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How to Deadhead Hydrangeas?

While the spent blooms of hydrangeas have a certain allure to fans of dried flowers, deadheading hydrangeas can have multiple benefits for the plant’s health and can stimulate repeat blooming.

Still, there are concerns over deadheading these plants, which makes sense since sometimes deadheading can be confused with pruning, which can lead to hydrangeas not blooming.

I’ll discuss why that happens, when and how to deadhead hydrangeas to prevent blooming issues.

Should You Deadhead Hydrangeas?

Yes, you should deadhead a hydrangea plant when blooms pass and dry out. The risk of it not blooming because of deadheading is non-existent, so you can take that worry out of the equation for good.

Hydrangeas will only stop blooming if you over-prune them, causing the plants to divert energy into putting out new growth instead of producing flowers. This doesn’t happen with deadheading.

If you deadhead hydrangeas correctly, you will stimulate healthier blooms in the next blooming phase even within the same blooming season.

Therefore, deadheading does not equal pruning. When you deadhead a hydrangea, you simply remove spent blooms. When you prune a hydrangea, you usually cut back the plant by usually a third of its size either to get it back to a manageable size or to revive it.

Below, I’ve put together a step-by-step guide on how to deadhead your hydrangea correctly.

Deadheading Hydrangeas

Prepare a set of sharp and clean pruning shears and follow along these steps to deadhead your hydrangea and encourage new blooms:

– Step 1

Find spent blooms and follow along the old stem until you identify the first fresh set of new leaves. Spent blooms are usually all dried or faded away, so they’re pretty much unmistakable.

– Step 2

Take your pruning shears and cut above the fresh set of leaves. If you cut below the fresh set of leaves, you risk cutting down new blooms that may come along in the season.

– Step 3

Identify stalks that are dried out all the way down to the plant base. These have no green growths and no new leaves, nor will they produce any. If you try to break them with your hands, they’ll easily break.

You can cut these all the way down to the base of the plant because they will not produce any new growths, let alone blooms. Removing these will improve air circulation around your hydrangea.

So there you have it, 3 simple steps to deadhead a hydrangea and have it blooming again without problems.

Tip: Wipe your pruning shears clean after each snip to prevent the spread of diseases through the bush or from one plant to another. Simply take a cloth imbibed with a bit of alcohol and wipe down the blades. Fungal diseases, bacteria and viruses can all spread if pruning shears are not kept clean.

When to Deadhead Hydrangeas?

You should deadhead hydrangeas throughout the flowering season as flowers become spent. This will keep it looking neat and it will help the plant preserve the energy that it needs to create new blooms.

Don’t stress over this, simply remove spent blooms as they become dry. You don’t have to remove them right away, and as I’ll explain below, you can even skip deadheading if you’re just not feeling up to it.

Where do You Deadhead Hydrangea?

When I described the steps of deadheading a hydrangea plant, I only mentioned that you should cut above the first set of emerging leaves and bulbs to prevent cutting away blooms that will be produced during the flowering season.

But seasoned gardeners make a distinction as to where you should deadhead hydrangeas (where to make the cut) based on what time of the year it is.

Therefore, if you’re deadheading hydrangeas before August, you can cut the stem back as closely as you’d like to the first set of freshly emerging leaves. If it’s after August, gardeners recommend that you cut well above those leaves.

The reason behind this distinction is linked to preparing the hydrangea for fall and winter. If you’re deadheading before August and cutting the stem way back down to the first emerging leaves, the plant will put extra energy into growing those leaves and buds.

If it’s after August, you don’t want the plant to be spending extra energy on growing much from fear of an early frost damaging delicately formed leaves or buds, so you cut well above those fresh leaves.

What Happens if You Don’t Deadhead Hydrangeas?

Sometimes, it can be difficult to deadhead hydrangeas that have grown too tall. If you don’t have tools to reach spent blooms or reach all the spent blooms, your alternative is to leave them on. And you can, without too many detrimental effects.

If you simply skip deadheading hydrangeas, no harm will come to your plant. At least nothing so serious that you should stress about it.

Your hydrangea may not produce as many blooms as if spent blooms would have been removed, nor the blooms will be very large. But it will still bloom, regardless.

That said, you should maybe consider pruning hydrangeas that have grown extra tall to bring them down to a more manageable size.

This will make it easier for you to keep your hydrangeas looking neat and tidy. It will also make it easier to deadhead spent blooms and encourage fuller blooms in the future.

Conclusion

Deadheading hydrangeas are easy and can be achieved by following a few simple steps. All you need is a set of clean pruning shears and you can get started on removing spent blooms one-by-one.

The secret to correctly deadheading hydrangeas is to cut above the first fresh set of leaves as you go downward the flower stem. Cut below, and you risk cutting away potential buds that will form blooms.

You can deadhead blooms throughout the blooming season whenever they dry away. Getting rid of spent blooms will help with new flower production.

Skipping deadheading doesn’t have serious drawbacks, but wouldn’t you prefer a hydrangea with fuller and larger blooms?

Updated: January 29, 2021

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