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Prune hydrangea with confidence using these handy tips

Yellow garden-gloved hands prune away dead branches from a low-grounding hydrangea plant in the soil.
Iuliia Burmistrova
Does your hydrangea bloom in early summer or more toward fall? Knowing that is key to pruning it at the right time.

Cold weather and a blanket of fresh snow might not seem like the right time to don some gardening gloves and grab your pruning shears, but for certain types of hydrangea bushes, now is the time to prune them!

As spring moves forward, you can prune not only hydrangea now but also certain types of other shrubs. If you’re interested in learning more about all types of pruning, Charlie Nardozzi is holding a Zoom webinar on Tuesday, March 26, at 6 p.m.

For an in-person guide to pruning various trees and shrubs, Charlie will be at the Gardener's Supply retail store in Williston on Saturday, March 30th at 10 a.m.

As for pruning hydrangeas, the key is knowing which type of flowering bush you have. That's because the type dictates how and when to prune!

Hydrangea shrubs that bloom in late spring and early summer are ones like the classic mop-head or lacecap type, blue hydrangea, oak leaf hydrangea, climbing hydrangea and mountain hydrangea. These bloom on what is known as "old wood," referring to branches that overwinter. These types should be pruned right after the hydrangea is done blooming in early summer.

For other kinds of hydrangea that bloom in late summer or early fall, like the paniculata or panicle hydrangea, these bloom on new wood — meaning the new growth that comes out of the stems and terminates in a flower.

For these varieties, prune them now and trim them back to a structure so that they have more new growth. Remove any competing branches and cut them back to a height that you like. You can prune pretty severely; the plant will bounce back and still flower.

One little caveat is the blue hydrangeas like the "Endless Summer" type: They have what is called a “reblooming habit." If you are growing this type, the time to prune those is just like the other blue hydrangea: prune them after they're done blooming in the early summer.

A listeners asks if charcoal is good for garden soil

Q: A friend is very excited about using charcoal to add to his raised beds as a method for providing and storing nutrients in the soil. If you recommend it, is it considered organic? - Ed, in Morrisville

A: Charcoal can be used as a soil amendment, as long as it's not regular charcoal that you would get at a store for grilling and things like that.

Instead, biochar is an activated charcoal which is used agriculturally. Biochar is made of organic materials that have been burnt at very low oxygen levels so they become charcoal. It is also effective in retaining water and nutrients. It can be used for phytoremediation, meaning taking out contaminants in the soil.

Another way to help your soil retain water and nutrients without charcoal is to use excess wood and build a hugelkultur mound! That uses wood in a mounded shape which you then cover with soil and plant vegetables and herbs into and on top of it. The same thing happens here where you’re locking up carbon in the soil and reducing the amount of effects on global warming.

More from Vermont Public: Watch as we visit Gretchen's garden and hugelkultur mound

Give either method a try in your garden and let us know how it goes!

All Things Gardening is powered by you, our audience! Send us your toughest conundrums to and join the fun. Or better yet, leave a voicemail with your gardening question so we can use your voice on the air! Call Vermont Public at 1-800-639-2192.

Listen to All Things Gardening Sunday mornings at 9:35 a.m., and subscribe to the podcast to listen any time.

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.