What do I do/not do now w/ my hydrangea so it will have more blooms?

Jaime Berg
by Jaime Berg
My hydrangea is probably 12-15 yrs. old, and always gets nice, big and green every year, but has only 1 or 2 blooms. I realized that is bc we always prune it all the way down to the ground every year. So, looking at the photo of it, do I just leave it alone? Thanks
  46 answers
  • Peg Peg on Oct 20, 2013
    Trim back in Spring but leave a foot from ground, then use a fertilizer to give it a boost! This year is the first year I had beautiful green leaves & 1 or 2 flowers........have no idea what happened but we did have a hot season but plenty of water?
  • Norma W Norma W on Oct 20, 2013
    Some hydrangeas bloom only on old wood. Try only trimming back in the spring after you see the new growth and only trim down to the first sign of growth. You may be cutting off all the new blooms. Try to google this type of hydrangea for more information on when to trim.
  • I actually wouldn't trim your back at all this spring...let it grow full this year and watch it and see where the new growth is. But no, never just cut back as you will then not have any flowers the following year. And, if you do cut it back at all, ever, make sure to only cut the dead stems and on the others, cut only to just above the nodule showing new growth. Make sense?
  • Jaime Berg Jaime Berg on Oct 20, 2013
  • Gail Salminen Gail Salminen on Oct 20, 2013
    @Jaime Berg I have had hydrangeas only for about 4 years. I got them from neighbours who cut back every year. I am a procrastinator (queen of actually LOL) so I tend not to trim them back. I only dead head in the spring. Always have lots of blooms and they are at least 5 feet tall. Do let us know what you do and your success. Thanks for posting :)
  • Candace Seaton Candace Seaton on Oct 20, 2013
    Depends on what kind it is. Most bloom on last years branches, so if you prune you cut off next spirng's flowers. A few bloom on new wood. Don't prune at all and see what happens. I think people prune because they think they should...I rarely prune anything unless it is sick or broken. If you prune at all do it as soon as flowers fade, but then you lose the lovely faded blooms. If you live where it is very cold you may lose the buds and never get flowers. Sorry.
  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Oct 21, 2013
    The truth is that there is much more hydrangea pruning going on in the world than there really needs to be. I join the chorus of voices that you should just let that plant grow through next season and see what it does for you. (Obviously you can prune out any dead or diseased branches.)
    • See 2 previous
    • Sue Weiker Sue Weiker on Oct 22, 2013
      @Douglas Hunt I have found that advice to be my lifesaver. I am a pruner, and prune everything. lol I learned the hard way to just let it be most of the time, and mine is always gloriously beautiful and loaded every year since learning this saged advice.
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Oct 21, 2013
    We live in Atlanta and never prune ours...the cold takes it down. In spring is comes right back and blooms very well! Love it! FYI, I lay the bottom limbs on the ground, place a shovel full of dirt half way to the end of the limb and it roots...in the spring, I get new bushes. I am going to plant half a dozen more this spring!
  • Kelp4Less Kelp4Less on Oct 21, 2013
    Also - if you want a good fertilizer to increase blooms, I would recommend our bloom pack. Let it rest over the winter, (I tend to agree with Douglas Hunt a lot - he's really knowledgeable, I've noticed!) and come spring, use either Kelp or our Bloom Pack. I'll include the links if you want to check them out. But from what I understand, hydrangeas and lilacs, too (I have lilacs) like to send out a LOT of new growth, but they only bloom well on what's been there a year or two. And I almost forgot the links lol - here you go: Bloom Pack: http://www.kelp4less.com/product-category/nutrient-packs/, and Kelp: http://www.kelp4less.com/product-category/kelp/.
  • Linda Linda on Oct 22, 2013
    I didn't get many blooms this year either ... guess I'll try not pruning and see if that works Thanks for all chiming in !
  • Rose S Rose S on Oct 22, 2013
    i agree with Norma W. I trim mine back in spring, but only to the first visible green bud. Then I use a liberal dose of Milorganite, a slooooow release fertilizer. (Processed sludge), and a lighter dose of 10/10/10 for a more immediate boost. Mine bloom their little hearts out. Depending don your soil, if I want some pink blossoms, then is liberally sprinkle lime onto the soil and water it in. It takes several applications, but does the job. But my soil is acid, so lime does the trick. Good luck.
  • Edward Edward on Oct 22, 2013
    anyone add aluminum (I think that is it) to get blooms more blue?
    • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Oct 22, 2013
      @Edward That only works with macrophylla hydrangeas, those that are naturally pink or blue. You cannot change the color of a hydrangea that is naturally white.
  • Jill Schwalm Jill Schwalm on Oct 22, 2013
    I prune mine every third year and I have hearty full plants with lots of blooms. I live in rochester, New York.
  • Candy J Candy J on Oct 22, 2013
    I use my coffee grinds to add that acid to the soil - which they love. I never throw out the coffee grinds as many acid loving plants including petunias love it!
    • See 2 previous
    • Kelp4Less Kelp4Less on Oct 23, 2013
      @Candy J Almost all plants love coffee grounds. They are great to throw in your compost, and you can throw the filter in with them! We do it all year long. :)
  • I'm with the non-pruners too. I had a similar hydrangea in my new yard that wasn't blooming when we moved in 3 summers ago. I pruned it the first year and got no blooms. So last spring, I left it and it had about 12 blossom heads on it - pink. So I think it's one of those ones that bloom on old wood. I'm leaving it this coming spring too, just cutting off the spent blossoms now.
  • Charlene Charlene on Oct 22, 2013
    I leave them over the winter and deadhead them late spring just to clean them up a bit and I have blooms on every branch. I too, use coffee grounds in my garden.
  • Wanda.ll Wanda.ll on Oct 22, 2013
    My grandmother never pruned hers. Well I say never she didn't let them get over 4 foot tall. So I guess she just did the tops. They bloomed like crazy each year for her. So like others said don't trim and see what happens.
  • Gretchen Gretchen on Oct 22, 2013
    As someone said, most hydrangeas bloom on new wood. So every year, cut off the blooms for display or drying, cut back those branches, and leave the rest alone. Your bush is next to pavement, so you will need to cut what hangs over or what is in your way. (Function over form, in this case), but just leave the rest.
  • Donna Lawless Donna Lawless on Oct 22, 2013
    I'm with Douglas Hunt all the way. Very knowledgeable and accurate. My husband butchered our hydrangea one year and it had begun to show it is recovering and I have high hopes for next year. It took 3 years :(
  • Elaine Simmons Elaine Simmons on Oct 22, 2013
    If you are in the north, you should get a hydrangea that blooms on old and new wood. "Endless Summer" is one such hydrangea. That way, if there is a warming trend in the spring and then a freeze, you still have blooms on new wood. I only cut the flowers off the top when I had them in Iowa. I had one on either side of my front steps. One bloomed pink and the other blue which wasn't the way I wanted it but never tried to change the color of either.
  • Randy Randy on Oct 22, 2013
    I've always found the site listed here ( http://www.hydrangeashydrangeas.com/pruning.html ) helpful for the subject because it can be confusing and it depends on what type of plant you are working with. I have an Incrediball smooth hydrangea now that is covered w/ 'dead' blooms and I really like how it looks. I will clean these up in late winter after I enjoy them for a few more months since this variety blooms on new wood and will tolerate this type of cutback just fine. I agree w/ others here - WAY too much pruning in general on most landscape plants. I try to utilize 'right plant, right place' so that I don't spend very much time doing any drastic pruning. Mainly I prune for shape and to deadhead.
    • Jenny Jenny on Oct 22, 2013
      @Randy I found this out the hard way :-( no more trimming all the way to the ground.
  • Claudia Claudia on Oct 22, 2013
    The website Randy mentioned gives excellent info on pruning the various types - old wood/new wood, etc. Pruning definitely stimulates new growth if done properly at the right time.
  • Carol P Carol P on Oct 22, 2013
    I have the oak leaf variety with white bloom that were newly planted this year. The blooms look like they turn to a dark tan and was told they would turn purple. Had roofers damage two plants breaking 1 of the main limbs on each. Will these heal themselves or should I replace them next spring. I live in SE Ks. I am not sure what the mature plant is suppose to look like or how big it will get. Right now they look pretty thin and messy and if that makes any sense. The are on the north side of the house that is almost full shade. Seemed like they would wilt a lot so watered them all summer to keep them perky. Wish I could attach a picture. .
  • Mtj1057 Mtj1057 on Oct 22, 2013
  • Carol P Carol P on Oct 22, 2013
    I just found where I could add photos and have attached two. the middle plant is how the others should be in size. Also tried to show you the color of the bloom in the second picture.
  • Candy J Candy J on Oct 22, 2013
    I know that knockout roses love them and all of your evergreens. Check it out on the internet and ask what plants love acid and you should get a list. My petunias especially loved them.
  • Valery Valery on Oct 22, 2013
    carol p, I saw that you found out how to add photos. can you send the information along. I'm new here and can't figure it out. thank you val
    • See 1 previous
    • Carol P Carol P on Oct 23, 2013
      Valery, Are you asking how to load them? Just click on "add photos" and browse to where your picture is saved on your computer and click on it and open.to add.
  • Kathleen Kathleen on Oct 22, 2013
    All evergreens, azaleas, rhodadendren love coffee grinds. I also crush egg shells andsprinkle around plants for lime and to keep slugs away. Hydrangeas grow new flowers on old wood, so do not cut back the branches and you will have nice flowers. The coffee ground or Holly Tone will assure you have blue flowers rather than pink:) Also, sprinkle around the perimeter of the plants, and not too close,to prevent burning.
  • Kathleen Kathleen on Oct 22, 2013
    Oh, and banana peels are great for the garden as well! Nitrogen.
    • Judy Judy on Oct 22, 2013
      @Kathleen Actually they add potassium which promotes blooming.
  • Patty A Patty A on Oct 22, 2013
    I have the same bush and the same problem. I usually just let it be. Two summers ago, after 10 years of healthy foliage but no blooms, I got a profusion of lace cap pink blooms. Last year and this year, NOTHING, I use coffee grounds, other acids, etc. But I really am frustrated with the nice green leaves but NO BLOOMS!
  • MaryAnn B MaryAnn B on Oct 22, 2013
    Randy posted a great link. thanks! also Dec 2013 Garden Gate Magazine has a wonderful article on Panicle Hydrangea.
  • Judy Judy on Oct 22, 2013
    Don't prune except for deadheading & removing dead branches. Also try giving it some potassium, which promotes blossoming.
  • Sara Sara on Oct 22, 2013
    I don't know if I am doing it right or not, but I do know that my limelights this year were so full of blooms you couldn't see any green leaves. I live in North Dakota so it does get very cold here in the winter. The only pruning I do is to get the shape I want or to get rid of dead wood. My plants are about 6 feet tall right now and are just perfect for the spot they are in. I put an all purpose fertilizer on them in the spring and then just make sure the weeds are not around them. In the fall, I just take off the dead blooms and a few times because of storms coming up unexpectedly they stay on until spring and then I pull them off in the spring.
  • Patty Patty on Oct 22, 2013
    Northern Ca, trim it back......................... it lets new growth come through.....
  • Jenny Jenny on Oct 22, 2013
    Don't trim it the blooms grow on the previous years branches. I cut mine all the way to the ground last year and this year i did not a get one bloom. I searched on the internet and that is what it said. I'm not trimming it this year.
  • Irena Irena on Oct 23, 2013
    We leave it as it is in Fall. In Spring before it starts to green, we cut the old (wooden) stems and leave just the green ones (1 yaer old). And we have A LOT of blooms. No special dirt, no manuer, nothing. You can just add acidic dirt if you want blue blooms or alkaline dirt if you want your blooms to be pinkish. Hydrangea is my favourite blooming bush :) Wishing you a nice Fall from Slovenia.
  • Kathleen Kathleen on Oct 23, 2013
    Thanks Judy- didn't remember...
  • Valery Valery on Oct 23, 2013
    I use my phone all the time. maybe that's why. I also don't have a blog. thank you
  • Mary Sullivan Mary Sullivan on Oct 23, 2013
    Can these be propogated easily at this time of year or is it too late? We are in the 40's now.
  • Mary Sullivan Mary Sullivan on Oct 23, 2013
    • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Oct 24, 2013
      @Mary Sullivan It's too late. One of the biggest challenges in propagating hydrangeas is getting them through the first winter. You'll have a much better chance of that if you take cuttings in late spring/early summer and give them as long as possible to get established.
  • Patty Patty on Oct 24, 2013
    I used to cut mine back to the ground in the spring and I would only get 2 or 3 blooms on each bush, finally I realized that they must bloom on old wood. Now they bloom constantly all season long, just gorgeous. They are planted in clay soil and I don't add a thing to the soil.
  • Mary Sullivan Mary Sullivan on Oct 24, 2013
    Thank you Douglas. That was most helpful!!! I note that you use the word, "challenge". It is difficult to do? Any advice on exactly how to propagate?
  • Beth Beth on Oct 30, 2013
    Do you have deer? Because they can eat the ends of the wood destined to be springtime's blossoms. I agree to prune dead wood in the spring. Depending on the variety and yours looks like the older type, it only blooms on last years' growth, so never cut that. I also adjust the pH for the beautiful blue color (which is reflective of acid soil) when necessary but I live in an acid area.
  • Wanda sinnema Wanda sinnema on Feb 16, 2015
    FLOWERS COME ON THE 2nd years GROWTH..If you cut it back short every year,, you cut NEXT YEARS BLOOMS off.. TRY THIS....... CUT about 1/2 of the stems back at the end of the season this year, PLUS any blooms off.... NEXT YEAR-- blooms will be on the ones you DID NOT CUT.This also lets you keep it the size you want ..I dump my used coffee grounds around the base for BRILLIANT BLUE HUGE BLOOMS..
  • Lorna sherman Lorna sherman on May 20, 2015
    Why do I not get Hometalk any more ???
    • Gail Salminen Gail Salminen on May 24, 2015
      @Lorna sherman hmmm interesting. You may have erased your cookies that bring usual chatter to you, or maybe changed your settings. Hopefully this will be rectified just by visiting. If not check in with support for more suggestions.
  • Ted Brydges Ted Brydges on Jul 02, 2016
    The trick is in the pruning! I prune mine just below the newest leaf on each stem and just above the last pair of leaves. That's where you will get 2 new blossoms next year. Mine is 6 Ft. tall and is covered with blooms every spring. Good luck next year!