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Yet another post about my hydrangea ...


I posted about this plant before and got some excellent advice but I am totally ashamed to say I didn't understand how to actually 'do' what I need to do - I also looked on the RHS site and found the following ....

“…..  lacecaps have tiny flowers in the centre of the bloom and an outer border of large petals.”
Most pruning is carried out in late winter or early spring.

Lacecaps are hardier, and the faded flowerheads can be cut back after flowering to the second pair of leaves below the head in order to prevent seed developing, which saps energy from the plant.

Pruning established lace caps and mopheads
Cut out one or two of the oldest stems at the base to encourage the production of new, replacement growth that will be more floriferous  Poor or neglected plants can be entirely renovated by cutting off all the stems at the base. However, this will remove all the flowers for that summer, and the new stems will not bloom until the following year.”

In my last post I was advised " .... you just pinch out the spent flowers in spring without damaging the buds behind.   If you need to trim its size, you do this by shortening stems as soon as the flowers finish so the shrub has time to produce new growth with flower buds.  It's often advised to do this by taking just a third of the stems back each year in rotation so you maintain size, vigour and flowering."

I am embarassed to admit I don't know what 'pinching out' means let alone knowing where to cut as mentioned in the RHS advice above.  It says late winter or early spring but how do you know exactly which of these is the best time?

Could someone please look at my photo and describe in really simple terms how I 'pinch' and where on this plant to do it.  It would really help if you pretended that you were talking to an absolute idiot (I'm not joking lol).  If this was yours, what would you do with it - do you think it's getting a bit tall?

image    image

As always, many thanks to any replies ....




  • Hi Renata,

    Lovely hydrangea. They are among the most agreeable and forgiving of plants so don't panic too much!

    The advice about pinching out spent flowerheads should be followed in April when the dead flowerheads are still on the bush. There are 3 reasons to let them overwinter: 1. they are beautiful in frost; 2. they give some protection to developing buds; 3. they shelter small insects overwinter. So leave them on for now. Taking them off now will not promote a second round of flowering.

    Then as to pruning, wait until the risk of frost is low (depends on where you are--with me in the South it's mid-late April). It's a balance between cutting too early and promoting growth that will then get frosted, and cutting too late when you remove too much of the new growth. I usually aim for the time when the leaf buds are about 1 inch long on the brown stems.

    Look carefully at your still largely leafless bush. Where you want to cut is about 2cm above a pair of healthy looking buds. The harder you cut back the fewer, larger flower heads you get. I tend to vary the length a bit over the bush. Sometimes I leave two or even three pairs of buds, sometimes just one. I would say about 1/3 of the shoots to be cut right back to 1 pair of buds. Also take the opportunity to cut out any dead wood (identifiable by no leaf buds)

    You will end up with a lot of stumps but as long as there are healthy leaf buds it will take off in no time. 

    It looks from the pic as if you have it in a really tiny pot--I would suggest a significantly larger one, a good sized planter if you can fit it in. You'll need John Innes No. 3 compost for this, it needs to be soil-based, and a good layer about 2in deep of broken up rubble, flower pots or pebbles in the bottom for drainage. Once you have it in a permanent planter or in the ground, you need to prune like this annually, and afterwards, give it plenty of timed-release fertiliser and mulch well with moisture-retaining material. You'll need to take care while working on and around the plant at this time of year, as the buds can easily be knocked off.

    None of this work needs to be done now, wait until at least mid April. If you prune in winter it wil encourage new growth which will then be exposed to frost and you'll lose all your flowers for that year.

    Hope this helps!

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,045

    In addition to all B'cup's great advice, Renata, I'd just add that they're hard to kill  image

    Make sure it doesn't go short of water in dry spells if it's staying in a pot - and that can often be in late winter/ early spring if it's windy. Wind can dry plants out very quickly. image

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Hi Cambridge Rose and Fairygirl ... THANK YOU for that really detailed information ... I will do nothing until the spring - then I will probably be chasing you again, I've read your instructions but still not sure .... you said .... "..... Look carefully at your still largely leafless bush." - why would it be leafless if I haven't done anything?  do they drop off over winter? .... Now you see what I mean when I say I'm hopeless.

    The original photo really did a dis-service to the size of the pot due to the angle of the camera, it really is much bigger, more a quarter barrel (see pic) so sorry for misleading you lol.


    I can't believe (nor will you) that I am about to ask you what a leaf bud looks like?  Is it similar to a flower bud, like a small protrusion coming off the stem?  You also mentioned 'water retaining mulch', all I have is bark, is that mulch?  I am starting to make some leaf mold but it won't be ready for at least another year.

    I really do appreciate your advice, I just hope some of it sinks in, I'm okay with the growing part but clueless as to how to look after them afterwards with regards pruning etc.  Keep watching gardeners world and waiting for something that I have to be on.


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