How to Cut Back a Hydrangea

Updated February 21, 2017

Hydrangeas are flowering shrubs that produce glossy leaves and blooms in a wide variety of colours. Climbing hydrangeas do not need to be cut back at all, as they are slow-growing. Other types of hydrangeas benefit from having their branches trimmed back to ensure a neater look.

Determine the time of year in which to prune. Mophead, oakleaf and lacecap hydrangeas should only be pruned in the summer, before August, while H. paniculata hydrangeas (known as Pee Gees or PGs) can be pruned in fall, winter and spring. H. arborescens, or Annabelle types of hydrangeas, may be pruned in the summer, fall and winter. If you are uncertain what type of hydrangea you have, see Resources.

Identify any dead or damaged stems or stems that cross.

Cut the branch above a node of leaves. This allows for new and hardy plant growth the next year, and it also helps the plant grow without putting effort into stressed limbs.

Trim back any branches that jut out. Cut back the hydrangea as far as necessary, as the plant is hardy.


For mopheads, oakleafs and lacecaps, you can cut back 1/3 of the older living stems down to the ground each summer once the plants are five years old. It will revitalise the hydrangeas. If you have a paniculata hydrangea, it can be pruned into a tree-form, if desired.

Things You'll Need

  • Sharp gardening shears
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