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Marie Iannotti

Gardening Question of the Week: "Snowball Bush Won’t Bloom "

By September 4, 2008

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Some questions don't need a lot of explanation. I know snowball bush is a popular name for mophead hydrangeas. And even if I didn't, the one plant that people complain about the most - for not flowering - is the ever popular hydrangea. It's wonderful that they are breeding so many new hydrangea varieties that promise to bloom no matter what, but many of us inherit old fashioned hydrangea shrubs when we buy our homes and why shouldn't we expect some blossoms from them? After all, they've bloomed for years.

There are several reasons why gardeners have trouble getting their hydrangeas to bloom. The first thing you have to ask yourself is, what type of hydrangea is it? Some hydrangeas bloom only on old wood, or branches that sprouted last season and will bloom this season. Some bloom only on the current years growth. Then there's the question of when they set their flower buds. If it was last year or early in the current season, the problem could be that a late frost killed all the buds. Or maybe a late pruning. Here are the guidelines for when each type of hydrangea will set their flower buds and how to take care of them, so your snowball bush will flower again.

Photo: © Marie Iannotti (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.


April 20, 2009 at 5:11 pm
(1) Gary says:

OK, you answered about a hydrangea, now how about the Viburnum snowball bush?

December 3, 2009 at 7:50 am
(2) Ande Anderson says:

You say “Here are the guidelines for when each type of hydrangea will set their flower buds and how to take care of them, so your snowball bush will flower again.” But, that is where this article/post ends.

Where are the guidelines?


December 3, 2009 at 1:30 pm
(3) gardening says:

I guess the link wasn’t obvious. The guidelines are in the referenced article about why hydrangeas don’t bloom.

May 29, 2010 at 2:06 pm
(4) sandra says:

My snow ball bush has spindly branches unable to hold up blossoms. What can I do to prevent this in the future.

June 3, 2010 at 1:39 pm
(5) Marie Iannotti says:

Sandra, the snowball I was talking about here was a slang name for hydrangea. But you probably have the viburnum snowball, which is more commonly referred to as the snowball bush. These don’t need a lot of pruning, unless they are overgrown. But when they get very tall, the branches tend to flop over. If that’s the case, cut them back by about 1/3.

Or it could be because it’s not getting enough sunlight and the branches are stretching to get more. In this case, cutting just a bit off the tips, back to a set of leaves, will encourage side shoots and a bushier plant that can support itself.

May 2, 2011 at 7:22 pm
(6) Maxine says:

I am with the others. You told about hydrangeas blooming but nothing about the snowball bush. I need to know why mine is not blooming. It’s getting large and seems to have buds but nothing ever comes out.

May 3, 2011 at 2:40 pm
(7) gardening says:

Maxine, sorry for the confusion. Snowball is used for more than one bush and this article was about hydrangeas. Your viburnum seems to be in good health and if it appears to have buds, it must be getting plenty of sun. The buds are set during the fall and sometimes they are damaged by a late spring frost. Could that be the case? Is your plant exposed to a lot of wind?

June 3, 2011 at 4:45 pm
(8) deb whipple says:

my snowballs on my bush are are green still but they are dying whats up and what can i do about this the bush is doing the best it has ever done we live in upper michigan. also my neighbors bush is doing the same thing plants are not related thank you hope someoone can help

June 10, 2011 at 4:54 pm
(9) Marie Iannotti says:

It’s hard to say without seeing them, but assuming they’re getting plenty of water, I’d take a close look at the flowers. If it’s happening on two different types of plants, there could be disease or even insect damage. I’d recommend taking a sample in to your local Cooperative Extension or even a good nursery.

June 14, 2011 at 5:43 pm
(10) deb whipple says:

thanks Marie my snowball seemed to recover but my neighbors didnt shes loosing all her snowballs before they have time to bloom will check out the cooperative extension and yes they get lots of water thanks again

May 13, 2013 at 8:57 am
(11) Anna Briggs says:

My snowball bush is about three years old and has never been pruned and has never bloomed.

May 13, 2013 at 12:08 pm
(12) gardening says:

Anna, it’s very hard to say what is wrong with a shrub, without seeing it. It it looks otherwise healthy and is growing in size, it could just need a few more years to mature, before it starts setting buds. Other reasons for not blooming include:

Not enough sun.
Too much nitrogen fertilizer. If the lawn around a shrub gets a lot of fertilizer, it can over-fertilize nearby shrubs.
A late spring frost, after the buds have started to open.
Pruning in the fall, after the buds have set.

If you don’t see the problem listed here, you probably just have to be patient.

June 9, 2013 at 10:06 am
(13) Sarah says:

I have a SNOWBALL TREE not a hydrangea bush. For the first time in 12 years it has not bloomed this year. The branches look sparse of leaves and there are a few tiny snowball like flowers. But not the usual stunning show. WHY and how can I repair any damage. please.

June 21, 2013 at 2:42 pm
(14) gardening says:

Sarah, it’s really hard to say without seeing the bush. I would suggest looking closely to see if there are any insects or signs of disease that could be causing the decline. You could also take a sample branch into your local Cooperative Extension office or a good local nursery.

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