Saturday, December 1, 2018

FAQ: How should I prune my hydrangeas?

Hydrangea macrophylla

Q. Look at my hydrangeas. They've gotten way out of control. They're covering my windows! How should I prune them? I want them to bloom a lot next year.

A. First, we need to identify your plants as Hydrangea macrophylla. Yours are spring-blooming shrubs, and they bloom on old wood. Late-summer or fall-blooming hydrangeas are treated differently.

Ideally, you should have pruned them as the flowers faded. Perhaps you did cut some to bring inside for arrangements. That was good, but not enough, I see.

That said, your spring-blooming hydrangeas should be pruned now during fall season. Begin by pruning out dead wood, stubs, and weak growth. You should also cut out the very old stems at ground level. You have a lot of those!

Next, turn your attention to the remaining strong, healthy stems. You need to reduce the plant height. Face it; you'll lose some bloom next year, but if you don't reduce plant height, you'll have hydrangeas growing in front of your windows, again. Do not prune these to the ground. Instead, look for strong, healthy buds at a level that's lower than the ultimate desirable height. Prune just above the buds. Cutting just below the buds will leave a long internode that will result in a dead stub. You don't want that.

After pruning, remove and dispose of debris. Chop stems into smaller pieces and cast all into your compost heap. Freshen mulch around the base of your shrubs.

Do any of you readers have tips to share about pruning hydrangeas? Please let us know in the comment section!

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