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What Should I Do To Hydrangeas In The Fall?

What Should I Do To Hydrangeas In The Fall?

Short answer? Not too much! But we know that this answer isn’t very helpful to people who wonder if they should cut them back or trim off the dried flowers. So here is what you need to know as your hydrangeas move from summer into fall.

1.  If you want to pick the blue or pink flowers for drying, late-August and early-September is the time to do so! Cut those flowers that have already turned lavender-gray in color, not the fresh, blue-blue ones. You can either put them in a vase without water, hang upside down to dry, or make them into a hydrangea flower wreath. (Sign up for our make-a-hydrangea-wreath workshop on Saturday Sept 9th – $30.00 – call the store to register. Download calendar here. )

2. No matter which color hydrangea flower you have, once they turn brown you have two options. You can clip the dead flowers off the plant just below the bloom, or leave it on the plant into the winter. Most dried hydrangea flowers break off sometime in the winter and any that remain on the plant can be removed in the spring.

3. Don’t “neaten them up”!  If you cut the stems down to make them look neater at this time of year you’ll have fewer flowers next summer. For all types of hydrangeas you’re better off waiting until May to do any pruning, and for the blue and pink flowering mopheads and lacecaps the only thing you should do at that time is take away any dead stems.

4. Fall fertilization is a good idea – a light coating of Holly-tone around the plants will benefit the shrubs when it’s the growing season next year.

5. Winter protection? That’s up to you. It’s not been shown that protection of mophead and lacecaps will help if temperatures drop to the single digits or below, but a windscreen of burlap might help stop cold winter and spring winds in exposed locations.

6. Clean up! Raking up the Hydrangea leaves after they fall is always a good idea. This helps keep disease and over-wintering insects from remaining in the area. This is especially important for the control of Chilli Thrips that have been found disfiguring hydrangea foliage on the Cape.

Mophead hydrangeas look lovely in the fall when their blue, purple and pink flowers contrast with the fall foliage.

Mophead hydrangeas look lovely in the fall when their blue, purple and pink flowers contrast with the fall foliage.

Brown flowers can be snipped off if they annoy you, but you don't have to remove them.

Brown flowers can be snipped off if they annoy you, but you don’t have to remove them.

Look for flowers like this to dry or for making Hydrangea Wreaths.

Look for flowers like this to dry or for making Hydrangea Wreaths.

4 Comments

  1. LORI BIRD on September 14, 2017 at 11:48 am

    Thank you for the hydrangea updates…. it was most helpful !!

    • CLFornari on September 21, 2017 at 3:07 pm

      You’re welcome!

  2. Peter on September 27, 2018 at 12:24 pm

    Mine has become so big in the front of my house I really need to know what to do to trim it back in size by at least 1/3. It is the blue mop head type.

    • CLFornari on September 27, 2018 at 1:24 pm

      I’m sorry, Peter, but I’m going to tell you what you don’t want to hear: it’s impossible to make a blue mop head shorter again. Whether you cut your plant back in the fall or spring it will replace it’s growth and be just as high by mid-July next year. And what you’ll have is fewer flowers and a tall, green dome of foliage only on the top of your plant. There is no way to make this plant shorter again. If it’s too tall, move it to a location where the height isn’t a problem and plant one of the shorter hydrangeas in that location. There are many shorter plants including CityLine Rio, Blue Jangles, Seaside Serenade Cape Cod etc.

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