All there is to know about pruning hydrangeas

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:

When should hydrangea be pruned?

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.

Which stems bear flowers on a hydrangea?

Flowers are born by the previous year’s growth.
This means that if you cut all the branches that have grown in the past year, you won’t have any flowers.

Hydrangeas are cut back entirely when they have taken up too much space, but we try to avoid this because we might need to wait an extra year before blooming.

How should one prune hydrangea to boost blooming?

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

  • If you cut your shrub back by more than 12 inches (30 cm), there is a risk that you won’t have any flowers.
  • Prune 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 the 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.

What happens if I don’t prune my hydrangea?

Truth be said, not much. There will be even more flowers, 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!


Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Hydrangea flower by Mary Ibáñez Barboza under Pixabay license
Secateurs by Jacqueline Macou under Pixabay license