General gardening topics

When do you prune Hydrangeas?

Last updated on February 28th, 2022

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If you have Hydrangeas, one important piece of information you need to know about is in regards to when you prune them, because some varieties produce their flowers on new wood and others on old wood. Generally, you prune Bigleaf or Florist Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) as the flowers fade and most other types of Hydrangeas, for example, the Oak Leaf and Snowball types are pruned late winter or early spring.

If you have Lacecap Hydrangeas which have larger petals around the edge and small flowers in the centre you can learn how and when to prune these Hydrangeas in my guide here.

Why does wood matter?

New or old wood matters because it effectively means the wood that was grown this season (new wood) or the wood grown last season (old wood). If you prune at the wrong time, you might cut off the new wood or the old wood that will produce the flowers in the upcoming season.

Now, that being said, it won’t damage your Hydrangea permanently, it will just prevent your Hydrangea from providing blooms for the upcoming season. The reason you have planted your Hydrangea is so that you can see their eye-catching flowers, so you obviously want to avoid pruning the wrong stems as much as possible.

So, how do you prune?

Prune with the sharpest set of shears you have to be sure you can make one, effective cut without leaving wounds in the branch.

Prune with the sharpest pair of secateurs you have, being sure that you can make one clean cut without leaving wounds in the branch. Wounds from multiple cuts leave the area susceptible to infection. Remove any dead or diseased branches and remove any that are rubbing against others and damaging them.

For older plants that need a facelift, you can cut it back to a half metre above the ground so that it can regrow the following spring in all its former glory. It is worth noting that sometimes after heavy pruning, they don’t flower the following year.

What time of year do you prune Hydrangeas?

Below are common pruning times based on variety.

Late winter pruning

Prune other types of hydrangeas such as oak leaf and snowball types varieties are pruned winter or early spring.
Prune panicle, smooth and snowball hydrangeas winter or early spring
  • Panicle Hydrangea
  • Smooth Hydrangea – Annabelle, Snowball.

Summer pruning

Generally, you prune Bigleaf or Florist Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) as the flowers fade
Prune Bigleaf, mophead, lacecap hydrangea after flowering
  • Bigleaf, Mophead and Lacecap Hydrangeas
  • Mountain Hydrangea
  • Oak Leaf Hydrangea
  • Climbing Hydrangea

Remember that Hydrangeas rarely need pruning, but you can deadhead them frequently. Deadheading is where you remove the flowers that have finished from the branches to allow the plant to redirect its energy elsewhere and it is good practice with almost all shrubs and plants.

Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.

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  1. Anonymous

    I have a very small garden, I was given a white hydrangea 2 years ago which is now too large for the garden. I would like to reduce its size and grow in a pot. How can I do this ?

  2. John

    Hi Judith, I would wait until the plant is dormant, had dropped its leaves and no frost is forecasted. I would then cut it back fairly hard and lift as much as the rootball as possible and plant in a fairly large pot, bigger the better. Don’t let the compost dry out, we want to cut the plant back so it focuses on rooting into the new pot and not on supporting top growth. If you have a big leaf hydrangea and it flowers blue you will need ericaceous compost as the soil ph controls the colour, pink hydranageas need normal compost, white hydrangeas can’t change colour. Hope this helps.

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