How you care for your hydrangea bushes in late summer and fall can not only have a big impact on their overall health, but also on just how well they perform next year. And that includes whether they bloom big – or perhaps not at all!
As daylight begins to fade with each passing day in late summer, it’s time to start getting your hydrangea bushes ready before the snow and cold arrive. One thing is for sure, a little work now can pay off big next year.
Hydrangeas are one of the most beautiful of all perennial shrubs. But these wondrous plants are also one of the most often misunderstood when it comes to late summer and early fall care. Especially when it comes to the tasks of pruning, fertilizing and deadheading spent blooms.
The Bigleaf variety, (hydrangea macrophylla, hydrangea paniculata and hydrangea quercifolia)
The biggest thing to remember with these varieties is that next years flowers will come out on this years branches. So, if you cut down all your branches, surely you will have lush green growth, but you will seldom see a flower.
Generally speaking, we suggest the following:
- Prune after the flowers fade (deadheading)
- Do not prune after August 1.
- Only remove dead wood in the fall.
- To prune, cut one or two of the oldest stems down to the base to encourage branching and fullness.
- Oakleaf, panicle, and smooth hydrangeas blossom on the current season’s wood. They should be pruned in the later winter when the plant is dormant BEFORE bloom.
- As a general rule, prune only dead branches, and do not prune to shape the bush.
Preparing Hydrangeas For Winter:
Now that we have covered pruning, it is time to talk about winterizing your hydrangeas. How you winterize will depend on the climate of your specific location.
First, no matter where you live, all hydrangeas can benefit from one thing every fall – an energizing layer of compost! Applying a few inches of compost around the base of your plant not only helps insulate the roots for winter, but slowly adds nutrients that can be used for next year’s growth and blooms.
No matter if you live in a cold climate, or an area with more moderate winters, hydrangeas will also benefit from a fresh layer of mulch in the fall. Mulch not only insulates the roots of hydrangeas from sudden thaws and freezing, it also helps to retain moisture.
But how much mulch you apply will all depend on where you live. The general rule of thumb is the colder the climate, the more mulch you will need. In areas where the temperatures rarely if ever get below freezing, a few inches of mulch on top of the compost is more than enough to help retain moisture.
One thing you do not want to do in the fall is apply any additional fertilizers. The layer of compost is more than adequate to give the bush a little nutrition before winter. But applying any more power can actually create late season growth that will be vulnerable to winter damage.
If you really feel the need to fertilize, we would only recommend a small amount of Bio-Live from Down to Earth as it is full of beneficial bacteria and microbes that your soil will love, plus it is mild enough to not send the plant into a full rush of pushing out new growth.