Deadheading & Pruning Hydrangeas

Deadheading & Pruning Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas put on a spectacular show of blooms every year that I think I wouldn’t be without one in my garden. The great big heads of flowers that come in a variety of colours start in early summer and last until late summer. Making the most of these flowers and prolonging the flowering of your hydrangea is what we are going to talk about.

Deadheading Hydrangeas

Deadheading might sound alarming but is a simple process of prolonging a flowering season.

Deadheading means to cut the flowers off the plants once they begin to wilt and die before they go to seed. This technique cleans up the plant while also boosting the hydrangeas growth to produce more flowers because it wants to set seed. 

Before you get started chopping off all the heads of your hydrangeas, there are a few things you need to know about deadheading and pruning. 

Deadheading A Hydrangea

Deadheading vs. Pruning

Deadheading and pruning are two practices that are often confused with each other or thought to be the same technique; however, they are very different. 

Deadheading refers to cutting off the dying flowers from the hydrangea bush. 

Pruning includes cutting the branches of the plant to keep a uniform shape or stop the hydrangea bush from growing too large. 

Pruning is not necessary for the plant’s health unless the plant becomes overcrowded; however, if you let the hydrangea grow for a few years and then prune the plant, you can get longer stems which work beautifully for flower arranging and decoration. 

When Should I Deadhead my Hydrangea?

If you want your hydrangeas to flower multiple times in one growing season you should deadhead, or cut off the blooms, as soon as the flowers begin to wilt or die. Deadheading can be done any time of the year but cutting the stems is best to be done in early spring

How to Deadhead Properly

When you deadhead a hydrangea, you will make a cut just above where the first set of large leaves is on that stem. 

If you are looking for long stems for arrangement, deadhead the stems with blooms in the early spring or late summer before next year’s buds have set. 

If you are deadheading in August for flower arrangements, the buds will already be set, and you should cut shorter stems so as not to hinder blooming for the following year. 

When Should I Prune My Hydrangea?

Pruning Hydrangeas

Depending on what type of hydrangea you have will affect whether and how you should prune it. Some varieties grow blooms on new wood and others on last seasons growth. These are listed below.

Pruning should take place in early spring before the new spring growth appears this is when the plant is dormant. If you prune too early and new growth appears then there is a risk of frost damage to the hydrangea.

Pruning in the early spring will ensure the bush flowers again the next year and will help keep its shape and size. 

How to Prune A Hydrangea Properly 

There are several different varieties of hydrangeas and pruning is done differently for each of them. 

Panicle and Smooth Hydrangeas: 

These hydrangeas flower on the new spring wood and need pruning only to build a framework for new growth. It is not strictly necessary to prune that often, however, if you wish to prune your Panicle or Smooth hydrangea in order to get long stems for cutting, let it grow for a few years and then begin pruning the plant. 

Mophead and Lacecap Hydrangeas: 

These varieties flower on buds that grew in the previous blooming season. Pruning these hydrangeas in the fall or spring you will stop the flowers from blooming in the next season. 

Mophead and Lacecap Hydrangeas should only have light pruning, never cutting more than one-third of the stems every year. 

Climbing Hydrangeas: 

Flowers are produced from side shoots in climbing hydrangeas and are not usually pruned. 

Gardeners can cut back the shoots in the fall after the blooming season is over if they would like and trimming is necessary as these hydrangeas can climb up to 60 feet when left to run wild. 

You should avoid trimming or pruning in the first year however so that the plant can adjust to its location and have less stress. Wait until late summer or early fall to do any trimming, after the blooms have all been spent.

Prune A Damaged Hydrangea

Although pruning may not be deemed necessary for some varieties of hydrangeas, pruning must always be done if part of the hydrangea plant is dying, spindly, or damaged. 

Pruning is necessary for a damaged or dying plan to rejuvenate. Cutting off the dead or damaged parts of the plant stops nutrients and water from being sent towards dead parts of the plant and offers a chance for new growth to happen. 

Always leave at least three to five stalks that are at least three feet tall so ensure the plant will keep growing the following year. This kind of heavy pruning should be done in the early spring as the plant is coming out of dormancy but before flowering or budding. 

Hydrangea Pruning Tips 

Dead Hydrangea Bloom

When you are pruning any bush, tree, or plant you should make sure that your secateurs are sharpened. Dull cutters will flatten the stems and damage the plant nutrients channels. 

If any of the plants you are cutting have diseases, you should clean your secateurs with rubbing alcohol before moving on to other plants or trees in your garden. Plant diseases can spread from tree to tree or bush to bush by being transferred on the cutters.

Never prune more than one-third of the plant unless you have cause to do heavy pruning in which case you should wait to prune until the plant is dormant so as not to cause any undue stress. 

To encourage a hydrangea to grow fuller, trim just above the nodes on the leaves. This will signal the hydrangea to branch out where the cut was made to create a fuller appearance. This works especially well for climbing hydrangeas. 

Shrubs that bloom on old growth should be pruned after flowering. 

Shrubs that bloom on new growth should be pruned before they wake up in the spring or when they are going dormant in the fall or winter. 

To increase the number of blooms and size of blooms, practice deadheading and remove the oldest canes at the soil line each year. 

To increase the size of blooms on hydrangeas that flower on new growth prune the bushes all the way back in the late winter or very early spring. Smooth hydrangeas are especially reactive to heavy pruning in February or March. 

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