With their lovely big and colourful flower heads, Hydrangeas are perfect for shady or semi-shady spots in your garden. They’re also relatively low-care but they do respond well to regular pruning.
If you’re new to growing this attractive plant, you may be confused about how and when to prune your hydrangeas.
To help you out, we’re going to discuss exactly how you should prune your hydrangeas and when you should do it.
We’ll also discuss the different types of hydrangeas and how these should be treated.
Remove the blooms once they’re finished
Removing spent flowers can be done at any time during the year, even in summer.
This is a good idea because it encourages your hydrangea to put on new growth stems that will provide stunning blooms the following year. Therefore, don’t be afraid to remove those spent flowers at any time.
Removing spent blooms on flowering shrubs is commonly referred to as deadheading.
Here’s a quick guide:
- When deadheading your hydrangeas, only cut off the stems that have finished flowering.
- Make the cut below the spent flower head and just above a pair of leaf buds that are nice and plump.
- Once you’ve cut off the spent blooms, the two buds that remain will start to grow new stems.
- These new stems will produce gorgeous blooms the following year on some varieties while on others you might get more blooms later in the season.
Prune your hydrangeas in winter to reshape them
Mid-winter is the perfect time to give your hydrangea shrubs a harder prune. This allows you to reshape them and set them up for a gorgeous display of amazing blooms in summer.
Here are some general guidelines:
- In general, you don’t want to take off more than one-third of the shrub.
- Always cut your stems down to a pair of plump leaf buds.
- For a complete rejuvenation, you can cut the stems back further to just above ground level.
Hydrangeas respond really well to pruning but there are different types of hydrangeas that will respond differently.
It’s important that you understand this so that you get the results that you’re after.
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How to prune big leaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla)
This species is known as bigleaf hydrangeas or mophead hydrangeas. The important thing to note about these varieties is that they will only bloom on the previous year’s growth.
Therefore, these species shouldn’t be pruned in winter because they won’t produce as many blooms the following summer.
With these, what you want to do is just cut back the spent blooms during their active growing season in summer.
Don’t cut them back too heavily. Limit the pruning to just one-third of the stems that have just flowered.
In saying that, there are new cultivars of this species that have been bred to bloom both on old wood and on new stems. These can be pruned back in winter because they will still bloom on the new stems that grow after the plants have been pruned.
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How to prune oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia)
Oakleaf hydrangeas are similar to the big leaf varieties. They will only bloom on old wood.
Therefore, you want to deadhead them during the summer once the blooms have finished. Always cut the stems to just above a pair of plump buds.
Pruning these in summer will allow the new stems to grow before the colder weather arrives. These stems will then produce gorgeous blooms the following summer.
How to prune panicle hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata)
Panicle hydrangeas are also commonly called PeeGee hydrangeas. These varieties bloom on new wood. Therefore, they can be pruned back in winter to reshape them. You can even do this in early spring.
Just remember to cut back to a pair of emerging buds. These buds will grow into new stems that will produce blooms in summer.
It’s also prudent to remove the spent blooms that appear early in the season. If you cut these back to a pair of new buds, you might just get additional blooms later in the season as well.
How to prune smooth hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens)
These varieties will also bloom on new wood and really benefit from a hard prune in late winter or early spring. Quite commonly, these varieties are cut back almost to ground level during this time.
This heavy pruning will produce plenty of new growth in the spring and an abundance of blooms in the summer. However, you don’t have to be quite that drastic if you want a larger shrub.
You can just cut some stems back to just above ground level and leave a few others at various lengths. Leave these longer stems at lengths from 1 to 2 feet, making sure that you keep the overall shape fairly uniform.
These plants should also be deadheaded in summer.
When should hydrangea be pruned?
Removing spent flowers can be done at any time during the year, while mid-winter is the best time to give your hydrangea a harder prune.
How far back should I prune hydrangea?
When deadheading, only cut off the stems that have finished flowering. Cut below the spent flower head and just above a pair of leaf buds. For your winter prune, you generally don’t want to take off more than one-third of the shrub.