Hydrangea pruning

ally_ldApril 10, 2008

Will tip pruning the terminals of Hydrangea serrata types promote the release of more flowers along the stem? My understanding has always been that removing terminal buds causes lateral buds to break resulting in a more compact plant with more flowers. I am new at growing Hydrangeas and wonder if this type of pruning is good for them.

Thank you


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Yes and no.
H.serrata, as well as H.macrophilla and H.quersifolia, forming next year flower buds in z6 during the months of August-September. For hydrangeas flower buds are always terminal.
Therefore, by pruning terminal buds NOW you will essentialy eliminate plant's ability to bloom this year.
However, if in August-early September you will cut flowers or just simply prune off stem to the STRONG PAIR of buds (usualy they are 3rd or 4th pair below terminal bud) both of those buds will produce side/lateral branches and each of them will form its own terminal flowering bud, thus you'll increase flower production, although flowers will be more numerous, but smaller.
This type of pruning will result in a more compact plant next season only, year after that it will be as big as it was before. Dencer, yes, but not more compact.
P.S. I do this type of pruning only in a non-flowering years, which in my 6b zone could be 1 out of the 4-5 years.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 8:57PM
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I would respectfully disagree with the statement "For hydrangeas flower buds are always terminal."

There are some that will only bloom on terminal buds but many that will bloom on lateral buds down the stem. Dooley is famous for this. Mde Emile & Gen Vicomtesse will also bloom from lower buds if terminal buds are removed in early spring (and sometimes even if not)as well as Nikkos. I can't remember whose hydrangea book (Glyn Church?) it was, but I've read "experts" who do this as well. Something about removing the terminal sending signals to the next pair of buds.....yada yada....

Having said that....I will admit that it is NOT the norm and rarely recommended on this forum and since I am in a very different climate than you, you should only try this on certain plants as an experiment if you don't mind the possibility of a season without blooms. It is important to know exactly which variety of hydrangea you are dealing with first. If it is a "reblooming" or "free flowering" type, your odds of success are better....I'm sure George will correct me if I've stepped out of line!....yg

    Bookmark   April 11, 2008 at 12:08PM
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YG, I guess the 'issue' between us is in a perminology :-))
I was talking about 'regular' macs and serratas, not a 'remontant' types.
Known fact, terminal bud on hydrangea is dominant and being present prevent lower buds to become a flowering buds. Once removed next strongest bud will become dominant and produce .....lateral branch that will have its own terminal bud which in turn will become a flower.
That is why important to find a pair of EQUALY STRONG buds, not a pair where one bud will be large and another small.
As we all know hydrangeas (macs/serrata) are generaly unbranched plants and if plant would of produce one and only flower on a terminal bud of the main stem I think it would be a very sorrow picture. Luckily for us every single lateral branch and branchlet produces its own terminal bud which results in abundance of flowers (all being well, of course).
Hope i didn't made confusing by itself issue even more confusing :-))

    Bookmark   April 11, 2008 at 4:03PM
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Thank you, and sorry for the delay in getting back, I've been away from my computer. If I understand this, the growth habit of Hydrangeas is for lack of better words vase shape, all stems coming from the base of the plant and each stem has its own terminal flower bud. The main stems have small laterial branches which also can produce flowers. Pruning the terminal will not cause more flower buds to open along the stem, it will produce more vegetative growth at the base and more small laterial branches which will eventually have their own terminal flower bud. The Hydrangeas in question are H. macrophylla Biaumeise 'Teller Blue', H. serrata 'Blue Billows' and H.S.'Blue Bird'. They are young plants and were transplanted last spring after we had some construction work done. I guess for this season, the plants should concentrate on developing a strong root system and any flowering is kind of a bonus at this point. I know that phosperous if for root development and flower bud formation, so I will stick with high phosperous fert. with a small amount of Nitrogen unless you have other suggestions that would be better. Is there a particular fertilizer that you recommend? The transplanted Hyd's flowered blue before being moved. Not sure what they will do this season.

Thank you again for all your help.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 5:09PM
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Ally, you got it all absoletely correct!
I'd use phosphorus, but definitely skip on nitrogen.
I wouldn't be worry at all about bud hardiness of BBillow in z6, probably the same going for the BBird. However, Teller Blue (Blaumeise), even being reputedly the most hardiest of all Teller series, in straight z6 will not bloom reliably. In my 6b(maybe 7a already) it blooms only 2 years out of 3 :-(
Unfortunately, cause it's absolutely gorgeous.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 8:19PM
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Ego, thanks. I think my Zone 6a is becoming 6b which would be nice. I did some winter protection with cages, bags with leaves and pine needles on my tellers and now it is wait and see. They made it through the winter and new growth is popping out on the stems, pretty much at the base of the plants with a few higher up on the stem. You are right, it is an absoutely gorgeous flower and if it blooms for me this season, the additional work over-wintering it is well worth the effort. When it blooms, (positive attitude-positive results) I will post a picture.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 8:36AM
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chrisanne1(Z6 SE PA)

My DH got cabin fever a few weeks ago and, trying to be helpful, severely pruned almost every shrub in the yard, including hydrangeas. I'm not talking cutting off a few inches--he cut 3 and 4 foot plants to about eight inches high, with zero regard for proximity to buds. What is the likelihood of survival? I know I can't even think about flowers, but can they be revived at all?

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 7:22PM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

The chances are actually very good, chrisanne1, because the root system is intact. And since this was done while the plant is dormant, the hydrangeas should recover. To make sure that they do well, once you notice signs of line in Spring, try to maintain constant soil moisture as much as you can and keep them well mulched. You may have lost bloomage for 2009 if the list of plants included old-wood blooming varities (think: oakleaf hydrangeas or h. asperas for example) but you should not loose the plants. Now, what is the likelihood of survival for your DH in the garden? Hee hee hee! This year, I can see someone's radar alarm going off as soon as DH gets within 2 feet of any shrub. Just kidding.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 3:40AM
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jude31(6 E Tn)

I need basic information about pruning hydrangeas in layman's terms, please.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 6:09PM
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The basic info is hydrangeas do not require regular pruning. Exactly how and when to prune them - should you be forced to - depends on the type. Hydrangeas that bloom on new growth - H. paniculata or arborescens and certain limited selections of macrophylla - can be pruned in early spring wheen new growth begins to emerge. Hydrangeas that bloom on old or last season's growth, like most macrophyllas, have a very narrow window when pruning can be done without removing the next season's flowers, typically immediately after blooming but no later than early August.

If you do need to prune macs to control size, it is recommended to remove upto one third of the oldest canes at the base of the plant. This will encourage new, vigorous basal growth while maintaining some flowering ability. This can also be done in early spring emerges.

You will generally not permanently damage any hydrangea by hard pruning in spring if necessary or by accident, but some make take a season or two to recover properly and bloom well.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hydrangea pruning made easy

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 9:12AM
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jude31(6 E Tn)

Thank you so much....I saved the article on pruning.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 9:29AM
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