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How and When to Prune Hydrangeas (Bigleaf and Panicle)

Rachel is a passionate plantsperson, YouTuber and author living in Ireland. She grows a wide range of hardy subtropical and tropical plants.

Tips for How to Prune Your Hydrangeas

Tips for How to Prune Your Hydrangeas

How and When Should Hydrangeas Be Pruned?

When spring is in the air, it's the perfect time to prune your hydrangeas, and pruning hydrangeas is actually really easy to do so.

The bigleaf hydrangea is the most common type of hydrangea grown. Your bigleaf hydrangea may be either mophead—with glorious balls of blue flower if your soil is acidic, or pink flowers, if your soil is alkaline—or lacecap. In either case, pruning is exactly the same. If you have a panicle hydrangea, the process is slightly different, but still quite easy.

How to Prune Hydrangea Bushes

  1. Cut out any dead or wimpy branches or any that cross over, so that they won't damage the bark on existing branches by rubbing. Cut these out right at the base so they won't regrow.
  2. Cut each stem back to a strong pair of buds. By doing this job in the spring, it's easy to see the new buds as they're plumping up. This way, we ensure that last year's skeletal flower heads offer winter protection to emerging buds.

Can You Prune After a Late Frost?

If you do get a late frost and that withers your buds after pruning, then just cut back to the next set of buds down. Bigleaf hydrangeas flower on old wood, so you're essentially just deadheading the established branches.

Panicle hydrangea flowers do not change based on soil acidity, but rather due to seasonal changes in temperature.

Panicle hydrangea flowers do not change based on soil acidity, but rather due to seasonal changes in temperature.

How to Prune Panicle Hydrangeas

Now it's time to tackle a different type of hydrangea. Panicle hydrangeas have large, usually white, elongated flower heads that make extremely handsome plants. They flower on new wood and require a different type of pruning. In this case, you will cut it back so that it regrows lots of new wood and new flowers.

  1. Instead of cutting back to the first set of healthy buds, cut back to the last or lowest set of healthy buds.
  2. If the buds aren't very advanced, cut back to a node instead of a bud. The node is the place where the buds will come from if encouraged to do so by cutting. Cutting here will encourage the bush to sprout new growth from the nodes.
  3. Finally, as with the last pruning job, remove any dead or diseased branches or any spindly growth.

Easy Hydrangea Pruning for All Types

Happy Gardening!

I hope you can see how easy it is to prune your hydrangeas. The main thing is not to be afraid. They are really robust plants, and if the plant is in good health and established before you start pruning, even if you butcher it, you're not going to kill it. The worst that can happen is that it won't flower this year, but that's all. Happy gardening!

More Ways to Brighten Up Your Garden

Beautiful pink hydrangea blooms.

Beautiful pink hydrangea blooms.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Rachel Darlington

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