Pruning an unknown hydrangea

Quebec, Canada

While I am still trying to ID my hydrangea over in the ID forum, I need to clean up the bed a bit. (I think it's Annabelle). I am going to stop cutting down everything that looks dead until I am sure, but I am wondering what to do with the branches that are lying, or nearly lying on the ground? (I don't know if the children or the snow trampled them down or something else.) Should I cut them to the ground? Cut them to a few feet off the ground? Just leave them until I found out what kind of hydrangea it is?

These are the best pictures I have for the moment but I can take more if needed. You'll have to look past a whole bunch of other green stuff growing in that forsaken part of the yard under the trees.

Thumbnail by teainthegarden Thumbnail by teainthegarden
Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

The very large leaved plants that are on the left side of pic are a weed we call Docken, it has a very long TAP root, (like a carrot) if you pull this weed and the root breaks, the part left in the ground will regrow even stronger, these weeds have flower spikes like a candle, tall and slim but throw out hundreds of seeds to germinate, try to dig this long root out the soil.
The yellow plant under the Hydrangea has runner roots, that is, under the soil the plant sends out new little plants at the end of a runner that sets it'self down and grows as a new plant, these are shallow rooted plants and a garden hand fork should help remove these.

As for pruning the Hydrangea, you have to lift each stem from the soil, cut the stem right down to a bud (new leaf) at the side, cut just half inch above this new leaf and follow all the branches / stems and cut the same way, aim to leave about 12-18 inch long stems, you can either burn, discard in the rubbish or remove by other means OR, you can take cuttings from some of the stems by cutting the stem you want to use as new plants. After pruning any plants I like to dig in a handful of feed suitable for shrubs or some are now available for Hydrangea's.

To strike cuttings with Hydrangea, the easiest way is to cut the bottom of the stem straight across just below a bud, then about 8-12 inches above this, cut slanted above a bud, remove the bottom bud and all but the top 3-4 buds at the top of stem, use a pencil to make hole and insert the cutting close to the outer edge of the pot, do more cuttings the same way and insert about 5/6 cuttings all around the outside of pot, water the cuttings and leave in a light but shaded from sun place, keep watering and after a couple of months you should have rooted cuttings. Once your happy about the root growth, pot each individual cutting into it's own pot and keep caring for them as before, once the pot has lots of new roots you can grow the potted cuttings on till ready for the garden or larger pot.
These new plants will be the exact same as the parent plant and will be ready for flowering within 2 years.
Good luck WeeNel.

(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

We call it Dock, weed #1, and I've never been able to get rid of it. Thanks, WeeNel, for the advice.

The other is a Celandine. It pops up everywhere. In my garden I leave some of it near the daffodils I have growing in a daylily bed while they are blooming. If I forget to pull it, the daylily foliage hides it until the next spring, and by then it is huuuuuge!

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Pfg, your more than welcome, always good to help each other out with hints and tips, the little yellow plant looks like a member of the Buttercup family and it is rather pretty for sure. What is it they say about weeds, " weeds are just plants growing in the wrong place" Yeh right, they appear to just love my place, ha, ha, ha. Not sure IF you know about the dock being used as a healing aid for stings from the stinging nettle, insect bites etc, you crush the dock leaf and rub it onto the spot the nettles have caused and it really does remove the itchy pain for a few hours and you repeat this again till you can reach home.

Have a great gardening year and good luck. WeeNel.

Contra Costa County, CA(Zone 9b)

Hydrangeas are pretty amenable to pruning.
If you want a wider spreading bush, then I would leave the branches that are growing so low, just cut off any that are dead. The growth response will almost always be in pairs, and will grow up, and only somewhat outwards. You will end up with a fairly rounded shrub, but it will have dense growth fairly low. This might make it difficult to mulch.
If you want the plant to stay just a bit narrower, then you could remove more of the lying down branches, cutting them perhaps within 6" or so of the center, but if all the new growth comes from near the middle of the plant it will spread away from each other until you end up with a fairly rounded shrub. It will be more open down below, you will be able to reach the soil if you need to mulch it.

Yes, Dock is a very difficult weed to get rid of. Perennial, and any little bit of root will regrow. I tend to get more aggressive about removing the root, even if I have to get a shovel after it.

Quebec, Canada

Wow! Thanks for all the great advice! You all are great!

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