It is now October and winter is fast approaching, meaning lots of gardeners will be spending their autumn in their gardens protecting their plants and flowers for the upcoming winter. 

A lot of gardeners will be wondering when is the right time to prune their hydrangeas in order to make sure the flower is strong and prevent the plant from becoming woody. Pruning is often recommended so that a plant’s energy is not being focused or dead parts so it keeps healthy in a frosty climate. 

However, it is recommended you hold off from pruning hydrangeas until you are certain you know what type of hydrangea is in your garden. If certain species of hydrangea are pruned right now in mid-autumn, gardeners can risk cutting off the newly formed buds which means the plant will not blossom at all next year. 

Hydrangeas blooming on old wood mean the flower have formed their flower buds in the prior season, which means they cannot be pruned now. New wood hydrangea forms their flower buds on the current season’s growth and are ideal for the cold weather as there are no flower buds that can be harmed over the winter as they do not exist yet. 

Amy from Gardening Know How is a gardening expert who has explained in a video that there different types of hydrangeas commonly found in gardens, and if they should be pruned this October.

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Panicle hydrangeas – new wood

Panicle hydrangeas, also known as Pee Gee hydrangeas, are large pyramidal or coned-shaped hydrangeas that usually bloom white and pink, and can possibly look a faded pink or red in the autumn. 

Amy has said these beautiful hydrangeas are always new wood, which means they “technically” can be pruned right now or in early spring, but Amy explained it is “highly recommended” to wait until springtime. 

She said: “In mid-October, there are no buds present for the next season, as they won’t be produced until the next spring. Plus, the dried flower heads create a really nice winter interest. Tree hydrangeas, which are grated pencil hydrangeas, would follow the same rules.”

Smooth Hydrangea – new wood

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Smooth hydrangeas, also known as hydrangea arborescens or Annebelles,  are large bushy plants with rounded flowers which are known to bloom earlier than other hydrangeas, They commonly bloom white flowers but can come in a variety of different colours. 

Amy said: “This particular species is very easy to care for and yet again, we suggest pruning in the spring, and not in the autumn as this group also blooms on new wood only. There will be no buds present as they are not produced until the next spring.”  

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Oakleaf Hydrangea – old wood

Oakleaf hydrangeas, also called hydrangea quercifolia, have lobed leaves that look like oak tree leaves and star-shaped flowers that usually bloom pink.  In the autumn, the dark green leaves are known to be very colourful in the autumn and will go in various shades, of red, orange, bronze, or even purple. 

Amy said: “Oakleaf types bloom on old wood, which means they need to be pruned right as the flower fades and no later. You can prune this type of hydrangea at that time to control its overall size. However, it is never necessary to prune this type of hydrangea. The mids will be intact and ready for next year as of mid-October. “

Mophead Hydrangea – both old and new wood

Mophead hydrangeas, also known as big leafs or lacecaps, are big rounded hydrangeas that are the most common type found in most gardens. Mosheads are known for their big round flowers which come in a variety of colours such as blue, pink, purple, and white. 

Older varieties of mopheads are old wood hydrangeas, but there are now newer varieties that grow buds on both old and new wood, making this a difficult plant to determine if it should be pruned. 

Amy explained: “This is by far the most difficult species of hydrangea to give advice for. These hydrangeas bloom on old wood, but some of the newer introductions bloom on both old and new wood. These new intros are very valuable as many house owners in colder climates would often lose all their overwintered buds to a late spring frost or freeze. 

“The plant may have already produced buds for the next season as of mid-October. Since most varieties bloom on old wood, you should only prune just after the blooms are starting to fade”  

According to Amy, she recommends against fully pruning mophead hydrangeas and simply remove dead branches in springtime. She said: “You will notice the difference between a viable branch and one that will no longer be used by the plant. The branches that can and should be removed will be very woody, possibly hollow-stemmed and lighter in colour.”

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