When Do Hydrangeas Come Out Of Dormancy? (Explained)

When do hydrangeas come out of dormancy

Hydrangeas are generally pretty hardy plants and sometimes they can look very dead when in fact they are just dormant.

But when do hydrangeas come out of dormancy?

The answer to that is quite approximate but can vary depending upon where you live.

It is also helpful to know what you need to do whilst your hydrangea is dormant, and how to distinguish between your hydrangea being dormant and being dead.

So we will try and cover all of that here.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

When Do Hydrangeas Come Out Of Dormancy? 

Hydrangeas will come out of dormancy during the spring, usually from late March through to the end of April. It can vary depending upon where you live and the variety of Hydrangea you have. To check whether your hydrangea is dormant or dead, just scratch one of its stems and if green flesh is revealed under the bark it is dormant not dead.

So let’s tackle the first question here, when do hydrangeas come out of dormancy?

Hydrangeas go into dormancy during fall and winter.

You should see them begin to reemerge as temperatures begin to rise, usually around late March through to April.

Although this will obviously vary depending upon where you live.

There is no hard or fast rule in terms of a set temperature at which you can expect them to come out of dormancy, it is more when the temperature begins to stabilize and frosts subside.

In southern parts of America the growing season is longer, which means you can expect a larger hydrangea bush by the time your plant goes dormant.

In the north the growing season is shorter, so your hydrangea won’t reach the same size.

The likelihood is though, if you haven’t seen any signs of new growth by the end of May, your hydrangea may sadly be dead rather than dormant.

What I would say though is that your hydrangea might surprise you, even when you are convinced it might be dead its roots might be fine.

They are deciduous plants, so there is always a good chance of them coming back in the spring, never give up hope!

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How Do You Know If A Hydrangea Is Dormant?

So how do you know if your hydrangea is dormant or dead?

If you haven’t had a hydrangea before then it is quite easy to think it has died when it goes into dormancy.

You can expect to see a bunch of gray weathered sticks, some dead blooms and probably a few lonely-looking leaves.

Even when they are dormant, hydrangeas will grow more of the gray bare stalks right through to the spring.

The easiest way to determine whether your hydrangea is dead or dormant is to check its stems.

Look at the bare stems of your hydrangea and scratch the wood on them with your fingernail.

If the stem is alive, you will see some green flesh under the bark.

If you go through all the stems and none of them have green under the bark and no sprouts are visible from the base of the Hydrangea by late May it may be dead.

Other signs of a dead, rather than dormant hydrangea, include:

  • Stalled growth during growing season.
  • Dead leaves, flowers and withered stems.
  • No green buds appearing.

What Do I Do If My Hydrangea Is Dormant?

So you have a dormant hydrangea rather than a dead one, what do you need to do?

The good news is you don’t need to do too much, as during dormancy the hydrangea takes care of itself.

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Moisture

When your hydrangea isn’t dormant you want to try and keep the soil around it constantly moist.

When the soil feels dry then it is time to water again.

When hydrangeas are dormant you can reduce the amount of water it gets. Usually watering it once a fortnight should be sufficient.

A small, new hydrangea will probably require something in the region of 1 gallon of liquid each time you water it. Larger hydrangeas will require more.

If you have sandy soil, then you will probably need to add around 50% more water.

Pruning

Buds will begin to develop at different times depending upon the type of hydrangea you have.

Some start developing buds in mid-to-late spring, whilst others won’t start until later. Generally, they won’t be visible until spring arrives.

If you can see green buds emerging on the brown canes of your hydrangea then leave them be and let them bloom.

Any brown canes that don’t have green buds on them by the end of May, can be cut at the base of the plant.

As They Come Out of Dormancy

There are a few other things to remember as your hydrangeas come out of dormancy:

  • Soil: Hydrangeas prefer acidic soil, but are able to handle some alkalinity. You should be able to get a soil pH test kit at any gardening store and there are a number of products you can buy to make your soil more acidic if needed.
  • Fertilizing: Generally, hydrangeas do not need much in the way of fertilizer. Manure can be applied twice a year, along with weaker fertilizers such as liquid seaweed or coffee grounds. Stop applying them from early July onwards otherwise the hydrangea will have too much nitrogen and will not go into dormancy when it should.
  • Mulch: Adding 3 or 4 inches of mulch can keep the soil cooler and maintain humidity.
  • Sun: Hydrangeas don’t like a lot of sun. In spring they can handle full sun, but in the summer too much sun can cause the leaves to scorch. If the leaves begin drooping and turning white, it is a sign your hydrangea is getting too much sunlight.
  • Temperature: Hydrangeas grow best in temperatures between 50° and 60°F.
  • Wind: Cold drafts and lots of windy days can cause leaves to wilt and push back the growth of a hydrangea. You may need to provide protection from the wind depending upon the conditions where you live.

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Will Hydrangeas Come Back After Winter?

Hydrangea in winter

This is a question that is difficult to answer for definite and depends upon many circumstances.

The easiest way to get an answer to this question is to carry out the stem test we mentioned above.

Scratch the bare stem of your hydrangea and if you see green flesh under the bark it is dormant and not dead.

And if, by the end of May, you have seen no new growth at all, then your hydrangea may have experienced ‘winter kill’.

This is often caused by very cold temperatures and drying wind.

But hydrangeas are woody plants and can handle testing conditions with varying amounts of ease depending on the variety.

They also need a period of cold dormancy.

Don’t give up hope because whilst your hydrangea might look very, very dead, it may well not be!

Final Thoughts

There is a one size fits all answer to the question ‘when do hydrangeas come out of dormancy?’.

The spring!

For some it could be early to mid-March for others it might not happen until the end of May.

It really depends on where you live and the variety of hydrangea you have.

If you don’t see any signs of buds forming by the end of May, scrape the bare stem of your hydrangea and, if it reveals green flesh, it is still dormant.

If no green flesh is visible it could have unfortunately been killed off by very cold winter temperatures.

If it is dormant, there isn’t too much you need to do aside from watering it every couple of weeks and pruning off any brown canes without buds.


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