Mophead hydrangeas are large, bushy flowers that resemble shrubs. In the fall and winter, the tall stems are relatively unattractive and simply look like tall sticks emerging from the ground. However, in the spring the dead branches spring to life turning green and developing a large flower blossom at the top.
The Mophead hydrangea, also known as Hydrangea macrophylla, gets its name because the flowers are so large, they often resemble the head of a mop and sometimes reach the size of a small dish. Hydrangeas require very specific care requirements and learning how to prune hydrangea bushes is an area that confuses many people. Here are some guides to keep the hydrangea bush healthy without destroying next year’s blooms.
Start off by looking for dead stems on the mophead hydrangea, which are brown and hollow. Since pruning is done in the summer, all of the stems should still be green if they are healthy. Prune off all dead stems near the base of the plant using hand pruners. You can continue removing dead stems continuously through the growing season safely without affecting the blooms.
For large overgrown hydrangea plants, look for the tallest stems, which are typically in the back or the center of the plant. Grasp one of the stems and trace it down to where it emerges from the ground. Cut it off as close to the ground as possible with the hand pruners. Repeat the pruning process to cut off one-third of the remaining tallest hydrangea stems to open up the plant and rejuvenate it.
Stand back and look at the overall planting location to see if the mophead hydrangea is growing into walkways or other plants. If needed, cut back the tips of the stems by 3 to 6 inches to shape the plant, making the cuts just above a leaf. Remove stem tips from all sides of the plant to maintain a symmetrical shape.
One exception to the above pruning process is the Endless Summer Hydrangea. The Endless Summer is a Mophead hydrangea, but it is a special hybrid that blooms on both new and old wood. For this reason, you can prune Endless Summer Hydrangeas any time of the year and it will still bloom the following spring.
So go ahead and prune your Hydrangea macrophylla or mophead hydrangea without fear. The plant will be tidier and you will enjoy its appearance in your garden much more.