Pruning hydrangea: timing, technique, how much to remove

Pruning and trimming a hydrangea

Hydrangea is a beautiful shrub, and pruning helps boost blooming and makes the plant healthier.

Pruning a hydrangea is an easy task, as long as a couple guidelines are followed to help guarantee success!

Follow our guidance to have hydrangeas that stay magnificent year after year:

How to prune hydrangea for more flowers?

Flowers grow on the previous year’s growth, so it is important to not cut it off.

  • If you cut your shrub back by more than 12 inches (30 cm), there is a risk that you won’t have any flowers.
  • Trimming hydrangeaPrune just above the first pair of buds. This means to start at the tip of the branch, and follow the branch down to the first pair of buds. Cut about ½ inch (1 to 2 cm) above this pair of buds.
  • Remove dead wood and a few stems that you feel are “weak”.
  • Remove 2 or 3 of the oldest branches directly at the base. They are easily identifiable, because they are much larger than others and often are very brittle.
  • Open up the center of the shrub to maximize the amount of light filtering through.
  • Renew this type of pruning every year.

To have spectacular blooms, it is also possible to add hydrangea fertilizer.

When to prune hydrangea?

Fall and the end of winter are the two moments of the year for pruning hydrangeas.

In the fall

Remove dead wood and wilted flowers for a start.
At the end of blooming, it is useless to keep wilted flowers but it is still too early to cut the hydrangea shrub back.
Winter may be cold and if your hydrangea is cut back too much, it may be vulnerable to freezing.
So just remove wilted flowers where the stem meets the branch to freshen up your hydrangea a bit.

  • In autumn, it’s still possible to recover some of your trimmings to start hydrangea cuttings.

At the end of winter

Ideally during the two last weeks of February or the two first weeks of March.
This pruning will be more severe than the one performed in fall, and it will help enhance blooming.

Do hydrangea flowers appear on old or new growth?

Flowers appear on the previous year’s growth.

This means that:

if you cut all new branches that grew in the past year, you won’t have any flowers.

Hydrangea can be cut back entirely when it takes up too much space. But this should be a one-shot job, because you’ll have to wait an extra year before blooming.

What if I don’t prune my hydrangea?

Truth be said, not much difference. There will even be more blooming, but flowers will be smaller and less impressive.

Let’s hear the advice of Hubert Buquet, Master Gardener in the renowned Valloires Gardens, in France:

Read also about pruning and hydrangea:

Smart tip about pruning hydrangea

Wait for a dry, sunny day to prune off spent hydrangea flowers. Keep them in a dried flower vase, they will stay beautiful for months!


Images: CC BY 3.0: Icon Fonts, Pixabay: Jacqueline Macou, Jan Haerer, Mary Ibáñez Barboza, minka2507