Skip to Content

Prevent Hydrangeas From Cold Injury – Winter Care Tips (2023)

This site is supported by our readers. We may earn a commission, at no cost to you, if you purchase through links.

prevent hydrangeas from cold injuryConcerned about the cold winter months and how it could affect your precious hydrangeas? You’re not alone. Cold injury is a major concern for many gardeners, but with the right knowledge and preparation, you can prevent frost damage to your plants.

Knowing what temperatures are safe for hydrangeas as well as taking steps like watering before freezing weather hits, applying mulch for insulation or bringing potted versions indoors, can help protect from cold injury.

Key Takeaways

  • Proper watering before hard freezes is essential for preventing cold injury to hydrangeas.
  • Different hydrangea varieties have differing levels of cold hardiness, with smooth and PG hydrangeas being more resistant to frost damage.
  • To prevent new growth and protect hydrangeas from cold injury, fall fertilization and pruning should be avoided.
  • Additional protection during cold nights can be provided by insulating hydrangeas with mulch, burlap, sheets, or tree wrap.

Hydrangea Cold Tolerance

Hydrangea Cold Tolerance
You’ll want to know the cold tolerance of your specific hydrangea varieties before winterizing, as smooth hydrangeas and PG hydrangeas are more cold hardy than bigleaf hydrangeas that bloom on old wood.

Smooth hydrangeas like Annabelle can withstand temperatures as low as -20°F while most other hydrangeas tolerate temps down to about -5°F.

Mophead and lacecap hydrangeas rely on old wood for blooming so severe winter damage prevents flowering. Oakleaf, panicle, and climbing hydrangeas bloom on new wood, so protecting buds is key.

Check hardiness zones but realize microclimates affect survival. If possible, plant resistant hydrangea varieties like Endless Summer that can better handle cold. Proper watering, mulching, and wrapping support winter survival for more tender hydrangeas.

Even cold-damaged hydrangeas can rebound with patience and spring recovery care. Adjust future winter strategies based on how well your hydrangeas fared.

Understanding Winter Kill on Hydrangeas

Understanding Winter Kill on Hydrangeas
Gotta tell ya, it’s distressing when ya notice those red and brown leaves or wilted flowers on your hydrangeas come spring – signs they likely suffered from winter kill. But don’t lose hope! Assessing the damage is key. Look for discolored, dry, or dead stems and prune them back to healthy wood when it’s warm.

The roots’re pretty hardy, surviving temps as low as -18°F, so your hydrangeas can bounce back. Recovery depends on the type and if they bloom on old or new wood. Add organic mulch in fall for insulation.

And make sure to provide winter protection for those hydrangea buds by wrapping or covering plants when it gets cold. Preventing cold injury with proper care, pruning, and insulation’ll have your hydies flowering again in no time.

Importance of Winter Care for Hydrangeas

Importance of Winter Care for Hydrangeas
There are several key reasons why winter care for hydrangeas is so crucial. Without proper precautions, the buds you’ve nurtured all season can be destroyed by frost and cold. But you can protect those buds and ensure abundant blooms next year by taking a few simple steps.

Here are 4 tips to safeguard your hydrangeas this winter:

  1. Water thoroughly before hard freezes. Well hydrated plants survive cold better.
  2. Apply 2-4 inches of mulch around the base for insulation. Leaves, straw, bark chips all work.
  3. Cover plants with burlap, old sheets or tree wrap on cold nights. Secure the covering to trap heat.
  4. Avoid fertilizing or pruning in fall. This stimulates new growth that’s vulnerable to cold.

These basic winter care steps allow your hydrangea’s roots and buds to withstand frigid conditions. A bit of preparation protects the plant through the cold months ahead. With the right precautions, your hydrangeas will thrive into the following year.

Step 1: Watering, Pruning, and Fertilizing

Step 1: Watering, Pruning, and Fertilizing
When preparing your hydrangeas for winter, one of the most important steps is to thoroughly soak the soil around your plants before the first hard freeze. Giving your hydrangeas a good, deep watering just before winter helps insulate the roots and crowns from the cold temperatures ahead.

This hydration before dormancy allows the plant to be well equipped with moisture reserves to survive the winter months. Be sure to provide a deep watering to encourage deep root growth and saturate the soil.

Aim to water at the base of the plant, avoiding wetting foliage which can encourage disease. Slow, deep watering allows the moisture to fully penetrate into the root zone. Check the soil moisture before winter storms to ensure your hydrangeas have sufficient moisture stores in the soil.

Taking the time for this winter preparation step will help your hydrangeas rest well and emerge vigorously in spring.

Watering Before the First Freeze

Buddy, soaking those roses deeply right before Jack Frost swoops in insulates their roots like a cozy blanket for the winter. Giving your hydrangeas a good soak before freezing temperatures arrive is crucial for hydration and insulation.

The water builds up sugars in the plant that act like antifreeze, protecting the roots and crowns. One deep watering in autumn can enhance their frost resilience all season long. Protect those buds and prepare your garden for the beauty yet to come.

Avoiding Pruning and Fertilizing Before Frost

Keep the bloom buds on the vines. Avoid pruning or fertilizing your hydrangeas right before expected frost sets in. This helps prevent stimulating tender new growth that can easily freeze. Instead, focus on preparatory measures like hydration and insulation.

Once the worst of winter passes and the weather warms, you’ll have a better sense of any damage. Then you can strategically trim back affected buds and fertilize to encourage renewed vigor when conditions improve.

Step 2: Applying Mulch for Insulation

Step 2: Applying Mulch for Insulation
You’d better clear that area around your hydrangeas of every last weed and leaf before mulching, or you’ll regret it!

Applying a 2-4 inch layer of organic mulch after clearing the area provides multiple cold protection benefits for your hydrangeas. The mulch acts as an insulating blanket, trapping heat around the plant’s roots and preventing the soil from freezing as deeply.

It’s essential to remove fallen leaves, dead plants and weeds first. They can harbor pests and diseases that will reemerge in spring if left under the mulch.

Carefully spread mulch evenly around each plant, keeping it several inches away from the stems and crowns to prevent rot. Choose a natural mulch like bark chips, pine needles or chopped leaves for the best insulation.

With a thick mulch layer shielding your hydrangeas’ roots all winter, you’ll give them the best chance to thrive again when warmer weather arrives.

Step 3: Applying a Covering for Additional Protection

Step 3: Applying a Covering for Additional Protection
Gather burlap, stakes, and bungee cords to surround your hydrangeas. Then add leaves, rocks, or bricks in the center for insulation to protect the plants’ roots and crowns from severe winter conditions.

Creating a Covering With Stakes, Cloth/Burlap, Leaves, and Rocks/Bricks

After mulchin’, create a coverin’ with stakes, burlap, leaves, and rocks to trap heat around your hydrangeas.

  1. Place wooden stakes around plants securin’ burlap or cloth.
  2. Layer leaves thickly over the top for insulation.
  3. Weigh down the edges with rocks or bricks to seal in warmth.
  4. Choose breathable natural materials like burlap instead of plastic.
  5. Check occasionally and remove the cover on warm days.

This homemade coverin’ traps radiant heat, protectin’ buds from freezin’ temperatures. With the right stakes, cloth, leaves, and weights, you can shield your hydrangeas from cold injury all winter.

Using a Large Plastic Pot for Insulation

Instead, place a large plastic pot over the hydrangea with insulation and burlap inside to trap heat around the plant. Turn the pot upside down over the plant, adding leaves or other insulation inside for extra warmth.

Wrap burlap around the hydrangea stems inside the pot before placing it over the plant. The pot will act as a mini greenhouse, protecting the hydrangea from cold winds. Check inside the plastic pot cover during warm winter days, removing it temporarily to prevent overheating.

Use this cold weather protection method for potted hydrangeas and other frost-sensitive plants.

Step 4: Bringing Potted Hydrangeas Indoors

Step 4: Bringing Potted Hydrangeas Indoors
During early frosts, scurry potted hydrangeas inside away from the chill to spare their buds.

As temperatures dip during early winter nights, bring potted hydrangeas into a garage or enclosed patio before the mercury falls below freezing. This prevents roots and buds from freezing in cold soil and provides shelter from harsh winds.

Inside, keep potted hydrangeas away from heat sources like radiators that’d dry them out. Water minimally, just enough to keep soil slightly moist, and situate in a spot with bright ambient light from a window.

Misting leaves occasionally provides humidity. Avoid fertilizing stressed plants.

When spring comes, transition potted hydrangeas back outside once nighttime lows remain above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This simple shift indoors gives potted hydrangea plants a chance to endure winter in a protected environment and recover from any early frost damage.

Dealing With Frost and Cold Damage on Hydrangeas

Dealing With Frost and Cold Damage on Hydrangeas
Dealing with damage from frost and cold on your hydrangeas requires assessing the severity of the damage in order to determine the right pruning strategy to help them recover. It’s best to wait until warmer temperatures arrive before pruning back any affected growth, unhealthy stems, leaves, and blooms, and hold off on fertilizing until after the pruning cuts have healed to prevent causing further stress to the plant.

Varying the severity of pruning based on the extent of damage can help avoid over-pruning. Remove only the minimum amount of affected stems and growth necessary to improve the plant’s health and appearance.

Wait for the plant to show signs of new growth emerging before resuming normal fertilizing.

Assessing the Severity of Damage

When spring’s first breezes blow, you feel a flash of fear checking your hydrangeas for blackened leaves and wilted buds, knowing frost may have stolen their blooms.

To assess damage:

  1. Inspect leaves and stems for discoloration.
  2. Check buds and blooms for wilt or dryness.
  3. Consider variety and bloom type when gauging impact.
  4. Determine if roots survived winter conditions.

Pruning, fertilization, and attentive care can help restore your hydrangeas after frost.

Pruning Unhealthy Stems, Leaves, and Blooms

You’ll want to prune back any unhealthy stems, leaves, or blooms once it’s warm enough. First, assess the damage to determine how much and where to prune. Use clean, sharp pruners to cut unhealthy parts just above healthy buds or leaves.

Remove spent flowers and dead leaves. Lightly prune to encourage new growth, staggering the pruning over a few weeks. Once cuts have healed, fertilize to aid recovery. With strategic pruning and care, your hydrangeas can bounce back from frost and cold damage.

Timing of Pruning and Fertilizing

Hold off on fertilizing until after you’ve pruned those damaged parts so the fresh cuts have time to heal. Wait to fertilize hydrangeas until new growth emerges in spring. This allows time for the plant to recover from frost damage without encouraging tender new growth too early.

Focus first on removing dead stems and leaves so healthy buds can thrive. Then apply an all-purpose fertilizer once regeneration is underway and soil temperatures reach 55°F. Be patient through the pruning and recovery process to revitalize your hydrangeas.

Recovery of Hydrangeas From Frost Damage

Recovery of Hydrangeas From Frost Damage
When hydrangeas suffer frost damage, the extent of their ability to recover and produce blooms depends on the variety and how far along the plant was in its bloom cycle. To help your hydrangeas bounce back, continue watering them until hard freezes hit, mulch around the base with straw or marsh hay for insulation, and consider using burlap or another thick material to wrap the plants for added winter protection.

Hydrangeas can recover from frost damage depending on the variety and stage of bloom. Provide ongoing care like watering until hard freezes occur. Mulching with straw or marsh hay insulates the base. Burlap wrapping gives added winter protection. With proper care, hydrangeas can rebound after frost.

Factors Affecting Bloom Recovery

You can have hope for blooms next year if you care for your hydrangeas properly after frost damage.

  1. Hydrangea bloom recovery depends on the frost timing, damage severity, and variety.
  2. Protect remaining healthy buds and stems through proper pruning cuts.
  3. Improve cold hardiness by building up the soil with organic matter.

The relationship between temperature variability, tailored pruning techniques, and nurturing the soil back to health will determine your hydrangea’s recovery timeline.

Insulating Hydrangeas in Winter With Mulch and Compost

To ensure winter survival, blanket your hydrangeas with several inches of mulch or compost before the first hard freeze. This insulation boosts root resilience to frigid temperatures. Apply 2-4 inches, clearing weeds first.

Benefit Details
Insulation Traps radiant heat from soil. Keeps roots warmer.
Moisture Retention Prevents desiccation. Hydration aids cold tolerance.
Weed Suppression Fewer weeds competing for water and nutrients.
Soil Enrichment As it breaks down, compost or mulch improves soil fertility and structure.
Erosion Control Anchors soil against wind, rain, and runoff.

Mulch and compost shield hydrangea roots from harsh winter conditions. This protection fosters vigorous regrowth and abundant blooms come spring.

Continued Watering and Additional Protection

Continue to moisten the soil until the ground freezes over. Provide insulating protection with marsh hay or dense burlap wrappings shielding the buds for added fortification. Persistent watering before winter’s arrival promotes crucial hydration. Layered covers trap insulating air while allowing some light, boosting recovery from frost and cold damage.

With prudent measures, your hydrangeas can endure harsh weather and bloom beautifully come spring.


Protecting hydrangeas from the cold is crucial to ensuring beautiful blooms come spring and summer. The saying goes, an ounce of prevention’s worth a pound of cure, and this certainly applies to winter care for hydrangeas.

By taking necessary steps to prevent cold injury, you can ensure your hydrangea plants will stay healthy and vibrant through the winter. Watering before the first freeze, applying mulch for insulation, and covering the plants with stakes, cloth, leaves, and rocks can all help prevent cold injury.

If there’s frost or cold damage, assessing the damage’s severity and pruning unhealthy stems, leaves, and blooms can help the plants recover. With proper care, hydrangeas can make a full recovery from cold injury and provide stunning blooms come spring.

So, make sure to take steps to prevent cold injury in your hydrangeas, and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful blooms next season.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and agriculture expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of people make their yards lush and thick.