How to Deadhead Hydrangeas, According to an Expert

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Deadheading hydrangeas is a cinch with these pro tips.

There are plenty of good reasons to deadhead hydrangeas. Removing spent flowers not only tidies shrubs, it helps plants put growing energy into leaves and roots. Here’s how to deadhead hydrangeas, and how to protect next year’s growth.

You can put deadheading hydrangeas on your fall cleaning checklist.

What Deadheading Does for Hydrangeas

Unlike other flowers, deadheading hydrangeas will not make them bloom again. Regular hydrangeas bloom once per season, while reblooming varieties produce a second set of flowers later in the season on new stems. For hydrangeas, deadheading is about making the shrubs look neater, and focusing plant growth on roots and leaves instead of seeds.

See the breathtaking types of hydrangeas we can’t get enough of.

What You’ll Need

Use bypass pruning shears for deadheading. They have sharp blades that make a clean cut without damaging stems. Clean and sterilize pruners between uses to prevent spreading diseases between plants.

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How to Deadhead Hydrangeas: Bigleaf and Oakleaf

Bigleaf And Oakleaf Hydrangeas Side By SideGetty Images (2)

These are your purple, pink and blue macrophylla hydrangeas (also called mophead and lacecap), as well as hydrangeas with oak-shaped leaves. Some varieties bloom once per season on last year’s stems (old wood), while reblooming types flower a second time on new wood.

The best time to deadhead is when the first set of blooms on your hydrangeas begin to turn brown and dry. Cut the stem below the flower head and just above the first set of leaves. For reblooming types, you can deadhead again when this second set begins to fade, but only through mid-August or so. After this your hydrangeas will create buds for next year’s flowers, and you don’t want to accidentally cut these off. Dried flower heads left after summer’s end can stay on the shrubs for visual interest during winter months.

Here’s how to change the color of your hydrangeas.

How to Deadhead Hydrangeas: Panicle and Smooth

Panicle And Smooth Hydrangeas Side By Side

Hydrangeas with cone-shaped, white flowers (some fade to red or green) as well as those with showy flower heads like Incrediball bloom later in the season on new stems grown that same year. Follow the same steps for deadheading hydrangeas in this category: remove the dry, brown flowers by cutting the stem below the bloom and just above the first set of leaves.

Many gardeners, however, don’t bother deadheading these types, and instead leave the dried flowers on the shrubs to make a more interesting fall and winter landscape. Any pruning on panicle and smooth hydrangeas gets done in early spring, so dried flower heads that overwintered get removed in the process.

Another way to enjoy those fresh hydrangea blooms before they fade? Bring some inside for bouquets. This is how to keep cut hydrangeas fresh.

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Nancy Mock
Discovering restaurants, tasting bakery treats, finding inspiration in new flavors and regional specialties—no wonder Nancy loves being a food and travel writer. She and her family live in Vermont and enjoy all things food, as well as the beautiful outdoors, game nights, Avengers movies and plenty of maple syrup. Find Nancy’s writing and recipes at her website: Hungry Enough To Eat Six.