Hydrangeas are a classic garden shrub with their ribbed green leaves and classic blowsy flowers throughout the summer. Hydrangeas are both iconic and surprisingly easy to look after with some careful pruning to get the best out of them. This guide will show you how and when to prune Hydrangeas for the maximum floral display each year.

Most gardeners would be hard pushed not to recognise a Hydrangea. The classic ‘Granny’s garden’ shrub with its textured leaves and massive blue, pink, white or mauve flower heads. They give a real show for months during the summer. Their flowers can then be left in situ to fade from their vibrant early summer colours into translucent winter flower heads. A true workhorse of the garden.

Hydrangeas are best suited to dappled or part shade and once established will provide a robust shrub with both detailed foliage and some wonderfully diverse flower heads. These can be left on the plant for months of interest or used as cut flowers or dried for a variety of decorative uses.

Common Types of Hydrangea

This guide will help you prune the most common types of Hydrangea. For most Hydrangeas, late Winter & Early Spring is the best time to prune and remove their old seed heads. This is because the faded flowers add winter interest and also offer some frost protection to the shrub. Each area will differ slightly, but I prune my Hydrangeas late Feb here in the UK. Even though we get frosts in March, my Hydrangeas have already put on new growth in February which is the signal for me to prune them.

  • Hydrangea macrophylla (Mophead or Lacecap late winter prune)
  • Hydrangea paniculata (Prune late winter)
  • Hydrangea petiolaris (Climbing – Prune directly after flowering in Summer)

Pruning Hydrangeas couldn’t be simpler and this guide is to help you avoid some of the common Hydrangea pruning mistakes and rookie errors. Which will help you get the most out of these lovely shrubs and provide maximum interest throughout the year! If you have species not listed above then a mid Spring prune is the safest bet or seek more specialist advice based on your plant type.

Garden ninja holding Niwaki secateurs
This guide will help you get your Hydrangeas in top shape!

How to prune a Hydrangea

Pruning a Hydrangea couldn’t be simpler and requires very little in the way of pruning. All you need is a sharp pair of secateurs and you’re ready to prune. I prune mine here in the UK in late February.

Garden Ninja how to prune hydrangeas
Grab a sharp pair of clean secateurs before you start.

Remove all the dead seed heads

The first step is the remove all of the previous year’s seed heads. I take these back just above the next set of green buds which are emerging. I do this first before thinning or reducing the height of the shrub as it gives me a better view of the overall shrub size and shape. This is turn will allow you to make better pruning decisions for the next few steps. Which means less fuss or concern about what to cut back as you have a clearer view.

Remove 1/4 of the oldest stems

By removing around 1/4 of the oldest wood/stems you can help keep your Hydrangea productive as energy will then be sent into new fresh growth. Over time older stems will get longer and less productive leading to potential bare patches and less productive displays.

Take these older stems right back to the ground in a clean sharp cut. This will encourage fresh new growth and keep the Hydrangea on its toes to perform!

Thin out any congested branches or damaged stems

Once you’ve removed the flower heads and cleared some of the older stems the next step is to then thin out any congested growth or crossing branches. These will tend to rub and have a higher chance of damage. Also, flowers that may be sent out in these tangled areas may get crushed or become damaged. So it’s best to be brave and remove these branches opting for the stronger of the two when crossing.

How to prune a hydrangea shrub
How to prune a hydrangea with garden ninja

Damaged stems may be snapped or may show signs of black die back which both need to be removed. Either cut back to the next healthy bud down or remove to the ground if needed. Don’t panic if you take off too much during the pruning process. Plants are incredibly tough and will always bounce back. A hard prune always gives your plants an added boost during the next growing season!

Once you’ve finished you should be left with an open airy shrub with plenty of airflow and no crossing stems. The clippings can be composted and your Hydrangea is now in a perfect position to put on gorgeous flowers all summer long!

Why not watch my pruning playlist on Youtube?

If you have questions or pruning comments why not let me know below? You can Tweet, Facebook or Instagram me. You can also follow me on Youtube where I’ve got plenty of garden guide vlogs!

Happy Pruning!

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