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Are you Supposed to Cut Back Hydrangeas? Learn Why?

Even after bloom booster and proper care, if your Hydrangeas is bare of flowers, you must consider cutting back. 

Generally, cutting back is not mandatory for all Hydrangeas; they can benefit, though. To prune or cut back Hydrangea, verify the types and growth habits of Hydrangeas and trim the plants only 1/3 after flowering in early spring or late winter. 

The lack of cutting back can cause Hydrangeas to mimic a mass of woody stems with flowers growing smaller.

So, learn about the best time and way to cut back Hydrangeas to make them healthy and encourage more blooms. 

Do you Need to Cut Back Hydrangeas Every Year?

While most Hydrangeas are deciduous, a few are evergreen and stay green the whole year.

Deciduous Hydrangeas shed their leaves before winter arrives and stay dormant with leafless stems.

You can cut back deciduous ones from the base every year. But remember, they will grow much smaller in volume next year.

Thus, choose to prune Hydrangeas leaving fewer inches rather than cutting back if you want a spacious look.

Although Hydrangeas remain dormant, their leafless stems tend to grow. Therefore, you can prepare Hydrangea for optimal growth in winter.

Instead of cutting back, evergreen Hydrangeas prefer pruning of damaged, decaying parts.

To do so, prune off damaged parts in the fall and deadhead fading flowers before dormancy. 

After that, let Hydrangeas rest the whole winter. You should not cut back in their dormant phase.

When to Cut Back Hydrangeas?

Although Hydrangeas benefits from a careful cutback, it is not mandatory. 

Before making a decision, you must know the types and growth habits of your Hydrangeas.

In general, some Hydrangeas bloom in their old woods while some flower in new woods. 

Moreover, there are Hydrangeas that can bloom in both old and new wood.

New wood bloomers need regular pruning so that they do not end up with old woods and no new growths to bloom.

However, the old wood bloomer Hydrangea prefers to be woodier for denser flowering.

Types of HydrangeasSpecifications Old Vs. New Wood Period of Cutting Back
Bigleaf HydrangeaThey have large and round blooming clusters with flat, lace-cap blossoms.Old Instantly after blossoms fade away
Oakleaf HydrangeaThey own large leaves similar to that of oak with cone-shaped flower heads. Old Summer after the blooms fade away
Mountain HydrangeaThough Hydrangeas resemble lacecap varieties, they are more compact in size and produce smaller leaves.Old Instantly after blooming
Climbing HydrangeaThey climb through suckers and prevent the urge to remove dormant growth on the wall or trellis.
Old Only when needed to shape (winter or early spring)
Smooth (Wild) HydrangeaThey are generally white and produce smaller flowers and leaves than those of Bigleaf varieties. NewEarly spring or late winter before new growth begins
Panicle HydrangeaThey produce cone-shaped blooms that remain throughout winter. NewOnly light treatment in early spring or late winter

If Hydrangea varieties are Hydrangea macrophylla, Hydrangea quercifolia, Hydrangea serrata, and Hydrangea aspera, you can cut back them in spring, as long as there is the first pair of buds. 

However, you can perform cutting back harder on some varieties, including Hydrangea paniculata Hydrangea aborescens that produce blooms on new growth.

It is best to prune them after flowering. Though it is not necessary, cutting back helps prevent Hydrangeas from getting too tall. 

How to Cut Back Hydrangeas successfully? 

As old wood bloomer does not produce flowers in new growth, cut back the oldest, damaged, or weak stems only. 

By doing so, Hydrangea will have fewer healthy old stems with more energy to produce larger blossoms.

Remember, the new stems that are growing after cutting back will only flower next year.

For ideal timing, you should cut back 1/3rd of the stems to the ground right after flowering in late summer or early fall.

If you are late to cut back Hydrangeas, you might snip off the buds that are supposed to bloom the following year.

Thus, cut your Hydrangeas before July to ensure you will have flowers to admire next year.

Unlike old wood type, Hydrangea that bloom in new wood needs aggressive pruning every year.

Once you confirm you got Hydrangea that blooms out from new woods, cut the entire stems all the way to the base.

If you aim for a spacious growth of Hydrangeas, leave out six inches of stem on the plant.

It will be best to prune off the Hydrangeas using sterilized pruners in the late winter or early spring for optimal growth.

Wrapping Up

Even without cutback or pruning, Hydrangeas won’t have a problem blooming. But they might not bloom vigorously like they would with cut back.

Identify the variety and growth type of your Hydrangeas before swinging shears so you can enjoy denser blooms yearly.

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