Should You Prune Hydrangeas In The Fall? - Backyard Boss
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Should You Prune Hydrangeas In The Fall?

When to prune your hydrangeas can be a bit confusing, especially since there seems to be a lot of conflicting information out there. Some gardeners say fall, others say spring or summer, while others think it’s a waste of time.

So, should you prune your hydrangeas in the fall? The answer is…it depends! If you want the truth keep reading to find out!

Old And New Wood Hydrangeas

Large pink blooming hydrangea in drops of water under an automatic watering system. Water dust in the air needs hydrangea (macrophyllum). Beautiful bokeh. Selective focus. Lush flowering hortensia.
Image credits: Dobra Kobra via Shutterstock

Fall is the time of year when many homeowners begin to think about pruning their hydrangeas. After all, it’s the time of year when most plants are beginning to go dormant and preparing for winter. And, while some hydrangeas are no exception to this rule, there are a few things you should keep in mind before heading out to the garden with your pruning shears.

First, hydrangeas are divided into two main groups: those that bloom on old wood, and those that bloom on new wood. Examples of old wood blooming hydrangeas include the oakleaf (Hydrangea quercifolia) and mophead (Hydrangea macrophylla). New wood blooming hydrangea would include smooth (Hydrangea arborescens) and tree of heaven hydrangea (Hydrangea serrata). There are exceptions to this rule, as seen with Endless Summer hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) which bloom on old and new wood.

So, if you want to prune your hydrangeas, you’ll need to know which group they belong to. Generally, old wood blooming hydrangeas should be pruned immediately after blooming. This will ensure that they have enough time to grow new wood before winter sets in. And new wood blooming hydrangeas, on the other hand, can be pruned in late winter or early spring before they are dormant.

So, Is A Fall Pruning A Good Idea?

gardener pruning hydrangea
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It’s important to understand that not all types of hydrangeas should be pruned in the fall. In fact, some types of hydrangeas, as seen above, actually benefit from pruning in the spring, summer, or winter. However, if you have certain types of hydrangeas that bloom on new growth then fall is the time to give them a good pruning. Two examples of new wood-blooming hydrangea are smooth and panicle (Hydrangea paniculate) hydrangeas.

Why You Should Prune

Woman gardener with garden shears cutting a bouquet of white hydrangea flowers
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Few things are as beautiful as a hydrangea in full bloom. Unfortunately, if you don’t take care of them, they can become overgrown and wild-looking very quickly. Just make sure to always use clean shears when pruning!

Pruning your hydrangeas is important for two reasons:

  • It helps to promote new growth
  • It keeps the plant looking tidy and well-groomed

Step-by-Step Guide To Pruning Hydrangeas

Step One – Gather Your Supplies

blue gardening shears laying amongst flower petals
Image credits: Willfried Wende via Pixabay

Before you start pruning, it’s important to gather the right supplies. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Gloves to protect your hands
  • Clean, sharp pair of pruning shears for neat cuts
  • Ladder or step stool (if your plants are tall)
  • Bucket to collect the trimmings

Step Two – Removing Dead Weight
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Start by assessing the plant and identifying any dead or dying branches. These will usually be dry, brown, and brittle. Using a sharp pair of pruning shears, cut the dead branches back to a point where they branch off from a living part of the plant. Once you’ve removed all of the dead wood, take a step back and look at the plant as a whole. Make sure that you’re happy with the shape and size before moving on.

Step Three – Thinning Out Your Hydrangea

Bush (hydrangea) cutting or trimming with secateur in the garden
Image Credit: S.O.E via Shutterstock

Next, thin out the plant by removing any excessively long branches; This is referred to as hard pruning. Cut these back to a length of about one-third. If there are any branches that are rubbing against each other or growing in an undesirable direction, you can trim these back as well.

Step Four – Deadheading

Deadheading Hydrangeas
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Start by finding a bloom that has already faded and died. Using sharp shears, cut the stem of the bloom off at the base. Be sure to make a clean cut so that the plant can heal quickly.

You may also want to deadhead any blooms that are starting to fade. This will help the plant to focus its energy on producing new blooms.

Once you have removed all of the spent blooms, give your plant a good drink of water. Deadheading can be tough on plants, so it’s important to give them a little extra TLC after pruning.

You can hang these cutting to dry, press them or add them to arrangements! There are great ways to use hydrangeas for lovely home decor.

Pruning Made Simple

So, when should you prune your hydrangeas – in the fall or not? As mentioned, it really depends on the type of hydrangea that you have. If you’re still unsure, reach out to a local garden center for help. And don’t forget to share your tips and tricks for keeping your hydrangeas looking their best in the comments below!