do you prune hydrangea?

scarletaMay 5, 2009

To control its size mainly? When and how please and thanks

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I did in January. Waited until plants were 3 years in the ground. The blooms were very large and lasted making winter interest but after the ice clobbered them and plants were a leggy mess, pruned hard. Both plants coming back nicely now.

I wanted to keep a full structure so left branching and pruned to about 2' from ground, cutting slanted about an inch above a bud. Would not have cut so deep down except ice broke many branches anyway.

Hydrangeas like water and part shade. Their color can be changed from pink to blue by adding aluminum sulfate to the soil around them. Also helps to blue by making soil more acidic, adding compost & coffee grounds.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 9:11AM
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When and how you prune a hydrangea depends on which type it is. The more common bigleaf hydrangeas, H. macrophylla - those that produce the mophead and sometimes lacecap flowers in pinks, blues and whites - bloom on growth that was produced the previous season. Pruning now eliminates this season's flowers. Paniculatas and the arborescens ('Annabelle') bloom on new growth and can be pruned back in early spring at will.

Ideally, I'd like to see bigleaf hydrangeas sited according to how large they may get and not pruned at all, but that's not always practical. The recommended way to reduce height or control size on these is to remove 1/3 of the oldest stems each year. This allows the plant to continue to flower on schedule on the remaining stems but encourages new and more vigorous growth from the the root crown. By the end of the thrid season your plant will be significantly smaller, rejuvenated in terms of vigor and will only have missed a few potential blooms.

You can of course cut the entire plant back as cascadians has done but understand this will prevent any flowering this year.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 10:35AM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

My experience with hydrangeas here is that they die back so far every winter I just wait until they start leafing out in spring and remove all the dead growth above the buds. This last winter killed all but one hydrangea, my lacecap, but it does seem to have some live buds growing.:)

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 12:23AM
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That seems odd. Generally, west of the Cascades there is minimal winter damage to hydrangeas and no need to protect them as there may be many other parts of the country. All my hydrangeas came through this winter unscathed, even those in containers. There is often dead wood that needs to be removed - that's just the nature of the shrub - but heavy winter dieback and winter kill is not a normal occurrence, even in weather like we had this past winter. Many will survive easily in climates far colder than ours. What kind are yours and do they ever bloom?

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 9:30AM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

I have never had any trouble with the cold hardiness of Hydrangeas either, even the ones I have purchased in the floral dept. of grocery stores. I usually pot up those right away and grow them a season to get a decent rootball before planting them out. This year a couple slipped by me and spent the winter in a pot. They got by unscathed.
I'm east of Renton, Wa. at about 750 ft.

My favorite is a lacecap called Weiderspink.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 10:14AM
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George Three LLC

if the shape is totally out of control, or just wrong somehow, i wouldn't be afraid to prune away growth that will flower.

maximum flowering isn't THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF ALL GARDENING.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 10:50AM
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Mine are partially under the eves. The ice built up between layers of snow and when it finally thawed it came down off the roof in sharp ragged sheets and decapitated the poor hydrangeas. House surrounded by plants, all at risk if we ever get a storm like that again. Must save the roof from collapsing under the weight, so snow will be pushed/pulled off. Hopefully 16" of snow/ice on the roof is unusual. Now know to get up there early and often and rake it off.

Still raining lightly here, yard is mega-saturated, evergreens putting on amazing growth. The plants prefer rainwater so vastly over tap water I give endless thanks to the Lord for this merciful bout of rain.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 11:53AM
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Ok Eeldip, I'll bite. What is "THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF ALL GARDENING"??

Not that I disagree that maximum flowering is a sacred cow that should prevent us from pruning when it may be ultimately beneficial, but I'm wondering if there is an "ULTIMATE GOAL" in your mind...

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 1:05PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

My hydrangeas are all just fine, including a 'Pia' in a container. It got down to 15* at my house.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 9:54PM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

I live near Portland, not Seattle, the winters are colder here. And last winter was particularly bad for some reason, my 9 year old Loropetalum chinense died (unless it still regrows from the roots), plus all the bigleaf hydrangeas, I don't know the variety because they came from my MIL's house. The mountain lacecap is on the east side of the house and close to big cedars that probably ameliorate the temperatures somewhat.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 10:12PM
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Buyorsell lives in the Portland area too :-) Regardless, bigleaf hydrangeas are fully hardy to at least zone 6, far colder than it gets in Portland, so winter kill should not be an issue.

I agree that flowers are not necessarily the be-all and end-all of gardening, however hydrangeas are grown primarily for their flowers.......excessive pruning or pruning at the wrong time of year removes or severely limits the flowering potential and gardeners should be made aware of that possibility.

Loropetalum is not reliably hardy in this climate. It doesn't get hot enough here in summer to ripen the growth adequately to prevent winter dieback and it is an iffy plant even in rather mild winters.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 10:39AM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

gardengal- Dear me, it seems no one informed my hydrangeas they should not have died. I don't live in Portland, which has a lot of water nearby from the Columbia and Willamette. I've seen roses in bloom there in December. I live at higher altitude and get temps down to 6*F. Passiflora caerula also died here a couple years back, and it's supposed to be hardy to zone 6 also.

There could be other factors such as drainage, vole damage, etc but these hydrangeas had been there 7 years or so.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 5:10PM
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George Three LLC

THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF GARDENING: oh its quite simple, and when you reach it, you will be lifed up in a cloud and taken out of sight. *wink face*

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 9:45PM
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Patrick888(z8 SeaTac WA)

I was a bit concerned about a lacecap growing in a 1-gal. pot that sat in a very exposed area all winter. But it bounced back as if nothing had happened.

I have 2 large blue lacecaps along the east side of my house. They do get too wide for the area, overflowing out into the pathway. If they get too out of hand after a few years, I don't hesitate to prune them as severely as I think needed. I do this at the end of winter & give up some of that year's flowers, but it does no harm to the plants. Maybe I'll someday move them to a site where they're free to get as large as they want, but I'm in no hurry.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 12:57PM
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