The Q&A Archives: When To Prune Hydrangeas

Question: Does one prune the old or the new growth? Do hydrangeas flower on the old or the new? They are very neglected.
It is now late winter and time to cut them back.

Answer: Hydrangeas are pruned according to their type and can be identified by the characteristics of their leaves and flowers. Climbing hydrangea is a deciduous vine with long, green, heart-shaped leaves and short, stiff flowering branches with flat white flower clusters. Smooth hydrangea is a deciduous shrub with oval, grayish green leaves and white flowers in roundish clusters. Bigleaf hydrangea has thick, shining, coarsely toothed leaves to 8" long and white, pink, red or blue flowers in big clusters. This is the most often planted hydrangea. The Peegee hydrangea has green leaves that turn bornzy in the fall, and clusters of white flowers that slowly fade to a pinky bronze. Oakleaf hydrangea has deeply lobed, oaklike leaves that turn bronze or crimson in the fall. It has creamy white flowers in the spring. With the exception of Oakleaf hydrangea, which can be pruned to the ground each autumn, hydrangeas produce flowering shoots in the spring on last season's wood. So, to prune for flowering, reduce the old wood by one-half to one-third after bloom. The shrub will develop new flowering wood the following spring.

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