Common Problems with Hydrangeas in Pots & How to Fix Them

A blue hydrangea on the article Common Problems with Hydrangeas in Pots

Hydrangeas are often given as gifts around Christmas time, and while they look spectacular during the holiday season, often they do not seem to survive for long.

Keeping your hydrangea in a pot is a great idea especially if you have a balcony or patio which needs to be brightened a little.

When they are in full bloom these are among the most stunning plants to have.

Having your hydrangea in a pot is also a good idea if you live in an area where the soil is poor and not well suited to growing these plants.

The most common reasons for problems with hydrangeas in pots are poor drainage, lack of water and insufficient lighting.

The problems these can lead to with your hydrangea in a pot are brown spots on the leaves, yellow leaves, rust and powdery mildew.

One thing that is important to remember is that hydrangeas do not enjoy being in small pots.

Their roots grow aggressively and will quickly fill a small pot. This is not necessarily a bad thing as a larger pot on a patio or balcony will be more stable than a smaller one.

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What are the Common Problems with Hydrangeas in Pots?

A red flowerFor hydrangeas to do well in the ground or in pots, they need three things, namely lots of moisture, well drained soil, and the correct amount of sunlight.

The most common problems with hydrangeas in pots are:

  • Poor drainage
  • Lack of water
  • Insufficient sunlight

There are also common problems with hydrangeas regarding their appearance:

  • Brown spots on leaves
  • Yellow leaves
  • Rust
  • Powdery mildew

Let’s look more closely at these common problems for your hydrangeas in pots

Poor Drainage

Hydrangeas will not be happy and thrive in pots which are too small for them.

This is because their roots are aggressive, and the smaller pot will quickly be filled. Additionally, small containers will dry out too fast, and hydrangeas prefer a moister type of soil.

Make sure that you choose a pot which has drainage holes on the base. If the soil cannot drain sufficiently your hydrangea will suffer from root rot.

It is also a good idea to place a layer of small pebbles or pieces of broken pot at the bottom to help with drainage.

When you transplant your hydrangea into a pot make sure that there is at least 2” from the top of the potting mix to the top of the pot so you can give your plant a good water without it overflowing.

Lack of Water

While your hydrangea will not be happy with wet roots, it does insist on moist soil. Using a larger pot will do a lot to help keep the soil moist.

Another thing you can do to help keep soil moist is to place your hydrangea in a south facing window. It ideally wants to get full sun during the morning and partial sun in the afternoon.

You should water your hydrangea by filling the pot with water and then making sure that it all drains away. This will ensure that the soil stays damp and moist, not soggy.

It is a very sad fact that most hydrangeas die because they are underwatered. If you need help watering your hydrangea, try using this automatic drip irrigation kit.

Insufficient Sunlight

When growing hydrangeas outside they prefer full sunlight.

However, they do not like to be battered about by strong winds and will do better if they are somewhat protected from gales, even if they are in partial shade.

For your hydrangea in a pot, it is important that it receives some sunlight every day. If not, it will not do well and may eventually die.

If your plant is struggling due to light, trying using this to help regulate the lighting.


This is quite easy to spot by checking the underside of leaves. You will notice tell-tale orange spots there.

Rust is a fungal disease which affects hydrangeas. Eventually the leaves will all turn yellow and drop off.

Rust is caused by water which has been splashed onto the leaves and this is a common problems with  hydrangeas in pots.

When you water, be sure to pour it right at the base of the plant so that the leaves are kept dry.

If the problem is not too severe you can simply cut the infected leaves away.

For more severe rust problems you may need to use a fungicide which you can obtain from your garden centre.

Powdery Mildew

This is also easy to spot as the leaves take on a grey appearance with a powdery coating. Like rust, powdery mildew is also a fungal disease that will spread.

You may notice this more when there are huge temperature swings, namely when the days are hot, and the nights are cold.

Again, be sure to water your hydrangea at the base of the plant and keep the leaves as dry as possible. Infected leaves can be cut off to prevent the infection from spreading.

Another good habit to get into is to water your hydrangea in the morning so that the leaves have the entire day to dry out before the temperatures start to drop.

If the problem continues you can buy Neem Oil from your garden centre. This is organic and works well on mildew.

If you’re enjoying this article, check out our article on why does my hydrangea have small flowers.

Why is my Potted Hydrangea Turning Brown?

There are several reasons why your hydrangea leaves turn brown:

Frost Damage

A hydrangea head

If you live in an area which gets late frosts in the spring or even early frost in the fall, then you may find that the new growth is affected and turns brown or black.

If you notice that your perfectly normal plant suddenly turns brown in these seasons, then frost may be the cause. Established leaves may not be as badly affected as new shoots.

If your hydrangea is outdoors on a patio or balcony in frosty conditions, you should consider bringing it inside or covering it on cold nights.

Root Rot

This is another reason why your hydrangea may turn brown or yellow. Hydrangeas do not like their roots to be boggy and wet.

Check the soil or potting mix and make sure that it is not of the clay type. Also, make sure that the pot you use has adequate drainage in the base.

Too Much Fertilizer

This can burn the roots of the plant and cause the leaves to turn brown. You will recognise this because the plant will droop and have less flowers.

Fertilizers which contain a lot of nitrogen will stimulate the foliage but can also cause the stems to go soft. This will affect the leaves and turn them brown.

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Why are my Potted Hydrangeas Wilting?

There are several reasons why your hydrangea starts to wilt so let’s look at them.

  • Stress from lack of water
  • Insufficient/incorrect lighting
  • Temperatures

Lack of water

Because hydrangeas have large leaves and flowers they need soil which is constantly moist. If they do not have this, they may start to wilt. Ultimately your plant will die.

Check the soil in the pot daily and it the top inch feels dry then it is time to water your plant.

Allow the water to drain all the way out the bottom of the pot and then empty the drip tray so excess water does not gather there. If your hydrangea is wilting, try using a automatic drip irrigation kit.

Insufficient/Incorrect Lighting

Placing your hydrangea in bright unlight will help keep the leaves healthy and prevent them from drooping.

Plants which do not receive adequate light will start to droop and wilt. You will notice that the foliage starts to look pale and unhealthy and there will be less flowers.

For hydrangeas which are in pots, direct sunlight may cause the soil to dry out too rapidly so you should place them in a spot where they get filtered light or partial shade in the afternoons.

Your hydrangea will do well on six hours of sunlight a day.

To get the correct light for your hydrangea, try using this.


High temperatures will result in rapid loss of moisture. The foliage will start to droop, and flowers can lose their petals if it gets too hot.

In most houses the temperatures indoors are between 65 – 75 degrees, although 50 – 60 degrees will suit them better.

For hot nights you may consider bringing the plant inside, particularly if the temperatures are above 80 degrees.

Additionally, in freezing temperatures you should either bring the plant inside or cover it.

A note to remember:

You will find that the flowers on your hydrangea plant dry and wilt naturally as the blooming season ends.

Normally you will have blooms for between 6-8 weeks before they fade and wilt.

If you like you can cut of the dead heads to keep the plant looking attractive.

Can Potted Hydrangeas Come Back to Life?

There are ways to rehydrate a drooping hydrangea:

Check the Soil

Hydrangeas will not do well in sandy soil as it will dry out too rapidly.

You may want to repot the plant using a mixture of soil and adding plenty of organic matter. Compost retains water and stops excessive drainage.

Add Mulch

You can add an inch of mulch around the base of your hydrangea to help conserve the water.

Mulch can be made up of well-rotted manure, compost or leaf mould, or a combination of them. This will prevent the soil from drying out during hot seasons.

Cut Back on Fertilizer

Too much fertilizer will do more harm than good. It is a good idea to apply it in diluted doses.


You may want to give your plant a good amount of water.

Fill up the space between the soil and the top of the container, make sure that it does drain out through the holes at the base.

A generous watering once a week should replenish the plant’s needs, although in very dry weather you may need to water twice a week.

A good soak also encourages the roots to establish themselves and is far more effective than small amounts of water.

Because hydrangeas are susceptible to drought conditions, watering well will prevent the roots from growing near the top of the soil to find water and encourage them to grow deeper.

For more information on the watering need of a hydrangea we have created an article on how much water do hydrangeas need.

Final Thoughts: What are the Common Problems with Hydrangeas in Pots?

A pink hydrangeaThe most important thing to remember when talking about common problems with hydrangeas in pots is that underwatering is the very worst thing you can do to them.

Most hydrangeas will die from lack or water.

Opt for a larger pot than you think is needed and don’t be tempted to keep a store-bought hydrangea in a small pot.

Hydrangeas are spectacular looking plants and joy to have on a patio or balcony.

There is no reason why – with just a little bit of extra care – they should not brighten up your special area all year.

Before you go, here are some more related articles I encourage you to read below to help solve more of your gardening issues:

How to use baking soda to grow hydrangeas

How do you get Rid of Black Spots on Hydrangea Leaves

Why Are My Hydrangea Leaves Curling & How to Fix Them

Why are my Hydrangeas Turning Green

Snowball Bush Vs Hydrangea

Hydrangeas vs Rhododendrons 

Hydrangea Tree vs Bush

Hydrangeas vs Lilacs

How to Landscape with Hydrangeas

How to Prevent Leaf Scorch on Your Hydrangea

Written by: Valerie Holyoak

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