There are three reasons why you prune. Firstly, pruning promotes the healthy growth of young and productive wood by cutting out of spent growth, weak shoots and dead wood. It will also improve growth by admitting light and air into the plants.
Pruning is also a great way to retain the natural form of the shrub by shortening branches. And, finally, pruning usually increases the size and quality of blooms. By not pruning, some shrubs soon become nothing but a mass of weak and tangled shoots totally incapable of bearing any but the smallest and weakest of flowers.
How you prune a hydrangea stem depends on its age. Here is a step-by-step guide:
- Young stems. There are young slender growths of the previous summer reaching up from the base of the plant. At the end of this stem there is a large bud. This bud, in the next growing season, will produce a short shoot and then a flower.
- Mature stems. There are also mature (slightly older) shoots two seasons old. At the end of these stems there is a dead flower (if not removed by dead heading), while a short distance down the stem will be found a cluster of large buds usually four to six in number. These, if left, will each produce a flower the following summer.
- Old stems. All you need to do is prune the old stems back to just above the cluster of buds. Very older, heavier stems of two or more seasons will also be found, carrying several dead flower heads, and these should be pruned back hard to the base of the plant.
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