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How to Prune Hydrangea Bushes

Occa­sionally pruning these plants can improve their performance

Fine Gardening

Even the most experienced gardeners can be confused by pruning hydrangeas. Some are cut back in late summer; others are pruned in the spring or fall. And how do you know which ones you have? If you decide to prune at the wrong time, you could cause your bushes not to bloom at all.

In this video, Clive Lodge, a professional gardener from Kent, Connecticut, provides a simple answer to the timing dilemma by dividing hydrangeas into two categories: spring-blooming and fall-blooming. Then he demonstrates the right pruning techniques for both types.

When does your hydrangea bloom?

Timing will determine when to prune it.

Spring blooming. Prune in late summer or fall. Leave strong-looking growth with buds. Prune out deadwood and weak growth.

These types of hydrangeas bloom on what is called “old wood,” meaning they set their flower buds along the stems the year before. If you prune in late winter or early spring, you’ll be cutting away the potential flowers.

The types of hydrangeas that should be pruned this way are:

  1. Bigleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla cvs., USDA Hardiness Zones 6–9)
  2. Bigleaf hydrangeas (H. serrata cvs., Z 6–9)
  3. Oakleaf hydrangeas (H. quercifolia cvs., Z 5–9)

Late summer to fall blooming. Prune in late winter and early spring. Prune as far back as you want right above the first leaf joints. It will grow from that point onward, getting larger each year.

These types of hydrangeas bloom off what is called “new wood,” or growth that happens that same year. Cutting them back within the same season that they will flower poses no risk to the volume of blossoms produced.

The types of hydrangeas that should be pruned this way are:

  1. Panicle hydrangeas (H. paniculata and cvs., Z 4–8)
  2. Smooth hydrangeas (H. arborescens and cvs., Z 4–9)

Read more about pruning hydrangeas, and learn whether your shrub blooms on old or new growth, in “Pruning Hydrangeas” by Janet Carson.

Previous: Pruning Hydrangeas Next: How to Prune Panicle Hydrangeas
View Comments


  1. user-7007021 06/17/2014

    Hi there, I think I ruined my hydrangea by cutting it back too much this past fall. It's not producing flowers now and I'm pretty sure it was producing flowers at this time last year. Is there anything I can do to fix my mistake and help the plant?

    1. Neurad1 01/30/2017

      I have the same issue with hydrangeas in front of my landscaper cut them back too far and now they don't flower. Did you find and answer?

      1. pathornebrine 12/06/2017

        Just let them grow back up. My gardener did the same thing on my Blue Bird (others he did were fine). They grew & grew, no flowers. So I"M going to prune them next year, rather tall, or as Gardener guru Cass Turnbull says, just above the 3rd or 4th set of plump buds under the old flower, no lower.

  2. lincraw 10/06/2014

    HELP! I have a lace cap hydrangea that I trimmed wrong five years ago, and hasn't bloomed since. I've not trimmed it at all after that, but still no bloom....what should I do to get it to bloom? My other hydrangeas are doing fine Thanks!

    1. dorischambers 08/13/2017

      trim it right after the blooms are done. They set flower buds after that for the following spring

  3. Meelianthus 10/06/2014

    Thank you for the very informative and helpful video Clive.

  4. rachaelandreasen 11/07/2016

    Thank you, a great help

  5. susanstadeli 01/25/2017

    Im in Salem Oregon we have had a hard winter, when is the time to cut the Flatflower Hydrange back?

    1. user-7008957 10/17/2017

      Did you find out how to cut back and when in the fall?

      1. susanstadeli 10/19/2017

        Not sure if done correctly but, trimmed back, If it wants to survive, I'll see it in the spring time:)

  6. Onionated 04/29/2017

    Thank you for this!

  7. jackiemeyersvanderhoff 06/11/2017

    I have the Everblooming Hydrangeas and I don't want to jinx myself but before it starts getting too cold in the fall I cut them way back & in the spring they're all as big as the year before or bigger and a lot of blossoms on them. I even grew 1 from a set of 3 leaves that broke off when I was planting another. I just poked my finger in the dirt stuck the broken stem in the hole pinched the dirt around it, put a rock under each leaf so wet dirt wouldn't rot the leaves. 3 weeks later I had a Hydrangea! It's about 13 now. I have no flipping clue what I'm doing but everything I plant grows like crazy!

  8. user-7009006 12/02/2017

    Technically it’s still Fall, but we’ve had a frost and my plant is totally brown, so I’m wondering if it’s still ok to cut back my hydrangea that’s an eyesore in front of my house?

  9. Meelianthus 10/04/2018

    Thank you for your informative video. Enjoyed.

  10. User avater
    ShondraLFrazier 10/10/2018

    Thanku you for this video

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    DeloresRDaniels 10/11/2018

    Nice flower

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    Thanku a great help

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    DianeCPfarr 10/29/2018

    Thanku for this video

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    Thanks for a great help

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    JohnALuter 11/06/2018

    Thanks a very useful video

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    BerrySVickers 11/21/2018

    Nice video

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    WillieSFegley 11/29/2018

    Thank you for the very informative and helpful video

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    I hope this thread is active enough to get some help..

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