What do you do with those beautiful hydrangea you bought this summer?  Are they looking a bit long around the edges?  The very first question I ask is what type of hydrangea do you have?  Did you get one of the lovely blue/pink Hydrangea macrophylla such as ‘Forever and Ever’ or ‘Endless Summer’?  Did you get the larger shrub form (Hydrangea paniculata) such as ‘Quickfire’, ‘Tardiva’ or ‘Pinky Winky’.  Or did you get Hydrangea arborescens which include ‘Annabelle’, ‘Bella Anna’ and Incrediball. Most of the hydrangea sold fall into these three groups.

I am writing this blog for zone 4-5 so cutting and trimming may be different in warmer zones.

The pink/blue hydrangeas (H. macrophylla) are more cold sensitive and would do best with a bit of leaf mulch around the crown (center) of the plant.  They should not be cut back in the Fall.  Wait till Spring!  You want to see the beginning of new leaf growth in spring before cutting back. Cut back to 1/4 inch above a set of leaves. (The leaves come out exactly opposite each other).  You only need to take back dead wood and 1/3 of the plant height.  The objective is to keep as many good stems from the last season so that you will have earlier flowering.  Rebloomers such as the one mentioned above can put flowers on new wood but other varieties such as Nikko Blue must have some old wood survive the winter in order to flower. (I wouldn’t recommend Nikko for our area.)  In any case of  Do Not use hedge shears to trim Hydrangea. The result will look like a bad haircut.

Hydrangea macrophylla

Trimming Hydrangea macrophylla

The H. paniculata and H. quercifolia (Oakleaf hydrangea) grow to be larger shrubs and should cut back once per season to resize and reshape.  These should be trimmed/cut back only in Spring!  Often old flower heads will remain through Spring, making it a good time to take trim them off.  However if you do fall decorating you can cut some flower heads just after they turn green in the fall.  Hang them upside down and let them dry.

‘Quick Fire’ Hydrangea paniculata

Trim Hydrangea paniculata

The last group, Hydrangea arborescens are usually the easiest to grow and the easiest to trim.  Again it is best to wait till late winter/early spring to trim these.  At that point they can be cut to the ground.  This is a good time to put a flowering shrub fertilizer such as Plant Tone by Espoma.  Any of the Hydrangea would benefit from an early spring Fertilizing.

‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea arborescens
So the last word is, The hair cut can wait!