When mophead and lacecap hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) get too tall, leggy, or have outgrown their garden space, prune them now from mid-July thru mid-August. Our native oakleaf hydrangeas (H. quercifolia) are pruned at this time as well. Remove withered or faded flowers; some new flowers may replace those that you have deadheaded in September.
These two hydrangea species set their flower buds for next spring on old or current season’s growth on the terminal bud. Pruning in the fall or winter may remove flower buds or stimulate soft late shoots which die over the winter. Make all cuts at 1/4 inch above the last set of leaves (see photo) or cutback flush to a main branch.
Pruning improves the health of the plant, increasing vegetative growth. On older 4-5 year old hydrangeas, remove larger, thicker canes and prune them at the base of the stem. Remove one-quarter to one-third of these older branches. In 3-4 years the hydrangea will be completely rejuvenated.
Dead, dying, diseased stems and flowers can be removed at any time of year.