Pruning Hydrangeas Before Spring Blooms – Don’t Mess Them Up!

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Pruning Hydrangeas Before Spring Blooms - Don't Mess Them Up!
Pruning Hydrangeas Before Spring Blooms - Don\'t Mess Them Up!

It’s that time of year when all the gardening tools get to come out to play. And one of my favorite things to do in the garden is to deadhead or trim back last year’s growth so that all the energy goes back to the plant. Pruning hydrangeas is no exception to this rule. Today, I’m sharing how I prune mine for the best Spring blooms and how not to mess them up. I learned the hard way as usual.

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Pruning Hydrangeas – Last Years Growth

Here in Texas, I start seeing new Spring growth around March on my hydrangeas. It may be a little later for you, depending on the zone you live in. But for me, it’s the perfect time to be Spring pruning hydrangeas. In the past, I tried doing it in the Fall, and every time I did, it stunted the blooms. (insert unhappy face)

Some varieties of hydrangeas bloom on new growth, and some only bloom on old wood. And then there are varieties that bloom on both!

If you’re unsure of the variety you have, I have found that this works best for me. It can be a real guessing game, and you should do some research before pruning to learn what variety you have if you can.

Of course, I prune or deadhead old bloom throughout the blooming season, but today I’m strictly talking about Spring pruning.

Of course, I prune or deadhead old bloom throughout the blooming season, but today I'm strictly talking about Spring pruning hydrangeas. Here's how I do it.

What You’ll Need To Prune Hydrangeas

Purchase a quality pair of pruning shears, and you won’t be sorry. I use mine throughout the year, but be sure to clean and oil them regularly. This will also help prevent transferring any plant diseases or bugs you may not see from one plant to another. I clean my blades with alcohol before use.

The Best Time To Spring Prune Hydrangeas

The Best Time For Pruning Hydrangeas

For me, I wait until I see the new growth in the Spring, and because we had such a crazy cold winter, I waited extra long to make sure I didn’t over-prune. Many of my plants died this past winter, but so far, my hydrangeas are looking great.

Start with the dead stems (easy to spot) and run your hand down the stem until you see the first bud or green growth. This is where you’ll start pruning the hydrangea stems. Sometimes I leave a few dead stems in the middle to help support the new growth and snip off the tops.

Large blooms can really weigh down your bush, and this will give it some stability and help hold up those beautiful blooms.

For me, I wait until I see the new growth in the Spring, and because we had such a crazy cold winter, I waited extra long to make sure I didn't over prune my hydrangeas.
Start with the dead stems (easy to spot) and run your hand down the stem until you see the first bud or green growth. This is where you'll start pruning the hydrangea stems. Sometimes I leave a few dead stems in the middle to help support the new growth and snip off the tops.

Using this method ensures that the new growth is protected when pruning hydrangeas, and since I started doing this, my Spring blooms have resulted in large luscious blooms. As big as my head, if you can believe that.

Using this method ensures that the new growth is protected when pruning hydrangeas, and since I started doing this, my Spring blooms have resulted in large luscious blooms. As big as my head, if you can believe that.

Pruning hydrangeas can be tricky in the Spring. One wrong cut, and there goes your beautiful blooms. I do this every year, and it works!

Of course, these are last year’s blooms, but I know that my hydrangeas are on track to producing a bumper crop this year.

I have plans to preserve some of the blooms for a floral arrangement or to decorate my fireplace mantel with them. I’ll be sharing more on that as soon as I get some good blooms to try it out on. I can’t wait to share that.

Thanks for joining me today, and I hope this answers some questions about pruning your hydrangeas. April showers bring May flowers!

xo, Do

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38 Comments

  1. Thanks for the tip on pruning. I live in Minnesota so this blog is perfect timing. Iโ€™ll be watching the new growth for when to get pruning. So glad to see survival after your harsh winter. Looking forward to your posts as remake and remodeling get finished.

    1. Hi Joanne, I’m so glad you found me, and don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter. That way, you won’t miss a new post. Let me know how this tip on pruning works for you. ๐Ÿ™‚ xo

  2. Thanks for the tip. Hydrangeas are one of my favorite flowers. We have a fairly new home with new flowerbeds to put all the flowers that make my soul smile.. ๐ŸŒธ๐Ÿ’— we live in Texas. Iโ€™ve grown them before, I have made the mistake of pruning them wrong and not getting the beautiful flowers.. Again thanks for the tip.

  3. I have 2 hydrangea plants that are at least 68 years old. I dug them up from my grandmother’s house after she had to move to a nursing home. They were on the east side of her house all of my life and I am now 68. I transferred 3 plants, but one died and I can’t seem to get another one to grow there. The other 2 are huge. What is the best way to keep them blooming and what fertilizer do you recommend?

    1. Hi Claudia! I love these stories! I have a gardenia that I transplanted from my Grandmother’s yard. It depends on the variety of the hydrangea you have, but I think it’s what they call old-fashioned because of its history. These hydrangeas typically bloom on old wood and will need a general all-purpose fertilizer. Do some research on how to care for old-fashioned hydrangeas. Good luck ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Such a helpful blog!!! I have a couple but want to grow my collection when we move to a larger place. I think they are such amazing plants and so many varieties! My Mom last year pruned one by mistake that grow on old wood, a blue one. We only got one bloom. But this year I was watching and now it is just full of buds!!! I am so excited!!!

    1. Hi, Melba! I love these vintage flower bushes! Yep, you gotta know what you have before you prune. I have a bumper crop this year. The cold didn’t hurt it all. Thanks for sharing. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Thank you so much for the pruning information. Hydrangeas are my first favourite flower. We just moved into a new home with established hydrangeas. Problem, they are sparse and have spots all over the leaves. They are in total shade. Any advice would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Sonja,

      A new home is always exciting. It sounds like the hydrangeas aren’t getting enough light. Most varieties like a bit of morning sun but some will need even more. Partial sun. I also have had good luck planting on the north side of my home. But I’m in Texas.

  6. Beautiful gorgeous stunning Hydrangeas are my favorite. I have two in my backyard. One is a Vanilla Strawberry planted in the ground. The other is (I forget) Lol ๐Ÿ™‚ but I have it planted in a big old truck tire rim just on the other side of my back deck. I don’t think it is going to grow (I am really hoping it will). Last year it did nothing. I want to pick up a few more Hydrangeas to put in big pots and then into the ground or just set them on my decks. Thank you for sharing this post Do ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Hi Brenda! I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. Hydrangeas will always be my favorite. Keep trying. They are actually pretty easy to grow once you find the right location. xo, Do

  7. Hi Donna! I don’t have a garden since moving from Texas ๐Ÿ˜ญ. Your hydrangeas are absolutely beautiful. Such a pretty color

  8. Thanks for the tips Do! Most years I do a similar method for pruning. But this year, our hydrangeas are so tall that I cut them back by 2/3rds. This year will probably be a bust as far as blooms are concerned but hopefully, I can manage the size of the bushes! Pinned ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. They can get out of hand quickly after a great growing season. That’s not a bad thing. I plan on planting several varieties in the new gardens. Thanks for stopping by. xo, Do

    1. Hi Patricia! I like to add magnesium (Epsom Salts) in early spring before they start actively growing. I sprinkle it around the plants and water it in well.

  9. Hello Donna,
    Iโ€™m so lost. I have 2 hydrangeas and the one is beautiful with red blooms. The other one was just as lovely but itโ€™s not doing well at all. Blooms are dying and leaves are curling as if they are dry. I water once a day. What am I doing wrong?

  10. Do you have them planted on the ground?Do you have any advice for my hydrangea planted on a pot on when to plant it on the ground?

    1. Hi, Marie.
      I find that hydrangeas do better for me in the ground. If you’re planning on transplanting, I suggest Spring after the last freeze. Ypu can also transplant them in the Fall, at least six weeks before the first freeze. They will need morning sun and afternoon shade, so pick your location wisely. My Grandmother always planted her hydrangeas on the north side of her home, but I have mine planted on the east side.
      I hope this helps. ๐Ÿ™‚ xo

  11. My plant has alot of new growth both low on the stalks/stems a d in the upper part in the middle of the top leaves. It is Oct 4th. How do I take advantage of this new growth? Should I try to cut stems and propagate for next year?

    1. Hi Terry, You could cut a few for propagation, but remember the blooms are in the stems, and cutting in the fall will result in fewer blooms in the Spring. I hope this helps. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Hi Barbara,
      I have. The solution was to remove the leaves with dark spots. The next year, it was gone.

      Here’s what I know after doing a Google search.
      “Brown spots are (most frequently) caused by the fungus Cercospora that commonly exists in your soil. It usually reaches the plant through overhead watering or rainfall. So, while you may know when to plant hydrangeas for optimum growth, it’s equally important to know how to treat brown spots if they arrive.”

      I hope this helps. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Love your pink Hydrangeas. I want to plant some more varieties in my yard. They are some of my favorite
    plants to grow at the new house.

  13. Iโ€™m confused. I always read not to cut off the old wood stalks because thatโ€™s where the blooms are but your saying to cut 2/3s of those stalks off. I have 10 hydrangeas that have the wood stalks.Can you clarify? Thank you
    Linda

    1. Hi Linda,
      Sorry about the confusion. I was referring to dead stalks. When I prune, I wait until I see new growth and a few flowers forming. Cutting the dead stalks back by 2/3 gives the base of the hydrangeas support for the new growth. This way, you can be sure that you won’t over-prune. It’s difficult to know the variety if you didn’t purchase them. I hope this clears things up. ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. I have one hydrangea that continues to grow green leaves. It seldom blooms. Iโ€™m ever hopeful. I live in So. California. My hydrangea is in a big pot. I water when itโ€™s dry. Itโ€™s too late for salts. It is producing green again. Yay!

    1. Hi Peggy,
      I’m happy to hear you’re getting new green. Yay! Different climates produce different results, that’s for sure. We’re a bit warmer and it’s a challenge. Wishing a happy growing season. ๐Ÿ™‚ xo

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