It's been a long winter! One of the questions people have is when and how to prune hydrangeas! First you have to know if you have a hydrangea that flowers on new wood or old wood! The paniculata types, such as 'Pinky Winky' and 'Pee Gee', form flowers on the new wood that comes out every year. So for these, all you really have to do remove the dead flowers, and shape it a little bit to how you like it. If you prune it back too far, you may not get as many flowers next year. April is the time to take care of these hydrangeas.
Another hydrangea that flowers on new wood is the 'Annabelle' hydrangea. They have the big white floppy flowers that fall over in the summer. Annabelle can be cut right back to the ground or cut it back to about 18" tall if there is still some live growth on them. If you only cut it to 18" tall, then it's going to have stronger stems and it will be less likely to flop over when it flowers later this summer. No matter how far back you cut this one, you'll still get flowers next year.
Then there are hydrangeas such as the colorful mophead hydrangeas that form their flowers on the old wood. These are the traditional varieties of blue hydrangeas and red hydrangeas. If you have one of the old fashioned blue or red hydrangea varieties, don't cut the stems back until after they flower in July. Don't prune them later than early August, because those flower buds have already formed for the next year and you might remove them.
Then there are the new blue and red hydrangeas such as 'Endless Summer', and 'Forever and Ever Pink'. They bloom on old wood and new wood. To prune these hydrangeas only remove dead, diseased and broken branches and remove old branches after they flower in mid summer. Any shoots that grow out of the ground in spring will form flowers in late summer and fall so don't touch them.
So in summary, if you have the big floppy white 'Annabelle' hydrangeas, prune those now to the ground or 18 inches tall. If you have the 'Pee Gee' or 'Pink Winky' hydrangea, prune those now to shape the shrubs or remove dead, diseased or broken branches. If you have the new blue or red hydrangeas, such as 'Endless Summer', prune those after they flower in mid summer to shape them. Dead head any of these hydrangeas anytime.
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