pruning hydrangeas

I got to follow along as Mike (co-owner of Joy Creek) did his pruning workshop. A question that comes up a lot is how to care for Hydrangeas, so I thought I would share the pruning tips I picked up along the way. In the spring, your shrub should look like this, having left the blooms on the plant through the winter. It may run counter to certain neatnik tendencies but is better for the health of the plant.

The flowers darken, then fade and even skeletonize with the winter weather and can be beautiful, even bouquet-worthy, at every stage.

Early in March, a mature plant can benefit from taking out the oldest branches. Look for the oldest wood (it will be gnarlier) and cut it out at the base. This provides air circulation and reinvigorates the plant.

Leave the faded blooms on the remaining branches until mid-April. In Portland, we still run a risk of a late freeze and the flowers protect emerging buds if that should happen.

When the time comes (danger of a late frost has passed) snip the flowering stem just above the first set of green buds like the ones you see above.

By refreshing your Hydrangeas in this way every few years, you can look forward to stunning displays year after year.

17 thoughts on “pruning hydrangeas

  1. Thanks for the tips. I never leave the dried flower heads on the shrubs, but I guess I should. I have many years’ worth of flower heads that I keep in vases year-round. Some years I get more blooms than others.

  2. I was just out giving my Hydrangea a serious snip ! This year I decided to go for cutting back to the lowest bud …we’ll see !

  3. I grew over 40 varieties in my Alabama garden and this is the way I pruned them, if and when I did prune. Since the paniculata and arborsecens can be pruned way down, I can see why it is so confusing to people. And now there is the ‘Endless Summer’ varieties which brings even more confusion! I have only planted a few here but plan to add some this year. I definately want ‘Pia’. I think Joy Creek has it? One of my favorites is ‘Ayesha.

    • I think the purple results from varieties that are billed as red but trend toward blue in our acid soil. I will double check with Maurice and let you know if I am wrong about that.

  4. This is the way I pruned them in Alabama when I did prune. Since the paniculata and arborescens varieties are pruned totally different, I can see why people get confused about them. And then you have the ‘Endless Summer’ varieties! They are so robust and beautiful here. I grew around 40 varieties in my last garden in Alabama. I have planted a few here. I want to add “Pia” this year (I think Joy Creek has it?) and maybe “Ayesha” which was always one of my favorites.

  5. I always wondered how people got great looking full shrubs that bloomed every year. A years-ago neighbor cut his bushes down to a foot every three or four years. Of course, he lost a year of bloom. Nice to know there’s a better way!

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