Is It Time To Prune Your Hydrangeas?

Ilona Erwin

When is it time to prune hydrangeas?

That depends most on which type of hydrangea you have. Is it a mophead, an Annabelle hydrangea? A Pee gee? It’s good to know which hydrangea even though most are best pruned in the spring. The quality of that season’s bloom depends on a few facts.

Paniculatas and the hardy Annabelles can be trimmed now, in spring.

If it’s the “mophead” type, with the big globe of flowers, prune them right after they bloom during the summer, so you don’t remove this year’s buds.

Do you need to remove stems and finished blooms at the end of the growing season?

I usually leave the heads of dry and faded bloom on the hydrangeas on the plant all winter and prune it in early spring. You don’t have to do this, and like roses, the hydrangea plants may be cut to about two-thirds their length in the fall. If winter dieback occurs, they will need additional pruning in the spring. Be careful not to cut hydrangeas back too far, or they will have a hard time producing bloom the next year.


Annabelle flowers

Annabelle flowers

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ builds into a large mound about four to five feet in height during the growing season; like most hydrangeas its branch system is weak and should be cut back seasonally. When should you do this?

late winter/early spring

Find out more about ‘Annabelle‘ Hydrangea.

You can purchase Annabelle: Hydrangea – Annabelle
from: Nature Hills Nursery, Inc.

Endless Summer, Macrophylla

This is a beautiful shrub, and the one I planted in my daughter’s yard in Georgia surpasses anything like it here in Ohio, although it is lovely here, too. Georgia clay and climate seems to suit it, though.

Hydrangea macrophylla Endless Summer is a relatively new cultivar which blooms on both old and new wood. The H. macrophylla shrubs usually form flowers on old wood, but the Endless Summer claim to fame is that flowers that form on the current year’s growth as well as on old woodAdd a Tooltip Text. When should you prune the Endless Summer hydrangea?

hydrangea arborescens

Late Summer Annabelle -Bloom is over


Endless Summer varieties will bloom no matter when they are pruned, although cutting them too short reduces the blooming. Usually the flower heads will dry attractively, but if after damagin conditions have ruined their look simply prune off the blooms, which is called “dead-headingremove their spent flowers“.

Find out more about growing Endless Summer Hydrangea.

You can purchase Endless summer cultivars: Hydrangea – Endless Summer® Bloomstruck
from: Nature Hills Nursery, Inc.
Hydrangea – Endless Summer® Blushing Bride

Click here to learn more about types of hydrangeas

The Latin word arborescens means tree-forming or tree-like, but this type of hydrangea. Macrophylla means “big leaf”. Hydrangea Macrophylla are types that bloom on old wood. Endless Summer types bloom on both types of growth. Lace caps have an inner ring of small, fertile flowers surrounded by an outer ring of large, showy flowers
Mophead hydrangeas do not have to be pruned back. Do remove dead stems, however. in Ohio, zone 5, my macrophylla hydrangeas almost always die down with the harsh winters, and I always have to prune the dead branches in the early spring.

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’

Called the “PeeGee” hydrangea, this plant can grow to 20′, which is small tree size. It is often grown to look like one, which requires some pruning. Late winter/early spring for this one.

If you are limbing up for a tree-like profile, prune anytime, but pruning hydrangeas out of season will remove possible blooms.

Pruning Oakleaf Hydrangea

Wonder what it looks like? The feature photo of this post shows one growing in quite a bit of shade.

One of the most useful and attractive, and with multi season interest, this is a choice plant for the garden. Not as often pruned, it grows naturalistically, so long as it is given plenty of room. If you do need to prune it, best to wait until after the bloomtime, in summer.

Gatsby Gal Oakleaf Hydrangea

Oakleaf Hydrangeas are native shrubs to woodlands in the Southeastern United States. It flowers on old wood, so pruning to reduce size or control spread should wait until late summer, after blooms begin to fade.

General Pruning Rule for Shrubs

Whenever branches are broken or any parts are diseased, remove as soon as possible. There is no set time for pruning out dead and damaged plant parts.

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.