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Last updated on January 21st, 2020

If you have hydrangeas, you need to be careful about when you prune because different varieties bloom 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 such as oak leaf and snowball types varieties are pruned late winter or early spring.

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 new wood or old wood that is required for the following year of blooms.

Now, that said, it won’t damage your hydrangea permanently, but rather, just prevent your hydrangea from providing the blooms for which it is so popular that season which you obviously want to avoid where 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 set of shears you have to be sure you can make one, effective cut without leaving wounds in the branch. Wounds from multiple cuts leave the area susceptible to infection. Remove any dead or diseased branches. Remove any that are rubbing against others and damaging them.

For older plants that need a facelift, cut it back to a half meter above the ground so that it can regrow the following spring in all its former glory, 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

In summer, after blooms have appeared pruning:

Generally, you prune Bigleaf or Florist Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) as the flowers fade
Prune Bigleaf, mophead, lacecap hydrangea after flowering
  • Bigleaf, mophead, lacecap hydrangea
  • Mountain hydrangea
  • Oakleaf hydrangea
  • Climbing hydrangea

Remember that hydrangeas rarely need pruning, but you can deadhead often. Deadheading is where you remove the dead blooms from the branches to allow the plant to redirect its energy elsewhere and is good practice with almost all shrubs and plants.

Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.

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2 Comments

  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 ?
    Judith

  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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