Fall pruning a large hydrangea (I think it is a Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea)

Asked October 14, 2020, 12:39 PM EDT

THe home we moved into just over a year ago has a large (at least 9’) Hydrangea. It is loaded with blossoms again and as winter approaches I am concerned that if I leave all the blossoms on, as I did last winter, that it might sustain breakage with heavy snows, ice and wind. Is it advisable to cut off blossoms?

Charlevoix County Michigan

1 Response

Like most paniculata hydrangeas, "Vanilla Strawberry" does best in full sun. Its mature height is 6-7 feet, with a spread of 4-5 feet. To ensure a healthy plant, plan for pruning a Vanilla Strawberry hydrangea after the worst of winter's cold has passed (February or March) before new growth begins. In late winter or early spring, these shrubs can be cut all the way back to the ground. Smooth hydrangeas will produce much larger blooms if pruned hard like this each year, but many gardeners opt for smaller blooms on sturdier stems.

To reduce flopping, them, leave a framework of old growth. If you are concerned about the sturdiness of the stems to hold up the numerous blooms, only cut them back to a height of 18 to 24 inches to provide a sturdy framework to support new growth.. This allows the lower portion of the stems to continue to grow sturdier and give more support to the heavy blooms.

Because they need to grow and set buds the same year that they bloom, paniculata hydrangeas flower on new wood each season. These shrubs are forgiving if pruning is not done at a certain time as long as you avoid pruning when the flower buds are opening.

Because you are going to cut them branches back in late winter/early spring anyway, you can either remove the dead blossoms now or let them flop and possibly break during the winter.