A Guide to Pruning Hydrangea

As a landscape designer, I am often questioned as to when and how to prune the various types of hydrangea. The next welcome addition to your landscape could be one of the many show-stopping varieties of this plant and proper pruning is the key to successful blooms!

Hydrangea ‘Nikko Blue’

Generally, hydrangea either bloom on the “old wood” of the previous season, “new wood” of the current season or a combination of both. There are many types of hydrangea including the mopheads, lacecap, panicle, mountain, smooth, oakleaf and climbing. The Mopheads (Hydrangea macrophylla) have been the most widely planted hydrangea in home landscapes over the years and are usually blue or pink in color with large leaves. Hydrangea ‘Nikko Blue’ is very well known in the landscape for its large blue ball-shaped flowers that bloom towards the later part of the summer and deepen in color as they mature. ‘Nikko Blue’ Hydrangea does bloom on old wood, which means that if you are looking to prune your plant it needs to be done immediately after flowering before the fall. Hydrangea ‘Nikko Blue’ grows best in moist, well-drained soil in partial shade. It reaches 3-5 feet in height and is hardy to USDA Zone 5. 

‘Endless Summer’ Hydrangea

A newer alternative to the “old fashioned” variety of hydrangea is the Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer’ collection, which blooms on both old and new wood and ‘All Summer Beauty’ that blooms on the new growth of the season. Both of the later mentioned also have a much longer bloom time and repeatedly bloom throughout the summer. Each of these plants grows to approximately 3-5 feet in height, each grows best in partially shaded conditions (afternoon shade) and moist well drained soil and are hardy to USDA Zone 5. Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blushing Bride’ in the Endless Summer Collection displays white blooms that turn pink with age. For these varieties that bloom on the “new wood” of the season, spent blooms and dead wood from the inner portion of the plant can be pruned out in either fall or early spring.

Dwarf Hydrangea ‘Pia’

Hydrangea ‘Pia’ is a miniature French hybrid with broad pink flowers growing only to 2 to 3 feet in height, a good candidate for small spaces in zones 5-9. ‘Pia’ grows best in partial sun with afternoon shade and prefers a rich organic soil. Pia hydrangea bloom on old wood and generally need little to no pruning; however, if needed, prune immediately after flowering by cutting back flowering stems to a point of healthy buds. An alternate that blooms on the new wood of the season is the Cityline Series from Proven Winners, a dwarf hydrangea hybrid that matures to just 2-3′ tall by 3-4′ wide.

Hydrangea ‘Tokyo Delight”

Another variety of Hydrangea ‘macrophylla’ is the Lacecap Hydrangea that displays a smaller inner circle of lace-like flowers surrounded by a ring of larger showier flowers. A favorite is Hydrangea ‘Tokyo Delight’ that displays beautiful cobalt blue flowers with an inner ring of delicate white flowers, grows to 4-6 feet and blooms late July through August, prefers afternoon shade, moist well drained soil and is hardy to USDA Zone 6. Prune Hydrangea ‘Tokyo Delight’ immediately after bloom since new buds form on the older wood from the previous season. An alternate lacecap hydrangea that blooms on both old and new wood is Hydrangea ‘Twist-n-Shout’ from the Endless Summer collection with beautiful blooms that turn to a purple-blue in a more acidic soil. Twist-n-Shout’ is hardy is USDA zones 4-9, grows 3-5 feet tall by wide and like all plants in the Endless Summer Collection, produces blooms on both old and new wood.

‘Pee Gee’ Hydrangea Tree Form

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ or the ‘Peegee’ Hydrangea is a personal favorite of mine for extremely large pyramidal white blooms in July throughout fall and abundant fragrance in the garden. Hydrangea ‘Peegee’ can be grown as a shrub or tree form and can serve as either a group planting or as a single specimen in a landscape design. Hydrangea ‘Grandiflora’ also grows 3-5 feet or higher in its tree form. This particular hydrangea can grow well in full to partial sun and blooms on new wood. Sent to the US from Japan in 1861 this beauty is a showpiece in the garden and is hardy in Zones 4-8.

Hydrangea ‘Tardivia’

Panicle hydrangea are known for being the most cold hardy and are very tolerant of pruning.  They can reach a height of ten to fifteen feet or can be pruned to keep more compact.  For a similar look to ‘Peegee’ with creamy-white panicle-shaped blooms and a more open look is Hydrangea ‘Tardivia’. Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ is a newer introduction with beautiful elongated lime colored panicles that bloom in late summer and last through fall. Hydrangea ‘Tardivia’ and ‘Limelight’ (6-8 feet high by wide) both do best in full to partial sun and bloom on new wood. Hydrangea ‘Little Lime’ is a more compact version of ‘Limelight’ and also blooms on the new wood of the season.

‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’, a native of the U.S., is a more shade tolerant hydrangea that produces showy ball shaped white blooms in summer, grows 3-5 feet in height and is hardy to USDA Zone 3. ‘Annabelle’ blooms on new wood and can be severely pruned in winter in order to restore shape. 

Oakleaf Hydrangea

The last two varieties of hydrangea are Hydrangea quercifolia or ‘Oakleaf ‘Hydrangea and Climbing Hydrangea. The Oakleaf hydrangea serves as an excellent plant for massing in a woodland setting. The name ‘Oakleaf’ comes from the oak-shaped leaves that turn a bright mahogany red in fall for a brilliant display. The upright panicles of large white flowers appear in June and the plant has a rounded habit, grows 4-6 feet in height and is hardy to USDA Zone 5. Hydrangea quercifolia does well in partial shade in a well drained most soil. This hydrangea blooms on old wood and should be pruned immediately after flowering. Climbing Hydrangea (H. anomala petiolaris) is an upcoming variety becoming more popular in the landscape. As the name implies this hydrangea once established produces vigorous vines and a profusion of lightly scented blooms. Climbing Hydrangea bloom on “old wood” from the previous season.

For more gardening tips Visit my Author Page

A Guide to Northeastern Gardening: Journeys of a Garden Designer 

Landscape Design Combinations

Dream, Garden, Grow!-Musings of a Lifetime Gardener

Lee Miller@Landscape Design By Lee 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Winter Damaged Hydrangea & Crape Myrtle-How to Treat

Winter Damage to Hydrangea & Crape Myrtle

This past winter has been recorded to be one of the worst for winter damage to foliage of plants in the past 25 years. I have witnessed winter damaged Hydrangea and Crape Myrtle on many properties I have visited and have been getting many inquiries as to how to remedy the damage that has occurred. Chances are that your plants will fully recover so I am passing on this useful information.

hydrangea winter die back
Hydrangea Winter Damage

If your hydrangea are sprouting new growth from the bottom only with no new sprouts on the upper stems and visible shoots on bare wood have a dark dried up appearance then they are not viable. To remedy cut back all dead wood down to where new growth is occurring.  If your variety of hydrangea blooms on old wood you may not get blooms this year but your hydrangea should fully recover.

crape myrtle winter damage
Crape Myrtle Winter Damage

In the case of Crape Myrtles most of them survived but have dead top growth. It is advisable to wait until the end of June/beginning of July to cut back branches to new growth in order to allow the plant to sprout as much new foliage as possible. Other plants showing winter damage besides hydrangea and crape myrtle include butterfly bush and roses.  Use the same practice to remove expired growth.

Butterfly Bush Winter Damage
Butterfly Bush Winter Damage

 Due to the unusually harsh winter plant growth is delayed by approximately two to three weeks this season.   New growth will have a slow start this spring but with some patience and proper care your plants should show full recovery.

  As Always…Happy Gardening!

 Author:  Lee@Landscape Design By Lee, 2014, All Rights Reserved

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May Garden Planting & Maintenance Tips

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May is a great time for planting when the temperatures are in the 70’s.  Here are some useful tips.

PLANTING DEPTH OF TREES :  One of the leading causes of death for trees is incorrect planting. Large tree spades are often used to dig trees that cause the soil level to rise up covering the crown of the root ball. Plant your tree slightly above the soil surface so that you see a visible flare above the ground. When mulching make sure that the mulch does not come up above the root crown. Following these simple practices will help to ensure the health and life of your tree.

WATERING:  Water throughly after planting and keep well watered throughout the first growing season. Be careful not to over water! Feel down by the roots to determine whether the plant is getting the correct moisture. Soil should appear moist but not wet or overly dry. Consider type of soil, time of year and amount of sun and rain.  Watering every other day at approximately forty minutes per zone allows the water to penetrate deep enough to the roots.  If you do not have a sprinkler system the use of soaker hoses is recommended. Water should be applied at a rate of 3/4 inch of water every three days or 1 1/2 inches a week. (One inch of water goes down 6 ” into the soil.)

PRUNING EVERGREENS: Most evergreens can be pruned at any time of year except when the weather is too hot or right before temperatures start to drop below freezing.  Ideally, late winter and early spring are best.  Most evergreens will not take well to hard pruning.  The only exception is Taxus (Yew) which may rejuvenate over time. No plant is completely maintenance free so keep your evergreens trimmed to their desired size. This will also keep them full and healthy and prevent thinning out. NOTE: Evergreens will shed their needles or foliage in the Fall/Spring to allow for new growth. If any branches appear brown or dead after planting or after winter, trim them off and allow the plant to rejuvenate. When in doubt ask a professional.

PRUNING FLOWERING SHRUBS: Prune flowering shrubs and flowering evergreens after the bloom. Flowering shrubs such as hydrangea bloom on the last years growth and will not bloom if cut back in Spring with the exception of the Endless Summer Collection which blooms on new wood (click on hyperlink for article on pruning all types of hydrangea). Prune Lilac for shape after flowering in spring.

FERTILIZING: Feed plants in spring.  For new plantings allow the plantings to become established then apply a slow release organic fertilizer or apply a “starter” formula when planting. For established plants there are several products on the market. Be careful not to buy a concentrated product that will burn the roots. A slow release or organic fertilizer such as Holly Tone is recommended. Also when planting, a mixture of hydro-gel along with a slow release fertilizer will help to retain moisture in your plants.

INSECT CONTROL: Periodically check your plants for insect or fungal damage and treat if needed. It is advised to use a regular insect control maintenance program to keep your plantings healthy.

LAWN CARE: Ideally sod lawns are best planted in spring and seed best planted in the fall. Your lawn should also have a regular maintenance program to keep it at its best-ask your professional.

Author:  Lee@Landscape Design By Lee, 2013, All Rights Reserved

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February Garden Maintenance Tips

Winter Garden
February Gardening Tips

As we head into the second half of winter in zone 7 there are a number of outdoor tasks that can be performed in order to ensure the health and vitality of your landscape plants.

Frost Heaving:  A usual occurrence in winter is frost heaving.   Soil around your perennials freezes and thaws causing your plants to heave up out of the ground.  This causes the plant to dry out and become more exposed to the cold, usually leading to the demise of the perennial.  An easy remedy is to lightly step on the soil around the plant and add a thin layer of mulch to protect it the roots. 

Winter Pruning:  Prune ornamental flowering and fruit bearing trees in need of shaping while they are still dormant.   Generally, trees that flower after June set their buds in spring and can be pruned while dormant.  Early spring-flowering trees set their buds in winter and should be pruned after flowering.  In cases where the tree is in desperate need of pruning it is more beneficial to lose a few blooms and prune when the branch structure of the tree is visible and easier to see.  Prune out any damaged or crossing branches that could cause injury and jeopardize the health of your tree.  Additionally, it is good for the aesthetics, structure and continued flowering of  your ornamental trees to give them a good shaping on a regular basis.  This task can also be performed in the late winter.

Winter Drying (Desiccation):  Check your evergreens for signs of winter drying.  If a period of warming and thawing has occurred in mid winter it may be time to apply a second round of anti-desiccant to your broadleaf evergreens such as Holly, Rhododendron, Acuba, Cherry and Skip Laurel, Boxwood and Euonymus.  Perform this procedure only if the temperature is going to be above freezing for 24 hours.

As March and April approach there will be more tips on maintaining the garden.  For now performing these simple mid-winter procedures will help to ensure the success of your landscape plants.

Author:  Lee@Landscape Design By Lee, 2013, All Rights Reserved

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Pruning Butterfly Bush

Buddlea (butterfly bush)
Butterfly Bush

Pruning Buddleia (Butterfly Bush): When doing your fall clean-up avoid pruning Butterfly Bush all the way back here in zone 7 where winter is approaching.  If  a severe winter is on the way this practice could be detrimental to your plant.  Rather,  wait until late winter/early spring (March-April) to perform this task.  At that point you may prune your plant all the way back and promote fresh new growth for spring.  Buddleia does benefit from a severe pruning in the start of the season to promote larger and more frequent blooms.   It is also beneficial to prune off dead and faded flowers on Butterfly Bush once the flowering season has completed (August/September) in order to put energy back into the plant and promote more blooms into fall. For more information on buddleia (butterfly bush)  visit…http://landscapedesignbylee.blogspot.com/2011/03/pruning-buddleia-butterfly-bush.html

Author:  Lee@Landscape Design By Lee, 2012, All Rights Reserved

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