Hydrangea Arborescens and Stuck Leaves

Are the leaves on your ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea arborescens stuck to each other?

Inspect them and any other hydrangea arborescens you may have like Incrediball® or Invincibelle® Spirit. You may notice some leaves cupped together. It looks like the leaves above from my Invincibelle® Spirit.

Interesting, huh? Don’t panic!

Leaf rollers/leaf tiers are at work here, setting up house and rearing their young. It’s the first hydrangea insect to show up: normal and predictable.


The Science of Leaf rollers/Leaf tiers:

Exartema ferriferanum is a small moth that lays its eggs on the branches in either the fall or the spring. Upon hatching, the small green black-headed caterpillars sew two terminal leaves together with silk thread, forming this pocket. Then they begin to feed. About 10 days later, they pupate and the moths show up in about a week. Fortunately, there is only one generation per year.

If you peel the cupped leaves apart, you’ll see the larvae crawling around. You can destroy them but you will mar the leaves. If you do nothing, it will not harm your plant.

What do Leaf Rollers/Leaf Tiers do to my plant?

While the damage does not threaten the plant’s life, it may cause the flower buds to abort.

Caterpillar inside hydrangea leaf

Caterpillar inside hydrangea leaf

Leaf tier larvae inside cupped leaves on Hydrangea arborescens

Leaf tier larvae inside cupped leaves on Hydrangea arborescens

Insecticides are useless as the insects are protected inside their little pockets. I explain it all in my book, Success With Hydrangeas, A Gardener’s Guide. There is an entire chapter on insects and diseases of hydrangeas and what to do about them. If you know beforehand what to expect and are prepared to handle these kinds of issues, you’ll be in the best position to have healthy plants that will look stunning in your garden this season.

Info on my hydrangea book

Success With Hydrangeas, A Gardener’s Guide is all about how to grow hydrangeas. It has gotten rave reviews which you can read HERE. That’s also where you can buy the book. If you want a signed copy, just go to my website to make your purchase. A signed book makes a great gift for any gardener. The site will also tell you about me, and how to sign up for blog posts if you are not already a subscriber. Plus, you can catch up on prior posts.

Here’s to happy hydrangeas, not a myth but a reality.

Other places you can “find” me and Upcoming Webinar

If you’d like to read my other garden writing, go to the Coast of Maine blog. Each month I write about a different gardening topic which you may find interesting and helpful. Plus you can go back in time to read past posts. I also write regularly for Connecticut Gardener, a subscription only publication. Find out more at their site.

Also, if you are interested in shade gardening, I am delivering my popular 2 hour New York Botanical Garden shade class via Zoom on June 6 at 10.30 a.m. It will not be recorded. You can learn more HERE.

Here are some comments from prior attendees in answer to the question “What was the most beneficial part of the course?”:

  • “descriptions and advice on planning shade gardens with color, texture, layering”
  • “great conversation and slides”
  • “great examples of mixed garden ideas”
  • “Excellent overview of whole topic; lots of great plant recommendations”


Tags: ‘Annabelle’, Coast of Maine Blog, HYDRANGEA ARBORESCENS, Hydrangea insects

(Originally posted June 2018; updated May 2019, updated May 2020)


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