The Q&A Archives: Pruning hydrangeas

Question: Can, when, and how should my hydrangea be pruned?

Answer: Pruning can help you get the best results from most hydrangeas. Different varieties benefit from different pruning schedules, so it helps to know what kind you're growing.

Garden or big-leaf hydrangea bears flowers on stems produced the previous year. As flowers fade, pruning back to the strongest pair of buds will produce new growth stems. As the plant matures, you should prune out woody older stems, dead branches, and any stems that cross or are broken.

Oakleaf hydrangea also produces blooms on previous year's growth. As flowers fade, prune back halfway. Prune any crossing, broken, or dead branches. To grow for foliage only, prune back to the ground each year in early spring.

Smooth hydrangea blooms on new spring growth. Prune back by half in early spring. Pruning back to the ground produces the largest flower clusters but the stems cannot always hold them up. When heading back, cut out dead, crowded, or weak stems.

Climbing hydrangea require little pruning until well established and climbing. At that time, cut back any unwanted stems.

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