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5 Tips on When and How to Prune Hydrangeas

pruning hydrangeas flower

Hydrangeas are relatively low maintenance and do not need a lot of pruning. But, it is still advisable to prune them from time to time to keep them healthy. It’s best to prune hydrangeas in late winter or early spring for the best results. But for some hydrangea varieties, pruning is best done in the summer.

The variety of hydrangeas in your garden is crucial in determining the best time to prune them for optimum blooming and longevity. We can group hydrangeas into two categories when deciding when to prune: old wood and new wood hydrangeas.

Old woods bloom from the previous season’s growth and are best pruned in late summer. These hydrangeas include Oakleaf, bigleaf, mountain, and climbing hydrangeas. On the other hand, new wood hydrangeas require new growth to bloom. Therefore, pruning should be done between late winter and early spring. Smooth and panicle hydrangeas fall in the new wood bloomer categories.

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How to Prune Hydrangeas in 5 Simple Steps

Once you’ve figured out the type of hydrangeas you are dealing with, the next step is to determine how to prune your shrubs without damaging them. Here are some helpful tips for hydrangea pruning.

1. Get the Right Tools

pruning shears
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Getting the right tools for pruning hydrangeas is as important as the when and how of pruning. Pruning shears are the best choice as they are designed superficially for cutting stems. Ensure that your shears are sharp enough not to damage the stem as you prune. And don’t forget to disinfect them.

In addition to shears, have your garden gloves and protective eyewear. A bucket would also be a good idea to collect debris as you go.

2. Remove Any Diseased or Dead Branches

pruning jasmine plant
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Check your hydrangeas to remove dead or diseased branches from the plant. This clears the plant for new growth and prevents the transmission of diseases to the rest of your plants. When you identify a dead branch, hold it and trace it to its base before cutting.

3. Remove the Dried Flowers

cutting flowers
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Deadheading or removing dried flowers from hydrangeas encourages better blooms by encouraging the plant to spend resources on growing leaves, roots, and stems. The process involves cutting the dead flower as close as possible to the two sets of fat buds.

Of course, it’s not problematic to leave old flowers on your plants, especially during the winter. These flowers can serve as a decorative element during the winter months. They also offer some protection from frost and wind damage in the winter.

4. Prune for Size and Shape

man trimming indoor plants
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Also known as hard pruning, pruning for size helps you manage the mass of your hydrangeas to keep them from overgrowing. Most hydrangeas can withstand losing up to a third of their mass, but you should not push it further than that.

When pruning for shape, identify the stems you need to cut and determine how far down you want to cut them. Generally, the shaping process is simply a light trimming session if you have previously shaped your hydrangea shrubs.

5. Prune for Rejuvenation

pruning hydrangeas
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If you have missed several pruning seasons and your hydrangeas are out of hand, you can still save them.

The best thing, in this case, is to cut back all the plant’s stems to the ground. This deep level of pruning gives the hydrangea a chance to shine new. But you will have to wait a season or two for the blooms to reach their full glory.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The following are some commonly asked questions about pruning hydrangeas.

What Happens If You Don’t Cut Back Hydrangeas

blue and pink hydrangeas plant
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When you don’t prune hydrangeas, they will overgrow and become woody. Their new blooms are more likely to become progressively smaller.

Do You Need to Cut Back Hydrangeas for Winter?

You don’t need to cut back hydrangeas during the winter. In fact, most gardeners leave the dried blooms on to create a focal point in their gardens during winter. The dried flowers also offer some protection to any leaf and flower buds that could be developing.

How Do I Prune Climbing Hydrangeas?

Climbing hydrangeas do not require much pruning except to maintain their boundaries and remove dead vines. You should prune them after the flowering. If your climbing hydrangea has gotten out of hand, cut it back to ground level in spring. It will take about a season or two to return to full bloom.

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Final Thoughts

There you have it! Pruning hydrangeas should not be a complicated process once you’ve figured out what variety you are dealing with. Since they are low-maintenance shrubs, you can get away with trimming out dead wood and diseased branches and still maintain healthy-looking hydrangeas.

See also: When and How to Prune Spireas (5 Expert Tips)

Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock


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