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A distinctive and filigree bloom has made the plate hydrangea a popular garden plant. It is available in numerous colors and, with the right care, can decorate the garden with many flowers. In order for it to grow vigorously and sprout strongly with large flowers, pruning is essential. The plant expert describes in detail how to proceed.

plate hydrangea

The healthy plate hydrangea forms flat and rounded flowers that are reminiscent of a plate shape. With the botanically named Hydrangea serrata, you can influence healthy and shapely growth with a cut, as well as positively influence the number of flowers. The prerequisite is that the cut is made correctly and at an optimal time. The plant expert offers you professional, easy-to-understand instructions for uncomplicated execution.

cut time

fall pruning

When the withered flowers on a plate hydrangea hang down in late autumn, many a hobby gardener is driven to cut them down. Under no circumstances should you do this, because you risk a coming season without flowers. This is because most flowering takes place on one-year-old shoots. These are usually difficult to distinguish from older branches, so when you cut them back in autumn, you cut them off and deprive the plant of the basis for bud formation.

In addition, the Hydrangea serrata usually sheds numerous leaves in winter, while the withered flowers remain. If snow, hoarfrost or frosty ice crystals settle on them in winter, a decorative picture of plants appears in the otherwise bare garden. Exceptions are only given if diseases require a pruning in autumn, such as rot or fungal infection.

spring cut

The optimal time for plate hydrangeas is generally spring during the months of March and April, when flower growth is to be stimulated. However, pruning should only be minimal for increased flowering. If other problems arise that require more extensive pruning, you should wait until after the ice saints, so that no more frost is to be expected. In order to protect the hydrangea from possible frost when cutting for more flowers, it is advisable to cover it with fleece or something similar.

summer cut

If, for some reason, the hydrangea no longer grows densely, a spring cut may not have taken place or it is extremely out of shape, your plant will have to leave a few flowers if it is cut back more extensively in summer. If the reason for cutting allows it, a cut in the months of June to the beginning of August is advisable. This gives the hydrangea enough time to sprout again if necessary and to develop shoots for the next year, on which flower buds can form again.

Why cut?

More flowering

The plate hydrangea is characterized by a lively flower growth. This can decrease as the plant ages. But even at a young age, the plant often lacks the strength to develop lush buds. Last but not least, the cold winter weakens the Hydrangea serrata, so you can stimulate flowering with a small cut.

Denser foliage

Especially if regular pruning is carried out in spring, the foliage will thicken in summer, but this can also mean that insufficient light and air can reach the center of the plant. Leaves fall off, new leaf shoots do not form and in the end, sparse bald spots make for an unattractive picture. Frostbite, which plate hydrangeas have contracted due to cold winters, can also be to blame for a thinning out. Last but not least, old age, usually in connection with little or no pruning over the years, also plays a major role when the number of leaves decreases significantly.

Thick trunks and shoots

If your plate hydrangea suffers from growth disorders, which can also arise due to old age, then usually only thin, weak shoots will mature and trunks will not develop further in their thickness. This can result in a drooping of flower-bearing shoots and reduced flower growth. It is not uncommon for this to be associated with a deterioration in the supply of nutrients when branches break off due to the heavy blossoms. With a pruning you animate the overall growth and shoots and trunks regain strength or grow stronger.

support recovery

If a Hydrangea serrata has become ill or has been attacked by pests, sometimes there is only a pruning left to remove diseased parts of the plant and/or to help the plant to regenerate better and faster. Proper pruning stimulates the metabolism and activates the immune system. As a result, the plant copes better with damage and can grow back healthily.

size and shape determination

If you want the hydrangea to be a certain size and/or shape, you can only do that by pruning.

cutting tool

An important issue when pruning hydrangeas is the pruning tool. Even the thinnest of shoots can get into the interior of the plant with an infected cutting tool via the freshly cut wounds. It is therefore imperative that you only use pruning tools that have been disinfected before use.

In addition, you should only use sharp utensils, especially when you are cutting in the green area, where you provoke uneven cutting edges with unsharp cutting blades, which can cause moisture to collect. Decay could be the consequence.


The following disinfection methods for cutting tools are uncomplicated and reliable.

  • Soak in 70% or 80% isopropanol for two minutes
  • Place the cutting tool in boiling water for ten minutes
  • Spray with a household disinfectant (e.g. Sagrotan)

Cut Types

Depending on the reason for a desired pruning, you have different types of cuts available. In order to stimulate flower growth and achieve strong, healthy growth, it is advisable to combine several types of cutting or to carry them out in one gardening season.

taper cut

A rejuvenation pruning is usually only carried out if you have not pruned your plate hydrangea for many years and it is developing less and less well due to increasing age and the number of flowers is also continuously decreasing. The rejuvenation pruning gives your plant new, fresh energy again, like a young plant.

This cut should be carried out every three to four years in May after the ice saints and during dry days without wind.

Cutting Instructions:

  • Cut old and dried branches completely (do not leave a stump)
  • shorten unwoody twigs by about a third (do not cut into woody areas)
  • Cut off the tips of the shoots so that there is a distance of at least three to five millimeters from the top bud

maintenance cut

Maintenance pruning should be done every two to three years in spring, with the focus on stimulating flower growth. This type of pruning keeps the Hydrangea serrata healthy, allows trunks and shoots to grow thick and strong and slows down the aging process.

Cutting Instructions:

  • Shorten green twigs and shoots by a maximum of one third
  • Cut off new shoots only at the tips
  • remove dried, frozen and discolored plant parts
  • Separate crossing or inward-growing shoots at the point of origin
  • shorten old branches inside the plant down to ground level (pruning out)
  • Cut off faded flowers from the previous year


If your plate hydrangea is too big or bushy for you, you only have the shape pruning, where some blossoms/buds will probably lose their lives. In order to cut off as few buds as possible, it is advisable to do a topiary every year to avoid extensive pruning. With the topiary, simply cut around the hydrangea with a suitable pruning tool until it has reached the desired height and/or width. For larger specimens, an electric hedge trimmer is recommended for straight lines.

relief cut

If too many heavy flowers have formed on a shoot or if the shoot is too thin to hold the weight of the flowers, a so-called relief cut is required so that the shoot does not snap off and subsequently die. Here you cut about an inch or two below where the bend begins. If this part is already lignified, it is advisable to cut off the shoot up to the point where it branches.

health cut

If the plate hydrangea is diseased or attacked by pests and extensive damage has spread to the parts of the plant, these must be removed.

If a Hydrangea serrata has suffered extensive damage and/or appears to be very weak overall, the health cut must be correspondingly more extensive, regardless of the existing inflorescences. Once all the damaged parts of the plant have been removed in the lower area, cut the hydrangea by at least a third and a maximum of half. As a rule, a pruning of a maximum of one third is sufficient on the sides. Don't forget to apply appropriate control/treatment for the disease/pests, otherwise a health pruning will not result in improved recovery.

radical cut

If a health cut is not enough to recover from damage after illness/a pest infestation, or if the plate hydrangea has thinned out over a large area due to years of missing pruning, hardly produces any leaves and flowers, the last resort is a radical cut.

Cutting Instructions:

  • trim everything down to a maximum of a third
  • at least two to four side shoots must remain
  • these can also be shortened by 2/3
  • no stumps may remain when the other shoots branch out
  • The radical cut should be done in early autumn at the latest

TIP: If larger cuts occur when pruning in the fall, it is advisable to seal them with charcoal or wax to prevent moisture from entering, which could cause rot.

Withered flowers

Leave the dried flowers on your plate hydrangea in autumn. You can only remove these in summer if they are perceived as being visually disturbing.

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