zagoren
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I think we may have overpruned our PeeGees!

Hello all!

We live in NW Connecticut...Zone 5a

We moved into our home in the fall of 2014. We had beautiful, but overgrown pool area. It had forsythia as the dominant plant. We cleaned/cleaned it up, moved the pool equip behind our shed, and after looking through tons of Pinterest images and magazines we found our inspiration in the following photo:

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We planted mature shrub form peegees in the spring of 2015. We wanted big beautiful bush forms around the pool. We thought the ones that were planted looked a bit like tree forms, but we were told that we could just prune them and make them bushier (knock back the central, long stems).

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We have since stopped worrying about the whole bush vs tree form thing. We love them and here is what they looked like last summer

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We never did any serious pruning. I went in there an removed what I thought was some dead branches. In the meantime, we bought some additional peegees for other places on the property. We didn't make the rookie mistake of buying mature plants as we realize how fast and lush these shrubs can get. Whenever I asked our trusted nursery owner about care he would say "just mow them down to the ground in early spring...give em a haircut".

Since our pool hydrangeas are so mature and woody this did not make sense to me. So in mid-April (which was still chilly up here ...no buds yet) I took off every thing on the plant except for the big wood stems (which I cut to a height of 3 feet). This is what it looks like now...

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I'm sure we overdid it. Will we get back the growth that we had last year? Will there be any flowers this year? Did we cut back too much?

There is new growth so I'm sure the plants are fine. Should I be removing any leaves shoots at this point? My instinct was to remove any shoots / leaves / buds that were heading back across the interior. But perhaps our severe haircut necessitates leaving them alone.

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Thanks so much for reading! I appreciate any advice and input that would help us maintain these guys and get them to grow into the lovely, huge bushes we have in our inspiration photo.

(the fence was an addition that the town required after moving the pool equipment)

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pinksand
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Re: I think we may have overpruned our PeeGees!

I'll be curious to see the responses you get as I'm in a similar boat. I bought a paniculata hydrangea that was in really poor shape in the hope of fixing it with pruning over several years but the minimal pruning I've done hasn't resulted in any improvement. I'd like to hack it way back next spring so I'll have to see what is recommended to you!

At this point, i would guess that it won't likely bloom this year despite them blooming on new wood but you never know! I would think that you should leave anything green alone until it gets re-established and then work on pruning crossing branches etc. Usually when I do more of a rejuvenation pruning on something like this I give it a year to recover before really touching it again.
USDA Zone 7a, Sunset Zone 32
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zagoren
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Re: I think we may have overpruned our PeeGees!

Hi-
Just to confirm, i did not prune anything green. When I did the April pruning it was all woody stems.

I'd also love to hear from the community about what they think would happen if we did minimal pruning with these 8 plants. Would they coalesce into one large-looking hydrangeea mass (at least in the summer).

imafan26
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Re: I think we may have overpruned our PeeGees!

Now feed them. They should come back. It probably won't be as thick. I would take out suckers while they are still young that are too close together or look like they are growing in the wrong direction. I opt for fewer branches but bigger flowers.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

luis_pr
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Re: I think we may have overpruned our PeeGees!

"Will we get back the growth that we had last year?" It should recover nicely if you do only minor tweaks but how much growth you will get depends on many factors. They can be aggressive growers and put 2-3' in a whole season but that will not take them back to the height that they used to be. Maybe in 2, 3 years?

Will there be any flowers this year? I do not know for sure... that is my answer when a big amount of pruning has happened.The reason is that this amount of pruning is best done in winter or after the shrub goes dormant in the Fall. Doing it in Spring throws a monkey wrench to guessing if you will have bloomage but I am optimistic since the plant was dormant (or about to wake up).

If your growing season is long enough (and it should be in CT), the plant will have enough time to produce new growth... aaaaand if that new growth can get large enough, it will develop flower buds. Since you pruned while there was no leaf out, I am optimistic of getting some bloomage.

Paniculatas can create flower buds multiple times if you prune just as they are developing the flower buds. This pruning delays the blooming process by ??? 2 months maybe? or so. But I am talking about less severe pruning. So play it by ear and post what happened.

Did we cut back too much? No, just too much for Spring. I have seen some pruned (in winter) all the way down and they come back from the crown. Remember the roots are still ok so, as long as you keep the soil evenly moist, mulch them, feed them as usual, amend the soil as needed, etc then you should get new growth back. And some blooms.

Feel free to remove any growth that grows into the interior. Sunlight makes the plant bloom so anything you can do in that area will help produce bloomage near the center of the shrub. I am not talking about making a hole in the middle, of course. For example, tree form PeeGees tend not to produce much bloomage in the middle if left alone/unprunned as this area gets little sunlight but, you can make strategic cuts to open things up a bit and get more blooms in areas that had no or few blooms.

zagoren
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Re: I think we may have overpruned our PeeGees!

imafan26 wrote:Now feed them. They should come back. It probably won't be as thick. I would take out suckers while they are still young that are too close together or look like they are growing in the wrong direction. I opt for fewer branches but bigger flowers.
Thank you! We did feed them that same day with Plant-tone.

zagoren
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Re: I think we may have overpruned our PeeGees!

luis_pr wrote:"Will we get back the growth that we had last year?" It should recover nicely if you do only minor tweaks but how much growth you will get depends on many factors. They can be aggressive growers and put 2-3' in a whole season but that will not take them back to the height that they used to be. Maybe in 2, 3 years?

Will there be any flowers this year? I do not know for sure... that is my answer when a big amount of pruning has happened.The reason is that this amount of pruning is best done in winter or after the shrub goes dormant in the Fall. Doing it in Spring throws a monkey wrench to guessing if you will have bloomage but I am optimistic since the plant was dormant (or about to wake up).

If your growing season is long enough (and it should be in CT), the plant will have enough time to produce new growth... aaaaand if that new growth can get large enough, it will develop flower buds. Since you pruned while there was no leaf out, I am optimistic of getting some bloomage.

Paniculatas can create flower buds multiple times if you prune just as they are developing the flower buds. This pruning delays the blooming process by ??? 2 months maybe? or so. But I am talking about less severe pruning. So play it by ear and post what happened.

Did we cut back too much? No, just too much for Spring. I have seen some pruned (in winter) all the way down and they come back from the crown. Remember the roots are still ok so, as long as you keep the soil evenly moist, mulch them, feed them as usual, amend the soil as needed, etc then you should get new growth back. And some blooms.

Feel free to remove any growth that grows into the interior. Sunlight makes the plant bloom so anything you can do in that area will help produce bloomage near the center of the shrub. I am not talking about making a hole in the middle, of course. For example, tree form PeeGees tend not to produce much bloomage in the middle if left alone/unprunned as this area gets little sunlight but, you can make strategic cuts to open things up a bit and get more blooms in areas that had no or few blooms.
Thank you so much for your detailed, thoughtful reply.

So this is what I'm learning/understanding. I can prune them (better earlier in the spring or winter). I shouldn't prune all the way back to the solid wood. Instead. I should prune back the bendable 1/4" stems to 2-3 nodes from the main branches and remove the ones that are crossing and any others that might be going in directions we don't desire.

Does it make sense to remove any of these super short stems (in the white circles below) with leaves that are growing at this point? Will this give more energy to the other (exterior) shoots?

Image

What would happen if we never pruned them and just let them get enormous? After all, that's what our inspiration photo was all about.

Thank you!

imafan26
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Re: I think we may have overpruned our PeeGees!

I remove the thin stems. If there are thicker stems close together, I would pick the best one going in the right direction and cull the rest. When you prune, plants get bushier, so if you want to get larger flowers and more air circulation you need to remove the suckers you don't want. It is easier to do that while they are still young. Crossing branches will cause some injury that can invite insects and disease and culling stems you don't need redirects energy into the remaining branches so they will grow stronger.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

luis_pr
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Re: I think we may have overpruned our PeeGees!

You can always do cosmetic pruning at any time of the year. That usually entails cutting dead wood, branches that grow too big compared to the rest, crossing branches, etc. So do "little" pruning like that.

But in general terms, hydrangeas require no annual pruning except for removing any dead wood in Spring. Because I usually have mild winter temperatures, I do not get dead wood and I rarely prune my hydrangeas... at all. But this winter was one of those that made many of my mopheads/lacecaps end with dead wood. When I determined that the dead looking branches were not going to leaf out, I pruned them to the ground. I also looked at the other hydrangeas that had no dead wood; I looked to see how the branches looked and ended cutting a few that some pest had partially started munching. Hee hee hee. That was it.

You can let them get large if they are planted in a location where they can grow as large as you want without causing issues. The only issue I can think of is powdery mildew but if you are trying to build a hedge, you have to get the plants close and luckily, PeeGees do not suffer a lot from PM.

ophoenix
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Re: I think we may have overpruned our PeeGees!

In the Pacific Northwest we don't do much pruning of our hydrangeas. I have about 40 different varieties and just tidy up the dead branches, usually when I am sure they are dead. A little shaping here and there and then if the plant totally outgrows it space, I move it and replace with a smaller type of plant. Getting a new home for a mature hydrangea is easy and people and parks are two places to look. Or, you can take cuttings from the top 2/3 of the plant - reducing the size - and creating new plants. One thing to remember is that hydrangeas are not roses and they need very little pruning. When you cut flowers for your home or gifts, it is a good time to trim down to a good healthy bud and that will keep the plant in check. Hydrangeas are mostly self limiting in size - except for my Golden Crane, promised to reach 3-4 ft and is approaching 14 ft! lol I have never read where a Hydrangea expert - Dr. Dirr or others - recommended pruning to increase flowering. Just removing spend blossoms or cutting back the plant (Pruning?) at the correct time of the year will indeed increase blooms.

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