Pruning Tips

Pruning Tips

Hydrangeas can live for many years without ever needing to be pruned, but if your shrubs grow out of bounds or lose flowering vigor, then there are some essential pruning guidelines you must follow to ensure bountiful blooms the next year!

Hydrangea macrophylla and H. quercifolia These generally bloom on old wood and require little pruning. Prune spent blooms immediately after flowering (midsummer), or remove only dead, damaged or unsightly wood.
Hydrangea Endless Summer® Hydrangea macrophylla (Bigleaf, Mophead, or Lacecap Hydrangeas)
These Hydrangeas begin blooming in early to midsummer and can continue until summer's end, so they set their bloom buds during late summer or early fall. When pruning mopheads, you have two options, and will probably end up doing a combination of both:
  1. Cut back the flowering shoots to the next bud, thus giving the branches a trim that removes the spent blooms without damaging the buds that will bloom next year. Do this right after flowering, but before midsummer.
  2. On older shrubs that have lost flowering vigor, cut up to a third of entire stems at the base in late winter to improve flowering vigor. Ideally, you should cut the oldest stems, leaving younger mature stems that are loaded with buds for next year, but sometimes you have a lopsided or crowded Hydrangea that must be pruned to maintain a pleasing shape. The main purpose of cutting off entire stems is to do away with elderly or poorly flowering parts of the shrub, thus letting in more air and light AND encouraging the growth of healthy new branches.In mild climates that may experience warm spells in winter, be careful of the urge to get out in the garden and start pruning before late winter. If you prune too early, you could encourage dormant buds to break, leaving tender growth susceptible to frost and freeze damage.
Exception: If you have a reblooming variety such as Penny Mac that flowers on new wood as well as old wood, you'll want to prune a little every year just to keep the new wood coming.
Hydrangea quercifolia 'Pee Wee' Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf Hydrangea)
You can get away without pruning Oakleaf Hydrageas at all, but if you want to keep them well-shaped, cut dead stems back at the base in late winter or early spring.
Hydrangea arborescens and H. paniculata
These shrubs bloom on new wood and actually produce larger blooms if cut back to the ground in late winter.
Hydrangea arborescens (Smooth Hydrangea)
This is one of the easiest Hydrangeas to prune. Because it blooms only on new wood, you can just cut it back to the ground in late winter, before any new buds appear. If you experience some flopping of flowering branches, then leave a framework of old growth to help support the branches by only cutting stems back to 2 feet from the ground.
Hydrangea paniculata Pinky Winky™ Hydrangea paniculata (Pee Gee or Panicle Hydrangeas)
Prune this Hydrangea in late winter to keep the plants from becoming overgrown and encourage more new growth, more flower buds, and larger blooms. You can remove dead flowers, as soon as they become unattractive and clean up the overall shape of the plant.
Hydrangea petiolaris
Hydrangea petiolaris Hydrangea petiolaris (Climbing Hydrangea)
Climbing Hydrangea requires little to no pruning, but if you need to trim it to keep it in bounds, you should prune it just after flowering. Cut back last year's flower shoots to 1 to 2 inches and pruning out shoots that fail to cling or have pulled away from their support.
Remember, Hydrangeas are shade tolerant, but they do require adequate sunlight and irrigation to bloom properly. In northern climates and coastal areas, Hydrangeas will grow beautifully in full sun, but in warmer southern areas, a location in part shade where the shrub receives full to partial morning sun with protection from harsh afternoon sun is ideal. Placed in the right location, given ample moisture, and pruned using the guidelines above, your Hydrangeas will be an abundant source of gorgeous blooms long into the future.