So what exactly should you do with your hydrangeas after they bloom? Is it okay to prune them? Should you be deadheading the spent blooms?
Those questions are two of the most popular about hydrangeas that come to us every summer. And with very good reason.
The simple truth is, how you care for your hydrangeas in the summer can make a big difference in both the overall health of your plant, and how they will bloom and perform next year as well.
To help answer all of those questions and more, today’s article is all about summer hydrangea care. Both while they are blooming, and after they finish their bloom cycle as well.
Hydrangeas Booming In Popularity
Hydrangeas are more popular than ever now. Especially with all of the amazing new varieties and hybrids being developed each year. In fact, the selection is almost overwhelming!
From big leaf bushes that produce enormous flowering globes (often called mopheads), to more subtle blooming varieties such as Oakleaf with their stacked stem blooms, there is a style to fit any landscape and need.
But they all require a bit of care now and then to keep them blooming strong. Especially while they are in bloom – and even more, right after they complete their bloom cycle.
What To Do With Hydrangeas – Before & After Blooming
Hydrangea Care – The Importance of Deadheading
When hydrangeas begin to flower, deadheading spent or fading blooms can have several advantages for your plants. Deadheading is the practice of snipping or cutting off old blooms as they begin to die off.
First and foremost, the practice of deadheading certainly keeps your plants looking fresh and alive. But the benefits go far beyond just aesthetics.
Removing fading flowers also allows the plant to conserve its resources for the remaining blooms to come. Unfortunately, as long as a flower remains in tact to the main plant, it continues to use energy.
It does this in an attempt to heal and keep it fresh and alive. But as the flower continues to die off, the plant also uses quite a bit of energy helping the flower form it’s seeds.
Energy For Next Year’s Blooms – What To Do With Hydrangeas After They Bloom
The good news is that as soon as an old flower is removed, the energy is re-directed elsewhere. As mentioned above, some of that energy is directed toward filling out the remaining blooms.
But even more important, the plant also begins to re-direct that energy to root growth and nutrient storage. And by doing so, begins the process of powering the following summer’s blooms to an even bigger and brighter display.
Deadheading is most important during the plants first flush of blooms. As flowers fade, remove as many as possible to keep that energy flowing where it is needed most.
And when cutting blooms from a plant, always be sure to use sharp, clean pruners. Dull blades can easily injure the stems, and take even more time and energy for the plant to heal than the old bloom remaining.
A good pair of pruners will go a long way to making quick and easy work of the chore. Because many hydrangeas can be quite large, a long handled pair of Bypass Pruners can be one of the best choices of all.
Hydrangea Care – What To Do With Hydrangeas While They Are Blooming
What you need to do with your hydrangea after it finishes blooming all depends on what variety you are growing. And you can usually tell the variety by when it blooms.
In general, summer blooming hydrangeas need to be pruned immediately after they finish blooming. This includes Oakleaf, Bigleaf, Climbing and Mountain varieties.
All of these varieties produce their next year’s flowers on this year’s late summer growth or what is called “old wood” And if you wait until fall to prune these varieties back, you are also pruning off that wood that hold’s the following season’s blooms.
Unfortunately, when most gardeners have trouble getting their hydrangeas to bloom each year, it is quite often due to pruning their bushes too late the previous year – and not to poor plant or soil health.
To prune old-wood blooming hydrangeas, less is more. Hydrangeas don’t need to have major pruning to continue blooming. Simply prune to hold shape or control wild branches.
Late Summer / Fall Booming Hydrangeas – What To Do With Hydrangeas After They Bloom
For Smooth and Panicle varieties, pruning should be done in late winter or very early spring. These varieties produce their blooms on new wood and bloom in late summer to fall.
By pruning the plant before new growth occurs, you are in no danger of removing future blooms. However, pruning these varieties during the growing season will eliminate same year blooms.
Again, much as with summer blooming varieties, late summer and fall hydrangeas do not need to be heavily pruned. Simply prune for shape and control.
Finally, there is fertilizing your hydrangeas. A bit of power every year is certainly helpful to producing great bloom cycles. But when you apply that fertilizer is extremely important.
Luckily, for both summer and late summer/fall varieties, fertilizing is best done in the early spring as the plant begins to come to life. To fertilize, there is no need for fancy, formulated mixes for hydrangeas.
A simple, well balanced fertilizer such as Jobes All Purpose Plant Food is more than enough to do the job. This will help to provide pre-bloom power to the plant, and keep it strong and healthy all season long!
Here is to caring for your hydrangeas while they bloom – and after. And to having beautiful flowers for many years to come! For more great info on perennials, be sure to check out our “Perennial Care” section on the website.
Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary.
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