STOP! Before You Prune Those Hydrangeas, Know What Kind You Have

A mix of blooming mophead and smooth hydrangeas

I am famous for saying that if I had a nickel for hydrangea question I got (and specifically the question “why isn’t my hydrangea blooming?”) when I was working in retail gardening, I would never have to work another day in my life.

Even with all the newer types of hydrangeas on the market–the “so-called” reblooming hydrangeas that bloom on old and new wood, in my climate, they can be notoriously finicky and NOT bloom when they’re supposed to–or stop blooming completely for some reason.

This is heartbreaking in a state like Connecticut, which is so close to places like Nantucket and Cape Cod, where so many people vacation. They go there, they see huge mounding shrubs of blue hydrangeas–and they come home to sticks and twigs of their own blue hydrangeas with no blooms.

Or worse yet, they come home to incredibly healthy shrubs of hydrangeas–and still no blooms. It’s enough to make one want to get a backhoe and just rip them all out!

I have advised folks about proper pruning, about knowing the type of hydrangea that you have and about replacing the types of hydrangeas that bloom on old wood with those that bloom on old and new wood (because here, we can get very late frosts–or worse, snows–that kill off those developing flower buds).

But if you haven’t spoken to me back when I was working in retail gardening, Proven Winners has put together and excellent guide to hydrangea pruning. It’s called Hydrangeas Demystified, and while you still need to know the “type” of hydrangea that you have,  once you determine that, you’ll be able to figure out how to prune and when to prune. You might be able to save yourself a lot of heartache by not cutting off developing flower buds–or having your landscaper do so.

While we still can’t solve the problem of not being able to grow those gorgeous Nantucket type blue hydrangeas here in Connecticut (at least not in central Connecticut!), this guide can at least help us not prune off any flower buds that we might have developing.  I have more than once cut into wood that I thought was dead, only to discover that it wasn’t–I now only prune my mopheads very, very late!

So I hope this guide is helpful–and I hope that I have posted it early enough for most of you. Enjoy!

2 thoughts on “STOP! Before You Prune Those Hydrangeas, Know What Kind You Have

  1. tonytomeo March 29, 2021 / 1:05 pm

    We have all sorts of hydrangeas at work. They have been added at random times for decades. the older types are easy to get acquainted with, and the easiest to prune. Modern types take a bit more effort, and are not so predictable. The worst are the florist hydrangeas that were planted into the landscapes after getting left behind after weddings. They are so puny! However, we can not bear to get rid of them, since they are there and healthy. They would be nice in front of the larger sorts, if only they fluffed out better.

  2. gardendaze March 29, 2021 / 1:26 pm

    You see, the florist types here aren’t hardy at all. All we ever get are leaves–they’re hardy only to zone 7 and we are zone 6. That’s what I mean when I say that I spent way too much time answering hydrangea questions.

    There’s also those lovely variegated hydrangeas–another zone 7 type for us so all we get are leaves. I grew those in a container that I winter protected for awhile, then I planted it out and just enjoyed the leaves for awhile–and when all that got old, the plant became compost.

    So it pays to know what you’re growing and why–because there’s nothing more heartbreaking than telling a Mom that her Mother’s Day hydrangea isn’t going to bloom again in our climate!


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