How To Trim Hydrangea Bush For Winter

It’s not necessarily necessary to severely prune your hydrangeas (Hydrangea spp.) before putting them to bed for the winter. Depending on the cultivar, hydrangeas can be grown in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 through 9, with each variation having different pruning requirements. Before you grab the shears, you must identify the type of hydrangea to know how far back to cut it for the winter.


Depending on the variety, hydrangeas can bloom on either old or new wood. Old-wood blooming hydrangeas need to be pruned just after the flowers fade in the late summer, whereas new-wood blooming hydrangeas should be pruned in late winter before new growth begins.

How much of a winter pruning should be done on hydrangeas?

If and when you prune is the key to happy, healthy hydrangea flowers. Of course, fertilizing and offering the ideal environment have a lot to recommend them. However, if you don’t prune properly, your efforts will be in vain. Deadheading is not the same as trimming. Pruning refers to more drastic cutting to preserve shape or remove dead growth. However, feel free to discard spent blossoms or cut fresh ones to use in arrangements.

Hydrangeas can bloom on either fresh wood or old wood, depending on the species. The wood from which they blossom determines whether and when to prune.

Old wood-blooming hydrangeas do not require pruning and benefit from it. They’ll blossom more abundantly the next season if you leave them alone. But feel free to deadhead or gently thin. Just keep in mind that while new growth may appear, it won’t bloom until the following season. In our region, four different species blossom on aged wood. Additionally, they are not limited to the hues displayed here.

Climb using suckers. On your wall or trellis, resist the desire to remove the dormant growth.

The flower heads are more conical in appearance, and the leaves are large and resemble oak leaves. It’s a pleasant surprise for a hydrangea when its leaves turn reddish-orange in the fall.

They are very comparable to lacecap types, but smaller and with more compact leaves.

Pruning should be done in late winter or early spring on hydrangeas that bloom on new wood. Trim back to two feet to prune to shape. The next season’s blossoms are produced by strong, fresh growth that is encouraged by trimming. In our region, there are two types that bloom on fresh wood. They are also not restricted to the colors displayed.

Oakleaf variants are not included in cone-shaped blooms. Keep the blooms on throughout the winter to provide interest; even dried out, they are quite lovely.

regarded as a wild kind. They often have smaller blooms and leaves than Bigleaf variants and are completely white. They enjoy full sun and can grow very tall.

Knowing whether or when to prune now will help you avoid the disappointment of a hydrangea that doesn’t blossom. Don’t forget that a robust shrub will produce more gorgeous blossoms if it has well-draining soil and good organic fertilizer. Come on in, and we’ll show you where to go to develop your green thumb.

When ought hydrangeas to be pruned?

Depending on which group the plant belongs to, the timing and extent of pruning are determined:

Advice on Pruning for Group 1:

  • As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder in the late summer and fall, buds for the following year’s blooms start to form.
  • Typically, removing dead, diseased, or damaged branches is all that is required to preserve shape, size, and a healthy plant. Otherwise, gentle pruning ought to be practiced.
  • In the summer, trimming should begin as soon as flowering ends, but no later than August 1. Pruning should not be done in the fall, winter, or spring because you risk removing fresh buds.
  • Tip-pruning the branches in the spring as the leaves begin to appear can promote more numerous, smaller flower heads as opposed to fewer, larger flower heads.

Advice on Pruning for Group 2:

  • On the growth of the current year, flower buds form.
  • Early in the spring, as the leaves are starting to emerge, prune.
  • Just above a node, prune branches back by half to a third.
  • After that, prune any fragile or spindly branches.
  • Minimal trimming encourages huge, strong bushes with many of tiny flower heads in H. arborescens. Hard pruning between 12 and 18 inches from the ground, or even all the way down, will result in fewer but larger flower heads that may flop if unsupported.
  • For H. paniculata, remove the surrounding smaller wood while leaving the larger stems in order to establish a sturdy foundation.

Pruning may be connected to flower head size. Shoots will grow more vigorously and flower heads will be bigger and fewer with more rigorous trimming. Smaller but more numerous flower heads may result from less aggressive or tip pruning.

Consideration of hydrangeas’ mature size is the best piece of advise. Place them in a location where they won’t outgrow and won’t need a lot of pruning to keep them in check. Hydrangeas don’t need to be pruned precisely or often; as long as dead wood is removed, they will remain healthy and continue to develop and bloom.

Cut back these shrubs in late winter before new growth begins

Shrubs that flower on young wood typically start blooming later than old-growth bloomers, beginning in June and continuing until the first frost, because they need to grow and set buds the same year that they bloom. As long as you avoid trimming when the flower buds are opening, these shrubs are understanding if it is not done at a specific period.

1. Trim the flowers all the way back for larger blooms.

These bushes can be completely removed from the ground in late winter or the beginning of spring. If cut severely like this every year, smooth hydrangeas will produce much larger flowers, but many gardeners prefer smaller blooms on stronger stems.

2. Maintain an old growth foundation to lessen flopping

Especially after watering from above or after a heavy storm, the branches of some hydrangeas frequently topple over from the weight of their blooms. Cutting the stems to a height of 18 to 24 inches will help to reduce this flopping by creating a strong framework for fresh growth.

Janet Carson is the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service’s horticulture specialist.

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How should hydrangeas be pruned in the fall?

Maintaining your hydrangea can greatly impact its blooms the next year. When given enough time and the right care, hydrangeas are resilient and can recover from virtually anything.

See our comprehensive growth guide for hydrangeas here after reading the fall maintenance advice below!

Because some hydrangea kinds do not like to be clipped in the fall, it is crucial to first identify your variety.

If you have hydrangeas in your garden, you should be aware that there are two different varieties. Both types develop blossom buds, one on new wood and the other on old wood. If a stem has remained on the plant since the previous summer, it is referred to as old wood. Stems that form this season are considered new wood. The majority of hydrangea species that are found in gardens are old wood bloomers, including as Mophead, Big Leaf, Lacecap, and Oakleaf types. Check your variety once more at the neighborhood garden center.

Hydrangeas can grow for many years without being pruned, but it’s time to cut them if they become unkempt, take over a portion of the garden, or stop producing new growth. But when should they be pruned?

After the summer blooms on old wood bloomers or fall blooming hydrangeas, prune them. Old, woody hydrangeas that are pruned in the fall will not bloom the following season.

Hydrangeas that bloom in the summer or those that do so on fresh wood are clipped in the fall, after their flowering season has ended.

Early in the season, hydrangeas are brilliant and colorful, but they are difficult to preserve after being cut. Once they begin to dry on the bush, they are simpler to maintain.

Your plant will have weak, wispy growth near the bottom. Reduce them. They will consume energy that could be used by your plant to produce blossoms.

On your stems, look for any dead stumps. They won’t have sprung any buds or new wood from the original old wood. To totally remove the dead stumps, cut them to the ground at the base. This will give the new growth below a chance to flourish.

To make way for new buds to emerge, old and dead blossoms must be eliminated. To promote flowers for the following summer, remove the flower head immediately above the first few leaves.

Observe the plant’s shape from a distance. The shrub should be pruned into the shape you desire; a spherical is the traditional shape, but you can prune it however you like!

Clean up any leftover debris from the plant’s foundation. Make sure your soil is devoid of all weeds, dead flowers, and leaves.

Feed your blue hydrangeas with Holly-tone to maintain acidic soil and vibrant flowers. Alternatively, choose Flower-tone.

Feed your hydrangeas two to three times each week from spring till fall for the greatest results.

Your hydrangeas will remain healthy and vibrant for many years if you follow these simple instructions.

Can I prune my hydrangeas all the way down?

These hydrangeas are simple to manage because they bloom each year no matter how they are taken care of or treated. They can be cut down to the ground in the fall and will reappear the next spring with an abundance of blossoms. However, over time, this severe trimming might make the plant gradually weaker.

Do you prune hydrangeas in the spring or the fall?

Pruning is not typically thought of as one of the many gardening activities that may be done in the fall, despite the fact that there are several. It can be difficult to cultivate hydrangeas successfully in New Hampshire, and if you want your plants to blossom, there is frequently very little room for error in pruning.

Wait until Spring to prune hydrangeas

In New Hampshire, hydrangeas come in a variety of kinds, and each one has quite distinct growth patterns and pruning needs. Some plants only produce flowers on fresh growth, while others mostly produce flower buds on older wood. In any case, it is better to postpone all hydrangea pruning until spring. Hydrangeas, as with all other trees and shrubs, go dormant in the fall. Not much new growth is produced by them until the next spring. As new growth is more vulnerable to harsh cold at the location of wounds, plants that have been trimmed now run a higher risk of winter damage. Additionally, fall pruning may lessen the quantity of June blooms.

Considerations for pruning hydrangea species commonly grown in New Hampshire gardens

The gigantic blue mopheads or lacecaps known as bigleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla), which are familiar to most gardeners, form their flower heads at the tips of stems on old wood from the previous year. Although lower buds along the stem have the capacity to grow blooms as well, the hydrangea’s blossoming potential is decreased if those buds are died or damaged throughout the winter. Wait until new growth sprouts in the spring before pruning your bigleaf hydrangeas. Approximately 1/4 inch above the first group of live buds, prune the plant. A hint: the interior of living stems will be green, whereas the interior of dead stems will be brown. Cut completely dead stems flush with the base.

The three other hydrangea species that are frequently planted in Fresh Hampshire—oakleaf (H. quercifolia), panicle (H. paniculata), and smooth—all bloom on new growth. Before the emergence of the leaves in the late winter and early spring, remove wasted flowers and prune the plant to improve its general structure and habit.

In conclusion, there are a ton of other activities you can engage in to stay occupied in the garden during fall. Save the spring for hydrangea pruning.

Should I remove the brown blooms on my hydrangea?

Your hydrangea shrubs’ blossoms appear to be withering or turning brown. No need to worry—this is merely a signal that it’s time to deadhead—remove the blossoms from the plant.

Deadheading hydrangeas doesn’t cause any damage to the plants at all. Flowering shrubs stop producing seeds when the spent blooms are removed, and instead focus their efforts on developing their roots and leaves. You will be doing your hydrangeas a favor by deadheading because this strengthens and makes plants healthier.

How far back can hydrangeas be cut?

You can prune the first pair of buds on Hydrangea macrophylla, Hydrangea serrata, Hydrangea quercifolia, and Hydrangea aspera in the spring. In essence, you are removing the dried flower heads. By removing one or two of the oldest, largest stems, you can also help the plant become more open and give off a better shape. To promote fresh growth, cut these right back to the ground.

Hydrangea aborescens and Hydrangea paniculata can be clipped back more severely after flowering since flowers appear on fresh growth. These kinds don’t truly require pruning, although you can do it to prevent them from becoming too tall.

In the spring, how far back should hydrangeas be pruned?

You can prune hydrangeas paniculata and aborescens more severely without losing this year’s blossoms because they bloom on new wood. Although pruning is not necessary, if it is not done the plant will grow taller, with the majority of its flowers at the top.

Cut back to a healthy framework

Trim the previous year’s growth back to a strong framework that is between 30 cm and 60 cm high in the early spring. On each stem, prune to just above a pair of sound buds. For large flowers, prune back to the lowest healthy buds; less firmly for a more natural appearance or a higher plant.

Watch Monty Don describe the many hydrangea trimming techniques in spring: