How to Prune Hydrangeas

blue hydrangeas flowers

Hydrangeas are hardy and easy to grow, and they make a statement in your garden with their large, brightly coloured blooms. If you’re wondering when, why, and how to prune hydrangeas, we’ve got the information you need! Use these hydrangea pruning tips to help you make the most of these gorgeous flowering shrubs.

Tools Needed to Prune Hydrangeas

Before you get started, make sure you have the right tools on hand. You’ll need:

  • Gloves to protect your hands
  • Sharp bypass pruners for branches up to 3/8-inch thick (note: avoid anvil pruners, which dull quickly)
  • Sharp bypass loppers for branches up to 2 inches thick
  • Sharp pull-stroke pruning saw for branches larger than 2 inches thick

When to Prune Hydrangeas

The timing depends on whether your hydrangeas bloom early or late in the season.

Spring blooming suggests that the flowers bloom on old wood. Hydrangeas with this characteristic begin forming next year’s buds in late summer or early fall. To avoid accidentally removing these buds, prune in late summer, just as the flowers start to fade.

Later summer-blooming suggests that the flowers bloom on new wood. With these shrubs, growth and flower production occur in the same season, so the flowers get delayed. New buds won’t appear until the following spring, so it’s best to prune in late winter before new growth begins.

Be aware that hydrangeas don’t require annual pruning. In fact, many varieties live long, flourishing lives without ever feeling the cold blade of your pruners, loppers, or saw. Only snip your shrubs if you have a goal in mind for them.

Why Prune Hydrangeas?

Keeping your hydrangeas pruned can help with several common problems, including:

  • Leggy growth: When hydrangeas become bare on the bottom, pruning can help promote a rounder, fuller-looking shrub.
  • Lack of flowers: Failure to bloom in the summer can leave you feeling disappointed. The correct pruning technique can increase the size and number of flowers the following season.
  • Oversized growth: Are your hydrangeas getting too tall or overtaking nearby plants in your garden? If so, this could be the year to prune them.

How to Prune Hydrangeas

The best pruning technique depends on the type of hydrangeas you have and your goals when pruning them.

If you have early-blooming hydrangeas that flower on old wood:

  • Snip off spent blossoms just below the flower head.
  • Remove wayward or straggly canes at the soil line.
  • Remove a few of the oldest canes at the soil line to improve your hydrangeas’ vigor as they age.
  • Remove some of the tallest canes at the soil line to prevent the shrub from growing too tall.

If you have late-blooming hydrangeas that flower on new wood:

  • Cut the stems at the soil line to promote larger blooms in the spring.
  • Alternatively, cut the stems to a height of 18 to 24 inches to leave a sturdy framework behind. The blooms may end up smaller, but you’ll alleviate flopping.
  • Avoid pruning once flower buds start opening in the spring.

Let Us Prune Your Garden

Want someone else to take care of your garden maintenance and pruning requirements? The Grounds Guys® are here to help. Plant pruning is just one of the many landscape and lawn care services we provide. Contact us today for a free job estimate. Then, give climbing hydrangeas something to cling to by utilizing carpentry services from Mr. Handyman to build a trellis.

Did you know? The Grounds Guys is a Neighbourly company. Learn more about Neighbourly’s community of home service experts at