“My hydrangeas are too big! Can I cut them back without losing the flowers?”

Hydrangea blocking windows

When talking with homeowners, this is the question that comes up the most, hands down. Their lovely, old plantings of  hydrangea are gorgeous, but they are blocking the windows, doorways, driveways, or ocean view. They are flopping on to the deck, or on the plants in front of them.

Technically, the answer to the question  is yes- mophead hydrangeas, even those varieties that bloom on old wood, like “Nikko Blue”- can be cut back if it is done before August, when they set buds for next year’s bloom.  I hate to do this, but it can be done. Believe me, it isn’t pretty. And it is only a short-term solution. The mopheads will keep growing back, and they will get just as big as they were before.

My best advice in these situations is to move the hydrangeas. They are going to be what they are going to be. There is no way to keep them small and still attractive year after year. Find a nice home for them with plenty of room  to grow,  morning sun, some afternoon shade, and plenty of moisture. They will  require much less maintenance, (which is always the case when you work with nature, not against it) and reward you with years of beautiful blooms.

If you want hydrangea close to the house, there are plenty of well-behaved varieties that will stay smaller. The Cityline series of Hydrangea are compact, topping out at 3-4 feet. They are available in a variety of colors. My favorite is Cityline Rio, below.

Cityline Rio Hyydrangea


About villagegardener

Cindy Hollett is a Massachusetts Certified Horticulturist, Estate Gardener and Garden Designer, living and working on Cape Cod.
This entry was posted in Garden Design, Gardening, Plant Care and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to “My hydrangeas are too big! Can I cut them back without losing the flowers?”

  1. Pingback: Learning From Experience – Which Hydrangeas Are Best? « Hydrangeas Blue

  2. This is some really good advice. why continually fight with with what nature wants to do. The key learning to work with nature not against it.

    • True. Fighting with nature is difficult, costly and usually unnecessary. Much better results can be achieved by observing the natural growth habit of plants and giving them the space they need to grow.

  3. Diane Westlund says:

    We cut a hydrangea Annabelle very low to the ground last fall not knowing we shouldn’t and this summer it looks like sticks, did we kill it? Will it come back next year?

    • It should not look like sticks now. Check around the base of the plant to see if there is any new growth coming up. Annabelle can be cut back to 18-24 inches, very early spring or late fall, although cutting in the spring is less risky. It blooms on new growth, so you won’t lose flowers if you cut it back. Harsh winters,and going into winter without much water can make it tough for them to survive- especially if they are not well established. Chances are if you don’t see any new growth at the base, it won’t come back next year.

      • Diane Westlund says:

        There is a little growth on the base on the wood do you think that will make it through the winter or do you think we should just get a new one? I really appreciate your opinion! Thank you!

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