How to Prune Hydrangea Varieties

Blue Hydrangea Petals

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Hydrangeas can sometimes be a tricky plant to care for, so it is important to learn how to prune them and when to prune them. Properly pruning hydrangeas based on your hydrangea variety will allow you to have more blooms next year.

Before you start pruning hydrangeas, it’s important to know which variety you have. If you prune at the wrong time, you could be cutting off next year’s blooms.

Pruning Hydrangeas Based on Variety

The extreme weather we had last winter did a number on my hydrangeas. Even though my area is hardy to zone 5, my ‘Endless Summer’ mophead hydrangea—which usually has huge blue blossoms all summer long—was killed to the ground. Luckily, it has the wonderful ability to bloom on both old and new wood so even though they may be late in coming we still should get some blossoms.

endless-summer-hydrangea

‘Endless Summer’ in a good year.

My other blue hydrangea is a lacecap-type called ‘Let’s Dance Starlight,’ but instead of the huge mophead-type of flower cluster that ‘Endless Summer’ has, it bears a flat blossom made up of many small fertile flowers surrounded by a few showy sterile flowers. It is also hardy to zone 5 and has the ability to bloom on both old and new wood.

lacecap-hydrangea-pruning

Lacecap ‘Let’s Dance Starlight’

These are both considered bigleaf or macrophylla hydrangeas, so they can be pruned right after flowering by cutting back the flowering shoots to the next bud. If you have older plants that aren’t blooming well, you can cut up to a third of the stems off at the base in late summer to encourage new growth.

The hydrangeas grown most often in New England gardens are the panicle-types since they are not only beautiful but also very hardy, surviving zone 3 winters with no problems. One of the oldest and most reliable favorites is ‘Grandiflora,’ also known as Pee Gee hydrangea. Native to China and Japan, it was the first Asian hydrangea cultivar introduced to the United States in 1862. They were a big hit during the Victorian era. The flowers start out a creamy white and turn a rosy pink as they age. They can be dried and look lovely in a winter arrangement. Find out how to dry these lovely hydrangeas here.

There are many panicle-types to choose from. I have one called ‘Pinky Winky’ that has long cone-shaped white and pink flowers, and also ‘Vanilla Strawberry,’ which has panicles that color from white at the tip to pink in the middle and red at the base. For something different, try ‘Limelight,’ which has chartreuse flowers that gradually turn pink in autumn. Panicle-type hydrangeas should be pruned in late winter to keep them from becoming overgrown.

vanilla-strawberry-hydrangea-pruning

Panicle-type hydrangea ‘Vanilla Strawberry’

Smooth hydrangeas are North American natives, originally found growing wild in Pennsylvania. They tolerate light shade, begin to bloom in June and continue to blossom until fall. Their white flowers are round and can reach 12 inches in diameter.

how-to-prune-hydrangeas

Smooth hydrangea ‘Annabelle’

The popular cultivar ‘Annabelle’ grows to be 3-5 feet tall and can be used to light up a shady path or as a mass planting at the edge of the woods. It is hardy to zone 3. Smooth hydrangeas can be pruned back to the ground in the fall or early spring.

Oak-leaf hydrangeas are another North American native, having been discovered in Georgia in 1773.

oak-leaf-hydrangeas-pruning

Oak-leaf hydrangea

Also called swamp snowball, it is hardy to zone 5 and though it prefers full sun, it can take some shade and still blossom well. It blooms a little later than the other hydrangeas, beginning in August. Its flowers are large panicles that start out white and turn dark pink as they age. The leaves, which are deeply lobed like an oak leaf, turn a rich maroon red in the fall. Oak-leaf hydrangeas don’t need a lot of pruning but if you want to tidy yours up, prune out the dead stems at the base in early spring.

If you are unsure what type of hydrangea you have, a general rule of thumb is to prune them right after flowering. Check our Winter Pruning Guide for other tips on how to prune all your shrubs, including hydrangeas.

~ By  Robin Sweetser

About This Blog

Get inspired by Robin Sweetser's backyard gardening tips. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer's Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer's Market.

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Looking forward to learning

Looking forward to learning more plants and how to keep them alive and well.

When can I transplant a

When can I transplant a hydrangea?

Hydrangea shoots

My hydrangea plants that have bloomed beautifully this year are now hidden by huge shoots. Can these be removed or do next year's bloom come from them?

Pruning

Hiw and when do you prune the Endless Summer hydrangea? I didn't see it in the article. Maybe I missed it.

Cutting Hydrangea blossooms for bouquets

My hydrangeas are gorgeous! If I cut some for bouquets, will they bloom again this season? I know that is a trait for annuals but thought I'd ask. I love looking at the plant and love indoor bouquets.

Dead Heads

Can I cut off the dead flowers or am I better off letting them fall off? My beautiful blue mophead is looking horrid. We planted the bush in early May, and it bloomed so pretty. I cut a few of the lower flowers off because I could not help myself. Did I hurt it? We do have a few new blooms growing in but can't see them well through all the deadheads.

Hydrangeas pruning

I have a very hardy mophead hydrangea planted many years ago by my mother. My problem is that all of the stalks seem to die off every winter, so I've been pruning them back to the ground each spring. It becomes a big beautiful bush again every year, but doesn't bloom. What am I doing wrong, and what can I do to keep it from dying off every winter? I live in southern New York state, have never fertilized them, but sure do miss the blossoms!

Hi Craig,

Hi Craig,

You have removed the new buds with your spring pruning. Mophead hydrangeas bloom on old wood and produce flower buds on the stems in late summer for the following summer’s blooms. If those stems are pruned in the fall, winter, or spring, the buds will be removed, and there may be no blooms the following summer. Cut the bush back about ⅓ in July and hope for blooms next year.

Caring/pruning Blue Hydrangea

I live in S.Fla and growing my Blue ( PINK) Hydrangea in a container outside in east morning sun. It requires deep watering every other day or the six med. size balls of flowers droop. I feed it MiracleGro twice a month as directed. Am I doing right by my plant??? When is a good time to Prune and how is it done? When I purchased my plant, it was just a dried stick of wood and in a few weeks, it turned into a beauty...

It sounds like you are taking

It sounds like you are taking good care of your potted hydrangea. Watering is critical for any container plant  but especially for water-loving hydrangeas. After it has finished blooming you could cut it back and repot in a larger container with fresh soil.

Hi should i prune my plant now or wait for spring.

Very few blossoms last year a lot of rain in Oklahoma in the Spring.

Hi Norman, If you are unsure

Hi Norman, If you are unsure what type of hydrangea you have it is best to wait until after it flowers to prune it. Some plants bloom on old wood and you would be cutting off next year’s blossoms if you prune it now. Usually a plant that blooms before June 15th blooms on old wood and those that flower later in the season flower on new wood. Some varieties - like ‘Endless Summer’ - bloom on new and old wood. Other than removing dead wood, I would wait until after it flowers to do any serious pruning.

I just received a beautiful

I just received a beautiful Endless Summer hydrangea. What type of fertilizer should I use & when should I use it? Also, I was told it needed at least 5 hours of sunlight. Is this correct? Thank you so much!!

Most hydrangeas benefit from

Most hydrangeas benefit from an application of fertilizer in the spring and one again in the fall. The Endless Summer website recommends using a slow-release granular 10-30-10 fertilizer. Follow the directions on the package for the amount to use. Overfertilizing will cause your plant to grow large lush leaves but stunts blossoming.
Five hours of sun sounds right. Full morning sun and dappled afternoon shade is recommended.

Thank you so much for your

Thank you so much for your quick reply! I sure do appreciate it and the information provided.

I usually wait until Spring

I usually wait until Spring when my hydrangeas begin to leaf out and after a couple of weeks, the dead branches are obvious and I cut them off at that time. I have never failed to have blooms until this year and I failed to cut back the dead wood and don't know if it made any difference, but I never had one bloom on that plant. Have others that I did trim back and had blooms in profusion on those. Anyway, I love my hydrangeas. P.S. mine are all mop heads.

I have a Bridal Veil

I have a Bridal Veil hydrangea. When is the correct time to prune this variety? At this point it seems to die back almost to the ground in hard winters and I have been cutting back the dead parts. There are lots of blooms late summer on this plant now and just a few during the early summer. Is this the correct way to prune this?

Thanks!

Bridal Veil is a Pee Gee type

Bridal Veil is a Pee Gee type of hydrangea which blooms on the current year's growth so pruning it in late winter/early spring is perfect!

I have some Endless Summer

I have some Endless Summer and some Lady in Red (lacecap) hydrangeas. I planted them two years ago, and they have been blooming and growing well. My problem is I planted them too close together, and they're too crowded. When can I move a couple of them to new homes?

The best time to move your

The best time to move your hydrangeas is in late fall or early spring when the plants are dormant.

I have two Smooth hydrangeas,

I have two Smooth hydrangeas, white with dozens of big beautiful blooms. These plants are at least thirty years old. Unfortunately, after it rains, the stems and blooms fall to the ground due to the weight of the water. I try and shake off the excessive water but usually they stay down. I have tried to use rope, individual stem supports and peony rings to support the stems but that looks awful! Would you have any suggestions, please? Thanks.

I've tried all manner of

I've tried all manner of supports too - tomato cages, wire fencing, peony rings and stakes of all sorts. There is no pretty way to support them. Green bamboo or green wire supports tend to disapper better in the foliage than other devices. I try to place peony rings that have wire criss-crossing on top early in the season and let the plants grow up through the wire. It supports the stems pretty well and is hard to see. My personal solution is to cut a lot of the bigger flowerheads for bouquets or to dry for winter arrangements.

I have oak leaf hydrangea.

I have oak leaf hydrangea. They grow very fast and have to trim them down to see out the window.
When is the best time and how far down should I prune.

Prune your oakleaf hydrangea

Prune your oakleaf hydrangea right after it flowers. It blooms on old wood so you don't want to take out too many branches or you will sacrifice next season's flowers. They can grow to be quite tall so if it causes a problem every year you might consider moving it to another location.

I do not know what kind my

I do not know what kind my hydrangea mine is but,it looks like a mophead. I was told by my neighbor that his Father-in-law told him to put a piece of copperwire in the ground next to the main stem to help it to grow and bloom. It has the prettiest blue, purple and pink flowers. I also fertilize it with my leftover coffee and grounds. I dilute it so that it does not burn it.
I Hope this helps. My hydrangea is 3 yrs. old given to me for Mother's Day by one of my adult sons.

I do not know what kind my

I do not know what kind my hydrangea mine is but,it looks like a mophead. I was told by my neighbor that his Father-in-law told him to put a piece of copperwire in the ground next to the main stem to help it to grow and bloom. It has the prettiest blue, purple and pink flowers. I also fertilize it with my leftover coffee and grounds. I dilute it so that it does not burn it.
I Hope this helps. My hydrangea is 3 yrs. old given to me for Mother's Day by one of my adult sons.

I have a hydrangea that has

I have a hydrangea that has grown into a beautiful green bush but in 9 years has NEVER bloomed! Any suggestions?

Often a plant that is has

Often a plant that is has lush growth but no flowers has been fed too much high nitrogen fertilizer. It could even be leaching from your lawn if you fertilize that. Check the location. Is it getting enough sun? Lastly, it might just be the wrong variety for your area.

i have an Endless Summer that

i have an Endless Summer that is about 5 years old. I always waited until it started growing in the spring and at that point I cut off the dead wood. It was a beautiful plant with lots of flowers. A few summers ago someone clipped a bunch of flowers and branches. It has never bloomed since. Do you think the middle summer plant thief damaged the plant? And will it ever bloom again?

Plant thieves should be

Plant thieves should be sentenced to hard labor in the gardens they spoil! Your poor plant should have recovered by now. Do you get late spring frosts where you live? Sometimes they damage developing buds. Perhaps it just needs a little bone meal or other fertilizer that's high in phosphorus to encourage it to bloom.

I have an endless summer that

I have an endless summer that wont grow, and wont die. What can i do to help it?

It may be planted in the

It may be planted in the wrong place. They need morning sun and afternoon shade. The farther north you live the more sun they can handle, but they will not grow well in heavy shade. They need well drained soil and like to be kept evenly moist but not too wet. Your soil my be lacking key nutrients. Have a soil test to see what you need.

I have Endless Summer and I

I have Endless Summer and I still do not understand from your article when to prune. I just prune the dead stalks. Can you advise?

Sorry I was not clear, Chris.

Sorry I was not clear, Chris. I do the same as you. I just wait until I see what has died over the winter and cut that back to living wood to not lose those early blossoms.

I improperly pruned my

I improperly pruned my hydrangeas two years ago. They still haven't bloomed. I believe they are mop head variety. They had beautiful blue blossoms on one plant and pink on another. Will these hydrangeas ever bloom again? I live in Tennessee.

If they have successfully

If they have successfully bloomed for you in the past they will recover from their bad haircut and bloom for you again.

This is very helpful. I have

This is very helpful. I have mopheads and they did not even bloom this year. Any thoughts?

There are many reasons why

There are many reasons why hydrangeas don't bloom. Did they die back to the ground this spring? If so they won't bloom again until next year since most mopheads bloom on old wood.

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