How to prune hydrangeas and when you should do it

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Knowing how to prune hydrangeas can make all the difference to your garden. With the proper care and attention, hydrangeas can grow back stronger and healthier than before. Plus, it will produce more buds, resulting in a fuller display of flowers.

If you’ve noticed wilting flowers on your hydrangeas, it might be time to deadhead them — here's how to deadhead hydrangeas. And if you've taken the time to learn how to winterize hydrangeas, you might as well learn how to prune them properly too. This guide will take you through what to do, as well as when you should be doing it, so you can display your hydrangeas with pride this summer. 

Why not learn how to prune roses and how to prune lilacs while you’re at it. Or if you prefer indoor plants, check out how to care for succulents and how to repot succulents. We also cover how to care for air plants, and if you have roses, learn how to deadhead roses to keep them blooming.

If you have a fruit garden, you can learn how to prune grapevines for some fresh and sweet grapes.

Why should you prune hydrangeas? 

If you don’t prune your hydrangea, it will overgrow and look less presentable. The blooms will not be as vibrant as they could be, and you might notice it becomes more ‘woody’ looking too. Pruning is healthy for your hydrangea, as it encourages growth and fresh flowers — it will ultimately make your hydrangea look better in the long run. 

Depending on the type of hydrangea you have, different pruning methods will apply. This guide covers three of the most popular types: mophead, lacecap and climbing hydrangeas.

How to prune mophead and lacecap hydrangeas 

mophead hydrangeas

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1. Remove last year’s flowerheads using a pair of the best pruning shears. You want to cut down to just above the fresh buds. 

2. If your plant appears congested, you can cut diagonally between the buds so only one shoot continues to grow. 

3. Cut away any thin or delicate stems which can be found near the base as well as any old stems which have seen better days. This encourages new and stronger growth. 

4. If your hydrangea is really overgrown and you want it to start again, you can cut right down to the base. Bear in mind that it likely won’t bloom again until the following year. 

How to prune climbing hydrangeas 

Climbing hydrangeas

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1. You should cut back the shoots on climbing hydrangeas immediately after flowering stops. Start by trimming back the previously flowered shoots to a fresh pair of new buds. Most flowers will appear on the top of the plant, so avoid pruning this area if possible. 

2. You can prune back harder than this if necessary, but you will be giving up next year’s blooms. If you plan to severely prune back your climbing hydrangea, but you want to keep the flowers, prune it back gradually over a number of years instead.    

Most other types of hydrangea will only need minimal pruning and trimming to get rid of any old stems or reduce the size. 

When to prune hydrangeas 

For mophead and lacecap hydrangeas, you should prune them in the late winter or early spring. Do not prune these just prior to winter as without the flowerheads, the frost can kill the plant. 

Climbing hydrangeas, on the other hand, should be pruned once the flowering stops, which tends to be immediately after summer. You shouldn’t do this any other time of the year as you could be cutting off new buds. 

Done with your hydrangeas? Then check out what you can plant in March as Spring arrives and also find out how to deadhead roses to keep them blooming.

Katie Mortram
Homes Editor

Katie looks after everything homes-related, from kitchen appliances to gardening tools. She also covers smart home products too, so is the best point of contact for any household advice! She has tested and reviewed appliances for over 6 years, so she knows what to look for when finding the best. Her favorite thing to test has to be air purifiers, as the information provided and the difference between performances is extensive.