Early Spring Hydrangea Care

unpruned hydrangea

Back when I was doing some garden coaching, I had a client tell me that she wouldn’t put in any more hydrangeas because it took her half a day every spring to prune the ones that she had.

Of course, that’s her perogative, and obviously she doesn’t find pruning enjoyable or redemptive. I’d much rather prune than weed, for example. But I find the work that I have to do on my hydrangeas–which easily encompasses most of a weekend every spring–more than pays me back. Most years my early blooming hydrangeas start blooming in June and the rest take over and continue right through September. For continuous blooms for four months of the year, I’ll gladly put in a weekend’s work of pruning and thinning!

The image above is of an “unpruned” or “winter-killed” Endless Summer hydrangea. This was one of the hydrangea macrophylla or big leaf hydrangea that I had to do the most cutting back on. It stands, fairly unprotected, in the middle of a mixed shrub and perennial bed so that in the middle of winter there are no evergreen or shrubby plants around it to protect it.

But because it blooms both on old and new wood, I can cut it back as severely as it needs to be cut and still have blooms this year. I love this hydrangea!

hydrangea after pruning

This is the “old-fashioned” type of hydrangea macrophylla that blooms on old wood only. That means that all of the blooms for this year were formed last year and any of the pruning that I do this spring because of dieback, deer browse damage, or broken canes means that I have lost some blooms. It can’t be helped. But needless to say, I prune this type of hydrangea a lot more carefully. This is my ‘Nikko Blue’ hydrangea.

drought-stricken PG

Finally this scary looking shrub is a “PeeGee” hydrangea (hydrangea paniculata grandiflora). Like the Endless Summer, it will bloom on new wood, so it can be cut back hard. Normally, this shrub should have leaves on it as well. But it, more than almost all my other hydrangeas, loves moisture. And remember my post from Friday? It’s been very dry. So although the shrub looks dead, it’s not. It’s just very stunted.

But that tells you how dry it really is here!

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4 thoughts on “Early Spring Hydrangea Care

  1. Well I’m a sucker for Hydrangeas and probably have more than I should :). One of my Endless Summers needs to be brought under control this year but I always hate to to do much more than prune out dead wood.

    Supposedly measurable rain this week. Yay!

  2. Hi Sue,
    Oh you and me both on the “having more than I should” in the hydrangea category! I know exactly what you mean about hating to do more than pruning out more than the dead wood. I got into trouble that way with a ‘Lady in Red.’ I hadn’t touched it from the time I put it in–just didn’t have the heart, I guess. Well, last year, it had been so dry in the winter and early spring there was so much dead on it I wound up taking out about 1/3 of it!

    If this spring continues to be this dry, I’m going to be worried about the hydrangeas again! I’ve begun to water that ‘PeeGee’, even though it’s against my nature to do so.

    Let’s hope for rain for both of us!

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

    Karla

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