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Monday, March 21, 2011

Pruning Hydrangeas

The key to knowing when and how to prune hydrangeas is knowing what type of hydrangea you have.

(Pee Gee hydrangea)

Pee Gees - can be pruned as early as January here in the south, but can also be pruned into March. Pee Gees bloom on "new" wood, meaning they haven't set their buds yet and won't be affected by a late frost.

Annabelles (Hydrangea Arborescens or Smooth Hydrangeas) - any time in February - March.


Both of the above can be pruned severely if you wish to keep them on the smaller side. Otherwise, they can all become quite big. Pruning severely = taking them down to 12 inches.

(mophead hydrangea)
Mopheads and Lacecaps - AFTER the LAST frost.(See special pruning instructions below.) I've pruned mine too early before and ended up doing the same job twice. Boo to late frosts!

(lacecap hydrangea)
In the south you are usually safe to prune around Mother's Day weekend.
Northeasterners should wait closer to Memorial Day weekend to prune.

Pruning Instructions for Mopheads & Lacecaps :
DO NOT prune severely. These hydrangeas bloom on "old" wood. Meaning their buds were setting back in September. The buds form on branches which were formed last summer. If you pruned them after September, you may be low on blooms this year.

If they have a bud or new growth at the tip of the branch, DO NOT cut it off.

(Unless it has been hit by frost and is brown. Like below)

If the new growth is a few inches down the branch, cut it about an inch above the bud or new growth. See below.
(Oakleaf Hydrangea)
Pruning Oakleafs:
Cut off spent flowers and do any pruning to shape the shrub or to control its size AFTER the flowers have bloomed. (July) If you live in a hot climate, the flowers will age and then brown out from the heat - so cutting them at this time improves the look of the plant anyway. Oakleafs also bloom on old wood and waiting too long to prune can decrease the blooms you get the following year.

General Pruning Tips:

When pruning, remove any dead wood from your shrub. Often these branches appear white, brittle and do not have any green in the branch even if you were to break it and look inside like I've done here. Cut these as close to the base of the plant as you can.You can remove up to one-third of a hydrangea, so if there are any branches that "bother" you, cut away!

Use sharp bypass shears when cutting hydrangeas. Thicker branches may require the larger, lopping shears.

('Endless Summer' Hydrangea)

If you are lucky enough to have an 'Endless Summer' mophead hydrangea, you can cut the blooms off by July 4th and should get a second bloom out of your shrub.

Well, if you're still reading, you're either my Ma-Ma or really into hydrangeas. Feel free to ask any hydrangea related questions in the comment area and if I don't know the answer, I'll try to find out.

Hope you have a bloom filled summer!
Thanks for visiting.


  1. Well I'm not your Momma so I guess that leaves the latter. I finally got one to bloom at my house after a few years. Now I think it is well on its way.
    I have two others but sadly I don't know what kind they are off the top of my head. I will have to venture out into the wet garden and look at the tags there. Shame on me.
    Thanks for the tutorial.

  2. T, beautiful!!! I feel so confident now, about caring for my {nonexistent} hydrangeas... I should get some. or one. at least one, right? XO...

  3. This is exactly what I needed. I have never seen a lacetop variety. Since I am in Canada I am sure our climate dictates which varieties are up here or is that down here? LOL

  4. These are absolutley stunning! I LOVE hydrangeas...& can't wait to get some blooms like this by us :)

  5. I love hydrangeas....they dry beautifully and I use them in my Christmas decorations as well! have a good one Traci.

  6. Hello, awesome post. Enjoy a lot. Thanks.

  7. My question is how do you find out which kind you have? It was given to me last year, I planted it and it has been really growing beautifully so far. But I have no idea which kind it is. If I had to guess, I would say that it is a Mophead. I think the picture resembles what it looked like in bloom.
    Thanks for the info!
    Hugs, Cindy

  8. Thank you for this...I just planted 3 new bushes last Summer and now I know what to do. Your blog is lovely...thanks for visiting me and leaving such sweet comments. Happy March to you. Off to take a peek at my bushes. xoxo

  9. Help! I have three endless summers who starting budding here in Michigan because of our warm spring...sadly they got hit by frost with this cold snap and the leaves are shriveled and what?

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