If it’s difficult for you to look at old brown flower heads, you may choose to prune just below the bloom in winter, when your hydrangea is dormant. Otherwise, wait until late February or early March to prune the entire hydrangea including those old flower heads. Ensure you take out no more than 1/3 of the plant when you selectively prune and use the following tips:
- Start by taking out dead wood. Dead wood is easy to locate by lightly scraping the bark to expose the green cambium just under the surface. Dead wood will be grey or brown; live wood will be green.
- Next, take out any crossing, rubbing, or broken branches.
- If you like, you may take out the lower hanging branches – the ones lying on the ground making your hydrangea look unwieldy.
- Cut off the old, brown blooms down to the 4th or 5th pair of plump buds below the flower head. Keep in mind, the blooms for the coming summer are formed on the old growth from the previous season. Those plump buds you currently see on your hydrangea will be big, beautiful blossoms by summertime!
- If you leave the old flower heads on through the winter, be certain to shake off any snow that may accumulate so the weight of the snow does not cause your branches to break.