Pruning Hydrangea

One of the questions that I’m most often asked is, “When is the proper time to prune hydrangea?” So I figured, why not write about it and get all my tips up on the website? So… Here goes! Hydrangea, while not native to North America are perhaps one of our favorite shrubs to cultivate. You will find them from coast to coast in the US and in a stunning variety of colors, leaf shapes and shrub types. As you might imagine, due to the endless variety, choosing the right time to prune your Hydrangea actually depends on the type of hydrangea you have…

Here are the common types of hydrangeas and when they should be pruned:
Big-leaf hydrangeas

  • Hydrangea macrophyla: These are the most common species and include the popular mopheads and lacecaps in wide-ranging colors of blue, violet, pink, purple, red and white. They bloom in early summer on old wood, so prune them after flowering.

Oakleaf hydrangeas

  • Hydrangea quercifolia: This native hydrangea features cone-shaped white blooms that turn a beautiful shade of russet in late summer. It, too, blooms on old wood so should not be pruned until after flowering.

Panicle hydrangeas

  • Hydrangea paniculata: Often pruned as tree forms, these shrubs (Tardivas, PeeGees) explode with panicle-shaped white flowers in mid- to late summer. Because they bloom on new wood, prune these in early spring before they sprout new foliage.

Annabelle Hydrangea

  • Hydrangea arborescens: Featuring globe-shaped blooms in spring that start out chartreuse and later turn white, this variety blooms on new wood as well so prune in early spring.

How to Prune:

  1. All dead stems should be removed from hydrangeas every year.
  2. After the plants are at least 5 years old, about 1/3 of the older (living) stems can be removed down to the ground each summer. This will revitalize the plant.
  3. In addition, if it becomes necessary to prune a plant to reduce its size, it may be cut back in June or July without harming the next year’s bloom. But it will return almost immediately to it’s former size. This is one reason why it’s best to plant a hydrangea where it does not have to be pruned.
  4. This video also has some great hints about pruning hydrangea for maximum foliage and blooms:

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