Should You Prune Hydrangeas in the Spring? - Backyard Boss
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Should You Prune Hydrangeas in the Spring?

Spring is a time of renewal and growth, so it’s no surprise that gardeners around the world use this season as an opportunity to get their hydrangeas in order. Whether you have just a few potted plants or an entire hillside covered with bushes, pruning should be one of the most significant gardening tasks. Pruning your hydrangeas helps promote overall health and vigor, ensure larger blooms for your enjoyment all summer long, and even increase flowering potential.

But is spring really the right time to do it? Here’s why you should, or shouldn’t, consider giving your hydrangea plants a trim during this season — along with some useful tips on how to go about completing this task successfully!

First – What’s the Difference Between New and Old Wood?

Hydrangeas shrubs fast growing
Image credits: Connor Moyle via Unsplash

Hydrangeas bloom on two types of wood, new and old. Hydrangeas that bloom on old wood typically produce their blooms on stems that are at least one year old. You should prune them directly after they have finished flowering.

On the other hand, hydrangeas that bloom on new wood produce their flowers on stems that were grown during the current growing season. Pruning for these types of hydrangeas takes place in late winter or early spring before new growth emerges.

By understanding the difference between new wood and old wood on hydrangeas, gardeners can ensure they are giving their plants the best possible care.

Should You Prune Hydrangeas in the Spring?

When it comes to pruning hydrangeas, the answer isn’t so straightforward. The type of hydrangea you have determines whether you should prune or not come spring.

Tree and Smooth Hydrangeas 

Little Lime Hydrangea
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These two types of hydrangea bloom on new wood. Therefore, prune tree hydrangeas (hydrangea paniculata) and smooth hydrangeas (hydrangeas arborescens) in the late winter or early spring every year before new growth begins. Thin out five to 10 of the older canes to encourage larger blooms.

Also, every couple of years, cut back the remaining canes. It helps maintain its size and shape, ensuring that it looks great for years to come. Hard pruning also helps prevent blooming issues, since an overgrown plant will not produce as many flowers.

Hydrangeas You Should Not Prune in the Spring

When it comes to hydrangea pruning, there are some varieties that you should leave alone until later in the year.

Bigleaf and Oakleaf Hydrangeas

Nikko Blue Hydrangea
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Oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) and bigleaf hydrangeas (hydrangea macrophylla) bloom prolifically in home gardens. But do not prune these two varieties in the spring as they bloom on old wood — Pruning them before they flower reduces or eliminates their flowering for that season. This chore should instead occur after blooming, usually mid-July.

This is an essential consideration when planning any type of pruning for these types of hydrangeas, as spring is not the ideal time to do so. Doing this may also leave your shrub looking sparse and not very attractive during the growing season.

It’s also important to note that the Hydrangea quercifolia does not require much pruning at all. In fact, it may actually benefit from being left alone. Excessive pruning leads to a reduction in the number of flowers they produce each season.

How to Prune Your Hydrangeas

Pruning your hydrangeas is a crucial part of maintaining their health and beauty. Pruning helps to encourage new growth and encourage larger blooms, plus it helps to keep the plant looking tidy. To prune your hydrangeas correctly, follow a few simple steps.

Remove Any Damaged or Dead Wood

Bush (hydrangea) cutting or trimming with secateur in the garden
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When pruning your hydrangeas, first remove any dead or damaged wood. This includes branches affected by cold damage, disease, or pests.

By removing these weaker and unhealthy parts of the plant, you help promote new growth and reduce the risk of further damage down the line. If there are any stems that are dead because of disease or insects, cut them off close to the base of the shrub. Doing so helps protect the integrity of your hydrangea and ensures that it stays healthy.

Finally, always use sharp and clean pruning shears or knives when trimming your hydrangeas to ensure a clean cut without any ragged edges.

Cut to the Best Length

Pink Pruning Shears on top of Green Gardening Apron
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To achieve the best results, cut back each stem to its desired length. This should be one-third of the original size of the branch or stem.

For long, straight branches, cutting them down by one third their length creates a fuller and more attractive look for your plant. The same applies to stems that have become overgrown and tangled. Trimming them back helps restore balance to your shrub.

To get an even shape and prevent one side of your shrub from becoming overgrown, cut off branches evenly on both sides. And remember — don’t be too aggressive! Prune with care so as not to damage any healthy stems as this weakens your hydrangea’s overall condition.


Woman pruning hydrangea plant in garden
Image credits: anouchka via Canva

Deadheading, which involves removing spent flowers, is the most common form of pruning. It helps to keep your plant looking its best while also encouraging more blooms in the spring.

To deadhead a hydrangea, start by locating the old and faded flower head on each stem and snipping it off right below the flower. Use sharp pruners so that you don’t damage other parts of the plant.

To Prune or Not to Prune

Different hydrangeas have different pruning requirements. For instance, prune Hydrangea paniculata and Hydrangea arborescens in late winter or early spring before new growth appears. But, always read up on your particular variety of hydrangea so you know when to prune for optimal flowering results.

With a little bit of research, you ensure your shrubs stay healthy and flower beautifully throughout the growing season!

If you found this article helpful, then share it with others. And leave a comment below if you have any tips or tricks for pruning your hydrangeas!