Should you deadhead hydrangeas? Gardening experts share the secret to vibrant and long-lasting flowers

The what, when, and how to guide for blooming success with hydrangeas

Close up of pale pink hydrangeas and ferns
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It's no secret that hydrangeas are beautiful flowers that are always a welcome addition to our ever-growing garden ideas, but the question stands: should you deadhead hydrangeas?

If you've been on the hydrangea hype, from eager to learn how to grow hydrangeas in pots all the way to learning how to take hydrangea cuttings, there's likely a common ground for your endeavours: their strikingly beautiful appearance. So it only makes sense that you would want to be clued up on the best practices for caring for these gorgeous blooms.

Close up of pale pink hydrangeas and ferns

(Image credit: Future PLC/Lizzie Orme)

Should you deadhead hydrangeas?

'Thanks to their reliable, long-flowering period from late spring to early autumn, hydrangea have long been one of the most popular garden shrubs, famed for their ability to change colour, which typically happens as the plant matures in late summer,' says Charlotte McGrattan, Hardy nursery stock buyer at Hillier Nurseries.

From deadheading lilies to deadheading roses, this brutal-sounding step is the foolproof trick to keep your plants in an ever-blooming state.

So, should you deadhead hydrangeas? The short answer? Yes, you should. We explore why, when and how you should go about this...

Seating area in the garden surrounded by trees and flowerbeds with white and green hydrangeas. Interior designer Susan Hoodless and Erskine Berry's renovated four storey terraced west London home.

(Image credit: James Merrell/Future Publishing Ltd)

'Deadheading hydrangeas is a common gardening practice that can be very beneficial for the health and appearance of these plants,' explains Peter Ivanov, gardening and plant expert at Fantastic Gardeners.

'It's the removal of spent flowers from the plant once they have faded and it helps them put their energy towards the root, stems and leaves instead of producing more seeds, which will help for future growth. Withered and whether or not you should do it will depend on the type of hydrangea you have and your specific gardening goals.'

Man with short brown hair
Peter Ivanov

Peter Ivanov is a gardening and plant expert who has been working at Fantastic Gardeners for 8 years. As one of the company's top-performing experts, he now manages over 6 teams of gardeners, delivering stunning landscape results and fostering a deep connection with nature through his work.

According to Peter, some good reasons for deadheading hydrangeas include:

  • Enhancing aesthetics – 'Removing faded flowers can improve the overall appearance of the plant and keep your garden looking tidy and fresh.'
  • Encouraging new blooms – 'For hydrangea species that bloom on new wood, deadheading can stimulate the production of new flower buds, leading to more blooms in the current growing season.'
  • Preventing self-seeding – 'Deadheading can prevent some hydrangea varieties from self-seeding and potentially becoming invasive.'

Deadheading hydrangea flower with shears

(Image credit: Future PLC)

How to deadhead hydrangeas – a step-by-step guide

So, now you know that you should be deadheading hydrangeas, here's how to do it. It's a pretty straightforward process, however, it's very important to use the right tools and follow the proper steps to ensure you don't harm the plant.

What you'll need

  • Sharp pruners or gardening shears; preferably bypass pruners – like these ones, available to buy on Amazon
  • Gardening gloves (optional, but recommended for protection purposes)
  • Clean cloth or disinfectant wipes for sterilising the pruning tools
  • Container or bucket for collecting removed flower heads

Step-by-step guide

Close up of a basket of roses and hydrangeas

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

1. Timing

'This is a key part of the process,' begins Peter. 'First, identify the type of hydrangea you have, if it’s suitable for deadheading and choose the right time to do it. This timing will allow the plant to develop new flower buds for the current growing season.'

Close up of purple hydrangea flowers

(Image credit: Getty Images)

2. Preparation

'Put on your gardening gloves if you prefer to protect your hands,' suggests Peter. 'Sterilise your pruning tools by wiping the blades with a clean cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol or using disinfectant wipes. This will prevent the spread of diseases between the plants.'

Close up of white hydrangeas

(Image credit: Getty Images)

3. Identify the spent flowers

'Examine the hydrangea plant and locate the spent flowers that have faded or withered,' says Peter. 'They're usually easy to spot because they will have lost their vibrant colour and may look wilted.'

Close up of a green hydrangea flower and white flowering plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

4. Cut the stems

'Take your sharp pruners or gardening shears, and position them just above the first set of healthy leaves or leaf nodes below the spent flower head,' Peter explains. 'Make a clean and angled cut, making sure you leave the healthy foliage intact and don't damage the main stem of the plant.'

'Continue to wipe your pruners between each cut to prevent the spread of any potential diseases.'

Deadheading hydrangea plant

(Image credit: Getty Images)

5. Collection

To keep your garden tidy and prevent self-seeding, collect the removed flower heads in a container or bucket for your own ease.

6. Disposal

Once you've done the job, ensure you dispose of the collected flower heads properly, either by composting them to feed your garden for free, or disposing of them as green waste.

7. Water and mulch

'After deadheading, water the hydrangea as needed to maintain adequate moisture levels,' advises Peter. 'Consider also adding a layer of organic mulch around the plant to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.' When mulching, consider using grey water.

And now you've successfully completed the deadheading process, which is a garden job that your hydrangeas will thank you for, especially if you're trying to keep them looking up to scratch for your garden border or front garden ideas for longer.

Close up of purple hydrangea flowers

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When should I deadhead hydrangeas?

'If you decide to deadhead your hydrangeas, the best time to do it is right after the flowers have faded, but before they have a chance to form seeds,' explains Peter from Fantastic Gardeners. This is usually in late summer or early autumn for panicle hydrangeas and smooth hydrangeas.'

'For bigleaf and oakleaf hydrangeas, it's highly recommended to avoid deadheading unless you are removing dead or diseased wood.'

How often should I deadhead hydrangeas?

'Hydrangeas require some deadheading once a year,' advises Charlotte from Hillier Nurseries. 'Once mopheads and lacecaps have finished flowering in autumn, the dead flowerhead can be removed. However, to give the shrubs more protection from frost over winter, it is best to leave the flowerheads and cut them off in early spring the following year.'

'Pruning established mopheads and lacecaps to encourage the production of new growth and more abundant flowering can be done by cutting one or two of the plant's oldest stems to the base.'

Jullia Joson
Junior Writer

Jullia Joson is Ideal Home’s Junior Writer. She’s always loved all things homes and interiors, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Architectural Studies from the University of Nottingham in 2022. Previously, she was an Intern Editor for ArchDaily. Now focused on news stories, Jullia can be found down the TikTok and Pinterest rabbit hole scrolling through any new and upcoming trends, hacks, and home inspiration.