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How to Prune an Oak-leaf Hydrangea

By Melody Lee ; Updated September 21, 2017

Oak-leaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) are named for their leaves that resemble oak leaves. The leaves turn dark maroon before dropping in the fall. Large cone-shaped white flowers bloom in the summer and then fade to dark pink, rusty red or wine red in the fall. During the winter, the cinnamon colored, peeling bark of the stems is revealed.

Oak-leaf hydrangeas grow 6 to 8 feet tall and wide with a rounded form. They can be pruned each year to keep them smaller. They bloom on old wood and should be pruned immediately after flowering so new blooms have time to grow for the next season.

Cut the oak-leaf hydrangea limbs at 30-degree angles at buds or joints. Use lopping shears for limbs more than ¾ inch in diameter and hand pruners for smaller limbs.

Remove injured, diseased or dead limbs with hand pruners or lopping shears. Diseased limbs may have dying leaves, split wood, cankers or peeling bark that appears moldy or slimy.

Cut out 1/3 of the older branches at ground level with hand pruners or lopping shears to open up the plant for better growth.

Prune the oak-leaf hydrangea back halfway with lopping shears or hand pruners if you want to control the size of the plant.

Remove dead flowers with hand pruners before new growth starts in the spring.


Things You Will Need

  • Lopping shears
  • Hand pruners


  • Dried oak-leaf hydrangea flowers can be used in flower arrangements. They should be cut with hand pruners as soon as they have dried on the plant to allow time for new blooms to form for the next season.


About the Author


Melody Lee holds a degree in landscape design, is a Florida Master Gardener, and has more than 30 years of gardening experience. She currently works as a writer and copy editor. Her previous jobs include reporter, photographer and editor for a weekly newspaper.