Pruning Young, Newly Planted Hydrangeas

Allen Park, MI(Zone 6a)

A Good article from proven winners

With all types of hydrangea, it pays dividends to build a strong bushy plant before you worry about flowers. The first few years after being planted are the most important for pruning, because it builds the foundation for years to come.

As a young plant, it is best to prune or pinch your plant in order to build a full bodied, well-branched plant. Every time you cut off the growing tip of a plant, you get twice as many branches and thus in the long-run, more flowers.

If the plant is leggy when you purchased it, shear the plant back hard by 1/3 to 1/2 its original size. Once it puts on an inch or two of growth, pinch the branch tips to remove just the growing tip. This tip controls branching. Once it is removed the buds below it will turn into two or more stems.

Once these new branches grow an inch or two, pinch the tip out again.

You can repeat this throughout the first growing season as you are tending your garden. Although you may sacrifice one year of bloom, this technique results in a well-branched, full-bodied plant that will have more flowers in subsequent years.

The second season in the ground, repeat the pinching practice (or lightly shear). Cease pruning and pinching to allow the flower buds to set.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Good information. Thanks.

Village of Port Clem, Canada

i feel so mean pinching back that much, but it is good advice,
I will just grin &bare it!

Allen Park, MI(Zone 6a)

Think of it as a haircut.

Mackinaw, IL(Zone 5a)

I know I should have done that with the two new hydrangeas I planted this year, but I just never did. One is terribly leggy, but was putting on new growth from the base and along the lower parts of the stems, and I decided to watch and wait. I'll have to bite the bullet and do it next year to get it nice and full, and probably wait a year for blooms because of it. :( The other is much smaller, but also much fuller and more branched.


Village of Port Clem, Canada

So, I am thinking this is the season to pinch and sheer back my hydrangeas.... ? right? I have the big Blue Macro something or other ones. Boy, I need to get my last years notes out huh!

Hurst, TX(Zone 7b)

Hello, enyehplt. Deadheading is ok anytime of the year but, the following macrophyllas should be pruned only after they bloom but before the start of July: Nikko Blue, Blue Danube, Blue Dwarf (also called Blauer Zwerg) and Blue Wave. Ditto for Serratas Blue Bird, Blue Deckle and Blue Billow (these are lacecaps).

Village of Port Clem, Canada

Too late for me then. I hope they will bloom for me with out being pruned ?

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

They should bloom fine--I never prune my hydrangeas unless they're getting really overgrown.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Same here.

Jersey Shore, NJ(Zone 7a)

Here too. I admit, with some plants I am clipper crazy, but the hydrangeas are left undone (excluding some deadheading)

Lewisburg, KY(Zone 6a)

Can you prune them back now in March? I have Endless Summer

Jersey Shore, NJ(Zone 7a)

Bluegrass, Endless blooms on old and new wood, so you can prune now. You'll only sacrifice some early blooms.

Village of Port Clem, Canada

The new growth is just swelling on my Hydra's. I love spring! Its so exciting.
I bought a soil tester.... it tests ph, NPK, light and water in the soil. Now I have to learn to use it. Any one used one?

Hurst, TX(Zone 7b)

I have only seen -for sale- units that test for only one of those, not a single unit. In most cases, you had to get a sample of the soil + water; then add a pill or something. The results are not exact readings but "close enough for goverment work" as they say. For more accurate readings, be ready to shell out some more $$.

Lewisburg, KY(Zone 6a)

Ok, I left the old wood on and it is green at the base with new leaves is that normal? The older wood isn't showing any growth yet.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Patience! I do know how difficult it is (as I inspect for new growth with a magnifying lens) but patience is the answer.

Lewisburg, KY(Zone 6a)

Hi, is it finally warming up in the northeast?
It is a beautiful day here. Going back out soon.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Yes, it is, thankfully. Heading out again now since the dilating drops from the eye doctor seem to have finally worn off.

Hurst, TX(Zone 7b)

Ah, yes. Those pesky drops again. After a visit to the eye doctor, I drove to work where I was amazed at how the building owner managed to install overnight new brighter lights in the parking garage floor where I usually park! Broooother! Took me a while to figure that one. Ha!!!!!

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

I felt as though I were on stage, on Broadway!

Weymouth, MA

whaaaaaah......I planted these 4 hydrangeas same day. One on the left came from a nearby nursery...the other 3 from an on-line site. They arrived in decent shape...but one really hot day and not enough water seemed to have killed all 4...but after a lot of water, the first plant perked up...the others didn't. They seem to be getting a little better so yesterday I just added some nice compost to the dirt around them and made sure the soil is nice and moist. I am not sure what the difference is between "pruning" and "deadheading"...but I did remove the crunchy dried out leaves from the stems...and took a little of the browned blooms off but was afraid of being too heavy handed.

At first I was going to just pull them out and throw them away (lol) but was told I just need to be patient and that they may just be dehydrated.

Thoughts? The first pic is after newly planted...and the other pics show my sad present situation...:(

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Hurst, TX(Zone 7b)

Looks like they are in dire need for water, mulch and suffering from transplant shock. Give them about 3-4" of mulch thru the drip line. Then water them (1 gallon of water) per watering every time that the soil feels almost dry or dry. Do not give them any fertilizer as they usually have some in their potting soil mix. You can consider extracting them as well into a pot full of water and leaving them there for 30-60 minutes so the rootball gets moist/wet; many shrubs in this condition may actually repel water. I have done this only a few times and have taken the plant out some time after I cease to see air bubbles popping out.

The finger method can help you control soil moisture issues. For the next 2-3 weeks, insert a finger -near the crown- to a depth of 4" early in the mornings and determine if it feels wet, moist or dry. If it feels dry, give them 1 gallon of water and make a note in a wall calendar saying that you watered on that day.After 2-3 weeks of doing this every morning, review the notes in the wall calendar to see, on average, how often you had to water. Then set your sprinkler or drip to give them 1 gallon of water on the same frequency (every 3 days, 4 days, etc). When watering, water the soil starting near the crown and going outwards. Do not water the leaves as this promotes fungal diseases.

If the temperatures change by 10-15 (in either direction) and stay there, use the finger method again to see if you need to tweak things. As soon as the temperatures go down, you will need to water less often. Once they go dormant, you can begin watering less often, once a week or once every two weeks (provided the ground has not frozen).

Remember that they are newly planted... always. That means that their once big set of roots got cut to fit into the pots so they have a smaller set of roots. The small roots in the top 5" or so of the soil absorb the water so try not to stand on them or apply pressure while doing work in the yard.

PS - Deadheading is removing the spent blooms -and in the case of these hydrangeas- without cutting the stem. There is usually a little strand that looks like a wire and it connects the stems to the spent/dried out blooms. You can cut the strand to separate the blooms from the stems. Then, use the spent blooms as mulch if the plant does not have any fungal problems. Or throw them in the compost pile. Or the trash.

Hydrangea mophead blooms develop starting somewhere in the July-August time period. They are now invisible and reside near the end of the stems so pruning the stems now is not a good idea since you would be cutting off Spring 2013's blooms.

Here is more info on pruning:


This message was edited Sep 4, 2012 9:27 PM

Arroyo Grande, CA(Zone 9a)

Just my luck to find this thread AFTER deadheading my new hydrangeas today. Of course I have "Nikko" blue and a bunch of lacecaps. Well, I didn't go nuts on them or anything . . . just cut off the scruffy looking blooms. They are all small plants and will definately need to be pruned to keep them from getting too top heavy. I guess I better read up on hydrangea care, and here I thought I new everything, LOL.

Check out the new hedge.

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