Learn When to Prune Different Hydrangeas in Your Garden

Take care of these pretty pastel bloomers.

French Hydrangeas
Photo: Ralph Lee Anderson

Have you been enjoying your hydrangeas this season? These pretty blooming shrubs are such Southern garden classics, and we know that the arrival of hydrangea blooms is the real signal that summer has arrived. Ensure that you have blossoms every year by learning when and how to properly prune your hydrangeas. Hydrangea care is important to ensure healthy, beautiful plants, and if you take care of them, they'll bloom out in a gorgeous garden riot for you every year. (Study up, because you can also learn how to root them and how to turn your hydrangeas pink and blue!)

Rule number one: Prune with care. Hydrangeas don't need much pruning, so if you get too bold with the garden shears, you may end up with bare branches come summer. When you break out the shears and start to snip, you'll want to remove any dead wood. You can also shorten any wayward branches to help shape the plant. You have to be careful, though, because, as the Grumpy Gardener tells us, "If you prune certain types of hydrangeas at the wrong time, you won't get any flowers. So pay attention."

We're paying attention, Grumpy. Be sure that you're in the know too, and note the best times to prune your hydrangeas. In summer, you'll need to prune your once-blooming French hydrangeas, oakleaf hydrangeas, and mountain hydrangeas. In winter, you should prune smooth hydrangeas and panicle hydrangeas, while you can prune your reblooming French hydrangeas in summer or in winter.

The Grumpy Gardener tells us: "In times past, the French hydrangea bloomed only on the previous year's growth. This meant that if a cold winter damaged the growth or some nincompoop pruned the shrub in late fall or winter, you'd be lucky to get any blooms. However, some French hydrangeas bloom on both last year's growth and the current year's growth. Thus, even if you cut them to the ground in winter, they'll still bloom."

That's why, with French hydrangeas that flower only once and bloom on last year's growth, like 'Nikko Blue,' 'Lemon Wave,' 'Buttons 'n Bows,' 'Blue Wave,' and 'Domotoi,' you should only prune just after they flower in summer. Repeat-blooming French hydrangeas flower on both old and new growth, so they can be pruned in summer or winter. Reblooming selections include the Endless Summer series, the Let's Dance series, the Forever & Ever series, 'All Summer Beauty,' 'Big Daddy,' 'Dear Delores,' 'L.A. Dreamin,' 'Penny Mac,' and 'Mini Penny.'"

Got it? Once more, with feeling:

Summer Pruning

Once-blooming French (aka bigleaf) hydrangea (Hydrangea maacrophylla)

'Nikko Blue,' 'Lemon Wave,' 'Buttons 'n Bows,' 'Blue Wave,' 'Domotoi'

Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

'Alice,' 'Harmony,' 'Semmes Beauty,' 'Snowflake,' 'Snow Queen'

Mountain hydrangea (Hydrangea serrata)

'Bluebird,' 'Grayswood,' 'Pretty Maiden,' 'Preziosa,' 'Woodlander'

Winter Pruning

Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens)

'Annabelle,' 'Grandiflora'

Panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata)

'Grandiflora,' 'Kyushu,' 'Pink Diamond,' 'Tardiva'

Summer or Winter Pruning

Reblooming French hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)

'All Summer Beauty,' 'Big Daddy,' 'Dear Delores,' 'L.A. Dreamin,' 'Penny Mac,' 'Mini Penny'

WATCH: The Grumpy Gardener's Guide to Hydrangeas

Do you prefer pink, purple, or blue hydrangeas in your garden? Put these tips to good use to ensure that you have lush blooms in your yard every year.

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