Pruning Hydrangeas After Winter Damage

Pruning Hydrangeas After Winter Damage

Now comes the moment of truth for Cape Cod gardeners. Early May is when we know how much damage the winter has done to our mop-head and lace-cap hydrangeas. Early may finds us either rejoicing, knowing that our plants will flower this summer, or despairing because it’s clear that this will be a season of few blooms.

Bottom line: if your hydrangea canes don’t have green leaves that are at least the size of a dime by May 6th, those canes were toasted by the winter and will need to be removed. Now it the time to prune your plants because you’ll be able to cut off any canes without leaves, or clean off the top of canes with buds that were zapped and leave the lower part where green leaves are opening. Here are a few photos to help you know what to cut and where.

Here is a hydrangea that has lots of small leaves on the canes. Yay! This plant should have many flowers this coming summer, because the germ of the flowers are in that growth right now. Clip off the tops of the canes that have buds that haven't opened, even if those buds have a touch of green on them. We know you want to be optimistic, but if those buds haven't opened to leaves by now they aren't going to.

Here is a hydrangea that has lots of small leaves on the canes. Yay! This plant should have many flowers this coming summer, because the germ of the flowers are in that growth right now. Clip off the tops of the canes that have buds that haven’t opened, even if those buds have a touch of green on them. We know you want to be optimistic, but if those buds haven’t opened to leaves by now they aren’t going to. Any canes that have no buds at all should be removed down to the ground. At the same time you can take out leaves and clip off any old flowers left on these plants.

This shows a bud that probably won't open into leaves. Everyone questions these buds, thinking, "But there is some green there..." but by the second week in May if those buds haven't opened into leaves they aren't going to.

This shows a bud that probably won’t open into leaves. Everyone questions these buds, thinking, “But there is some green there…” but by the second week in May if those buds haven’t opened into leaves they aren’t going to.

This plant is a heartbreak hydrangea as far as flowers are concerned. None of the canes have any open leaves. All of these stems should be cut to the ground. The plant is still alive, and you can see the new growth coming from the base of the shrub. If this plant is one of the varieties that flower on new growth there might be a few flowers at the end of the summer or in the fall.

This plant is a heartbreak hydrangea as far as flowers are concerned. None of the canes have any open leaves. All of these stems should be cut to the ground. The plant is still alive, and you can see the new growth coming from the base of the shrub. If this plant is one of the varieties that flower on new growth there might be a few flowers at the end of the summer or in the fall. You could always tie silk flowers to this plant….

If you go to the Informational Handouts page on this website there is a downloadable pdf about How To Prune Hydrangeas. That handout, and this blog post, are about the blue or pink types of hydrangeas such as the lace-caps and mop-heads. The white flowering varieties of Hydrangea paniculata (Pee Gee, LimeLight, Bobo etc) and Annabelle flower on new growth so as long as they are alive they will produce flowers even after a cold winter.

2 Comments

  1. Maureen G on May 14, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    THIS WAS SO VERY HELPFUL ESPECIALLY THE DIME SIZE CLUE. IT’S ALSO HELPFUL TO LEARN THAT THE WHITE VARIETY CAN BE PRUNED IN THE FALL.
    TAHNKS SO MUCH,
    MG

  2. Jane B on May 20, 2015 at 9:17 am

    I just love your emails. The hydrangea pruning is interesting to know that the second week in May is when we will know what to prune.
    Thanks for doing this. JB

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