Stop abusing your Hydrangeas!

By November 26, 2019 No Comments

Hydrangeas play a huge part in our West Coast landscapes and they thrive in our acidic soils. I especially like the giant mop-head species. They are fun to look at and hand-prune.







Everything goes well with our Hydrangeas during the summer season. They look fantastic and we don’t have to touch them, except for clipping the odd branch that interferes near walkways or entrances. But trouble comes in fall when the flowers fade. That’s when panic sets in.

The picture below inspired me to write this blog post. Since my main landscape maintenance task in fall is leaf removal, I didn’t get to this plant. And that’s too bad because the home owner obviously used his hands to snap off the canes. Shame!



This is horrific: snapped off canes, right into the wood. Don’t expect too many flowers next year; and use sharp snips for pruning, not your hands.


Good gardening demands that we use good, sharp snips. Snapping branches off is very backward. I have no idea why the home owner was so impatient.

Key points

Here is the meat of this blog post.

A) Spent Hydrangea flowers can be kept on the plant all winter. It all depends on the owner and her preferences. In  landscape maintenance work on multi-family complexes the spent flowers come off fairly quickly. Again, the company boss will most likely dictate this. Whatever you do, use sharp snips to remove the spent flowers. Snapping canes with your hands is not allowed.

B) Most Hydrangeas flower on last year’s wood. There are exceptions: some varieties flower every year no matter what you do to them. But most Hydrangeas flower on last year’s wood.

Let’s consider one example. The Hydrangea pictured below is planted at the entrance of two units and when I first saw it, the owner complained that it was in the way and it never flowered. My recommendation? Stop hacking it down to the ground.



The owner followed my advice and left the plant alone.



I pruned just low enough to get the canes off the walkway and give the buds a chance in 2020.


When you prune it down to stumps, all you get is green canes that don’t flower. You can expect flowers next season. Luckily, the owner listened to me and left it alone. So, I snipped off the tops, going down 2-4 sections, cutting just above fat buds. I’m very confident this plant will flower nicely in 2020.

Now that it’s pruned off the walkway, there is a chance the owner will ignore it.

Stop the abuse

Hydrangeas are fun, beautiful plants and they flower on last year’s wood. So don’t make your pruning cuts too low. Prune down 2-5 bud pairs and use sharp snips, not your hands.

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