Gardeners’ World: Monty Don on growing hydrangeas

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Pruning your hydrangeas at the right time is one of the most important steps to take for a stunning display in the summer. But, this all depends on what type of hydrangea you have. When should you cut back hydrangeas?

Hydrangeas are a favourite plant amongst British gardeners, beloved for their colourful and shapely blooms.

Famously easy to care for, these plants require very little maintenance, but a good pruning at the right time of year can guarantee plentiful flowers come spring and summer.

Once the temperature warms up a little, and there’s no longer a risk of frost, you should assess your hydrangeas for any frost damage they may have suffered over the coldest months of the year.

If there is frost damage in early spring, prune the plant back, removing any damaged shoots.

Cut it back to just above the newest undamaged shoots.

When should you prune hydrangeas?

In the grey days of winter, you probably can’t wait for your hydrangeas to bloom into full colour.

However, being over-eager with pruning your plant won’t bring early flowers – quite the opposite: you could risk killing the young buds before they’ve had a chance to bloom.

Mophead and lacehead hydrangeas bloom on so-called ‘old wood’ – growth from last year – so when pruned too early in spring, you risk damaging the plant.

However for hydrangea paniculata and hydrangea aborescens, the best time to prune them is early spring.

Once the temperature in the air becomes more mild, and the threat of frost has disappeared, you can think about pruning these hydrangeas.

Pruning these plants now will prevent the plant from growing too tall, and only flowering right at the top.

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Because these two types of hydrangea produce flowers on new wood – unlike mophead and lacehead varieties – you don’t need to worry about over-pruning.

You should prune the plant back leaving just two or three healthy buds on each stem, and take the opportunity to shape the plant, removing crossing stems and neatening up untidy areas.

When should you prune mophead and lacehead hydrangeas?

Because they produce flowers on old wood, these flowers are best to be pruned in mid spring, just before the plant blooms for summer.

Simply prune the old flowers to make space for the new buds.

New buds will form just underneath the old flower head, so trim the old head to give the buds space to grow.

Don’t prune the hydrangea back too hard, as this may damage this summer’s growth.

If your plant is overgrown, this is also a good time to remove some of the overgrown stems at the base of your hydrangea.

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