Asked on Mar 20, 2012

Pruning Hydrangeas and Encouraging growth around the bottom of my Shrubbery.

1. My Hydrangea is getting it's leaves for the spring. I noticed there are a lot of twigs / branches that don't have leaves yet. Am I supposed to trim back some of these at some point? If so when and how do I know which ones?
2. May shrubbery looks a little sparse around the bottom - how do i encourage it to fill in?
3. Once everything has finished blooming i'm going to trim it back. I know right now they're much too high and blocking the front of the house / part of the windows. Would you advise trimming back more than 1/3? Would it damage the shrubs?
many thanks!
am I supposed to trim back some of these twigs?
how do i get the bushes to fill in around the bottom?
how do i get the bushes to fill in around the bottom?
  54 answers
  • im not an expert, but i believe if you do not have hydrangea like the "endless summer" they only bloom off of the previous years growth. So pruning now wouldnt be a good idea. wait until after they have bloomed to do any pruning. If you have the endless summer hydrangea you can prune now because they will bloom off of new growth.
  • Pris L Pris L on Mar 20, 2012
    I have a hydrangea that wont grow. It does get leaves but not growth up or out.. what is the problem and what should I do.. I am fed up with it
  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Mar 20, 2012
    Martine, your hydrangea looks like it is is leafing out normally to me. I would wait until it has fully leafed out, and if there is a little tip dieback, trim that off. Pruning will encourage your other shrubs to flush out, but I would not cut them back by more than one-third. And some shrubs are never really full to the ground. You might want to consider something of an intermediate height between your foreground and background shrubs. It looks like you have plenty of room. @Pris: Do you know what type of hydrangea you have? How long has it been in the ground? What are the growing conditions in terms of light? Does it get regular water?
  • Walter Reeves Walter Reeves on Mar 20, 2012
    You can remove the dead twigs above live leaves now. I pruned mine thusly on Sunday. The azaleas are leggy because the upper part shaded out the lower part and limbs started dying. Doug's suggestion is good...or you could reduce them by half when blooming ends.
  • thanks everyone! @walter reeves - if i trim the azeleas back will the bottom grow in again once it gets some light?
  • Southern Trillium LLC Southern Trillium LLC on Mar 20, 2012
    You can cut them back and they will grow back nicely. I had a grouping of old azaleas in front of our house that looked just like yours. I actually cut them back to ~18 inches tall in the fall of 2010. I took this photo today, and as you can see, they have grown back quite nicely, even pruning them at the wrong time of the year. They are all just under 4 feet tall now.
  • oooh thanks @southern trillium - they look pretty!
  • Amanda W Amanda W on Mar 21, 2012
    Martine, I'm glad you asked this quetion because I have two sad looking hydrangea bushes in my yard that haven't faired well since we moved here. Your question has brought some sound advice. Thanks everyone! I was also wondering if fertilizer would help or hurt. I figured that the 15-15-15 may burn it, but miracle grow may give it a boost. Suggestions welcome!
  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Mar 21, 2012
    Amanda, I would recommend using a good slow-release fertilizer like Osmocote on you hydrangeas, applying at the rate on the label.
  • Roxy D Roxy D on Mar 21, 2012
    I just hacked my hydrangea on Monday. The reason I describe it as 'hacked', it is 15 years old, cut it back every spring and it still gets so big it is unattractive. I cut over half of it and it looks great so far. There are a lot of dead limbs at the bottom that need cut off too, but require a chain saw I think. I read somewhere once to only cut/trim/hack hydraneas in the spring, or they wont bloom the next spring.
  • Brenda S Brenda S on Mar 21, 2012
    My hydrangea never blooms, it is very full with leaves each year and quite beautiful and bushy, but no blooms. Any suggestions?
  • Margy M Margy M on Mar 21, 2012
    I have had some hydrangeas for 14 years, they have never bloomed well, sometimes not at all. I always though late frosts and freezes were doing them in.
  • Ellen H Ellen H on Mar 21, 2012
    To those who have hydrangeas that don't bloom, I feel your pain. I had some that my sister had given me that just wouldn't bloom no matter how I babied them. A couple of years ago I was given some from an AU plant trial. Those things just sat in those pots and bloomed their hearts out. I am planting a new hydrangea garden with these newer varieties and giving up the ones that would not bloom for me.
  • Lee T Lee T on Mar 21, 2012
    My hydrangeas flowers will turn green when it's hot. Does anyone know why? What can I do to stop it, if anything? I live in the CA foothills.
  • Patricia L Patricia L on Mar 21, 2012
    Can you plant Hydrangeas in .N W Florida, I love the ones I saw in N GA.@ Ellen H what is the name of your new plants and what color are they?
  • Dee F Dee F on Mar 21, 2012
    @ rai, are you talking about regular laundry blueing?
  • Diane B Diane B on Mar 21, 2012
    Pat from Valparaiso, my sister has beautiful hydrangeas and she lives near Panama City. So go for it!. Any one looking for hydrangeas there is a place you should go. Aldridge Gardens in Birmingham. Its so worth it! Happy planting!
  • Diane B Diane B on Mar 21, 2012
    If you live in the Atlanta area look up Wilkerson Mills Gardens.
  • Rhonda G Rhonda G on Mar 21, 2012
    Check to see what variety you have...some bloom on new growth, some on old growth. So if you may be pruning of the vital parts needed to produce blossoms.
  • Judy S Judy S on Mar 21, 2012
    I saw a television show on hydranges, and they said not to trim back the sticks, because they contain the nutrition for this year's blooming.. From my own experience, I don't cut the branches. nor trim the bush. New leaves will sprout on the branches.and produce flowers. You can cut off the dead flowers from last year, but leave the sticks to produce more leaves and flowers. Judy S North Carolina
  • Roxy D Roxy D on Mar 22, 2012
    My success with mine in trimming in the spring. If you want to change the color of the blooms, put a nail or two in the ground near them. As the nail rusts, it changes the ph in the ground and thus, changing the color. Here in N. GA if you cut them back in the fall, they won't bloom the next spring. Also, mine is planted on the north east corner of the house. Morning sun and out of the hot sun.
  • Janice A Janice A on Mar 22, 2012
    I have hydrangea side by side in same blooms pink, the one in the middle is blue and the one at the end is a deep purple.! The blooms left from last year are still on the bush...but I am going to snip just the very end off with dead blooms, cause the "sticks" are now shooting out the new leaves and branches!
    • Rachel Blalock Rachel Blalock on Aug 24, 2016
      The color is dependent upon soil acidity. I've got three big ones in my yard, one blooms purple-blue, one comes up pink, and the one in the back does all color from light pink to red to blue to lavender to purple, lol! ;) It's so big it's just accessing different points of acidity and blooming accordingly. You can change colors with the use of coffee grounds, epsom salts, or certain fertz. I can't remember now, but should be easy to google. Red and blue are the basics, one is acid the other basic. :) White is always white though, no color change there.
  • Patricia L Patricia L on Mar 22, 2012
    Thanks Diane B,I will check that out
  • Jimmy S Jimmy S on Mar 22, 2012
    I love how one question has brought on many other questions. Can I add to the list? My sister in law has awesome hydrangeas. She called them Pretty in Pink variety. I would love to try and propogate them. Any one have experience or can provide best way to do this? Specific time of year? Temp? etc. Thanks
  • Carole Carole on Mar 22, 2012
    Pruned mine yesterday. WHen is the right time to fertilize them and what type of fertilizer?
  • VP J VP J on Mar 22, 2012
    You folk just answered some my questions about my seemingly half dead Hydrangeas. I will get out there and prune the dead stems away. Thanks
  • Lel S Lel S on Mar 22, 2012
    When pruning a hydrangea, where should you make the cut on the stick...should you go all the way to the bottom of each one?
  • Miriam Illions Miriam Illions on Mar 22, 2012
    A quick note to anyone posting questions of their own on this thread: Please post it as a new question, it will make it easier for others to see and respond to. :)
  • Neda Neda on Mar 22, 2012
    does anyone know when is a good time to move a hydrangea from one part of the yard to another? which month?
  • Southern Trillium LLC Southern Trillium LLC on Mar 22, 2012
    Just want to clarify some things on pruning hydrangeas. There are many different types of hydrangeas, and they require pruning at different times of the year. Obviously, you can prune it anytime you want, and the shrub will grow. But pruning some varieties in the spring will actually decrease the number of blooms that you will enjoy. Some hydrangeas bloom on old wood, others on new wood. There are a few that will bloom on both old and new wood. You will need to know which type you have, and if you prune it at the wrong time of the year, you may be removing your flower display. Here is a great article with more information
  • Miriam, if you want your azaleas to bloom this spring, don't prune them yet. The rule of thumb is to not prune after September or you will lose the next year's floral display. Rujuvination pruning is great, but it may take a year or more to really fill in. Some up at the Cooley estate took close to 3 years.
  • I use Miracle Grow acid food to keep my hydrangeas blue. For shades of purple, every other two weeks, I feed them regular Miracle Grow. My hydrangea beds look like a watercolor painting he way the colors blend.
  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Mar 23, 2012
    @Jimmy Stinnett: Without opening a legal can of worms about whether plants should be patented, I don't think that technically you should be propagating "Pretty in Pink" However, I will say that it's a macrophylla hydrangea, and any of the rules that apply to that category in general would probably apply.
  • Gladys H Gladys H on Mar 23, 2012
    It is legal to propigate any plant for your own long as you are not selling it, you are fine.
  • Southern Trillium LLC Southern Trillium LLC on Mar 23, 2012
    Gladys, I believe you are incorrect on that statement. Any propagation of a patented plant, even for your own use, is against the law. As an example, Monsanto has many types of patented seeds and products. Monsanto can even sue someone for having one of their patented plants growing, even if it spread by seed unknowingly, because it is still violating the protection of the patent. These patented plants are big money issues, and companies spend a lot of money developing them, and are then protecting their investment. Here is an article with an example, even referring to collecting seeds off of a patented plant.
  • Jimmy S Jimmy S on Mar 23, 2012
    Thanks, sounds like it might be easier to spend the 12 or 15 dollars than to worry about legal problems. Without too technical of an answer, how can one even prove that it was bought or propogated? Are you saying, I shouldve kept every single receipt of every plant I have ever bought to prove it was paid for and not propogated?
  • Southern Trillium LLC Southern Trillium LLC on Mar 23, 2012
    Not saying that you have to keep records, and no one would probably ever have any reason to seek people out that have propagated patented plants. But, the fact of the matter is that it is still illegal. Just imagine if you owned a company, and invested hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars along with many years of rounds of cross-breeding plants until you came across one that had all the necessary characteristics to be better than any that came before. You of course would want to protect what you developed and the protection of the law should allow you to sell them and recoup the investment, as well as profit from it. Monsanto is on a different level, and they actually will seek out farmers that are growing their patented crops. They will then take them to court.
  • Corrie K Corrie K on Mar 27, 2012
    i have hydrangea that does not bloom at all -- only leaves-- i want to pull it out but roots are so deep -- i really don't know what to do now--i have it for seven years now -- when i got them they have pink ang light blue flowers--
  • Roxy D Roxy D on Mar 28, 2012
    I have successfully probagated my hydrangea by laying a healthy piece of it on the ground, still attached, and placing a rock on it for a few months. It will grow it's own roots by fall, and pooof,, new plant.
  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Mar 28, 2012
    @Corrie: Did you buy your plant in a nursery, or was it an Easter or Mother's Day gift? If the latter, it may have been a type that is only marginally hardy where you live and you will never see blooms because they get zapped by the cold every year. If your winter was as mild as it was for many folks, however, this may be the year you get blooms.
  • Corrie K Corrie K on Mar 28, 2012
    @ Douglas Hunt-- I bought it in nursery and it;s says hard zone 5 which we are -- it grows and comes every year actually with a very lush foliage -- iI just don't get flowers at all -- i got three of them---- HELP
  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Mar 28, 2012
    Do you know what type of hydrangea it is, Corrie? Do you ever prune it? What are the growing conditions?
  • Evelyn R Evelyn R on Mar 30, 2012
    Illegal propagation - dang, I'm in trouble! But I don't know if they're patented. Been continuing the tradition of my mother and grandmother who would plant a piece of a rose bush and pop a jar over it (sorta like a frugal woman's cold frame). Bushes - like Roxy says. When nature provides seedlings, I just send up a "thank you". :)
  • Rhonda G Rhonda G on Mar 31, 2012
    If propagating for our own use is illegal; we'd all be in trouble. I do believe like some copyright laws that it is ok to propagate for personal use as long as no resale is involved. Many nurseries though I know are at fault for this. I think what we are looking at are trademark infringements. I think one can propagate a plant but probably not say or call it by it's trademarked name once propagated or even possibly say it would perform just as well as the original trademark and sell it as such.
  • Southern Trillium LLC Southern Trillium LLC on Mar 31, 2012
    Rhonda, I guess a good comparison for why it would still be illegal to propagate patented plants for personal use would be to think about the music industry. People spend lots of money, and their talents, to produce a song. They make back the money by selling the song to people and to other uses. If you buy the song once, then pass it to your friend, family member, or other, you have removed a sale of their protected item. Although you are not profiting from passing it along, you passed along the patented item which removed a sale from them. This is why the patent clearly explains how a patented plant can not be propagated and divided, yet if it re-seeds on its own, that is ok. It all depends on the methods.
  • Rhonda G Rhonda G on Mar 31, 2012
    Hi ST, I'm going back on my old business law classes regarding trademark infringement, copyright and patent laws. I believe as my understanding there is such a thing as the 'fair use doctrine' where one can reproduce copies of cr work for purposes as criticisms, reporting, teaching etc. It is determined that this is not an infringement of copyright. It also states that as long as it is not for profit.Regarding patents, the Fed. govt. can issue patents in return for disclosing the invention and the patentee reserves exclusive right for just so many years to make, use, or sell the patented item before it goes before public domain to with what they, the public pleases. But again, I think these laws are for protecting anyone from making profit on someone else's invention or creation. I had come up with a couple of ideas for garden and decoration items and had a very popular website pass it off as their own until I informed them otherwise. Give credit where credit is due.
  • Southern Trillium LLC Southern Trillium LLC on Mar 31, 2012
    Interesting points Rhonda. I will check with my brother to see his thoughts. He is an attorney in Atlanta and may be able to clarify even further.
  • Betc Betc on May 20, 2015
    Propagation ? I have Japanese Red Maples all over my yard. Nature takes care of it. Also Pussy Willow water rooted. Guess I'm in big trouble. BTW never saw an answer about the Hydrangea pruning.
    • Sue Kiene Sue Kiene on Oct 16, 2016
      Regarding the pruning of hydrangea it depends on what type of hydrangea that you have. Some types bloom on new growth and some on old. I have an oakleaf and you prune them back right after they finish blooming. Mine were not pruned last year so I pruned them back to about half their size and mounded them.
  • Axmed Kokudarev Axmed Kokudarev on Jan 08, 2016
    mnogo krasivo
  • Maggie McDonald Maggie McDonald on May 06, 2016
    I don't think they are hydrangeas. They look like azaleas or rhododendrums. With these you can prune back after blooming.
  • Lyn2398900 Lyn2398900 on May 09, 2016
    take a slip to your local nursery. They will help you. I agree, the flowers don't look like hydrangea's, but a rhododendron leaf is a waxed type.
  • Karyl Zimmerman Karyl Zimmerman on Jun 01, 2016
    Hydrogen is get cut after blooming you cut it where you see two eyes an you cute it to there if you cut anywhere else you will cut off new buds for next year so good luck very beautiful
  • Sandra M. Willis Sandra M. Willis on Sep 28, 2016
    The first photo is a hydrangea, but the others are azaleas.
  • AmAtHome AmAtHome on Oct 23, 2018

    How and when you prune depends on if it blooms on old or new wood. This has some good info: