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How to Prune Hydrangea

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How to Prune Hydrangea

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Hydrangea macrophylla: blue image by Skmeijin: Morguefile.com, Dee: Morguefile.com, Mrmac04: morguefile.com, Greenfingers: Morguefile.com, Bosela: Morguefile.com

Overview

Identify which type of hydrangea you have before you prune it. Some species bloom on new wood, and some bloom on old wood. New-wood hydrangeas form flower buds each year on new spring growth. Old-wood hydrangeas must be pruned just after blooming. They will set the flower buds for the next year during the summer's growth.

H. Macrophylla: Bigleaf, Mophead or Lacecap Hydrangeas

Step 1

Identify this type of bushy hydrangea by its large, glossy green leaves with coarsely toothed edges. The flowers may be blue, pink or white. H. macrophylla blooms on old wood. Prune it in June or July right after it blooms.

Step 2

Deadhead the plants by removing dead flowers and stems. Flower stems are last year's wood and will not set buds or leaf out again.

Step 3

Reshape the plant, if necessary. Prune back leggy shoots to control the size of the bush, and prune shoots out from the crown of the plant if the growth is too thick. Next year's blooms will form on this year's new growth beginning in August. If you prune later than July, you will remove next year's flowers.

H. Arborescens: White Snowball Types

Step 1

Identify these hydrangeas by the white flower heads that may be as large as 10 inches across. H. arborescens blooms unfailingly, even in the northern U.S. after a harsh winter.

Step 2

Deadhead and remove dead stems anytime.

Step 3

Prune to reshape the plants anytime except in the spring after flower buds have begun to form. This hydrangea blooms on new wood only, and sets buds on spring growth. It can be cut to the ground in the late fall and will grow back and bloom the following year.

H. Paniculata: PeeGee Types

Step 1

Identify this hydrangea by its white flowers, sometimes with a conical shape. This is the only type of hydrangea that prefers sun to shade.

Step 2

Deadhead anytime. The white flowers of H. paniculata turn lovely shades of pink as they age and are often left on the shrub for long periods. Remove dead stems anytime.

Step 3

Prune to reshape anytime, but annual pruning is not necessary. H. paniculata is slower growing than other hydrangeas. Prune to thin heavy growth as needed.

Step 4

H. paniculata is the only hydrangea that can be pruned into a tree shape. To create a tree, prune away lower growing branches, leaving a central branch to grow into a trunk-like support.

H. Quercifolia: Oakleaf Types

Step 1

Identify this hydrangea by its lobed leaf that resembles an oak leaf. H. quercifolia blooms on new wood.

Step 2

Deadhead and remove dead stems anytime.

Step 3

Prune to reshape or thin the plant in late fall or early spring while it is still dormant. Colorful fall and winter foliage is a trait of H. quercifolia.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning clippers

References

  • Prune Your Hydrangeas
  • Hydrangea Pruning Answers

Who Can Help

  • U.S. National Arboretum
Keywords: prune hydrangea, hydrangea bush, hydrangea flowers

About this Author

Fern Fischer is a freelance writer with more than 35 years' experience. Her work has been published in various print and online publications. She specializes in organic gardening, health, rural lifestyle, home and family articles. Fischer also writes about quilting and sewing, and she professionally restores antique quilts to preserve these historical pieces of women's art.

Photo by: Skmeijin: Morguefile.com, Dee: Morguefile.com, Mrmac04: morguefile.com, Greenfingers: Morguefile.com, Bosela: Morguefile.com