pruning droopy PG: gulp!

rigelcaj(z5 VT)October 4, 2012

Even after reading whatever I can find about pruning PGs, I'm still petrified to pull out the pruners, so hope someone can reassure me.

I have a couple of PGs next to my house, and love them. They flower well, but the flowers contribute to some serious drooping. Propped up, the branches would probably be 8-10' tall;drooped, they're probably 4 - 5. They're getting big for the space, and the drooping hides the flowers. Other people have less droopy PGs. So prune, right?

Here's the thing. If I prop up the branches, the lower section is bare - no leaves, just stems. I cleaned out all of the dead stuff last spring. I'm afraid if I chop it back, it won't have enough leaves to support it. At the same time, I think if the branches were shorter, they wouldn't droop so much, and the flowers would show.

So prune, right? How much? Til it looks right for the space, and disregard the brown, because it'll disappear in the spring anyway? I think I need counseling for my prune-phobia. Thanks!

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First, you don't want to prune now. Pruning for a majority of deciduous trees and shrubs is done when they are fully dormant - without leaves - usually in late winter. This is the case with any kind of panicle hydrangea, like PeeGee's. Pruning too early (now) can still stimulate growth that can be damaged in winter. Since these types of hydrangeas bloom on growth that is produced the same season (new wood), there are no worries about losing flowers by pruning in late winter or early spring.

You can prune back by about a half to two thirds and to just before a leaf node. You could cut back further if you prefer but that tends to produce stem growth that is very limber and may not be any more supportive. It is best to leave some length of existing stem in place as this will have developed sufficiently strong wood to support new growth and heavy blooms.

I'd not worry about the lower leaves. Established paniculatas do tend to have somewhat 'bare legs' regardless but reducing the size of the plants should spark additional leaf growth next season that would have been shaded out by excessive topgrowth this season.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 1:42PM
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springwood_gardens(6B Pittsburgh)

If the leaves are already turning and falling off, pruning couldn't hurt too much. Get a general shape now if you like and do the rest in early spring.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 2:57AM
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Pruning stimulates growth. If you prune before the plant is fully dormant, you do risk encouraging growth that can be more easily damaged by cold weather. The dieback does not necessarily limit itself to just the new stems but can be transmitted down into more mature tissue.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 12:29PM
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springwood_gardens(6B Pittsburgh)

The leaves are off most of my PG's, and in zone 6.... To see some magical resurgence here let alone zone 4 would be amazing...

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 3:02AM
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rigelcaj(z5 VT)

Thanks for the tips! Springwood, I'm surprised the leaves are off your PGs already. Mine are not only still on, but green. I'll wait til they fall to prune them - I kept myself busy over the weekend moving a bunch of raspberry volunteers and planting bulbs. :)

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 8:43AM
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