What’s Happening to My Hydrangea Leaves?

hydrangea leaftier worm

See that little worm just inside the base of this leaf? It’s the hydrangea leaftier worm. This is what happens when you’re not paying attention.

Actually I was. For the last couple of year, I watched something fuse the buds of a few leaves at the tops of my smooth hydrangeas. For those not familiar with smooth hydrangea cultivars, I think most of you will know them once I mention some names. The most well known, until a few years ago, was “Annabelle.’

Then Proven Winners got into the act and bred a “new and improved” Annabelle called Incrediball . It’s flowers were supposedly several times larger and they were held on sturdier stems, rather than flopping over.

At the same time they released another version that was also a fund raiser for breast cancer research called Invincibelle Spirit. Its large flowers were tinted pink.

As a shrub tester for Proven Winners I received several of these lovely plants and they grace my garden today. They have performed beautifully and they winter better than any hydrangea in my garden.

But there’s this.

fused bud

That’s what the fused leaves of the leaftier worm look like at the top of the plant. Now given that I have probably 8 of these plants in my garden, over time, these worms have had quite an opportunity to get established.

leaftier worm on plant

This is what the little bundle of fused together leaves looks like on the plant. You can see why it’s easy to overlook. It almost looks like a bud forming.

How do I deal with them? Simple. I prune them off and dispose of them in the trash. Unless you’re using a systemic (chemical, aka poison) you can’t get into these leaves to kill this little insect.

And why would you poison a plant that other insects feed on when you can simply cut off the affected leaves? Sometimes doing the simple thing is also the best thing for our pollinators. Please try to remember that.

3 thoughts on “What’s Happening to My Hydrangea Leaves?

  1. gardendaze June 1, 2015 / 10:38 am

    Thanks! So much simpler than a lot of things, don’t you think?


  2. Ana June 11, 2019 / 9:12 pm

    I have them covering my Annabelle plants. I open up the fused leaves and squash the little buggers. Problem is today I opened leaves and found many of the flower buds have been destroyed. I am going to try Bayer Systemic which did a fantastic job of getting rid of mites on my pussy willow. Hopefully that will do the trick.

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