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How and When to Prune Hydrangeas

Rachel Darlington is an avid plantsperson and writer who lives in Ireland.

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 mop-head, with glorious balls of blue flower if your soil is acidic, or pink flowers, if your soil is alkaline (or your bigleaf hydrangea may be lacecap). In either case, pruning is exactly the same.

How to Prune Hydrangea Bushes

  1. Firstly, 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. Next, 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.

Easy Hydrangea Pruning for All Types

How to Prune Panicle Hydrangeas

Now, it's time to tackle a different type of hydrangea: panicle. 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. Cut here, and this 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.

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!

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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