Hydrangeas are one of the easiest plants to deadhead.
Hydrangeas offer the most gorgeous and long-lasting blooms for your garden. And that makes it hard for many gardeners to determine when or how to deadhead their hydrangea bushes to help keep their hydrangeas looking gorgeous all year long.
The interesting thing? If you're looking to promote more hydrangea blooms, deadheading isn't the answer. "Deadheading your hydrangea is setting it up for next year," says Cate Singleton, director of design for online landscaping company Tilly. "You will not get additional blooms the same year."
Here's everything you need to know about when and how to deadhead your hydrangeas to help your bushes thrive.
When to Deadhead Hydrangea
Because hydrangea blooms can flourish and change color for literally months, deadheading your hydrangea tends to be one-and-done kind of thing. "In milder climates, deadheading hydrangeas will allow for the plant to stop expending energy into producing seeds and will instead promote foliage growth," Singleton says. "In colder climates, only deadhead in the spring to allow for the spent blooms to protect the buds for the following year from frost."
For mop-head hydrangea, spring is the best time to deadhead your hydrangea, while lacecap hydrangea can be deadheaded at the end of summer, when the blooms are spent, Singleton says.
But keep in mind that deadheading isn't necessary for your hydrangea plant's health. "In hydrangeas, this isn’t a critical gardening task, and plants that are not deadheaded don’t show a sharp decline in flowering or growth in following years," says Jennifer Foster, plant expert at Fast Growing Trees. "Many gardeners will leave the faded flower heads on the plants for winter interest, while others prefer to deadhead the blooms, removing them when they start to fade, turn brown, or start looking tattered."
Understand your weather
As the climate has been changing, areas that were previously considered cold may now be milder—and vice versa—so that may impact when you decide to deadhead, Singleton says."You may need to shift your pruning season to accommodate current weather patterns."
How to Deadhead Hydrangea
Deadheading isn't pruning—so you're just looking to remove the bloom, not cutting into the stems, Foster says. "Always cut to a point right above a set of leaves to keep the plant tidy and allow it the best chance of resisting pest and disease at the cut location. Use sharp, clean pruners and cut at an angle." Be sure that your pruning shears and gardening tools are clean to ensure that you don't spread diseases to your hydrangea bush.
When you're deadheading hydrangea, it's important to know what kind of hydrangea plant you're working with, as the amount you cut and when can be impacted.
Deadheading Bigleaf, Mountain, Oakleaf, or Climbing Hydrangea
if your hydrangea is the type that blooms on old wood, such as the oakleaf or bigleaf varieties, the buds will start forming in the old wood in late summer or over the winter, Foster says, so you'll want to be very careful not to cut too much to avoid damaging future blooms. Don't deadhead these hydrangea blooms more than absolutely necessary.
Deadheading Panicle and Smooth Hydrangea
Panicle and smooth hydrangea plants bloom on new growth, so deadheading can be a bit more extensive. "You can cut with longer stems without reducing the potential for the numbers of flowers the following year," Foster says. "These plants form flower buds on the growth that emerges in the spring. Many gardeners will prune these back by up to a third in late fall or early spring to keep new growth and the flowers that come with it closer to viewing level."
Deadheading Cascade Hydrangea
Be especially cautious when deadheading cascade hydrangea. "Cascade hydrangea blooms on new and old growth and should only be deadheaded to the first set of leaves to allow the plant to produce the most flowers during the next blooming period," Foster says.
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