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pruning hydrangea

How to Prune Hydrangeas

By Brittany, Landscape Designer

Hydrangeas are, by far, the number one plant everyone wants me to incorporate into their design.  Who wouldn’t want one, they are so beautiful!  These beauties also happen to be a diva of the landscape for a multitude of reasons, one being their personal preference for specialized pruning.  If you want your hydrangea to bloom like a beauty next season, its very important that you take the proper approach or next spring your little diva will punish you in the form of an entire season with no blooms! We’re here to help explain the best way to prune hydrangea for optimal results.

First you need to figure out what kind of hydrangea you have.  Hopefully, you will remember what you bought, but there is always the trusty internet to figure it out if you don’t.Types of Hydrangea

If you have Mophead, Lacecap or Oakleaf Hydrangea you will want to follow the following methods of pruning:

These varieties bloom on old wood; meaning they set their flower buds in August on the growth from the summer before.  To reduce the size of your hydrangea without jeopardizing the blooms for next summer you have a very small window of time.  You want to cut it back after it blooms but before August.  This will give you a two month window (generally) for enjoying the spectacular blooms. Do not mistake “dead-heading” (removing faded blooms) or cutting off just the bloom for flower arrangements as pruning.  If you want long-stem hydrangea arrangements you can cut them until the middle of July.  If you are cutting flowers after mid-July cut back to just above the last set of large leaves.  Now if you prune at the wrong time, don’t worry it won’t kill the plant, you just won’t have blooms the following year.  You should try to plant your hydrangea in a large enough area so you don’t need to prune to reduce size, you can just prune to refresh the plant.

To refresh the plant, remove all dead stalks to the ground, cut out any dead branches and every five years cut a third of the plant to the ground after it blooms in the summer.   Growers have come out with a couple of varieties of “ever-blooming” hydrangea, “Endless Summer” is an example.  It produces flower buds on both new and old wood, to help prevent cutting off all the flower buds by pruning at the wrong time.

If you have Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ you can prune anytime except for Spring.  Annabelle Hydrangeas can tolerate harsh pruning.  They can be pruned back to within a few inches of the ground.  However, they have huge heavy bloom that flop over, so a better thing to do is prune them to about 18-24”.  This way the stalks are stronger.

If you have Paniculatas like ‘Limelight or PG” you can prune anytime except for the summer.  If you really want to get crazy with pruning, these hydrangeas are the only ones that can be pruned into trees.  Make sure you read up on how to do that before hacking away.

Although I call them divas, Hydrangeas are truly beautiful, hardy plants and as long you care for and prune correctly you will be enjoying them every year faithfully!

To learn more about PGI’s Personal Gardening Service for landscape maintenance needs please contact us at 703-339-0600 or click here


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