You can make this easy.
Or you can make this hard.
After reading the volumes written on how to prune a hydrangea, that's my conclusion.
There's just so much information, I decided to make it easy on myself and just prune what isn't greening up.
There are buds on all my hydrangeas now, from the Oakleaf to the mopheads. And there are plenty coming up from the crown of the mopheads, too.
So I have been inspecting the shrubbery and pruning any wood that isn't showing signs of life, or pruning back stems to the point where the buds begin.
Some of this is old wood. (And by this, I mean, really old wood. Not the branches that have been there since last season. They are also called "old wood," which makes things pretty confusing. But they are the ones that will produce the flowers this year.) And some of it is curling mishapen tendrils. But neither is budding.
Now is a good time to prune the mopheads. Not only because you can see clearly the unproductive stems, but you don't risk harming the "new wood" that is coming up from the crown and will hold next year's blooms.
I could leave it all go. And I have.
For the first couple of years, I didn't prune at all, out of fear that I would discourage growth and blooming.
But my mophead hydrangeas suffer in the heat of the summer, even though they are in part or full shade, and wilt badly in the afternoon. So I decided I would do them a favor and give them less foliage to support on those hot days.
I leave my Oakleaf hydrangea alone in the spring. It is best pruned in late summer, and I accomplish this by cutting blooms with a stem of about six inches. It is supposed to make the plant that much stronger.
Here are a couple of other hydrangea tips I picked up.
- Hydrangeas like a slow-release fertilizer. I use Osmocote.
- And super phosphate will give the plant a boost if it isn't blooming. The color - pink or blue - depends on the soil.
- Blues are best in acid soil (5.13 Ph and lower) and adding aluminum sulfate in spring and fall will keep them blue.
- Pinks are best in alkaline soil (6.51 Ph or higher). Add horticultural lime in the spring and fall to boost the pink color.
For more information about pruning your hydrangea - and help determining what type you have - see this how-to article from Fine Gardening.
And speaking of Fine Gardening. I have a tote bag from the magazine that I would be delighted to send to one of you. I will choose someone at random from those who comment on this post. Please include your e-mail so I can contact you for a mailing address. Don't worry. I won't share it with anyone else.
Photo credit: Melissa Lucas/Fine Gardening