How to Prune a Leggy Hydrangea

How to Prune a Leggy Hydrangea

Hydrangeas are tricky to prune. Old style mop head hydrangeas bloom on old wood, so if you cut them way back after blooming, you are likely cutting off next year’s blossoms! The newer mop head varieties, such as Blushing Bride or  Endless Summer, bloom on new wood so you can trim them back a little further and still see blooms the next season. One of my new favorite Paniculata hydrangeas, Strawberry Vanilla, can be cut way back in fall and comes back to bloom even more the next season.  Confused yet?

So what is a gardener to do when older hydrangeas  begin to get leggy and unattractive? Well, pruning with no expectation of reward the next year is the answer. Late summer before last, I  drastically cut back  all 17 of mine. Rather than cutting the stem only one or two sets of leaves back, I cut a few feet of stem off in some cases! The following spring/summer was sad…hardly any bloom. During our annual 4th of July party some party goers looked around for the huge hydrangea blooms only to be disappointed at the sad showing. No cutting back after that season at all.

But, this year is a whole different story.  To give you courage to cut back older leggy plants I photographed all the hydrangeas that got a drastic hair cut year before last:







Hope you agree it was worth one year without much bloom!

I gave them a dose of Miracle Gro once in early spring but that’s all the feeding they need. I like to enjoy the blossoms as long as possible so I won’t deadhead until maybe late August or even September which seems to work well here in Northern Calif. At that point I’ll cut off all old blossoms but only one or two sets of leaves down from the bloom as well as removing any old, dead stems. With this treatment next year I should have another wonderful show!

Hydrangea lovers note: My daughter is thinking of a move one day to TN or Texas…cost of living is ridiculous here in Calif.  My first step in agreeing to go/not go is to look up gardening in different areas and to see whether you can grow hydrangeas there! TN looks better than Texas on that score!I’d love to hear from  readers who live outside of Northern Calif. How do hydrangeas do in your area?