The Q&A Archives: Hydrangeas

Question: How and when is the best way to prune hydrangeas?

Answer: Generally, you prune hydrangeas after flowering, but exactly when depends on the type of hydrangea you have. Hydrangeas 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 bronzy 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. You can let the flowers remain on the shrub until fall, or prune off flowers anytime after July and save them as dried flowers.

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