Revisiting Hydrangeas

To cut back or not to cut back…

In case you missed my Instagram stories last week, I went through a quick explanation on which hydrangea varieties you should be cutting back in the spring and which to leave alone if you want a gorgeous floral display this year. Since I always get so many questions on this topic, I figured I would post the videos here so you can access them.

Hydrangea Basics

Essentially, there are some hydrangeas that you can cut right down to the ground in the spring (or fall). And there are others that only bloom on last year’s stems. So if you cut them down, you’ll get great foliage but no blooms because you only have new stem growth. Here, I focused on the 3 main types of hydrangea in my videos: Marcophylla, paniculata, and smooth hydrangea.

Macrophylla, or Mophead

prunning-hydrangea
A ‘nikko’ blue hydrangea wilting in the hot afternoon sun

These are the big blue quintessential hydrangeas you see all over the shoreline. They’re also the ones that give us so much trouble. Essentially, you should not cut these back unless you have a bunch of dead stems that have no new buds or growth on them. While there are varieties that do bloom on this years stems, like ‘endless summer’, I typically don’t cut them back because who really remembers what variety we actually planted. I don’t want to risk it.

Paniculata Hydrangea

paniculata-hydrangea
Paniculata Hydrangea fading to pink in the fall

These showstoppers are a later blooming hydrangea, providing beautiful late summer, early fall interest. They have large, white cone shaped blooms and the plants themselves can get huge, depending on the variety. Paniculatas can be pruned harshly, without worrying about losing your flower display for the year. A note: if you do cut them back, expect larger, heavy flowers that will weigh down the young branches. Leaving this shrub to its own devices will result in smaller flowers with thicker branches that can support the flowers’ weight.

Smooth Hydrangea

annabelle-hydrangea
A no fail ‘annabelle’ hydrangea

These are my favorite, in particular, the ‘Annabelle’ variety. These native plants can either be pruned yearly or left alone. I actually cut mine back in the fall so I don’t have to look at the bare branches, but early spring pruning is fine as well. You can take them right back to about 12″ above the ground and they consistently bloom each year. I can count on these to look great, no matter how harsh the winter was or if I cut them back. The Macrophylla varieties can struggle with a harsh winter, especially in zone 5 and colder. And they may not bloom even if they are not cut back. Check out the benefits of planting native plants

Take a Peek for More Hydrangea Tips

In case you get inspired to get out and prune, use the right tools!

These are my favorite hand pruners. I carry them with me everywhere. You never know when you’ll need to prune something!

Happy Gardening Friends!

–Crystal 🙂

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