What Causes Black Spots on Hydrangea Leaves?

Home and Garden

Hydrangeas are beautiful flowering plants that are cherished for their vibrant blooms and lush foliage. However, it can be disheartening to notice black spots appearing on the leaves of your hydrangea plant. These black spots not only detract from the plant’s overall beauty but may also indicate an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. In this article, we will explore the various factors that can lead to the development of black spots on hydrangea leaves and provide insights on how to prevent and treat this condition.

1. Fungal Infections

One of the most common causes of black spots on hydrangea leaves is fungal infections. Fungi thrive in moist environments and can easily infect the leaves when conditions are favorable. The two primary fungal diseases that affect hydrangeas are:

1.1 Cercospora Leaf Spot

Cercospora leaf spot is caused by the fungus Cercospora hydrangeae and is characterized by the formation of small, circular black spots on the leaves. These spots gradually enlarge and may merge together, leading to significant leaf damage. The affected leaves may also develop yellow halos around the spots.

1.2 Anthracnose

Anthracnose is caused by the fungus Colletotrichum gloeosporioides and typically affects hydrangeas during periods of high humidity and warm temperatures. The disease manifests as black spots that are often surrounded by a reddish-purple halo. In severe cases, the spots can enlarge and cause the leaves to wither and drop prematurely.

2. Bacterial Infections

In addition to fungal infections, bacterial infections can also lead to the development of black spots on hydrangea leaves. The most common bacterial disease affecting hydrangeas is:

2.1 Bacterial Leaf Spot

Bacterial leaf spot is caused by the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris and primarily affects the leaves of hydrangea plants. The disease is characterized by the formation of circular or irregularly shaped black spots with yellow halos. Over time, the spots may increase in size and cause the affected leaves to become distorted or drop prematurely.

3. Environmental Factors

While infections are a significant cause of black spots on hydrangea leaves, certain environmental factors can also contribute to their development. These factors include:

3.1 Moisture Levels

Excessive moisture, whether due to overwatering or heavy rainfall, creates a favorable environment for fungal and bacterial growth. Prolonged wetness on the leaves can lead to the formation of black spots and increase the risk of infection.

3.2 Poor Air Circulation

Inadequate air circulation around hydrangea plants can create a humid microclimate, promoting the growth of fungi and bacteria. This is particularly common in crowded garden beds or areas with dense foliage where air movement is restricted.

4. Preventive Measures

Prevention is key when it comes to managing black spots on hydrangea leaves. Here are some preventive measures you can take:

4.1 Proper Watering

Avoid overwatering hydrangeas and ensure the plants are grown in well-draining soil. Water at the base of the plant to minimize leaf wetness and reduce the risk of fungal and bacterial infections.

4.2 Pruning and Thinning

Regularly prune and thin your hydrangea plants to promote better air circulation and reduce humidity levels. This will help prevent the formation of black spots caused by poor air circulation.

4.3 Mulching

Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of your hydrangea plants to help maintain consistent soil moisture levels and reduce the impact of heavy rainfall. Avoid mulching directly against the stems to prevent excess moisture accumulation.

5. Treatment Options

If black spots have already appeared on your hydrangea leaves, it is essential to take appropriate treatment measures. Here are some treatment options:

5.1 Fungicides

If fungal infections are the primary cause of black spots, applying a fungicide specifically formulated for hydrangeas can help control the disease. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer and ensure thorough coverage of the leaves.

5.2 Bactericides

For bacterial leaf spot, the use of bactericides may be necessary. Consult with a local garden center or horticulturist to determine the most suitable bactericide for treating bacterial infections on hydrangeas.

5.3 Proper Sanitation

To prevent the spread of infections, remove and destroy any infected leaves or plant debris. Clean pruning tools with a disinfectant between cuts to avoid transmitting diseases from one plant to another.


Black spots on hydrangea leaves can be caused by fungal or bacterial infections, as well as environmental factors. By implementing preventive measures and taking appropriate treatment steps, you can effectively manage and prevent the development of black spots on your hydrangea plants. Remember to provide adequate air circulation, avoid overwatering, and maintain proper sanitation practices for the best results. Enjoy the beauty of your hydrangeas without the worry of unsightly black spots!

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