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How To Prune Hydrangeas – What To Do With Hydrangeas After They Bloom

Did you know that how you prune and care for your hydrangeas when they finish blooming can make a huge difference in how they flower and perform next year. In fact, it can actually determine whether or not they bloom at all! 

Hydrangeas are gorgeous additions to any landscape. They not only add intense flower power, but big interest with their large leaf canopies and huge blooms. They have become one of the most popular perennials of all for home planting, especially as with each passing year, there seems to be more and more beautiful varieties and hybrid species hitting the market.

Adding to their allure, for the most part, hydrangeas are low maintenance. Once established, they do not require constant watering or special nutrients. In fact, a basic all-purpose fertilizer applied each spring is usually more than enough to keep them healthy and strong.

 How To Prune Hydrangeas After They Bloom
With each passing year, more varieties of stunning hydrangeas hit the market!

But no matter what style or variety of hydrangea you grow, the one thing that can really make or break your plant’s ability to bloom is how and when you deadhead and prune your hydrangea back.

Prune and deadhead at the right time and you help to invigorate the shrub to better health, a better shape, and most importantly, a bigger and more prolific bloom set the following year. But if you prune at the wrong time, you can not only reduce or eliminate future blooms, you also can impact the plant’s overall health.

How To Prune Hydrangeas

How To Know When To Prune

So how do you when to prune your hydrangeas? It actually all depends on what type of hydrangea you are growing and when it blooms.

The good news is that there are really only two major types of hydrangeas – summer blooming hydrangeas and late summer/fall blooming hydrangeas. And when they bloom will tell you exactly when you should prune them!

Summer Blooming Hydrangeas

Summer blooming hydrangeas are by far the most widely grown of the two types. They include oakleaf, bigleaf, climbing and mountain varieties. Among these types are the ever popular mop-head blooming hydrangeas that sport massive flower heads.

Hydrangeas tree variety
There are all kinds of hydrangea varieties, including this amazing tree hydrangea!

For summer blooming hydrangeas, pruning should occur immediately after they finish blooming. These plants flower on old wood. That means the new growth that emerges from midsummer until the first frost will carry next year’s blooms.

By pruning right after they complete your bloom cycle, you allow the plant plenty of time to grow and produce new wood the rest of the season. And it is that very wood that will have next years blooms at the ready.

Unfortunately, if you wait until fall to prune back summer blooming hydrangeas, you are cutting off all of next year’s blooms in the process. When gardeners experience no blooms throughout a year – it is usually because they pruned their hydrangea too late.

When To Prune Late Summer/ Fall Blooming Hydrangeas

Late Summer / Fall Blooming hydrangeas include the smooth and panicle varieties which have a large but more cone-style bloom head. These varieties usually bloom anywhere from mid-August to late fall.

For late summer and early fall blooming hydrangeas, pruning can occur in very late fall as the blooms fade, or in the early spring before the plants leaf out. This is because smooth and panicle varieties produce their blooms on new wood, or wood that grows during the same season.

If you wait to cut back smooth or panicle varieties in late spring or summer – you are cutting off their fall blooms.

So if you happen to be confused a bit on what style or varieties of hydrangeas you might be growing, there is a single timing trick that will always keep you safe for pruning without any worry of eliminating future blooms. And that trick? Simple always prune and shape right as or after your hydrangea completes its bloom cycle!

Following this little tip also helps with one other major chore that can help your plant grow and bloom better – and that is deadheading blooms as your hydrangea stops blooming.

Pruning & Deadheading Hydrangeas After They Finish Blooming

Deadheading and pruning hydrangeas really go hand in hand. Deadheading is the act of removing spent flowers from a plant. For nearly all annual and perennial flowers, deadheading will help keep plants more energized. See : How To Deadhead Annuals & Perennials – Have Healthier Plants & More Blooms!

Colorful Hydrangeas
To keep blooms coming back stronger and stronger each year, remove old blooms as they start to fade. This helps conserve power the plant can use for next year’s bloom set.

In the case of hydrangeas, it simply means snipping off the bloom head from the plant. Not only does this clean up the appearance of your plant, it also help the hydrangea conserve valuable energy to grow new wood for future blooms.

Deadheading is extremely important for hydrangeas. If old blooms are allowed to remain, they drain the plant of power. That leaves less energy to handle winter – and produce next year’s blooms.

To deadhead, snip off the faded blooms just below the flower head. Cut at an angle, about 1/4 inch above the nearest healthy bud. Once all of the old blooms are removed, you can then prune the plant for shape.

It should be noted that unless they are severely overgrown, hydrangeas do not need to have massive pruning. In fact, you really only need to prune the outer branches to keep its shape. If there is excessive growth in the middle, you can also prune out a few interior branches.

This will help to promote better air circulation and allow adequate sunlight into the plant. Beyond small shaping, thinning, and removing any weak or damaged branches, keep pruning as minimal as possible. 

Avoid Late Fertilizing – How To Prune Hydrangeas

As mentioned earlier in the article, hydrangeas are not heavy feeders. Too much fertilizer will actually hinder bloom development. Instead of creating more blooms, the bush will only use the extra energy to grow bigger.

deadheading blooms
Hydrangeas do not require large amounts of fertilizer to bloom big.

The best time to fertilize hydrangeas in the early spring. This will help provide a boost for early season growth and a good foliage canopy. Fertilize with an all purpose plant food with equal amounts of Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium. Affiliate Product Link : Jobes All Purpose Plant Food

For hydrangeas, granular fertilizers work well to provide a slow release of nutrients to the plant. Avoid fertilizing late in the season. This can actually promote late growth that can be at risk of freezing out over winter.

Here is to taking care of your hydrangeas after they bloom A bit of care after blooming really will set the stage for better health – and bigger and brighter blooms next year!

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