Do Hydrangeas Need a Lot of Water? [Explained]

The word “hydrangea” means “water vessel” in Greek. So, it is not difficult to make out that hydrangeas are water-loving plants. However, do hydrangeas need a lot of water?

Hydrangeas are plants that enjoy a lot of water and moisture and need more water than most garden plants.

However, the amount of water that a hydrangea needs also depends on a lot of factors like the variety of hydrangea, the climate in which it grows, the amount of sunlight and shade it gets, whether it has been planted recently or is well-established.

Bigleaf and smooth hydrangeas need more water, while oakleaf hydrangeas are quite drought-tolerant.

A hydrangea planted in partial shade will need to be watered less than a hydrangea planted in a sunny location. Similarly, hydrangeas grown in cooler climates do not have to be watered as much as hydrangeas in warm climates.

How often should you water hydrangeas?

Hydrangeas like a lot of water. However, that does not mean that you need to water the plant every single day. Hydrangeas prefer to be watered deeply than frequently.

On average, your hydrangea will need to be watered deeply 2 to 3 times a week during the summer season. In winter, the hydrangeas become dormant, so they do not require any watering.

How to water hydrangeas?

If you are watering your hydrangeas manually by using a hose, you can use the hose on low pressure and water the base of the plant so that it is soaked well.

Continue watering until the ground is saturated with water. Do this 1 to 3 times a week, depending on how fast the water is absorbed or evaporated.

Make sure that you do not wet the leaves too much, as moisture on the leaves can cause fungal diseases.

You can also use a soaker hose to water your plants. Position the soaker hose near the base of the plant so that it only provides water to the soil without making the plant wet. Keep it turned on until the soil is moist but not water-logged. This will take 30 to 45 minutes on average.

Remember to water your hydrangeas during the early morning or in the evening. This will ensure that the water is soaked into the soil and absorbed by the plants, instead of being evaporated quickly due to harsh sunlight.

Hydrangeas need soil that will retain moisture. This might not be possible when the roots of hydrangea are shallow and close to the surface. To solve this issue, the best option is to use mulch.

Apply mulch around the base of the plants. The mulch will help to retain moisture in the soil while adding nutrients as well.

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Watering newly planted hydrangeas

When you have newly planted hydrangeas, remember that they need to be watered constantly until they are established.

Hydrangeas will take time to get used to the environment right after they are planted, so it is important to water them frequently so that they develop a strong root system.

You should take care especially if you live in hot and dry conditions, where the water evaporates very quickly.

Watering established hydrangeas

You can use drip feeders or soaker hoses so that they constantly provide a sufficient amount of water to the hydrangeas. Hydrangeas will require different amounts of water depending on the variety.

Usually, hydrangea Macrophylla requires the most water. Hydrangea arborescens and Hydrangea quercifolia require comparatively less water.

Watering hydrangeas in containers

If you are planting your hydrangea in a container, you should prefer a light-colored ceramic container, as dark colors absorb heat faster.

Make sure the pot has drainage holes from where excess water can drain out. Water your hydrangea at least 2 to 3 times a week.

Water the base o the plant all around so that the water does not get accumulated in any one place and extra water comes out easily.

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Can you overwater your hydrangea?

Hydrangeas like water, and they prefer being soaked deeply to watering a bit every day.

That is why, it is easy to assume that hydrangeas cannot be overwatered, but that is not the case. While hydrangeas want moist soil, they cannot tolerate waterlogged soil.

Hydrangeas can be overwatered and it can also cause problems to the plant.

If the soil is too wet or waterlogged, it can cause root rot, stunted growth, slow production of blooms and the plant can eventually die.

Usually, overwatering can occur due to two reasons.

  1. If the soil is not properly draining, it might hold on to too much water. This will result in the water pooling in one place than being absorbed. That is why, hydrangeas prefer a soil that is loamy or sandy-loamy, instead of a clay soil.
  2. Another reason could be that you are watering your hydrangeas too often. Sometimes, during the day, hydrangeas can look wilted even when they are perfectly healthy and watered. The heat and humidity can cause hydrangeas to wilt during the day, but if your soil is moist, the hydrangeas will perk up as the temperature cools down.

This is why you should water the plant during the morning or evening so that you know that the plant is sufficiently watered and the soil is moist.

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Effects of overwatering

Here are a few issues that over-watering can cause.

Root rot

When your hydrangeas are overwatered, the roots are the first to suffer. It can be hard to detect as the roots are hidden under the ground, but they will start to smell and become mouldy or slimy.

You can remove the soil around the roots to see if they are rotting. If the roots are dark and soft instead of white and firm, then you have a problem.

Yellowing leaves

When the roots of hydrangea start to rot due to overwatering, they are not able to transport nutrients from the soil to the leaves. This causes the leaves to turn yellow.

It is easier to detect overwatering by checking the leaves than the roots as the leaves are easily noticeable.

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Brown and mushy leaves

Overwatering can also cause the leaves to become brown and mushy. The leaves become soft, while the edges of the leaves turn brown. This is also an effect of underwatering.

Damaged roots cannot provide the nutrients available in the soil to the other parts of the plant. So, whether your plant is overwatered or underwatered, the effect on the leaves will be the same.

Wilted flowers

If the temperatures are high, the flowers of hydrangea can droop because of the heat, but they go back to normal as the temperature cools in the evening.

However, if your hydrangea has been overwatered, the flowers will remain wilted throughout the day.

Fewer flowers

Because overwatering a hydrangea causes root rot, the roots are not able to provide the nutrients necessary for producing flowers.

As a result, the plant will develop fewer flower buds and the flowers will be smaller when they bloom.

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Solutions for overwatered hydrangeas

The first thing to do is to stop watering your hydrangeas and let the soil become dry. To test the soil, stick your finger 4 inches into the soil. If the soil is still moist, it is too soon to water again.

Hydrangeas need to be watered deeply 1 to 3 times a week. If you see signs of overwatering, you need to decrease the frequency.

If your hydrangea is overwatered because of the soil, you can add compost, peat moss or sand to help the clay soil with drainage.

You should also check the roots of the plant for damage. If only some of the roots have become mushy, you can cut off the damaged part.

However, if a lot of the roots have started to rot, you might have to discard the whole plant.

Are hydrangeas drought tolerant?

Just like you can overwater hydrangeas, you can also underwater them. Hydrangeas face issues even when they are not watered enough. They are not drought-tolerant plants; however, they can recover if you take proper steps.

The most drought-tolerant plant is the oakleaf hydrangea. Once established, it can tolerate some dry periods without needing to be watered for a while. This works well if you live in an area where you are not able to provide the water needed for other hydrangeas.

However, too much heat does cause problems for most hydrangea species. Hydrangeas will show stress by wilting and drooping but perk up a few hours after getting water.

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How to help hydrangeas recover from drought?

You can help your hydrangeas recover if they have been underwater. Here are the steps that you can follow.

  1. Start by soaking the affected parts of hydrangea in water.
  2. Give more water than usual so that the roots can recover nicely.
  3. Water slowly so that the water can seep into the soil instead of accumulating on the surface at once.
  4. Deeply water your plant multiple times a week to make your hydrangea normal.
  5. When new buds start to appear, remove the leaves that have turned brown around the buds. This will help the plant focus its energy on new growth.
  6. Do not pull the leaves too hard. If the dried leaves are firmly attached to the plant, then leave them.

Even if you feel that the hydrangea is not recovering, do not remove it until next year. Sometimes, hydrangeas can be slow in growth but get back to normal the next season.

How to tell if your hydrangea needs to be watered?

The first thing to do is to check the soil around your hydrangea.

Stick your finger up to your knuckle into the soil. Check if the soil is moist. If the soil is dry to touch, it is time to water. If the soil is too wet and sticky, you might want to take action because the plant is overwatered.

It is better to check the soil as hydrangeas can look wilted during the day even when they are absolutely fine. Even brown leaves can be a sign of underwatered or overwatered hydrangeas.