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How to prune hydrangeas and when you should do it

Hydrangeas
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Hydrangeas are a common, but beautiful sight in most gardens. Each plant can hold hundreds of flowers which are grouped together in small bursts with colors ranging from pink to purple to blue. 

They’re not the easiest to care for though, needing regular watering and occasional pruning. Unsure how to do this? That’s why we’ve pulled together this guide on how to prune hydrangeas and at what time of year it’s best to do so. 

And if roses are more your thing, we also have a guide to how to prune roses — and when you should do it.

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

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

1. Remove last year’s flowerheads using a pair of 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

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

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. 

Katie Mortram

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 kitchen appliances for over 6 years, so she knows what to look for when finding the best. Her favorite thing to test has to be stand mixers as she loves to bake in her spare time.