I got to follow along as Mike (co-owner of Joy Creek) did his pruning workshop. A question that comes up a lot is how to care for Hydrangeas, so I thought I would share the pruning tips I picked up along the way. In the spring, your shrub should look like this, having left the blooms on the plant through the winter. It may run counter to certain neatnik tendencies but is better for the health of the plant.
The flowers darken, then fade and even skeletonize with the winter weather and can be beautiful, even bouquet-worthy, at every stage.
Early in March, a mature plant can benefit from taking out the oldest branches. Look for the oldest wood (it will be gnarlier) and cut it out at the base. This provides air circulation and reinvigorates the plant.
Leave the faded blooms on the remaining branches until mid-April. In Portland, we still run a risk of a late freeze and the flowers protect emerging buds if that should happen.
When the time comes (danger of a late frost has passed) snip the flowering stem just above the first set of green buds like the ones you see above.
By refreshing your Hydrangeas in this way every few years, you can look forward to stunning displays year after year.