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Hydrangeas are among the easiest garden plants to care for, which is why they are very popular. But even the most uncomplicated plant needs a pruning every now and then to thrive better. Hobby gardeners are often unsure about when and how to cut hydrangeas. The cut is quite easy if you know which hydrangea variety it is. The instructions for the perfect hydrangea cut enlighten you.
- Plant family: Hydrangea family (Hydrangeaceae)
- Genus: Hydrangea
- Common names: hydrangea, water shrub
- Origin: Asia, South and North America, Azores
- Subshrubs, shrubs, small trees or lianas
- Growth height: up to 4 meters, rarely up to 15 meters high and 5 meters wide
- Flowering period from June to September
- Flower colors: blue, white, pink
- sterile show flowers with large sepals
- evergreen garden plant
- suitable for the garden and for keeping in tubs
- perennial plant
- conditionally winterproof
The hydrangea blooms beautifully in summer and, depending on the variety, also impresses with small color attributes in winter. Once the perfect location has been chosen and optimum care is ensured, all that is missing is regular trimming.
This is necessary for hydrangeas to grow lushly and vigorously so that they have many flowers. In this pruning guide, you will learn when the perfect time to prune is and how to do it to get a healthy, vigorously growing hydrangea with intensely colored flowers.
The key to perfect hydrangea pruning is knowing the type of hydrangea you want to prune. Since the sprouting of branches and flowers can vary depending on the variety, the time window and the extent of the cut for the optimal cut are not always identical.
With a little trick you can also bypass the knowledge about the hydrangea variety. If you also pay attention to a few details, the cut for your hydrangea is done quickly and it will thank you with vigorous growth and numerous flowers.
Hydrangea variety unknown
If you don't know which hydrangea variety you have in your garden or in the planter, a closer look at the bud formation usually helps.
Basically, hydrangeas are divided into two categories for the optimal cutting time:
- budding hydrangeas in late autumn
- Hydrangeas that form buds in spring
- Hydrangeas that bud several times a year
To find out which category your hydrangea belongs to, all you have to do is observe it in autumn and check for any bud formation. If no budding is seen, you can place your hydrangea in the spring budding category.
If bud formations can be seen, it is not necessarily a hydrangea that sprout towards winter, but it can also be a repeated budding hydrangea, which would then belong to the third pruning category. In that case, you should take a close look at your hydrangeas several times in the first year of planting.
When pruning hydrangeas, you need to have the right pruning tool. Basically, jagged knives or fuzzy cutting tools should be avoided so that the cutting edges do not fray.
It is also advantageous if you disinfect the cutting surfaces of the cutting tool before each back cut. In this way, transmission of diseases such as fungal infections or pests that were on a plant previously treated with the same cutting tool can be prevented.
Cleaning before cutting the hydrangea with a mixture of soapy water and some alcohol is usually sufficient to kill any pests or communicable germs and pathogens. Another trick is rubbing with alcohol and then heating the cutting blade for about five minutes.
After disinfecting and cleaning, you should let the cutting tool cool down or dry it thoroughly. Do not use electric hedge and shrub saws for pruning. The branches of a mature hydrangea are usually too thick to be trimmed cleanly with hedge trimmers.
Alternatively, you can use a chainsaw, which is particularly useful for tall and extensive hydrangeas and a complete pruning. Care must be taken to use sharp cutting blades here so that the edges of the branches do not fray when sawing.
Telescopic scissors are ideal for tall hydrangeas and tall climbing hydrangeas. With these you have a clearer view of the hydrangea when cutting and the cut is usually more even in the result.
Always ensure your own safety when gardening. Before using electrical devices for pruning hydrangeas, make sure that they are working properly and follow the safety instructions of the respective manufacturer.
Always wear safety goggles and gloves when cutting. Many branches of a hydrangea are very flexible and can slip out of your hand and fly back if they are overstretched due to incorrect posture when cutting. The eyes are particularly exposed to a risk of injury. Long clothing prevents "lashes" on the skin.
In the case of tall hydrangeas in particular, you should refrain from using a leaning ladder that is leaning against a hydrangea. The hydrangea is not stable enough to hold the weight. You can quickly break into the hydrangea with the leaning ladder and injure yourself badly. Always use a step or folding ladder that stands on its own. Sturdy shoes must be worn here.
Withered flowers should be removed during and after flowering. This encourages new bud formation and allows new buds to develop faster during the flowering season.
You should not use cutting tools such as scissors or knives to remove the withered flowers. Prying out hydrangea flowers by hand is noticeably more advantageous for faster bud formation. To do this, grab the inflorescence above the base of the leaf with your fingers and carefully break it off to the side.
If you find it difficult to reach high-lying flowers by hand, you can of course use scissors on a telescopic pole.
Hydrangea flowers are very decorative in vases and fill rooms with a summery flair. The best time to trim a vase is around August, when the flowers are more mature. You can see this when you compare the flowering strength in June or July with that in August. Previously, the hydrangea flower feels soft and delicate.
As the blooms get older, you can feel the hydrangea blooms becoming firmer and more mature. The perfect moment is when you cut off the hydrangea blossom to put it in a vase, so that it impresses with its high color intensity. If this wears off, the hydrangea blossoms also make a very stylish room decoration in decorative bowls, for example, if they are dried.
When it comes to the optimal time for the hydrangea pruning, the different hydrangea varieties are divided into three time categories.
- Cut back in spring
- Cut back in autumn
- multiple cuts
Basically, this depends on when the different hydrangea varieties sprout. If you do not know the hydrangea variety, you can refer to the description in the "Unknown hydrangea variety" section and define which group your hydrangeas belong to.
If you know the hydrangea varieties in your garden, the following list of varieties serves as a schedule.
Pruning back in spring for hydrangea varieties that bud the year before before the onset of winter.
- Peasant Hydrangea
- Climbing Hydrangea
- Plate Hydrangea
- Oakleaf Hydrangea
- velvet hydrangea
- Fastball Hydrangea
When cutting the hydrangea of the varieties mentioned, this should only be limited to the dead and frozen shoots. If you cut off too much, this usually results in a minimized flower appearance.
With climbing hydrangeas, care must be taken to ensure that the shoots do not protrude far from supporting walls or trellises. If it comes to flowering, the climbing hydrangea can otherwise lose stability and fall forward. Here it is recommended to cut back the branches that are protruding, so that the balance and durability on the masonry or similar is maintained even during full bloom.
Cut back in autumn for hydrangea varieties that will bud in the same year.
- Panicle Hydrangea
- forest hydrangea
- Oakleaf Hydrangea
The panicle, forest and oak-leaved hydrangeas tolerate extensive pruning in autumn very well. They reward this with a vigorous and bushy growth as well as a generous formation of flowers in the coming flowering season.
Cut back several times a year for hydrangea varieties that bud more often throughout the year.
- Farmer's hydrangeas with the sub-varieties:
- Endless Summer
- Twist'n Shout
- The Bride
- Bella Anna
The sub-varieties of the mentioned farmer's hydrangeas sprout several times a year and thus fall under the exception rule for the optimal time for pruning. Due to the repeated formation of buds, these sub-districts of farmer's hydrangeas require a lot of strength, which they receive through regular pruning. Spring and autumn are ideal for this.
In autumn it is advisable to only cut the hydrangea into shape in order to better let it get through the winter. A stronger pruning can take place in the spring in order to start the summer vigorously and to be able to gather enough energy for the following winter. In addition, wilted flowers should be picked off or broken off regularly throughout the year, as described under the heading "Cutting flowers". This allows new shoots to form faster.
The radical cut is usually only used when there are special circumstances and is not common for the respective cutting season.
With a radical cut, hydrangeas are cut back to about 15 centimeters to 20 centimeters above the ground. Around three to five eyes should still be standing at the end.
The sense of a radical cut depends on the circumstances that make it necessary. However, the goal of the so-called rejuvenation pruning is always the same: to get a strong, healthy hydrangea with magnificent flowers with a new growth.
The following circumstances can justify a radical cut:
- last pruning was a few years ago
- Hydrangea is getting lighter
- fungal infection is present
- Hydrangea is attacked by pests
- Hydrangea suffers from a root rot
- immense frost damage
The optimal time for the complete radical pruning is usually late winter, regardless of which pruning schedule the affected hydrangea variety belongs to. However, if immediate action is required, then the radical cut can of course take place at any time of the year.
This can be the case, for example, when a hydrangea is attacked by pests or suffers from a fungal infection, and this could possibly spread to neighboring plants as well.
After a radical cut, there is no further cut for a period of around a year. Another cut is not due until the following year at the usual time. Here the main shoots are shortened by about a third, leaving a maximum of three new shoots.
After this, a hydrangea should not be pruned for the next two or three years. With a radical cut, note that hydrangeas can take up to three years until the first buds form again and you can delight with magnificent flowers.
Always cut your hydrangeas on frost-free days, otherwise the cuts on a hydrangea could lead to frostbite of entire branches.
Also choose a rain-free day for cutting, as a cut should dry out quickly. Rain not only keeps the interfaces moist through the rainwater, but also increases the humidity, which makes the interfaces dry more slowly. Wet interfaces increase the risk of diseases.
Alternatively, you can apply sulfur powder to the cuts after cutting. Sulfur powder dries interfaces quickly. But this should also be done on a rain-free day so that it is not washed away by the rain.
Always cut the shoots at an angle. The bevel cut allows the irrigation and rainwater to drain off better. In addition, the diagonal cut serves as an intelligent measure to prevent fungal and mold growth, to which a freshly pruned hydrangea is particularly susceptible.
Leave at least an inch to two inches of space between the cut point and a flower bud. If you cut off a shoot completely, you should make sure that no stub is left behind.
The removal of shoots that grow crosswise or towards the inside of the hydrangea is advisable, as is the removal of faded flowers and dried up buds year-round, whether your hydrangea variety is in the right pruning season or not.