Tips for growing Annabelle hydrangea bushes and arranging their beautiful blooms. Advice for when to prune an Annabelle hydrangea, and how to harvest.
For me, the struggle is real when it comes to growing hydrangeas. I love them so much, but have not been able to successfully grow them. I currently have three Limelight hydrangeas in front of our porch…and they are just getting buds. The bushes are huge, so I’m hopeful the blooms will be plentiful. (Last year was disappointing. Not one, single bloom.) I also have one Annabelle hydrangea in our backyard, by our garden shed. Every other hydrangea I have planted over the past 30 years, and there have been many, has either died or refused to bloom.
The Annabelle hydrangea bush I’m featuring today is one of two that were planted about 25 years ago, a few years after we moved into this house. The second one was on the opposite side of the shed. It never bloomed, and after several years, it died. The remaining plant continued to grow, but for a long time, there were no blooms. About 10 years ago, the blooms began to show up, and they have been reliable ever since.
Because of my less-than-successful career as a hydrangea grower, I have read countless articles and blog posts on growing hydrangeas. The most asked questions are in regards to pruning. It can be confusing, but the answer lies firmly in knowing if your hydrangea blooms on old wood, or new wood.
When to Prune an Annabelle Hydrangea
Annabelle hydrangeas (considered smooth hydrangeas) bloom on new wood, or in other words, the current season’s growth. To make sure that you are not cutting off any buds, the best time to cut your bushes back is in the late fall or very early spring. It’s perfectly OK to deadhead (remove spent blooms) your Annabelles any time. Annabelles can occasionally benefit from a hard pruning…but don’t do it every year. If your bushes are thin and leggy, or if your blooms are small, go ahead and hard prune in the late fall. Cut the stems back to about 18 inches so the new growth will have a sturdy framework. New growth will appear in the spring, and your bushes will be thicker, with bigger blooms.
*Author’s note: some master gardeners say to cut back Annabelles in the late winter or early spring. There are also some who say it’s fine to prune in the late fall. I found it confusing until it was explained to me this way: once the growing season starts, do not prune or cut back your Annabelles. So when to prune an Annabelle hydrangea? It’s fine to prune in the late fall, late winter, or very early spring.
As you can see from the photo above, my Annabelle is floppy and the blooms are a bit small. I haven’t pruned it for a few years, so I plan to carefully cut it back before the snow flies.
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Arranging Annabelle Hydrangeas
First of all, nothing could be easier. Annabelles are so beautiful that there is no need to add any other type of flowers or filler to an arrangement.
- To harvest Annabelle blooms, cut the stems so they are about 15 inches long. Strip all but the very top set of leaves, and plunge the stems into a bucket of cool water.
- Use a tall vase or pitcher, so you can take advantage of the long stems.
- Re-cut the stems at an angle, and dip them in alum before adding to your vase or pitcher.
- To prolong the life of your arrangement, change the water every few days, and give the stems a fresh cut.
It’s a personal choice, but I don’t like to see stems between the blooms and the top of the vessel. I love when the fluffy blooms sit nicely on the top of the vessel, with a few leaves to add interest.
Like most things in my life, my garden is a work in progress. I would love to have more hydrangeas, more peonies, and more lavender. All are very low maintenance, so they fit well with my “simple is best” motto. I’m finished planting for this growing season, but as we all know, there’s always next year!