Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hydrangea Care: Pruning

I know it has been a while since I was able to blog. But summer got off to a busy start with my grandchildren visiting from Memorial Day weekend through July 4th Holiday. I did get some help in the garen though. It was a lot of fun but didn’t leave much time for blogging!

I fell in love with Hydrangea shrubs when I spent summers with my maternal grandparents. They were great gardeners and I suspect that is where I developed a love of gardening. They had a wonderful vegetable garden, fruit trees and vines and my grandmother Barrick had lovely roses, but it was the huge hydrangea bushes that impressed me as a child. I was not successful growing them when I lived in coastal central Florida but was able to grow them while living in Georgia and now here in coastal South Carolina. My shrubs are not as big as my grandmothers yet and that could be because of the difference in soil. But this year I did have one plant produce a flower almost as big as I remember from my childhood!

When I started to plant Hydrangeas in my coastal Carolina home I had two problems. First was a lack of afternoon shade, so they often struggled until some of my trees started to produce some afternoon relief. But now that most have been in the same place for 8 years they handle most weather conditions pretty well, except for an extended drought. Then I must water often. The second was a lack of space, so I don’t have as many varieties of plants as I would like. But I love the ones I have!

Several of my shrubs are planted in areas where they do not need to be pruned. For them I only need to remove dead stems and dead head blooms and this can be done at any time. My problem comes with the couple I have planted near windows. Originally they were planted there to provide afternoon shade from the two story house. I did relocate 3 plants that were very large (that was a job!) but decided that I would just try to prune the others to keep them from blocking views. Now the best time to prune them is after they bloom. This should be done in June or July. Well in June mine are usually still in full bloom and by July I have either forgotten or it is too hot and I put it off.

This may not seem like a problem but is for hydrangea types that bloom on OLD WOOD. This group of hydrangeas produces flower buds on hydrangea stems around August, September or October for the following summer's blooms. If those stems are removed (pruned) in the fall, winter, or spring, the bloom buds will be removed, and there may be little or no bloom the following summer. (Don’t confuse deadheading with pruning. You can deadhead any time of the year.)

There exists a small group of mophead hydrangea that will bloom no matter when they are pruned. I have an 'Endless Summer' that is this type of hydrangea. Your garden center can tell you when you purchase a hydrangea if it is in this special category called "ever-bloomers." But for the vast majority of hydrangeas, pruning after July will likely result in fewer blooms the next summer.


(1) All dead stems should be removed from hydrangeas every year.

(2) After the plants are at least 5 years old, about 1/3 of the older (living) stems can be removed down to the ground each summer. This will revitalize the plant.

(3) In addition, if it becomes necessary to prune a plant to reduce its size, it may be cut back in June or July without harming the next year's bloom. But it will return almost immediately to its former size. This is one reason why it's best to plant a hydrangea where it does not have to be pruned.

I have one other Hydrangea that is different from the one I have already mentioned it is a PeeGee called ‘Limelight’.
Pruning for H. arborescens (Annabelle types) and H. paniculata (PeeGee types) hydrangeas can be done in fall, winter or spring and it is not necessary to prune them every year. It is suggested that one trim out crossing branches and those that do not contribute to an attractive form whenever necessary. These types of hydrangeas bloom on new wood (new stems). It is a joy to grow these type hydrangeas because they are determined to bloom every single year, no matter how they are treated. The only time they cannot be pruned is in the spring ('Annabelle') or in the summer (PG) when they are preparing to bloom.

When my PeeGee ‘Limelight’ didn’t bloom last year I discovered that it requires more sunlight (about 5 hours) to bloom and it was in a densely shaded area. So I relocated it to a spot where I hope it is getting enough light to bloom this summer. I hope you find this information helpful. This year I will be pruning my mopheads and lacecaps this week!


  1. Thank you so much for all the info

  2. Thank you for this information-from Mount Pleasant!