Everything About Pruning Hydrangeas

Raul Cornelius is a Senior Editor at BalconyGardenWeb and an expert in flower and herb cultivation based in Phoenix, Arizona. A frequent speaker at horticultural events, he is also an active contributor to Facebook flower groups. Holding an MBA and a BCom, Raul blends his gardening skills with strong leadership and analytical abilities. Passionate about writing and photography, he enjoys early mornings with coffee and books, and nature bike rides during weekends.
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Pruning Hydrangeas is important to keep them healthy and growing while improving their flower production. Learn how to prune them correctly.

Pruning Hydrangeas is not a difficult task; you need to do it at the right time of year. You will also need to determine if your shrub blooms on old or new wood. Follow these tips to ensure you’re pruning hydrangeas in the right manner to keep them blooming abundantly.

Old or New Wood?Pruning Hydrangeas

To determine if your hydrangea blooms on old or new wood, keep a tab on its flowers.
Shrubs that produce blooms on old wood, generally begin blooming in early summer and cease blooming by midsummer. Shrubs that produce blooms on new wood generally start blooming later than old-growth bloomers because they must set their buds the same year they bloom. New-wood bloomers will begin to flower in midsummer and continue until frost.

Old Wood Pruning

Pruning hydrangeas in spring

Hydrangeas that bloom on old wood will set their buds for next year, not long after they finish blooming at the current year. Prune these shrubs as soon as the blooms begin to fade in late summer to prevent cutting off next year’s blooms. The sooner you prune an old-wood hydrangea, the better it will be as it’ll give the shrub a time to recover before winter and will produce larger blooms next year.

Prune off fading blooms just below the flower head. Remove any diseased or straggly branches by cutting them off at ground level. Rejuvenate an old shrub by cutting the oldest branches off at the soil level. An old, woody hydrangea, will produce small blooms. Pruning away a few of the oldest branches will energize the plant, enabling it to produce more and bigger blooms.

New Wood Pruning

When should hydrangeas be pruned

Hydrangeas that bloom on new wood takes all the guess-work out of pruning. These shrubs are cut all the way back to the soil level in late winter or early spring. This is called ‘hard pruning’ and enables the shrub to remain healthy, producing more and larger blooms each year.

If your new-wood shrub is old and large, it may subject to ‘flopping’ each year if given a hard pruning. Flopping occurs when the new, tender branches become wet from rain or watering and are unable to remain upright under the weight of the water and blooms. To prevent flopping, space your plants properly and prune new-wood hydrangeas to 18 inches high in late winter or early spring. This will form a network of old, woody branches that will support the new growth, preventing flopping.

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  1. I live in the Texas Panhandle. I was delighted when the garden store had blue hydrangeas. But, by the end of summer they bloomed pink. How do I fix it to bloom blue again.

    • Put coffee grounds in the soil of the plant. The coffee changes the ph level which changes the color of the flower.

    • You need a soil acidified to keep the blooms blue. Miracle Grow makes a product called Miracid that works well. Follow the instructions on the package.

      • I don’t have a commitment but I do have a question
        My Hydrangeas haven’t bloomed in 4plus years and it breaks my heart . Watch can I do to get them to bloom again

          • I moved to a house in 2015 that had a hydrangea without blooms. It was a beautifully shaped bush but no flowers. I had never applied any type of soil amendments. In 2019, as I was tending the rest of the garden, I threw a small amount of epson salt around the base. Oh my! In 2020 this bush exploded with blooms. From now on, I will do the same every summer and hopefully I will continue to have the same amount of flowers.

        • This has happened to me, I live in Mn which can have dry summer’s. Make sure you are watering enough, made all the difference for me.

        • Mine too and in the spring I poured bone meal at the bottom of the plant and I got the most beautiful flowers this year

        • I gave My plant fertilizer, my plant had not bloomed in a few years this year I had so many blooms I could not believe it so in the spring fertilizer and it will bloom good Luck

        • That happened to me as well and I was at the point of throwing the towel in but than my so stated aioli l need to add is nutrition to the water I was giving to the plants at first I would add a cap full in a gallon of water and sump the whole thing then I made banana peel tea and that helped my plant flourish the biggest flowers I have ever since after that I continue to give it plant food once a month

    • You can buy fertilizer to change the ph levels in your soil which will change the color of your flowers. Hope that helps!

    • That’s funny because I live in New Jersey & I saw Pink for the first time and wanted to know how can my blue ones turn pink.

      • There is also a fertilizer to turn them pink if you prefer. They will generally always go to whatever your soil acidity is—unless you fertilize regularly.

    • It has to do with the Ph level in the soil. Look up what to add to the soil to achieve the color you are looking for.

    • If you know someone who has a rabbit, ask them for the droppings. It makes great fertilizer to feed hydrangea in the Fall and through Winter. Ease off in the Spring and Summer when they are blooming.

      • You have to make a “tea”
        Soak bunny droppings in water overnight and strain before putting on your plant to prevent grass and weeds from mixing in with the “tea”

        • To determine if your hydrangea blooms on old or new wood, keep a tab on its flowers.
          Shrubs that produce blooms on old wood, generally begin blooming in early summer and cease blooming by midsummer. Shrubs that produce blooms on new wood generally start blooming later than old-growth bloomers because they must set their buds the same year they bloom. New-wood bloomers will begin to flower in midsummer and continue until frost.

          • I purchased a property in March, and there are 2 beautiful Hydrangea that did not bloom at all this year. I am going to guess these are new wood bloomers? Most likely they have never been pruned ever. An older woman lived here and the entire property was run down. I’m going to take a chance late winter and prune them to 18″ as you described in the article. Lets hope we get blooms next year.
            Any other ideas or suggestions please let me know.

      • That was not to change the pH. The spike was to introduce iron which is what makes the plant have its blue color. If you want a pink plant bring the ph up slightly which causes less iron to break down and be absorbed by your plant in turn over time will turn to pink. Baking soda just a tad will help do this or a few spoons of lime.

      • That was how it was done years ago, but it works. My hydrangeas have been blue and pink, but last year they turned a pretty grayish violet color. That’s a new one for me…

    • I wish I could help, just wanted to tell you I have a rosebush that is normally red, but one year it had GORGEOUS yellow flowers too!😮😊

      • The same thing happened to mine this year. Mine was a beautiful red. This year it has one light pink bloom and several with pink and red together. Very strange.

    • Water with aluminum sulphate monthly to turn and keep your hydrangeas blue. Start early Spring. (I’ll be starting in March, in Toronto.)
      Coffee grounds is a common suggestion, but they’re not strong enough. The actual coffee would be better and I doubt that would work well.
      Good luck!

    • Hi Gabrielle, if you want Blue hydrangea and not pink or purple or red tones, you should amend the soil with Aluminum sulphate. Just lowering the PH of a soil doesn’t ensure a blue color.

    • Iron will make the flower turn Blue. In live in the UK where there is lots of iron in the soil. Put some old nails around the base and in the soil near the roots. They will turn Blue. The south coast of Wales has the most vibrant blue ones.

    • You need to determine the acidity level of your soil- is it more alkaline or more acidic? From there you can change the levels and that will give you the color that you want!

  2. You have to make the soil more acidic. You can work in some used coffee grounds every few weeks or you can buy some stuff at the garden center to do it.

    • Why? I cut mine back every year to about 1-2 ft tall and have never had an issue of them growing huge and blooming. They grow taller then me.

          • Jo check out the Proven Winners website- they have excellent results information on plants-specifically everything hydrangea!!

        • I cut mine back this year to 3 foot and didn’t get one bloom, I was so sad. I had beautiful blooms that loaded my bushes the year prior. I cut them (old bloom) after last frost in late March. They grew taller than me 6 ft but not 1 bloom? Why.

  3. The color of the flowers on the hydrangea has to do with the type of soil. The more acidic the soil – the bluer the flowers will be – if your soil makes the flowers pink – your soil is more alkaline – you can purchase items for the soil from a greenhouse to aid in making your soil produce blue hydrangeas.

  4. Add a soil acidifier to the soil around the base of the plant. Your plant will only continue to flower blue if you maintain acidic soil. Go to your local garden center – they will be able to help you select the right product and can explain how best to apply it. Good Luck!

  5. Check your soil–if hydrangeas that were once blue are now pink, that is an indication there is too much acidity in your soil. By changing the pH level of the soil, you may have a chance of changing the color of certain varieties of hydrangeas.

  6. Hydrangeas need acidic soil to bloom blue. My mom adds used coffe grounds around her hydrangea and it turned blue. You can also use copper sulfate from a garden center.

    • Last year I applied the used coffee grounds around my new hydrangea, but the flowers seemed to dwindle. It faces north. Should I move the plant?

    • Hi Marj! I remember doing just that at school when I was about 9 years old! Didn’t realise that you could buy Copper Sulphate from a garden centre! Thanks for that!

  7. I bought really pink hydrangeas this year on purpose They were called something like raspberry sorbet or sherbet anyway I sure hope they stay pink I don’t want blue ones everyone around here has blue I wanted a rich pink.

    • If everyone around has blue then the local soil is probably acidic so you’ll get blue hydrangeas. The lighter coloured hydrangeas, like white or limelight which has a lime tinge, also vanilla fraise aren’t too fussy about soil type.

      • Carol, I bought my hydrangeas that were blue earlier this year & by the time they were planted, they’d changed to the limelight. Is that normal? How do I know whether my soil is alkaline or acidic with them staying the limelight color?

          • Ours were a pale green and white color last year, this year they bloomed that color but then changed to a pink color. I would prefer white or blue.

  8. About 10 years ago, I purchased 5 FOREVER PINK branded that bloomed beautifully for just 2-3 years. Now not much of any blooms. I’ve added coffee grounds and a TriPhosphate additive to the soil. Only one plant responded with just maybe 5 blooms, the other 4 still not producing blooms. Not sure what’s next. It’s Ohio… and the soil is dark and rich looking… not much clay in my landscape beds. Any advice or ideas are appreciated.

    • I too am NW Ohio – mine didn’t have many blooms, but I attributed that to the late frost we had here. Many of my plants and trees suffered this spring and are just now coming out and starting to show growth and green
      Just in the past 3-5 days have I seen activity.

      • Im in ohio along Lake Erie . This spring I applied Holly Tone 1 cup around ALL of my.plants they stated to grow judge. When lbuds started I used acidly fertilizer and my blooms wdte hedge and plentiful. The best I never had green houses suggest Holly Tone 1 cup around base of plants once in spring and again in fall

    • Fertilizing with 15-30-15 fertilizer with help get those big gorgeous blooms. Here in Zone 5A (southern Québec) I fertilize my hydrangeas weekly in the spring through June, then monthly July – September. In the fall, until frost, I’ll fertilize every two weeks.

  9. We moved from Virginia to Florida. I had the most beautiful Hydrangea in Virginia, and wanted one at my new home. How do I get a Hydrangea to grow in the sandy soil? I potted one, and it’s leaves are curled up. The one in ground isn’t growing, but has a bloom. It’s leaves look spotted also. I sprayed it with a tree and scrub insecticide, but no change. Any suggestions?

    • Add lots of quality well rotted weed free garden mix…looks like a dense compost …feed around the drip line with good natural fertilizer ie sheep pellets, then top dress with a thick layer of mulch, ensure you keep it away from the trunk, water well.

    • I’m in Tampa and have good luck with Hydrangas. Blue but they are under oak tree and get those leaves. Also make sure they get plenty of water. I remember a woman in Savanna,GA telling me the “secret” to hydrangeas was “hydra, dalin, hydra”….. meaning water. Hydranges.

    • Florida is a hard place to grow hydrangeas. It’s just too hot in summer and not enough winter. I moved from Florida to NC and now have a yard of hydrangeas!

  10. For most ANY plant to grow well in Florida soil you must amend it by adding ‘store bought’ soil to your plantings. Home Depot or Lowe’s will have what’s needed. If you purchase a Hydrangea at one of these stores, it’s necessary to repot into a larger pot for success. Good luck!!

  11. I purchased three big beautiful hydrangeas one white blue pink. Waited for the weather to warm to plant them outside and now I wish I had not. They look horrible. The leaves are crusty the pinky flowers are kinda brownish the blue has gotten smaller in size and the white it’s well crusty leaves. I about to dig them back up aND bring them back inside.

    • Me too‼️ I live in lowa and my hydrangea hasn’t bloomed in 2 yrs. Beautiful foliage but no flowers. It’s on the east side of my home

      • I’m in Southern WV, have had no blooms in years. I have a Lowes in my area they don’t people who are knowleable. So theres no hope of speaking to anyone who could give information or willing to give advice.

        My hydrangeas hasnt bloomed in years.

        • Same in Rhode Island. Try a small amount of epson salt at base of bush. Did that in 2019 and in 2020 it exploded with flowers. Epson salt is magnesium which helps the plant absorb nutrients from the soil. Don’t use any other fertilizer. Most of other fertilizers contain too much nitrogen which only helps produce leaves.

  12. Hello all! I live in WA and I’ve seen deep red mop head hydrangeas in my neighborhood. How can I get to that color? Is it probably a special type or it was also soil controlled? I have purple and blue. And now starting a pink and white in pots

      • I chop up my expired vitamins with iron around base result beautiful vatiety link and blue party flowers of blooms . I live in Fl zone 8 West side, under an Hess Avacado tree in a pot.

  13. I have two blue hydrangeas, this is the sixth year. the first year they were covered with blooms, second year not so many and haven’t bloomed since. they are huge and healthy looking but no blooms..what should I do??

    • Make sure you know if they bloom on old wood or new wood. The type of Hydrangea will help you determine this. i.e. Do you have Big Leaf,Mophead etc. Then cut them back at the appropriate time. Also, if you get Freezing weather, cover your plants around the sides with Burlap or black Plastic, leaving the top open

    • I also had your problem! I discovered that MOST people do with this cultivar! I’d finally had enough after five – seven years of bloom- jerked it out and it broke into half’s – told them to “bloom or die “& put each half in each hole and the next spring one bloomed!
      It is really NOT THE BEST VARIETY!

  14. My Hydrangeas are never ending bloomers, but not this year. I had one bloom on my biggest one. Lots of leaves the plant looks healthy but no blooms. I’m thinking the hard spring frost must of damaged it. I did trim it after the frost. Did I cut away the possible flowers? How do u tell if the buds are good or not? The wood seemed to be dead,there were hollow inside.

    • During the winter I save my eggshells and grind them up into a course powder. In the spring I sprinkle around the base of the hydrangea. This really increases the amount of blooms. As others stated, the color is influenced by the acidity of the soil.

  15. Hydrangeas seem to thrive on the coast of Wa. State. Probably because of all the rain. We throw our orange, lemon and lime peels in the soil under the Hydrangeas, Rhodadendrums, Azaleas and Maples. I don’t know for sure that it makes a difference, but they do really well here.

  16. I only had 3 blooms last year and no blooms this year. I’m reading in this thread to cut back old wood stems to the soil for more productive blooms the following year. I didn’t prune too late last year (mid July). I’m just not sure what I’m doing wrong. The leaves look great but no blooms.

  17. We live in the Rocky Mountains of CO, a difficult place to grow almost anything! But, about 5 years ago we decided to try Endless Summer Hydrangeas, as zone 4 on the tag covered us at our local nursery. We were so excited! We had blooms the first couple of years, but not since. Nice foliage, but no blooms. Our soil is alkaline. We put them to bed carefully each winter, surrounding their root balls with leaves housed in a cage. They come up every spring, but because they don’t bloom, how can we determine if they bloom on old or new wood? Therefore, we don’t know how to prune them. HELP PLEASE!

  18. I did not prune by hydrangea year before last and last summer it bloomed and bloomed. So last early Spring – late February, I cut it back to the base. This summer is has gotten huge with green leaves, but no blooms. I don’t know why and I want it to start blooming again. I have put bloom buster products on it and nothing. I thought maybe I cut old wood, but I can’t figure out if that is the issue or not. Can anyone help?

  19. Moved into a Master Gardener’s overgrown yard. After 5 years of taming the beds my hydrangeas have stopped blooming totally. Last year I covered thinking the hard winters were responsible. No luck. I am not sure what type of plants they are, but think they are new wood blooming. My husband wants to pull them out. But they leaf out great, full and huge plants. Don’t want to give up yet. Any suggestions? I’m I am in zone5 thanks.

    • I have been doing a lot of research on hydrangeas (I just moved to my new house & totally revamped the landscape) and most of my research say they are the easiest to care for – of course, there are many factors to growing many different plants. But, I read that using fertilizer for roses is best for hydrangeas too, as they are good for all bushy/hard stalks type of shrubs (e.g. Espoma’s Rose Tone or Holly Tone). Also Espoma’s Bone Meal is apparently good. I also live in a Zone 5 (Wisconsin from Southern Cali) and my hydrangeas seemed to adapt to the soil on my property (I made sure to amend it as it is always heavy like it just rained so I mixed premium soil or some potting mix into the soil). I bought all of my 7 different hydrangeas and they all did well. I bought the Bone Meal fertilizer a little late in the summer so I haven’t tried on them. All the pros advise NOT to fertilize after late summer so I will wait in the spring. (My problem now is how to winterize my 2 hydrangeas in pots. Any suggestions?) Good luck!

  20. Can you categorize a plant as “new wood” vs. “old wood” in the plant’s first season? I just planted 2 this May and they are starting to get unkempt with their shape plus I want to deadead properly. Both have had just a few flowers and are still blooming now but they started in July, I assumed since I planted them very young.

  21. I bought a new blooming bush about 2 weeks ago. Now it has brown spots on the leaves and 1/2 of the blooms turned brown. I live in Missouri. I water it every day. It was in high sun at the nursery so I put it in a 6 -8 hour sun spot. It looks dried up and dying. I have it in a pot. Any suggestions?

  22. I live in Nova Scotia Canada, I have 1 huge hydrangeas in the same place for over 35 years. Doesn’t seem to matter how far back I prune it or when. It blooms every year, huge blooms that are so heavy i have to stake it. Never do a thing for fertilizer ect., but I may try for a blue and put something acid on it next year.

  23. Go to any garden centre and buy aluminum sulphite in a box or bag (about 7 bucks). Dissolve some in water as per instruction and feed the hydrangeas with it after they’ve been watered. Do this once a week once they start blooming. Not all hydrangeas will turn the colour blue you might want. Some varieties are more likely to. Pink and those that start out blue will turn various shades of blue and purple and be more successful. Cheers!

  24. I planted 2 hydrangeas 3 years ago and they have not bloomed. Just have lovely green foliage. Will fertilizing help with this. Also the plants are getting leggy. I’m going to be pruning them back. Maybe that and fertilizer will help?

  25. I just planted these in 2019 when we moved in so this is basically the first summer. One only got one bloom but it is in a shadier garden but not sure if on old or new wood, one got blooms later so I think it is on new wood and then I have a tree that started blooming in late June early July and doesn’t have new blooms but still ahs lots of flowers on it so would I assume that is on old wood?

  26. My hydrangeas bloom on new since I prune them back to the ground in December. The plants have grown large each year and bloom late spring early summer. However after the first bloom the leave get black spots on them and leaves begin to fall. How can I treat these plants in order for them to remain green and lush?

  27. I live in Georgia and have planted white hydrangeas and the blooms were pretty for a while. Then turned very brown and the leaves have spots of white and brown (something) don’t know if it’s a fungus or what. Any suggestions what to do. Gwen

    • My beautiful whites did the same thing. I was told white would not change color, but after 3 years of pure white, about mid-summer they turned pale bluish green, and then would turn reddish. The leaves also turned yellow and had black spots. I live in SC and think the leaf issue coincided with the heavy afternoon rains we were inundated with. It’s important to remove the damaged leaves both from plant and the ground underneath. As far as why the blooms changed colors…I still have no idea.

  28. I’ve had a hydrangea bush for 6 yrs., and it only bloomed the 1st year😞. My husband cuts it down to about 4-5 inches above ground, every fall. Then I read in an article NOT to cut them! So I’m very confused. I just want beautiful flowers again

    • Unfortunately he has been cutting off all the buds for next year so that is why you’re not getting any flowers.. your plant obviously blooms on Old wood, that he is cutting off!

  29. I have two hydrangeas that get leaves but never bloom they are in the shade close to my house. Will they ever bloom and how can I get them to bloom? They’ve been there for at least 20 years and never really grow past 2 feet tall


  31. If your plants are struggling get milk jug, put one spoon of baking soda and fill with water. Use this mixture once a month, they will thrive.

  32. My mom has vision problems and accidentally put blue and pink stuff on her hydrangeas. They came out the most beautiful Burgundy color. Everyone commented on them All season

  33. I have two hydrangea plants in our yard. Our neighbors pine tree drops needles in our yard now and the flowers have paled? What should I do?

  34. My hydrangeas generally bloom in the spring, which is not mentioned in any reply regarding the time
    of blooms. Does this mean it has old or new wood?

  35. Remember , not all Hydrangeas change color. Look up the type that you have before trying to change the color. Check pictures to identify the type if you don’t know.

  36. Test your soils pH. I’m going to give mine a good prune this year. It’s a bush I planted over 10 years ago. I always get pink flowers, now I want bigger. 🥰. I’ve also just planted a white hydrangea no more than 3hx5w inches. We will see.

  37. To me the simple solution would be for the tag that comes with the flower to inform you if the hydrangea plant is old wood or new wood. :)

  38. When you buy a young plant that’s blooming, then they have no blooms for the next year or two, it’s pretty common. Some need time, growth, & gentle pruning to get re-established in a new place.

  39. Do new wood hydrangeas need full shade or can they handle some heat? I can’t get them to grow and bloom anywhere no matter the location. Very frustrating. Love to know what to do! Mapleton, Utah

  40. So my hydrangea tree must be new wood as it started blooming in July. Since it is a tree how do I prune as I can’t cut it off to the bottom?

  41. My hydrangea are in a whiskey barrel so I water them every other day. They came out pink this year then slowly turned green. How can I keep them from turning green?

  42. Hello Everyone,
    I have been fortunate with my Hydrangeas. I live in Flushing, Michigan just North of Detroit. I keep my hydrangeas facing SW. They like to be watered, so I do put mulch around mine. At the beginning of spring, I always add coffee grounds. Spring is when I also trim them. I have the most beautiful, large blooms until August. 🤩

  43. The leaves on my Hydrangea keep curling up brown at the tips ??? Please advise why this is occurring?? It’s a potted plant !!

    Thank you !!

  44. I was given blue/purple hydrangea for Mothers day 2023. It is still in original pot. Blooms great. Sometimes lime green but mostly bluish. I have not had it long enough to determine pruning old wood vs new wood. I requires alot of water. I keep it in sun but when too hot move it towards filtered sun. Some leaves t look very dirty after several heavy thunderstorms. Should
    I do anything special? How should I trim. I am near Chattanooga.


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