How I prune hydrangeas to achieve the most blooms


How to prune hydrangeas to achieve the most blooms! Less is more...

We’ve been having a few pretty nice days lately! One was so warm, I could have sworn it was an early summer day.

So I wandered outdoors with my AM coffee, fully knowing what was ahead.

Sigh…

Everything in sight needed pressure washing. Badly.

The lawn even needed mowing! Goodness… I was hoping the mower would even start.

However before feeling completely overwhelmed, I decided to start slow… and head over to the hydrangea bush with some pruners in hand.

Focus. On. One. Thing. At. A. Time.

Before I bolted for my bike instead.

Dried hydrangeas in spring - part of How to prune hydrangeas to achieve the most blooms!

The hydrangea bush is only flowering shrub left in the back yard after the big overgrown flowerbed clean out last summer.

And boy did it need some help.

Dried hydrangeas in winter - part of How to prune hydrangeas to achieve the most blooms!

You may already know hydrangeas can be pruned right after they finish blooming. Theory states, next year’s blooms will be on new wood, so one should cut out the old branches, but leave the new shoots.

Since I like leaving hydrangea flowers on the bush well into fall due to their best flower drying harvest time, I suppose you could say I do some pruning in the fall in that way. However, I leave the majority of the pruning until spring.

I may be different than most that I don’t prune to resize the bush. I prune just to dead head. I find the more you leave well enough alone, the flat out better the bush blooms.

Case in point…

Blue and purple summer hydrangea bush in full bloom- part of How to prune hydrangeas to achieve the most blooms!

Summer

 

Here is a shot of this hydrangea bush in summer. It’s taller than me.

The blooms are always so abundant, you can barely even see leaves.

I NEVER cut it back hard and the flower yield is always outstanding.

Summer (and winter) hydrangea mantel

Blue and purple fall hydrangea bush in full bloom- part of How to prune hydrangeas to achieve the most blooms!

Fall

 

Here is the same bush in fall. The petals are starting to get crispy, which is the best time to dry hydrangeas for long lasting blooms ahead.

Wicker basket fall hydrangea mantel

Scrap wood hydrangea flower box mantel

Dead hydrangea flowers in spring - part of How to prune hydrangeas to achieve the most blooms!

Winter thru Spring

 

And this is how they look during winter.

And spring too of course, if you don’t cut them back until then!

Galvanized bucket winter hydrangea mantel

Make a hydrangea bonsai

Yup, I decorate with them then too!

In spring, the green buds appear, showcasing where to prune - part of How to prune hydrangeas to achieve the most blooms!

However, the bonus on waiting to prune until spring? You can spot exactly where to cut due to the new buds.

For me, it helps gauge to not over cut, and know where to stop.

In spring, prune hydrangeas by deadheading the flower towards the closest bud, cutting on an angle. - part of How to prune hydrangeas to achieve the most blooms!

How I prune hydrangeas

 

  • Wait for spring.
  • Cut out any hollow sounding wood, as it’s dead.
  • Dead head each spent flower to the closest bud, on an angle.
  • Thin out or shape the bush as desired. The less you cut, the better.

Basically put, I’ve found hydrangeas to bloom better if I don’t cut them back too hard.

Edited to add: Others have chimed in that some hydrangeas bloom from old wood. I’ve also read that cutting them to the ground will produce larger blooms.

Knowing what variety you have may require taking a trip to a local greenhouse with clipping in hand for accurate care advice.

If something isn’t currently working, perhaps it’s time to try something different.

A fully pruned hydrangea bush in spring with buds showing - How to prune hydrangeas to achieve the most blooms!

And here’s the new cleaned up bush! 

A fully pruned hydrangea bush in spring with buds showing - How to prune hydrangeas to achieve the most blooms!

Pretty much the same size, however all the dead wood is removed, then it was gently shaped.

The yield from pruning one hydrangea bush filling 2 wheelbarrows - How to prune hydrangeas to achieve the most blooms!

 I have not babied this hydrangea bush like this for the past few years. I’d just dead head, not caring where I cut and left it, so this bush was well overdue needing a proper clean up. I filled up two wheel barrows, PLUS my ‘green’ garbage day pickup bin!

See what less flowerbeds is already doing for me? It’s gifted me more time to work with what I have in the right way!

Plus… more bike rides. 🙂

A vivid green hydrangea bush bud - How to prune hydrangeas to achieve the most blooms!

Pruning hydrangeas in spring may not be the proper-proper way, however you certainly can’t argue with a bush that loves to bloom!

When do you prune your flowering bushes? What yields the most blooms for you?

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A few other related posts:

When Walter comes to prune the great outdoors

How to achieve multicoloured dried hydrangeas

How to edge flowerbeds like a pro

All my gardening posts

Hydrangea posts

Pruning hydrangeas to get the most blooms! How I do it, when to do it, what to make, etc!

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  1. hi donna, i too leave my hydrangeas until spring. i live in northern new york so it will be at least a month before i am out trimming. my hydrangeas are all white (with a greenish tint). i so love your blue ones as blue is my favorite color. don’t see them much here. they are not as hardy as some others but i may have to invest in one. thanks for your tips. i loved your garden before but understand your need for simplicity.

    • Hey Mary, you’ll be pleased to know, all my flowerbeds in the front yard have remained. In fact, I’m getting them enhanced a little, cut larger and adding new soil this year. More to come!

      I will also add some flowering bushes to the back yard at some point. However, whatever will be added will be lower maintenance. I just needed to start fresh in order to see the new possibilities again. But boy it’s clean right now… haha

      P.S. I’d LOVE to add a white hydrangea bush to my own yard! Adore them.

  2. Thanks for this post Donna. I have several hydrangea bushes like yours, only they bloom pink. I do need to get out and deadhead my limelight hydrangeas, they’ve been looking kind of sparse for the last couple years. I forget to deadhead the limelights in the fall every.single.year! They seem to have less blooms because of my laziness (uh oh :))

    • Ohhh I’d love a couple of limelights!

      I’d suggest to take a clipping to your local nursery and see what they advise. Then plan to test their theory out… do one half of the bush their way, and the other half a different way. You will then know!

      I have some weaker varieties in my front yard that need a little more attention too. I speculate the soil could be a big factor so will be adding some this spring.

  3. Hi Donna
    Glad to hear you are recovered enough to be bike riding again!

    Your hydrangeas have always inspired us all! But just some clarification from this gardening girl…..Not ALL hydrangeas can be pruned this way. Some actually form blooms on old wood from last year. Pruning them your way will result in no blooms at all. These fall into the macroohylla familyrics do must be cleaned up just after blooming. So be sure to check the botanical name on the plant label.

    • Thanks for your invaluable advice, Heather!

      I got my advice (that I don’t really follow) from a gardening book I had on hand, but the advice on the net is all over the map! ie: Cut to the ground for larger blooms… etc.

      I think it’s safe to say, if something isn’t growing to its full potential, dig a little deeper to see what could help. Taking clippings to a local gardening centre and asking for advice may be all that’s required.

      p.s. And yes, thrilled to be on the bike taking pretty pictures again!

  4. That is absolutely gorgeous Donna! I was just looking around my yard over the weekend and once again, thinking about pruning my hydrangea! I’m going to do it you way this year–it’s so much easier! I hope I get the same results! Of course, today we are expecting nearly a foot of snow so, on this first day of spring, I’m going to have to put pruning on hold!

    • Oh dear. Are we done with winter yet?!

      Well, at the very least, hopefully this post will inspire you to find your gardening gloves and start up again… as soon as the last snowman melts! 😀

  5. Thanks for these tips. I have several hydrangea bushes and am always hit or miss on what I am doing, just mostly dead heading. I will take your advice and be a bit more deliberate in my care.

    I do agree, the less is best. Mine, too, are showstoppers and I am asked what I do. Basically I ignore them, except to make sure they get water. I find flowering bushes more my style, as I hate weeding.

    Spring is such a wonderful time of year. Love to you, Donna.

    • I’d say if your hydrangeas are showstoppers, you’re already doing it, even if you don’t do anything! haha

      I do the same with my grapes. The yield is incredible each year. And I NEVER prune them. Only to shape them enough to keep them off the ground.

      I love the ‘ignore’ plant species. They do well by me!

  6. I think I have hydrangea envy…your hydrangea bush is absolutely beautiful. Your tips are really helpful. I live in southern Ontario so will have to wait until early May to start pruning my gardens. Your post has me anxious for spring to arrive.

    Thanks!

    • I have 3 bushes and they don’t do well. I’m wondering if they are getting enough sun? They only get a bit of morning sun. Is that the problem?

      • Hey Sue, I’ve found my hydrangeas do best with some sun and some shade. The petals burn if the sun is too intense for too long. However too much shade has the blooms smaller and slow going.

        Yours may require more than just AM sun. Perhaps plant a new one in a sunnier location to see if it helps?

  7. Ahhh…the joys of being a homeowner.

    Pressure washing is a must every Spring here in the Pacific Northwest. I have to make sure DH gets if completed before the window washers come in May.

    The Hydrangea is one of my favorite plants. Their flowers whether fresh or dried are so versatile for decorating around the house.

  8. I’m with you on this, less is more, I have four huge hydrangeas and I have pruned all the way down to about six inches from the ground and they did ok, but if I just dead head in the spring, wow they are gorgeous.
    I’m like you I walk outside and just get overwhelmed and I have a hard time keeping my concentration on one thing (man I need help,haha).

  9. I’m in Northern NJ and we’re having another nor’easter tomorrow so it’s nice to see something green. Thanks for this post. Your hydrangeas look great. The only reason I do not cut back my hydrangeas is because the old wood helps hold up the new growth. Especially when there’s big flowers, my hydrangeas tend to sag all over the place. Having the rigid branches in there helps keep everything upright.

  10. I’m so jealous right now 😀 How I wish I could get Hydrangeas to grow never mind bloom. I’m pretty good with growing almost anything but have never had any luck what so ever with these beauties. Help, I need some tips please Donna

    • Hey Michelle! It’s my experience that they like fertile soil, in a partly sunny / shady location. The petals sunburn easily so I don’t recommend them in full sun in super hot locations. Where do you live?

      • We’re in South Africa, so maybe it’s the heat that gets them. I should probably try planting them on the Southern side of the house where it’s a little cooler and they’ll only get early morning sun and dappled shade for the rest of the day. They’re just so beautiful

  11. I love your posts. Hydrangeas are about my favorite flowers. I have only two bushes and I just remarked to my husband this morning that we should add some to my gardens. Beautiful blooms!

    • Good plan! My grandma use to have an entire row of them against the full length of her house. So low upkeep for so much return! Now you have me dreaming of getting more… 🙂

  12. Ha ha, Donna … I understand the feeling, but I was hoping my lawnmower *wouldn’t* start because there is so much other stuff to do!
    I’m heading out to look at my hydrangeas with your advice in mind! Thanks.

  13. I love hydrangeas but have never had any luck with them.Maybe it was the way I cut them back or maybe didn’t cover them enough during the winter. I did not realize they would grow so tall. Your post was interesting and I will try again to grow them. My mom always had nice hydrangea plants and when she passed away I took some slips from her plants. Guess my green thumb isn’t so green
    Please keep up the good work, you are very inspiring