Pruning Florist Hydrangeas Now

This hydrangea has had all the dead branches removed

This is the same hydrangea as above before pruning

Never cut the old stem down to the node leafing out. Cut slightly above where it is leafing out.

Note, how an old stem puts out so many new branches. Those new shoots will produce the flowers for the summer.

Now is the time I prune my florist hydrangeas. Also called mop-head hydrangeas, these summer flowering hydrangeas are the ones we tell you not to prune in fall. Today, I started removing all the dead branches of my plants down to the base of the plant, and then pruned the dead tips or branches back to just above the leafing out branches. These leafing out branches are the main source of those beautiful pink or blue or various colors in between flowers that are so idolized in summer. Now remember, do not cut too close to the new growth (see image). This is not hard, but remember the young shoots are delicate and break easily. The finished one I showed in the picture is done right, but for the groomed garden that irregular shape is oftentimes unacceptable. Just remember that if you want that beautiful rounded shrub, with each stem that has new growth you are potentially cutting off flowers to achieve that effect. Now if yours are only putting out new shoots from the base of the plant, some of these shoots might bloom, but they are generally late in the season. This frequently occurs if the plants were tip pruned in the fall, and we have an early freeze before the plants have adjusted to cooler temperatures. We had this happen last fall. Also, now with them actively growing I recommend an application of 15-0-15 to give them a boost at this time.

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

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