Should You Deadhead Hydrangeas and How To

Hydrangeas are a beautiful addition to the garden and are usually an investment in adding lovely blooms to your property for years to come.

If you’ve got one, you may wonder if you should deadhead your hydrangea.

The simple answer is yes. And here’s an in-depth explanation of why and how to deadhead hydrangeas.

Maintaining Hydrangeas with Deadheading

  • Deadheading is a technique to keep the blooms looking fresh throughout the season. Plus, it’s also a part of regular maintenance for hydrangeas.
  • It’s easy to incorporate into your regular watering and plant care routine. If you see dead and brown blooms on your hydrangea, it’s a good sign that deadheading is needed.

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What Is Deadheading?

  • A vital task, deadheading is like pruning. All it requires is a pair of gardening gloves and shears. Aside from hydrangeas, deadheading is a popular technique for flower gardens.
  • You cut dead blooms off of the plant in a gentle way that will help new growth. Later, you can dive into all of the benefits of why you should deadhead a hydrangea and how.

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How to Deadhead Hydrangeas

  • Pruning plants can seem intimidating, but deadheading is an easy process. Unlike other forms of pruning, deadheading is usually always a worry-free process.
  • First, prepare your pruners by wiping them clean. Some people may want to use denatured alcohol for sanitizing.
  • Gather your tools and locate the dead blooms on your hydrangea. If you follow this bloom’s stem, there should be a point where it reconnects to the main plant.
  • At this intersection, you should see two or more small green buds. These buds must remain unharmed. They will be the new growth. Move a bit farther up.
  • You can cut the dead flowers off as far as you like, as long as these fresh buds remain.
  • Ensure there aren’t any other signs of growth along the stem before you cut. Greenery could be a sign that the flower will rebloom.
  • While deadheading your hydrangea, you may want to wipe the shears between snips. It can prevent disease spread or pests, especially between multiple plants.
  • Before you head out, here’s a simple checklist of what to bring:
    • Garden gloves
    • Preferred shears
    • Rag or other cloth for wiping
    • Denatured alcohol if preferred
    • Bin or container for clipped blooms

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When to Deadhead Hydrangeas

  • You should probably deadhead your hydrangea during the peak flowering season.
  • Depending on your state, your prime bloom time may be different. For instance, Pennsylvania usually has hydrangeas blooming from July to August.
  • Spring and summer is the ideal time because the plant is thriving. Hydrangeas can quickly regrow from pruning.
  • Whenever you see old flowers fading, feel free to deadhead during this season. It will keep your garden looking great and help the plant.
  • There is no exact timing, as differences in sun and water can affect how long blooms last. Try making it a regular part of your daily garden check, looking for places that need a prune.
  • Usually, it’s best not to deadhead a hydrangea later in the season. The plants should be left alone during winter.
  • During these periods, the plant is trying to reserve energy and rest for the cold. Pruning at this point could be harmful.
  • The hydrangea will struggle to heal the cut. Plus, it leaves it open for disease.
  • Also, the dead blooms look nice compared to the bare limbs often seen in winter.
  • So, feel free to deadhead as often as you like during peak seasons but prepare for winter and slow down as growth slows in fall.

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Benefits of Deadheading

  • There are many reasons why you should deadhead a hydrangea. Besides keeping the garden beautiful, it helps the plant.
  • Plants waste energy on the dead branches, and removing them releases that burden. Here are a few examples of what your plant can do with that extra energy.

New Blooms

  • Deadheading is necessary for those interested in keeping hydrangea buds at peak form and your garden show-worthy.
  • Old flowers that have passed prime continue to suck energy from your hydrangea. Plus, they can be an eyesore among the colorful blooms still producing.
  • One of the main ways it uses that refocused energy is to create new flowers. When you deadhead, you can extend the blooming time of your plant.
  • Enjoy more vibrant flowers for a long time while keeping dead brown out of your garden.

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Healthier Roots and Foliage

  • Every time you deadhead an old blossom, it might not form a new flower on the spot. The process is still helping.
  • Keeping your plant healthy is one of the top reasons why you should deadhead hydrangeas. If your plant doesn’t start creating new blooms, it will make roots and vegetation.
  • As most gardeners know, root health is fundamental to plant health. You can’t always control soil or other conditions. But you can help your hydrangea build stronger roots with deadheading.
  • These roots and vegetation give your plant better protection from the elements and pests. Minor issues won’t have the opportunity to wipe out the entire system.
  • While it may be preferred to see new flowers, it’s a nice bonus to know the plant is performing well.

Stop Seeding

  • The natural cycle for plants is to produce flowers and then create seeds. This process is a crucial process for the ecosystem when plants are wild.
  • With many personal gardens, having flowers go to seed can be a hassle. Some plants can be aggressive with self-seeding and spread before you realize it. These plants particularly need deadheading.
  • Hydrangeas aren’t typically aggressive, but they still go to seed. When you deadhead the blooms, the plant stops trying to create seed pods.
  • Usually, the seeding process stops blooming. Instead, when you stop the seeding process with deadheading, blooming restarts.
  • Stopping the seeding is part of why deadheading can extend the blooming season.
  • However, it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t deadhead your hydrangea at the end of the season. It isn’t just dangerous to the plant.
  • When you allow your hydrangea to seed before winter, it’s helpful for the local environment. Birds and other animals will have it as a food resource before hibernation.
  • So enjoy extending blooming and stopping seeding by deadheading. But remember to stop as the end of your state’s season approaches.

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Which Hydrangeas Need Deadheading

  • It’s important to mention that while most plants can benefit from deadheading, not every variety of hydrangea needs as much pruning.
  • You could research your specific variety of hydrangea if it’s known. Ultimately, you need to know whether your plant blooms on old or new wood.
  • To determine which you have, old wood plants usually:
    • Bloom earlier in the year
    • Can bloom before July
    • Buds grow on old wood from prior years
    • When cut, stalks will be entirely brown.
  • A typical example of old wood plants is bigleaf hydrangeas.
  • Don’t try pruning old wood hydrangeas until new, green growth begins in the Spring season. Once blooms start to die, deadheading will be helpful.
  • Be extra careful not to damage any signs of green growth.
  • New wood plants typically:
    • Begin blooming late, after July
    • Flowers grow on wood stems from the year
  • Popular new wood plants include oakleaf, smooth, and panicle hydrangeas.
  • You should be able to deadhead this hydrangea freely when the petals fade to brown. Limit any other plant pruning to early spring.

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There’s still more to know about the process of deadheading and how to keep your plant happy. Here are a few common questions when considering how you should deadhead hydrangeas.

Is deadheading necessary?

-> For the most part, deadheading isn’t necessary. Your hydrangea will usually be alright.
-> There won’t be as many blooms throughout the year, and you may even have smaller flowers on your plant. Plus, the dead brown flowers will stay on the bush for longer.
-> You may have fewer roots and vegetation, but realistically, you won’t be harming the hydrangea.

Should dead hydrangea leaves be pruned?

-> Hydrangeas don’t need much extra pruning, but you can safely remove any dead or damaged leaves.
-> You can also do this to damaged or dead sticks, especially after winter. If a branch seems spent, carefully ensure there are no signs of greenery.
-> If you are removing damage, be careful to wipe the trimmers to ensure you don’t spread any disease.

How do I manage to deadhead?

-> Deadheading can seem overwhelming at times. The best way to keep up with it is to do a daily or weekly check of your plants for dead flowers.
-> You can safely remove them this often, and it will prevent deadheading from becoming a chore.

Should You Deadhead Hydrangeas and How to
Should You Deadhead Hydrangeas and How to

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Overall, there are many reasons why you should deadhead a hydrangea. It keeps the garden looking great, helps the plant’s root health, and stops seeding.

And really, knowing how to deadhead a hydrangea is a crucial garden skill that is easy. Many can even find the practice a fun ritual of hydrangea maintenance.

Enjoy this beneficial pruning and keep your flowers in top shape.