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Confused about winter care - help appreciated!

We planted some beautiful hydrangeas this summer and loved how long into fall they lasted. Now the flower heads have of course turned brown and dried. I know you are not supposed to prune hydrangea branches, but I'm confused about the conflicting instructions on dead-heading the actual flowers - do I clip off the dead flower heads? Or let them rot on the plant? (They're not attractive, so I wouldn't mind getting rid of them, but I will keep them if that is what ensures new flowers next summer.)

Btw, these are the "Endless Summer" brand of hydrangeas. I'm going to copy the info from their website also below...it says they get blooms from old growth but I don't really know what that means in terms of deadheading:
"Endless Summer® Hydrangeas are a proven, cold hardy, repeat blooming, and colorful mophead hydrangea. The Endless Summer® Collection has the distinguishing characteristic of blooming on both the current season’s growth as well as the previous year’s growth. Endless Summer® greatly outperforms the old-fashioned Hydrangea macrophylla. If there was a late frost or extended cold temperature exposure on the old-fashioned Hydrangea macrophylla the climate would have killed the flower buds that had formed on the previous year’s growth, therefore, the old variety may have bloomed little or not at all. Endless Summer® blooms on new growth and can showcase a billowing display of blossoms from late spring till late fall."

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Super Green Thumb
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Re: Confused about winter care - help appreciated!

Lots of people leave the dried flower heads on through winter, because they do find them attractive in a winter landscape, where there is little else going on:


If you don't like them, then clip them off. If you just clip the flower heads, it won't make any difference for this year's blooms.
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Re: Confused about winter care - help appreciated!

First of all - thank you! That's very helpful.

Here is a pic of mine. I think the fact that they are all in different stages of dead-ness is what's hurting how everything looks back there. But now I'm worried if I clip them off, if that area will look worse. Hmmm...

If you leave the flower heads on, does the new growth eventually just push them off? Or do you eventually have to clip them regardless?

Greener Thumb
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Re: Confused about winter care - help appreciated!

Oh, yes, your shrubs are almost dormant. As for the spent blooms 'possible departure time', you do not have to cut them (unless you really do not like them).

For mopheads like yours, there is small peduncle -a little stem- that "connects" the flower to the branch/stem. This peduncle withers away with time such that the flowers fall and "disappear". Or you can cut the peduncle and use the blooms as mulch or compost them (provided your plant has no fungal diseases).

I used to cut the spent blooms off at the peduncle but now, I just let Mother Nature do it. Exactly when do the blooms fall off? Well, maybe after 1-3 months after the peduncle dries out. Lacecap blooms disappear faster than the others. Mopheads are probably a little slower and panicle blooms from Oakleaf/Paniculata Hydrangeas have thicker peduncles so the blooms stay 'on' slightly longer.

This year for example, my paniculatas went dormant first but are still holding on to the spent blooms; the oakleaf hydrangeas dropped most blooms and the leaves are reddish/purplish; the mopheads have some spent flowers and their leaves are STILL green, lush and dark green; and the lacecaps lost their blooms a long time ago... Considering it is January, I guess El Nin~o is messing them up.

So if you cut the little peduncle that connects the blooms to the end of the stem, you will not be cutting the flower buds that your ES developed on old wood last July-August at the end of the stems. Those flower buds are invisible now and will open in Spring 2016.

Can new growth push them out? Maybe. Last year, I had an oakleaf hydrangea that never went dormant but its panicle blooms & the old leaves disappeared on their own in the 1st quarter of 2015. Maybe when they were replaced by new leaves since I do not remember the plant being without leaves at any time. This strange scenario only happens when my area has mild winters or when you live in the tropics (USDA Zones 12-13 ish).


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