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  • Writer's pictureFilipa Silva

A Starter's Guide to Crafting Captivating Blooms

Learning the best way to prune Hydrangeas is key to achieving the most beautiful garden.

Hydrangeas are iconic garden shrubs, boasting ribbed green leaves and classic billowy flowers during the summer season. Luckily, caring for Hydrangeas is simple with some proper pruning, allowing you to get the most out of them. This guide will provide you with instructions on how and when to prune Hydrangeas for the fullest floral display each year.

Most gardeners would be hard-pressed not to recognise a Hydrangea – the classic 'Granny's garden' shrub with textured leaves and massive blue, pink, white or mauve flower heads. Hydrangeas provide a stunning display of huge flowers for months during the summer, transitioning from vibrant colours to translucent winter flower heads. The hard-working hydrangea is very easy to maintain with proper pruning.

Hydrangeas are ideal for dappled or partial shade and, after taking root, will create a hardy shrub with gorgeous, detailed foliage and a variety of beautiful flower heads. These can be left to adorn the plant for a lengthy period of time, or even cut and used as fresh flowers or dried for a variety of decorations.

Pruning Hydrangeas in Portugal is typically done in late February to get the best results. Despite any potential frosts in March, I've noticed that my Hydrangeas start to show new growth in February which is the ideal time for pruning.

Pruning Hydrangeas is an essential part of caring for this popular shrub. Knowing when to prune different types of Hydrangeas is key to ensuring they stay healthy and look their best. Pruning techniques are similar for all three types of Hydrangeas - Bigleaf, Oakleaf and Climbing - but the Climbing Hydrangea requires lighter pruning, just removing the spent flowers and doing a light tidy-up.

  • Hydrangea macrophylla (Mophead or Lacecap late winter prune)

  • Hydrangea paniculata (Prune late winter)

  • Hydrangea petiolaris (Climbing – Prune directly after flowering in Summer)

This guide will help you get your Hydrangeas in top shape!

Pruning Hydrangeas doesn't have to be difficult. This guide is designed to help you avoid the common Hydrangea pruning mistakes, so you can get the most out of your shrubs and achieve the desired interest all year round. Unsure what type of Hydrangea you have? A mid-Spring prune is typically recommended, or you may need to consult a specialised expert for advice.

Do I need to prune my hydrangea?

Yes, it is important to prune your hydrangea if you want to keep it looking neat and tidy. Without pruning, your hydrangea can become overgrown as old flowers will tangle with new growth and the plant can become "leggier" with more and more flowers at the top and bare woody stems below. Pruning your hydrangea regularly will help keep it looking neat and tidy and will keep your hydrangea blooming year after year.

Yearly pruning will keep your hydrangea bursting with flowers!

Pruning your hydrangeas annually is an easy way to ensure vibrant and healthy blooms each year. You'll know it's time to trim when the spent flowers on your plant are brown and crispy, or the leaves have fallen off in the winter, leaving behind new buds in the spring. Pruning will promote new growth, so your hydrangeas will be in top shape to flower better on younger wood.

How to prune a Hydrangea

Pruning a Hydrangea is a cinch and only requires a sharp pair of secateurs. I personally prune my Hydrangea plants in Portugal in late February. It is a quick and easy process that won't cause any lasting damage. So don't be intimidated by the thought of pruning your Hydrangea – it's not as difficult as it may seem!

If you're looking to prune and tidy up your hydrangeas, be sure to grab a sharp pair of clean secateurs. Having clean secateurs is essential to ensure a precise cut, which helps your hydrangea heal faster and reduces the risk of disease or potential damage from snagged secateurs.

1. Remove all the dead seed heads

Remove the spent dried flower seed heads of the hydrangea shrub for a tidier look. Start by cutting back just above the next set of emerging green buds to get a better view of the shrub’s size and shape. This will enable you to make more informed pruning decisions. Instead of worrying about what to cut, you’ll have a clearer view of the hydrangea when making pruning choices. Instead of discarding the spent flower seed heads, you can use them for flower arranging or compost them for recycling.

2. Remove 1/4 of the oldest stems

To promote a healthy and productive hydrangea, you should prune back around a quarter of the oldest growth. Cutting the stems back to the ground with a sharp tool will help stimulate new growth and maintain the hydrangea’s aesthetic. Hydrangeas that are overly congested are more likely to suffer from mildew and damage caused by branches rubbing against each other. Thinning the shrub will improve the airflow and help keep it looking its best.

3. Thin out any congested branches or damaged stems

Once you’ve cleared dead flower heads and older stems, the next step is to thin out any overcrowded or crossed branches. These branches have the potential to cause damage to the flowers by rubbing or crushing them. To ensure the health of the blooms, it is necessary to take the bold step of cutting away the congested branches, opting for the stronger of the two when there is a crossing.

If your hydrangea shrub is showing signs of damage, pruning is key to retaining its health and beauty. Be sure to remove damaged stems, either cutting back to the next healthy bud down or to the ground if needed. Don’t worry if you take off too much – plants are incredibly resilient and a hard prune will give them an extra boost in the next growing season! Neglecting to prune back damaged wood can lead to infection and a lack of hydrangea flowers. Pruning your hydrangea is essential for optimal health and blooms.

What soil type do Hydrangeas like?

Hydrangeas need an acidic soil PH of 5.5 or below to access macro and micronutrients, while alkaline soil PH reduces their access to micronutrients such as iron and calcium, leading to potential signs of illness. Optimize your garden for Hydrangeas by testing your soil's PH and adjusting accordingly for the best results.

Hydrangeas are ideal for those looking for a low-maintenance, acid-loving plant. If your soil has a neutral pH level (7) then you should be good to go! However, it is always recommended to test your soil before planting. A soil testing kit can help you assess the soil conditions and ensure your plants flourish.

Can I change the colour of my hydrangeas?

Are you looking to turn Hydrangea flowers blue? A common suggestion is to lower the PH of your soil with a pine needle or peat mulch, though this is not a guaranteed method. You may have seen it on social media and been tempted to try it out, but it can be difficult and expensive to maintain acidic soil. On top of that, it may not work at all. So, why not just enjoy the colour of your Hydrangeas as they are? With all the effort and cost required to change the colour, it may leave you feeling disappointed.

Hydrangeas are well-known for providing beautiful colours, depending on the soil and growing conditions. If you want to ensure you get the desired hue, it's best not to try and alter the soil or environment of the hydrangea.

Happy Pruning!

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