When to prune hydrangeas to get the biggest and most beautiful blooms

It’s not just about the how. The when is just as important.

Close-up of a hydrangea flower
(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

Hydrangeas are one of the most popular flowers to plant in our gardens and fill our vases with, favoured for their big and bold clusters of flowers in a wide range of colours, from white to sweet pink to electric blue. And they can even change their hue as they mature in late summer. How magical!

But to keep them looking full and bouncy, caring for them and meeting their needs is essential. Knowing when to prune hydrangeas is just as important as knowing if you should deadhead hydrangea flowers or when to plant hydrangeas.

That’s why we asked some of our gardening pros for garden advice to help us determine the best time to prune hydrangeas and enjoy big and vibrant blooms year after year.

When to prune hydrangeas

Close-up of a hydrangea flower

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

Hydrangeas have a long flowering period, which is another reason why we are obsessed with them. The main reason is their beauty, of course. And while their prime flowering time is summer, depending on the type of hydrangea you have, they can blossom anytime between late spring and early autumn. But what should you do once they stop blooming and all you’re left with is a dead flower?

‘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,’ recommends Charlotte McGrattan, hardy nursery stock buyer at Hillier Nurseries

But if you really want to get rid of them before that, she adds, ‘Once mophead hydrangeas and lacecaps have finished flowering in autumn, the dead flowerhead can be removed.’

Close-up of hydrangeas

(Image credit: Future PLC/Lizzie Orme)

Barnaby Griffin, tasker at Taskrabbit, agrees, ‘Pruning usually takes place twice a year, in the early spring and beginning of the winter months. However, this varies depending on the type of hydrangea, as some can be pruned after blooming in the summer to remove any dead heads. Always prune just below the dead flower head, and just above the new budding and use sharp pruning spears to avoid damaging the plant.’ 

As per usual, nothing is quite straight-forward in gardening as the best result is based on what kind of a particular plant you own. But one thing is for sure, hydrangeas should never be pruned until after they have flowered, in other words in the summertime, no matter their variety.

What is the best month to prune hydrangeas?

Dead hydrangea flower being cut with secateurs

(Image credit: Future PLC)

According to our experts, the best time to prune hydrangeas is in the early spring. That means March or April are the best months to get hydrangea pruning.  

‘Pruning is essential to prevent the plant from becoming congested and to allow for strong stems and beautiful blooms,’ says Barnaby. 

Do hydrangeas need to be cut back for winter?

A garden with seating and a hydrangea bush at front

(Image credit: Future PLC/James Merrell)

Hydrangeas don’t need to be cut back for winter as the head protects the stem from the winter frost. But if you then find your plant not blooming when it’s supposed to, Barnaby of Taskrabbit has some more advice.

‘If your hydrangea isn't blooming, then it is recommended to cut back all the stems towards the base to give the plant an opportunity to regrow. This may result in the new stems not immediately blooming new flowers,’ he says. 

‘Remove any diseased or unhealthy stems and wood to prevent it spreading to the rest of the plant and cut back any branches which are crossing over to ensure the plant has sufficient air circulation,’ Barnaby shares.

News Writer

Sara Hesikova has been Ideal Home’s News Writer since July 2023, bringing the Ideal Home’s readership breaking news stories from the world of home decor and interiors, as well as trend-led pieces, shopping round-ups and more. Graduating from London College of Fashion with a bachelor’s degree in fashion journalism in 2016, she got her start in niche fashion and lifestyle magazines like Glass and Alvar as a writer and editor before making the leap into interiors, working with the likes of 91 Magazine and copywriting for luxury bed linen brand Yves Delorme among others. She feels that fashion and interiors are intrinsically connected – if someone puts an effort into what they wear, they most likely also care about what they surround themselves with.