We recently bought our house and discovered that we have a hydrangea. I have no experience with them and I am concerned that this plant is dead? Are they dead? Do I need to do anything to help them? When do I prune?
Noooooo. From what I see they are alive with some buds near the tips of their branches don't replace them yet, if you can at least wait until may to get new ones in case they are dead then wait, you can cut a branch and see if it is green inside of it. If it does than they are good However if you see green inside a branch but you see no buds on the branch than cut a few down to the ground and then the hydrangeas will re sprout new growth. If the branch is cut and you see brown and gray its dead and you should still cut them down to the ground. Another option is to buy 3 more hydrangeas (they cost around 30 bucks all together)but in conclusion just wait and if your impatient get some new ones and plant them elsewhere just in case the old hydrangeas are still alive
If there is no real need for pruning the shrub, I would not prune. However, I would deadhead the spent blooms and either throw them into the trash or compost bin. Or use them as mulch. Note: deadhead not the same as pruning.
Your hydrangea looks just as it should this time of year - not dead, just dormant (Winter sleep). You have a great treasure in such a mature bush!!! Do not mess with it! Cut off the dried bloomheads from last year when the stems that hold them begin to bud. In the meantime, read up on garden hydrangeas so you'll know how to care for it.
Many leave the dried bloomheads on over Winter as interest in the cold months. Much more decorative than the look of brown sticks. Unsure of the type of hydrangea you have, best guess being a mophead Macrophylla. One growing nearby my place for the last 15 years or more looks exactly like yours at this time of year. It leafs out when the weather warms consistently, and literally explodes with bloom all Summer. No newly planted hydrangea will achieve the size of yours nor bloom as prolifically for many years.
The link is to the look of such a hydrangea in one Pennsylvania garden. The photo at the top is of the bush in full bloom, while the one further down the page is the same bush before it's awakened in Spring. Many shrubs have a similar look late Fall through to sometime in Spring, losing their leaves to the cold & regrowing them when Spring conditions are right.
Here is a link that might be useful: Early Spring hydrangea appearance
This post was edited by vasue on Wed, Apr 23, 14 at 10:40