Why Do My Hydrangeas Look Burnt

If hydrangeas are exposed to too much sun, their leaves and blossoms may turn brown and burned. Hydrangeas are not accustomed to being in full sun, which can cause drought stress in addition to scorching the leaves brown. They like to live beneath a tree canopy with dappled light throughout the day.

Hydrangeas are woodland plants that flourish under trees, shielding them from damaging winds, sunlight, and winter frost.

While hydrangeas may tolerate complete shade, they often produce less flowers and more green foliage.

Find the ideal combination of sun in your garden to grow hydrangeas and ensure a good bloom show while avoiding scorching the foliage brown.

Hydrangeas typically thrive in areas with morning sun, followed by afternoon shade, or dappled light all day long.

With the right amount of sunlight and shade, hydrangeas are able to produce blossoms while also being sufficiently shielded from the heat and sun to keep their leaves and flowers from turning brown and drooping.

You can move your hydrangea under a tree to mimic its natural conditions of dappled light or try to shade it with some taller plants like bamboo in order to establish the ideal balance of sun and shade and prevent the leaves from turning brown.

Or you might locate a garden spot that offers more shade. The hydrangea should be shaded in the midday and late afternoon when the sun is at its strongest and the temperature is at its maximum.

This will not only stop the leaves from becoming brown during the warmest parts of the day, but it will also lessen the effects of drought stress.

Wait for the hydrangea to naturally lose any brown leaves and blossoms, or prune back any that are present.

Why do the leaves on my hydrangea seem burned?

Hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) can be difficult to manage in terms of water. They are usually produced in cooler climates, which tends to consume less water. Additionally, they have exceptionally big leaf surface areas, which causes greater water loss. Hydrangeas also lack the ability to control water loss under drought stress circumstances because plants do not seal their stomates. This is easily capable of causing wilting and the subsequent leaf scorch (Fig. 1).

Hydrangeas frequently experience leaf scorch. This is frequently seen when a drip emitter comes loose from the plant’s pot and causes tip burn. On the middle to higher leaves, the initial light brown necrosis frequently shows symptoms. The leaf margin closest to the leaf tip is where symptoms first appear. The light brown colour may eventually turn nearly black with time (Fig. 2). In extreme cases, the leaf necrosis might extend halfway back toward the root of the leaf, which is another crucial diagnostic feature (Fig. 3). On the other hand, newly expanding leaves have also been seen to develop a minor leaf tip necrosis along the leaf margin (Fig. 4). Because the necrotic leaf margin tissue cannot extend as the internal tissue grows, these leaves appear cupped and crinkled as they mature (Fig. 5). After a week of overcast weather, which would restrict transpiration and hence the plant’s ability to absorb water, these symptoms have been most noticeable. On plants, the symptoms appear while the tiny leaves are still in their whorls and around the flower buds. Other species have also been said to exhibit same characteristics. According to a study co-authored by Dr. Bill Miller of Cornell University, the necrosis on “Stargazer” lilies is brought on by a lack of calcium (Fig.6). They discovered that compared to the leaves around the flower bud, the flower bud was a higher sink (had preferential demand) for Ca. Ca travels to the flower buds rather than these surrounding leaves. As a result, a Ca limiting situation develops, leading to the cell death of the leaves. When zinnias are grown in the summer in hot, humid circumstances, the same problems can arise. While the growth is still in the whorl, the wrapper leaves that surround the flower bud develop leaf tip necrosis (Fig. 7). At three grower locations, we noticed that the newly expanding hydrangea leaves had leaf tip burn. The tissue at the leaf’s outer margin was sampled, and the tissue’s Ca concentration was determined to be low. For pink and white hydrangeas, the ideal substrate pH ranges from 5.8 to 6.2. The pH range for blue hydrangeas is between 5.2 and 5.5. As a result, to maintain the substrate’s acidity, less lime is normally supplied. This also implies that less calcium is being given to the hydrangea plant. The majority of calcium-based fertilizers are also basic, so they are normally avoided to avoid raising the pH of the substrate. If Ca does not naturally occur in the irrigation water, the plants will receive only very little amounts of Ca, and inadequate conditions are more likely to develop. High humidity in the greenhouse during flower bud formation may increase calcium deficiency symptoms on the young, developing leaves. Under these circumstances, Ca uptake from the substrate via mass flow is constrained by a lack of plant transpiration. The decreased transpiration reduces the amount of Ca that is accessible and causes the leaves surrounding the budding flower to burn at the tips. Promoting air flow in the greenhouse will aid in preventing this environmental shortage in addition to providing appropriate Ca in the range of 50 to 100 ppm. Utilizing horizontal flow fans or performing an air exchange to release the humidity will increase air flow.

How can a burned hydrangea be revived?

A hydrangea’s roots can be burned if too much fertilizer is used, which will likely result in the plant dying, turning brown, and drooping.

As such, hydrangeas are not heavy feeders and do not require annual feeding in the same manner as roses do, and doing so can actually be detrimental.

Hydrangeas frequently develop and flower to their full potential if they are planted in healthy soil or the soil has been modified with compost prior to planting.

The hydrangea should flourish if a 1-inch-thick layer of mulch is applied around it to assist retain moisture and supply nutrients to the soil (compost and leaf mould are ideal options).

The only instances when the application of fertilizer is appropriate when:

  • Planting the hydrangea in sandy soil (which is nutrient poor).
  • The hydrangea is in a pot or other container where the roots have used up all the nutrients in the soil.

In these two situations, it is recommended to use an all-purpose fertilizer with equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK) that is applied once in the spring and is generally well-balanced.

The roots of your hydrangea can be burned by well-rotted manure, especially if it is added to the soil after planting. However, if the manure is made from poultry manure, it may contain a lot of nitrogen.

To prevent issues, I advise putting compost to the soil as a soil amendment (fresh manure is particularly harmful, always allow it to rot for a year or so before using manure on your garden).

If your hydrangea is exhibiting indications of stress as a result of being recently planted in soil that has been altered with manure, move it to a location with soil and compost, and it should recover.

Reduce the amount of fertilizer used and remove any discolored leaves or blossoms. To assist the hydrangea recover, thoroughly water it in an effort to dilute the soil’s water-soluble nitrogen.

Key Takeaways:

  • Most frequently, hydrangea deaths are caused by the soil’s lack of moisture. Hydrangeas require the soil to be consistently moist and will droop or die because of drought.
  • Drought, transplant shock, frost damage, and too much sun can all cause hydrangeas to perish.
  • If the pot base doesn’t have drainage holes, potted hydrangeas may succumb to root rot. Small containers may dry out too rapidly and limit root expansion.
  • Water hydrangeas liberally, cover them with compost mulch, and keep them out of the sun and wind to help them recover. To encourage healthy growth, remove any growth that has been sunburned or damaged by frost.

How should you handle burned hydrangeas?

Choose a species of hydrangea that can withstand more sun if you want to plant it in a garden area that receives afternoon sun. For instance, smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens), a native of the East Coast, can tolerate a site in full sun, according to Southern Living. A deciduous shrub with widely spaced branches and lots of loose blooms is the smooth hydrangea. It flourishes in zones 6 through 9 of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s plant hardiness map. Or, according to Country Garden, you may grow panicle hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata), which can also flourish in full sun. Such cultivars as “Grandiflora,” “Limelight,” and “Pinky Winky” should be sought out.

Give each of these hydrangeas plenty of irrigation to prevent browning. When the temperature soars, it can even be essential to irrigate in the morning and evening. However, avoid letting the water spill on the plant’s leaves or flowers.

You’ll need to add some cover or move the shrub if you currently have a less sun-tolerant hydrangea planted in a spot that receives full sun. This Old House claims that transplanting hydrangeas is a simple process, making it the best choice.

How is leaf scorch treated?

  • Leaf scorch might look as burnt areas or spots on the leaf’s edge.
  • The most prevalent cause of leaf scorch is improper irrigation.
  • Leaf spots and marginal burning can be caused by using too much fertilizer.
  • Burned tree leaves may fall off too soon.

Figure 5: Colorado spruce with scorch and needle loss as a result of root injury. Take note of the damaging spiral. This is a result of the tree’s growth pattern.

Figure 6: Rhus sp. leaf scorch Note: Dehydration begins at the leaflet’s edge or tip.

Many trees, shrubs, flowers, and vegetables grow dry, brown leaf edges during the hot summer days. Leaf spots could also be caused by damage to the tissue in the main veins. In extreme circumstances, entire leaves will die after turning brown or black. Although many other types of trees may also be affected by the illness, some trees, like aspens, are particularly prone to it. Additionally, evergreens can experience leaf scorch, which causes the needle tips to develop a pale brown or pinkish color. If the problem continues, the needles may lose their shape and turn brown or develop brown bands.

Both of these disorders, known as leaf scorch, are brought on by a tree or shrub’s inability to absorb enough water to meet its requirements during the arid summer months. A plant’s fine feeder roots absorb water, which is then carried to the leaves by the vascular system. The leaf tissue farthest from the major veins will begin to dry out quickest if it cannot absorb enough water. Because of this, leaf margins burn first (Figure 1).

Insufficient Roots. Usually, the issue is that the plant’s root system is insufficient to suit its needs. This could be brought on by a variety of factors, including: 1.) poor root growth due to pavement restrictions, as seen with the maple tree in Figure 2; 2.) root loss from tilling or construction; 3.) the application of a soil sterilant nearby; 4.) drought stress; 5.) a loss of roots due to dehydration during a dry winter and spring; 6.) excessive irrigation or fertilizer application; and 7.) an injury or infection on the trunk or branches severe enough to impair movement.

  • Too much moisture. A plant cannot develop new, water-absorbing roots without oxygen when it is overwatered. Therefore, root development is prevented by wet soils, and scorch will follow. Leaf scorch will almost certainly develop if there is insufficient soil moisture in the winter and spring and excessive summer watering.
  • Overuse of fertilizer By “burning” the roots, fertilizer overuse can result in leaf scorch. Leaf spots or marginal leaf burns could be the visible signs of this damage. The damage may show up on one sector of the plant, one limb of a tree or shrub, or the entire plant, depending on how much of the root system is injured by fertilizer. Because fertilizers are salts, soils with salt concentrations higher than the plant will also result in leaf scorch. Fertilizer spikes, which distribute concentrated salts at precise locations, can cause leaf scorch and burn roots.

Related Stress Symptoms

Depending on how severe the stress is, heat stress can have a variety of effects, from wilt to discolored leaves to severe desiccation and cell death. Heat stress causes plants to shut down essential growth processes and make it difficult for them to get enough water up into their leaves. As a result, this kind of stress is thought to be connected to drought stress. Young plants may collapse due to damage from heat injury near the soil line. Plants that are surrounded by rock mulch or that are on the south or west sides of fences or buildings may experience the impacts of concentrated, reflected heat. Black plastic mulch has the potential to raise the soil’s temperature above what plants can tolerate, which can stop growth processes and severely harm roots, leading to leaf scorch.

The falling of leaves or twigs in response to stress is known as cladoptosis (or Kladoptosis). At the base of leaves or twigs, a separation layer forms when ethylene gas is activated by drought or other stressors. In order to protect the life of the entire plant, the plant uses tissue shedding as a defensive mechanism. Before falling, the leaves may become yellow, simulating the autumnal season. Under stress, many deciduous species will lose their leaves, but aspens, cottonwoods, and willows are the ones most frequently affected. Leaves might fall off due to overwatering, underwatering, extreme heat, or root injury. Premature leaf drop can also be brought on by girdling roots, which frequently arise from inadequate planting depth.


There is no remedy for leaf scorch once it has occurred. Although the dried leaf parts won’t grow back green, with correct water management, the plant may recover.

The first step in preventing sunburn is to water in the winter. When there is no snow cover, give the roots a good soak once a month to help avoid root die-back from dehydration. Mature trees have roots that reach out several times their height, and this entire region requires water. In order for the water to seep in before the evening freeze, watering in the winter requires picking a day when the air temperature is above freezing. Surface water that freezes will suffocate the roots and exacerbate the issue.

Water plants during the growing season sparingly and deeply. When trees are present in or close to lawns, this can be challenging, but a deep and sparing watering schedule will help your lawn as well by promoting the growth of deep roots. Although they can cohabit, trees normally require less regular irrigation than lawns do. Keep in mind that roots require oxygen, therefore the soil has to have some time to dry out in between waterings.

Last but not least, if scorch develops, resist the impulse to keep adding water. Just adhere to the intense and irregular schedule. In some years, some burn is possible if the weather is really hot and windy. Avoid panicking and overwatering your trees, which would be cruel.