How to Prune Annabelle Hydrangeas for Beautiful Blooms

annabelle hydrangea with big white flower clusters and large green leaves


In This Article
Project Overview
  • Total Time: 15 mins - 1 hr
  • Yield: 1 bush
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0

Annabelle hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle') are one of the most popular hydrangea varieties, and with good reason. These attractive shrubs are known for their large white flower clusters. Pruning Annabelle hydrangeas isn't essential for beautiful blossoms, but it's still a good idea to know how and when to do it.

Some experts recommend pruning Annabelle hydrangeas every year to encourage larger flower clusters, and others say they bloom just fine without it. Whichever your preference is, we have the pruning solution. Read on to learn how to prune Annabelle hydrangeas properly.

About Annabelle Hydrangeas

Annabelle hydrangeas are a cultivar of a native species that was first discovered in Illinois in 1910, then released widely in the 1960s. Snowball-like flowers as large as a foot across appear in early summer, then gradually turn lime green. Finally, the flowers dry out and fade to an attractive tan in fall, providing winter interest. Annabelles are also one of the best hydrangeas that will bloom in partial shade.

When to Prune Hydrangeas

Annabelle hydrangeas tend to bloom reliably whether you prune them or not, and pruning is simple because their flowers appear on new growth. But Annabelle hydrangeas can grow quite large—up to five feet tall and six feet wide—so you may want to prune your plant simply to control its size. Another reason to prune is that leaving a few feet of last year's growth in place can help support the new stems, which creates a more upright, compact shape once the plant is in full flower.

It's best to prune Annabelle hydrangeas in late winter or very early spring, before last year's stems start to leaf out. Avoid pruning once new growth has appeared on old wood in the spring and during summer, when the shrubs are in bloom.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Sterilized garden shears or pruners
  • Gardening gloves


  • Yard waste bags


How to Prune Annabelle Hydrangeas

  1. Remove Dry Flower Heads

    If you don't want to leave last season's dry flower heads on the plant or would like to use them as cut flowers, you can remove them in late fall. If you want to enjoy the look of the dried flowers during the cold months, you can leave them until late winter.

  2. Tidy and Trim for Shape

    Even if you don't want to prune aggressively each year, it's still a good idea to trim and shape your Annabelle hydrangea in late winter before new growth appears. Remove damaged limbs and any remaining flower heads. You can also make cuts to shape the plant to your liking.

  3. Cut Back Old Growth in Late Winter

    If you're planning a hard pruning, late winter is the time to do it. Cut stems down to ground level, taking care not to damage any of the new green buds emerging from the crown of the plant. This approach will give the new growth a more relaxed, wild shape. Another option is to leave 18 to 24 inches of old stems in place to support for new stems and help keep new growth more upright.

Additional Tips for Growing and Pruning Hydrangeas

  • Harvest Annabelle hydrangea flowers for bouquets in midsummer. You'll have the most success with them as cut flowers once they've faded to green. The white flower clusters that appear earlier in the season won't last as long once they're removed from the plant.
  • In warmer regions such as the Southeast United States, pruning stems a few inches down from the flowers as soon as they fade in late summer can prompt another round of blooms.
  • Even if you don't prune your Annabelle hydrangea every year, it's a good idea to prune every three to five years to encourage more vigor.
  • Annabelle hydrangeas are known for their ability to rebloom each year, even when cut down nearly to ground level. However, some experts say that this approach cause weaker stems that will droop under the weight of the plant's large flower heads.
  • If your Annabelle hydrangea is droopy or floppy, you may need to use stakes, string, or nearby fencing to support them during the growing season. Rather than a hard pruning down to the ground, try leaving a few feet of stem to support next season's new growth.
Article Sources
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  1. The 'Annabelle' Hydrangea. Illinois Extension.