the trunk of your hydrangea, but it is unlikely.  With regular watering and warmer temperatures you should see more growth near the base of the
hydrangea.   It will take some time for the hydrangea to recover. Hold off on fertilizing the tree until you have good leaf expansion. If possible use organic mulch near the base of the hydrangea, but do not cover up any of the leaf buds you see.  I think with care your hydrangea tree will become a lovely full hydrangea bush. If the hydrangea is not a focal point in your landscape you can give the plant a chance to grow, and assess its shape and future later in the year.  If the hydrangea tree is crucial to your landscape you probably will have to consider replacing it with a new tree.  What ever you decide, if girdling is the problem you should consider some sort of tree wrap or barrier to keep the critters away from the trunk, especially in the winter. I hope your hydrangea recovers.  I have a small hydrangea tree in my yard and I enjoy the blooms from late July through the winter.  They are assets to any landscape.

Thanks for your question, Dee


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  1. Laura

    My very aggressive husband pruned our 20year old hydrangeas in the fall and now, in April there are barely even leaves. Did he kill them?? Cause I want to kill him

    • Chris Kaufenberg

      Give your husband a brief reprieve for now, if he pruned them back to the base it will take some time for new growth to develop. Be patient, with this wonderful Minnesota weather it is possible you will not see new growth until maybe even May.

  2. Melissa J Slabodnik

    I pruned our hydrangea about 2-3 years ago (regretfully now) and it seems to be barely coming back and just getting less and less each year. It was bushy and I trimmed mostly underneath to have a tree effect and put some hastas around underneath . . . Now the flowers (from last year) are dead, should I prune them off along with the dead branches?? Please HELP!!
    Thank you!

    • Chris Kaufenberg

      Every year you should prune off any dead flowers and branches. The best idea would to bring in a few pictures and talk with one of our nursery specialists!


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