Ornamental PlantsPlant Care Instructions

Hydrangeas! When Do I Prune Them and Why Didn’t They Flower?

Hydrangeas can be divided into two categories; those that bloom on the current year’s growth and those that bloom on old wood, or last year’s growth.

The Hydrangeas that bloom on old wood are from the macrophylla family. These include Nikko Blue, Endless Summer and many other pinks and blue varieties. When I say they bloom on old wood I mean that they are busy right now setting flower buds for next summer. So next year when they take off growing in the spring, the flower shoots will emerge from the older wood, the wood that was produced this year.

The hydrangeas that bloom on new wood are typically the white hydrangeas like Annabelle and Paniculata Grandiflora (PG). They develop new growth in the spring and then later in the summer the flower buds are produced right at the end of that new growth. That’s why the Annabelle and PG are such prolific bloomers. They set flower buds and almost immediately those buds produce big, beautiful, abundant flowers. Almost nothing can go wrong with their blooming sequence.

But with the Blue and Pink Hydrangeas (macrophyllas) all kinds of things can go wrong with the flower buds. Since the flower buds are produced in August and September, they have to make it through the harsh winter before they can bloom. The flower buds can be damaged by extreme cold.


You should prune macrophylla hydrangeas right after they bloom before they have a chance to start making new flower buds. Annabelle and PG hydrangea and other hydrangeas that flower on new wood can be pruned during the late fall, winter or early

spring. Once they start growing in the spring do not do any pruning until after they bloom.

One of the most popular varieties on the market is “Endless Summer Hydrangea” and it is known to bloom more than once in a season. It’s in the macrophylla family and sets flower buds on old wood, but it is also known to set more buds and produce flowers during the growing season. It should still be treated as a hydrangea that blooms on old wood.

With all of that said, if your hydrangea did not bloom then the flower buds might have gotten pruned off, or more likely the flower buds were damaged over the winter.

Hydrangeas like more water than most plants, and at least a smidgen of shade helps them stay healthy and happy.

Mike McGroarty is the owner of McGroarty Enterprises and the author of several books. You can visit his website at Freeplants.com and read his blog at Mikesbackyardnursery.com.

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