When to Prune Hydrangeas

By: Julie Day
Blue hydrangea in yard next to house.

Whether to prune your hydrangea depends on the type of plant you have.

I have four blue hydrangea bushes. I pruned them back to about 12” tall, and I’ve been told that I ruined them. How and when should I prune my hydrangeas? –Darlene

I’m not sure that pruning your blue hydrangeas will ruin them, although you might not see as many blooms next year. The way you prune hydrangeas depends on the type of hydrangea and how it blooms.

Some types (such as yours) bloom on old wood, so they shouldn’t be pruned severely other than to remove dead branches. Other types bloom on new wood, so some strategic pruning can help them thrive.

Here are some tips for pruning the hydrangeas in your yard.

  • Mophead or Lacecap Hydrangeas: (Hydrangea macrophylla) All hydrangeas with colored flowers (pink, purple, and blue) fall in this category, as well as some types of white hydrangeas. These types of hydrangeas don’t need to be pruned at all, other than deadheading and removing dead branches. Since they bloom on old wood (rather than this year’s new branches), excessive pruning of mophead or lacecap hydrangeas will reduce blooming. If your plant is overgrown and must be trimmed, do it before August, when the plant sets next year’s flower buds. If your plants are old and declining, you can revitalize it by removing up to a third of the oldest branches in midsummer, just as the blooms start to fade.
  • Hydrangeas flowers

    Hydrangea flowers in full bloom.

  • Oakleaf Hydrangea: (Hydrangea quercifolia) Oakleaf hydrangeas have white blooms and large oak-shaped leaves. They bloom on old wood and should be treated just like H. macrophylla above.
  • PeeGee and Annabelle Hydrangeas: (Hydrangea paniculata and Hydrangea arborescens) Both of these hydrangeas have white blooms and bloom on new wood (this year’s new branches). They can be pruned starting immediately after they flower on into fall and winter. Don’t prune in spring or summer when they’re preparing to bloom. You can prune lightly or severely, depending on the size and shape you want. These hydrangeas don’t have to be pruned at all, but some gardeners cut them back each year.

Julie

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6 Comments on “When to Prune Hydrangeas”

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  • Cindy Nelson Says:
    June 2nd, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    My blue and pink mophead hydrangeas were severely pruned last fall, yet they have bloomed profusely this year. I thought they bloomed on old growth. Why is this? Mine were a little damaged so I cut them nearly to the ground.



  • Felicia Gibson Says:
    May 23rd, 2016 at 7:42 am

    I have the Nikko Blue and want to know when I can trim those dead stems without hurting the plant? Thank you.



  • Faye Cox Says:
    May 17th, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    Do Oakleaf hydrangeas need to be planted in the shade or sun ?



  • Karen Davies Says:
    January 14th, 2016 at 9:09 am

    I live in rural Victoria Australia. I have mop head Hydrangers. When should I do a light prune and fertilise.



  • Adele Malley Says:
    October 14th, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    What kind of flowers can be grown in Venice, FL (Just below Sarasota) that can be grown to pick for house and lanai bouquets? I’d like to have them come up every year. I planted Gardenias and they are not doing well at all. They are getting skimpy looking and just don’t look vibrant. Suggestions please!
    Adele

    P.S. If you decide not to answer but to use the questions on one of your shows, will you contact me as to the date so I don’t miss out on your valued answers!



  • Mollard Jefferson Says:
    September 25th, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Is it too late to dead head oakleaf hydrangeas? I am in middle Tenn. The plants were planted spring 2013.


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