Just a quick post today to share a little hydrangea pruning tip that has been so helpful to me! Here are my thoughts on pruning hydrangeas for maximum growth.
There are so many different theories about when the best time to prune hydrangeas is. Many of the different tips you’ll find are based on different types of hydrangeas and different hydrangea goals. A lot of what I’ve read over the years is of course about pruning your hydrangeas for the most blooms possible, but what if your hydrangeas are struggling, small, and you just want them to thrive and get big? I’ve never had an issue with a lack of blooms with my hydrangea pruning method and I’ve been able to significantly increase the overall size of my hydrangeas, which is always my goal because of the fact that we just have so much garden space to fill! Honestly, I find a lot of hydrangea advice to be super confusing and contradictory, so my goal is always to make things as simple and straightforward as possible. So let’s talk about pruning hydrangeas for maximum growth!
The “Can’t Mess it up” Hydrangea Pruning Method
I love this way of doing things, because there’s really no way you can go wrong. I’ve often seen warnings about over-pruning and accidentally cutting off this year’s buds and that just can’t happen here. It can’t be done. You’re also not going to have to worry about injuring the plant or doing some harm that your plant will take years to recover from. It’s the best.
If your goal is big, beautiful hydrangeas and you find that yours seem to be struggling, some of these ideas might help too:
- How to Revive a Sad-Looking Hydrangea
- Emergency First Aid for Hydrangea Problems
- How to Get Perfectly-Dried Hydrangeas Every Time
Just a few words of encouragement: This one hydrangea of mine that’s pictured above used to really struggle. It almost seemed to get smaller every year. Although I’ve managed to get it to grow really big and be a really eye-catching feature of our summer garden it still looks like it’s really sad and struggling in May of every year. Tiny leaves, damage from late frosts, and even some early-season pest activity. But I always stay the course, and follow the pruning tips that I’ve outlined in this post and in those links that I posted above, and it always recovers nicely within a few weeks with beautiful blooms, healthy leaves, and a big overall size. I don’t know why, but some hydrangeas just like a little extra attention. They always respond well to it!
Pruning Hydrangeas for Maximum Growth
OK, so here’s what you do. This method is also somewhat-endorsed by Bunny Mellon because I read something similar in the book Garden Secrets of Bunny Mellon and I felt pretty smart for figuring this out on my own.
Watch your hydrangeas closely all spring long, but don’t even think about touching them with your pruning shears. For me here in zone 6, that means that I have to wait until about mid-May. This point might come a little earlier in the season if you live further south.
During the time you’re watching your hydrangea come to life, you’ll start to see tiny bright green leaves forming on some branches while you’ll see absolutely nothing happening on other branches. It will look like some branches are alive while others will look like they’ve died over the winter. Here’s the thing: If you wait a few more weeks, you’ll start to see a second new set of leaves start to pop up on those branches that originally looked like they were dead. If you prune too early, you’ll cut your hydrangea back way more than you need to.
Even if you tell yourself that you’re going to have a light touch, you won’t. You’ll definitely overdo it once you get started.
So just leave it be and wait for that second set of leaves to show up. The first set of leaves will already be quite large. At that point, you’ll be able to tell with more certainty what needs to be pruned away to direct energy to the stronger branches and what needs to be saved.
And that’s all there is to it! I promise that your hydrangea is not as dead as it looks like it is at the beginning of May. You just need to have patience!
Of course, it’s a bit late for this method this year if you’ve already done your pruning, but file this one away for next spring. 🙂
Have you tried this hydrangea pruning method? What’s worked well for you to get your hydrangeas as big as possible?
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Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.