Most Hydrangeas are deciduous. Meaning they lose their leaves and in winter. Cutting back or pruning plants is a gardening practice that increases the vitality of a plant. When it comes to hydrangeas, many gardeners do not know what to do, so let’s find out what options are available.
You don’t have to cut back hydrangeas. However, I recommend maintaining the health of the plant. It also helps the flowers to grow large and full. There are different times of the year when hydrangeas should be cut back, depending on what type of growth you are cutting.
If we’re talking about dead wood, you have to cut it for sure. It can be done at any time of the year.
Now, the decision on when to cut back hydrangeas is based on where on the plant the flower. So, below I’ll explain how to cut back hydrangeas, as well as some varieties that don’t lose their leaves.
Hostas are no less popular garden plants than hydrangeas. If you are interested in these plants, be sure to read my Hosta Care Guide.
Cut old wood after flowering
Most varieties of hydrangeas lose their leaves in the late fall and look dead throughout winter. There are called deciduous varieties. Others keep their leaves year-round.
There are many different varieties of hydrangeas. Some will flower on both old and new wood, whereas others will only bloom on new or old wood. Most varieties of hydrangeas should be pruned because it increases their growth and health.
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|Age||Recognized by||When to cut back|
|Old||Hard, sturdy stems with thick, layered bark||Immediately after flowering, if at all, before new buds grow.|
|New||Soft, weak stems, with only small amounts of bark if any||Any time of year.|
Flowers that grow on old wood
Old wood can be recognized by rigid and strong stems. They have old looking bark on them that is often layered. They will be browner in color. This is compared with new wood, which is green, has very little bark, and the stems are soft and weak.
All varieties of hydrangea can be cut back all the way to ground level, and still grow back again.
Flowers for a hydrangea grow from buds. The buds remain on the plant all throughout the winter. Buds grow very shortly after the current year’s flowers shrivel and fall off.
So if you want to cut off the old wood, you should do so immediately after flowering before the new buds form. This will ensure you don’t cut off the next year’s flowers. That way you will have flowers the following year.
Flowers that grow on new wood
New wood is the current season’s growth. Therefore, you can cut back these stems at any time of the year. Don’t cut back all of it, or you will have nowhere for the flowers to grow from.
Why would you cut it a hydrangea all the way back and not just prune it?
Now, deciduous hydrangeas can be cut all the way to ground level without any detrimental effects on the plant. This is a fast method if you have many plants, or you don’t want to spend much time on it.
If you cut it all the way back, the next season’s growth won’t be as large. This is why many people decide to prune their hydrangeas to preserve the size of the plant.
Old-growth should be cut back after flowering when the flowers begin to brown and wilt. You can recognize this by flowers that come out from an old stem. Any very old stems should be cut off to ground level. This will increase the growth and health of the plant.
Use your judgment in regard to which branches are very old. They can be easily recognized by where you can see where you have pruned them back many seasons prior. They will also have many layers of old looking dry bark.
Newer growth should be cut back in the early spring. If you want to decide to cut back any of this growth, you should do as the plant begins to flower. This will increase the volume and look of flowers that bloom from the older growth.
Hydrangeas will grow well without pruning
If you don’t prune hydrangeas, they will flower just fine. But, the volume and appearance of the flowers won’t be as good as if you prune it back. Pruning reduces the number of resources the plant needs.
This causes more energy and nutrients to be available to the plant. This increased energy gets put into the remaining growth. This causes the flowers to appear fuller, larger, and as a result, more beautiful.
After pruning, the plants grow more vigorously
Hydrangeas will grow back if cut down. You can cut back hydrangeas all the back to ground level, and they will grow again. The only way to get a hydrangea to not grow back is if you pull the entire plant out of the ground and put it somewhere where the roots can’t get access to nutrients and water in the soil.
If soil is poured on top of them, they will likely grow back but at a much slower rate. As long as the plant remains buried in the soil and has adequate water and the soil has enough nutrients, it will continue to grow.
When you cut them back, the stems are newer and not as strong as old hardened growth. So they will be more susceptible to wind damage. They won’t withstand being trampled underfoot.
Most people will cut back completely hydrangeas, which they want to hide from their flower landscape for a time. Or if they want to get rid of really old and stems which have been cut back many times already.
What types of hydrangeas don’t lose their flowers and leaves?
Some varieties of hydrangeas are evergreen. This means they don’t drop their leaves and flowers as the temperature gets colder. Below are some of those varieties.
Climbing evergreen hydrangeas (Hydrangea integrifolia)
This is a climbing type of hydrangea. It is a native of the country of the Philippines, which is a tropical country in the Pacific ocean. It has glossy leaves that are shaped like a lance or arrowhead.
It can make plain-looking walls look attractive, and can cover up retaining walls to give a naturally terraced look. It can also grow up and grow on trees.
Seemann’s hydrangea (Hydrangea seemanii)
This is another variety of hydrangea that climbs like a vine. It was first discovered in Mexico. It is sometimes called a Mexican climbing hydrangea. An advantage of this variety is that it has sweet-smelling flowers. It has dark leaves that remain on the plant all year round. It flowers towards the end of spring and during the beginning of summer.
When this variety climbs up another tree, it doesn’t hurt the tree in any way.
Chinese quinine (Dichroa febrifuga)
This variety of botanically is not a hydrangea. But, it is very close in appearance and characteristics. It is a cousin of the hydrangea family. It looks exactly like a hydrangea. However, it does not drop its leaves come wintertime.
It has a range of flower colors from light blue to purple when the soil is more on the acidic end. In more alkaline soils, the flowers are light purple in color. It was first discovered growing naturally in the Himalayas south of China. It is sometimes also called blue evergreen.
In conclusion, you don’t have to cut back hydrangeas. If you do, it is dependent upon what type of growth you are cutting. Old-growth has bark that is layered and dry-looking. Its stems are also stiff and rigid. This type of growth should be cut before it grows its buds for the following year.
You should cut it immediately after they flower. New growth has only a small amount of bark on it if any. It has green stems that are soft and easily bent. This type of growth should be pruned back before spring. There are some varieties of hydrangeas that keep their leaves all year.