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Hydrangea care in late summer and fall: why now pruning, fertilizing and mulching are so important

Proper hydrangea care in late summer and fall is especially important for the perennial bloomers. We explain what you should pay attention to when pruning, fertilizing and mulching so that the woody plants come through the winter well and bloom profusely again next year.

Hydrangea care in late summer and autumn: these gardening tasks are due

Hydrangea care in autumn when to cut

The days are getting shorter and the time has slowly come to prepare the perennial bloomer for the coming fall. One thing is for sure: if you put in the effort this year, you will be rewarded with a splendid display of blooms next year.

Hydrangeas are among the most beautiful and popular ornamental shrubs in the home garden. But when it comes to proper care in late summer and fall, most amateur gardeners are overwhelmed. When is the right time to fertilize , prune and remove withered hydrangea?

In today’s article we will try to summarize all the important care tips for the cold season, so that later then in October and November you can successfully overwinter their garden and potted plants.

When and how to cut the hydrangeas?

Cut hydrangeas when is the right time (1)

Perhaps one of the most common mistakes people make when caring for hydrangeas is annual pruning in the fall. Actually, such radical pruning each year is not necessary, and in some cases it can even have a negative effect on plant growth and flowering. In fact, most hydrangea species will make it through the winter just fine without pruning.

Maintenance pruning is necessary when the shrub needs thinning or when it has grown too tall. In this case, however, you do a topiary and rejuvenation pruning. Cutting off all shoots at ground level is considered as a rescue measure (for example, in case of disease or a pest infestation).

Cut off withered hydrangea care in autumn

Cut hydrangeas of pruning group 1 in late summer or spring.

The favorable time can vary greatly from species to species. Basically, hydrangeas are divided into two pruning groups. The first pruning group blooms on the old wood, and the second – on the new. This means that hydrangea from group 1 form flower buds for the next garden season already in the fall. Pruning in September or October will remove these flower buds and the plant will not bloom next year. These hydrangeas are also sensitive to frost and may not recover in time from a fall pruning.

When is the right time to prune? Late summer, around the end of August, is when you can do a maintenance pruning. Cut off any that have wilted and remove any shoots that are ailing or growing inward. If you want to thin out the shrub, wait until spring.

Hydrangea care in late summer and autumn what to consider


Pruning hydrangeas of pruning group 2 in autumn

Unlike the first pruning group, hydrangeas in pruning group 2 bloom on new wood. This means that they can be pruned in the fall. This involves thinning out the plant and removing diseased shoots.

If you are not sure which pruning group your hydrangea belongs to, you can use the blooming season as a guide. Summer blooming species are thinned out in late summer or early spring. Hydrangeas that bloom in late summer are pruned after the bloom period ends in the fall.

Remove withered

Hydrangea cut off withered in August

Regardless of which pruning group your hydrangea belongs to, regularly remove what has faded. This nurturing measure promotes renewed flowering in summer and fall. After the end of the blooming period, you should cut off all wilted flowers. They are entry points for bacteria and fungi and make the plant more susceptible to infestation. If you don’t remove the wilted blooms, you also risk snow breakage in the winter.

Fertilize hydrangeas in late summer and fall.

Fall is the right time to prepare your hydrangea for the coming winter months. Work organic compost into the root zone to protect the roots from frost and provide the woody plant with valuable nutrients.

Beginning in late August, you can discontinue other fertilizer applications. If you continue to apply liquid fertilizer to the plants, this may encourage new sprouting. Young shoots are particularly susceptible to frost damage.

Hydrangea care: a layer of mulch protects against frost

Hydrangea mulching in late summer and fall useful care tips


A layer of mulch can protect hydrangea from frost. The thickness of the mulch layer can vary between 5 cm and 7 cm. The rule of thumb is that the colder it gets in your region during the winter, the more mulch you should apply. It is best to mix bark mulch with some horn shavings and lay it down. The layer of mulch will protect the garden soil from drying out.

Care tips for hydrangea in a pot

Hydrangeas in pots correct care in autumn (1)

Hydrangea in a pot has special requirements for location, soil and fertilizing/watering. You should also keep a few things in mind when caring for it in late summer and fall.

  • Fertilize correctly: Hydrangea in a pot is very sensitive. Use only special fertilizer for hydrangea. Stop fertilizing in early September.
  • Watering: The hydrangea can not tolerate lime . Water it only with rainwater or decalcified tap water.
  • Pruning: Unlike garden hydrangeas, potted plants are not pruned. If necessary, you can remove ailing shoots in March.
  • Remove wilted flowers: wait until the flower buds turn brown and dry out completely. Then cut them off.
  • In the fall, you can move hydrangeas to a wind-protected spot near the house.
  • The sun continues to shine strongly in the fall and winter, so the location should not be in full sun. Otherwise, the delicate leaves can burn.