climbing hydrangea flowerClimbing Hydrangea is a beautiful and useful climber, but it can get crazy on you if you let it.

It is deciduous, but considered a 4 season plant mainly because:

  • It has lush dark green leaves.
  • It flowers white in early summer.

As you can see it’s a great plant, but you need to be aware of its capabilities.

The first year or two it grows slow while it establishes. Then the pace picks up and it becomes quite vigorous.

As a climber I’ve yet to see its limit in height. Planted at the base of a large tree it will cling and climb until it reaches the top. I’m talking 60′ no problem.

The good news is you can control climbing hydrangea with proper pruning. But I say that with a warning.  If you use it in a limited space, like the one we’re about to talk about, you must be diligent with your pruning or it will easily take over the area.

It’s Doing Well – Too Well!

How do you respond to a customer that says that to you?

“I’m glad your climbing hydrangea is doing well, but sorry it’s covering your house.”

You can avoid those embarassing moments by knowing a plant’s capability right from the start.  Then you can advise your customer what to expect, how they can care for it or how others will care for it.

prune climbing hydrangeaIn the picture above climbing hydrangea is working well on this brick wall. But the plant wants to get bigger, as it does every year. It’s in its DNA.

Notice that the real dominant growth is towards the top. It wants to climb and get as tall as it can. I’ve used climbing hydrangea on homes where it is maintained just below the second story eaves. Not easy to do, but the look is beautiful.

How To Go About Controlling This Climber

The best time to prune climbing hydrangea is after it flowers.

The new flower buds are formed soon after flowering and remain on those stems for the following year. So you’d rather not cut those off if possible.

However, unless you operate with a “calendar of tasks” for your maintenance accounts, you will most likely prune the hydrangea when you’re there pruning everything else.

Site-specific care (doing tasks for a particular property when and if they are needed) is something I’m a strong proponent of.  Not many landscape maintenance companies follow a “site-specific” program.  Most are more “cookie-cutter”.  Clients are always asking me to recommend a company with higher level service like this, but there are simply too few to meet the demand.

So regardless of when you prune climbing hydrangea, cut back the long shoots and those growing outward from the wall to just above a bud or leaf point. Prune selectively using hand pruners.

Often I’ll follow an aggressively growing branch to its “point of origin” and make my cut there.  This is the point where the lateral branch connects to a larger stem.

pruning climbing hydrangeaThis climber produces “aerial roots” that attach themselves to whatever structure is nearby. When first planted you may have to help it attach to the structure by:

  • Installing the plant so it deliberately leans and touches the wall or structure.

These aerial roots will sometimes leave a mark and organic residue on the surface after they attach. On this home some of the branches attached to the white shutters. It took extra time and effort to scrub them clean.

a pruned climbing hydrangeaLike with all plants, when you know and understand their characteristics you can use them creatively and effectively. How have you used climbing hydrangea in your landscapes?  Did it perform as you expected or surprise you?  Let us know in the comments.

  • lyn
    10:17 PM, 22 March 2012

    I “inherited” climbing hydrangea on the house into which we just move (March). The hydrangea is pullling away from the wall and looks ratty, but it does have buds on it. Can I prune it back severely, leaving just the buds closest to the wall? None of ithe plant(s) seems to be attached to the wall at this point. Eerything is within reach. The plants are on a north facing wall. Could this be the reason why they are not attaching?

    • Roger
      8:05 AM, 23 March 2012

      Yes, prune it back eliminating as much of the stems and growth that are growing away from the wall you want it to climb. Think in terms of giving it a “fresh start” by taking the excess bulk off the plant and favoring (leaving) the main structural stems that are touching or leaning towards the wall.

      What is the wall made out of that the climber doesn’t seem to be clinging to?

  • Sheila
    12:26 PM, 31 March 2012

    My hydraenga is progressing over the top of the back garden wall against which it is climbing. The wall is about 8′ high. Can I be aggressive and cut off all the growth that is on top of and starting to climb down the back of the wall? We have pruned everything growing away from the wall but have now lost the flowers for this year and only have flowers at the top of the wall. If we prune it back will it produce more flowers below?

    • Roger
      1:26 PM, 31 March 2012

      Yes, don’t be afraid to cut back the plant aggressively. As I mentioned in the article, be “selective” where you cut (i.e by leaf nodes, where branches meet stems, etc.).

      Also, before you cut, look to see if the climber will lose its “hold” on the wall or structure if you remove that part of the plant. This is not to say don’t make that cut, but anticipating the result of the cut may help plan your strategy.

      In terms of the affect on flowering it’s so hard to say what the results will be. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve logically reasoned that “if I take these steps, this should be the flowering result,” only to be surprised at a different outcome. It makes sense that with your pruning tactics you should see more universal flowering throughout the plant…but I’d still keep my fingers and toes crossed. 🙂

  • lyn
    4:59 PM, 31 March 2012

    Thanks, Roger. The wall the hydrangea isn’t clinging to is brick. Can I cut the plant back severely this year, sacrifice the flowers for this season, and end up with a “new” plant? Or is hydrnagea too woody a plant to rejuvenate and start over?

    • Roger
      5:56 PM, 31 March 2012

      Hi Lyn,
      Based on how severely you need to cut it back, it may be smart to do it in stages, i.e. over 2 or 3 years.

      Again, think about the main structure and framework of the plant, and try to focus on leaving that portion that’s closest (and leaning towards) the brick wall.

      Brick is usually a surface climbing hydrangea clings to. It could be that w/o proper care and pruning the plant simply got too overgrown where its lateral growth was not kept in check and its weight and mass would not allow it to grab hold. With a pruning campaign to keep it more tightly concentrated to its “main framework” and close to the wall, you should see it start to cling and be more compact and strong.

      I have installed “eye hooks” and used other means to get stems and branches to actually come in contact with the wall to encourage the aerial roots that cling. You could even use 2 X 4’s or other timber to “pin” or push stems/branches towards the wall (if you didn’t want to drill into the brick with hardware). Once the plant takes hold, and you keep it maintained, it should be fine from that point on.

  • rochelle thalmann
    7:35 AM, 14 May 2012

    After the climbing hydrangea flowers do i dead head and remove the stem that it flowered on. How do I encourage more flowering. Only 4 flowers this year.

    • Roger
      1:45 PM, 15 May 2012

      Hi Rochelle,
      Climbing Hydrangea flower on the previous year’s growth. In other words, the flower buds form for next year soon after the plant flowers this year.

      So you want to do your pruning this year as soon as the flowering is finished.

      In my experience climbing hydrangea that is regularly trained (pruned) to stay contained and against a wall or fence will instinctively flower more towards the top of the plant. When climbing hydrangea is allowed to ramble or grow freely up a tree, the flowering is more spread out about the plant.

      If the plant is growing well and has good leaf color it’s unlikely there’s something lacking. Of course you could always send soil and leaf samples to the university in your state that’s connected with your local agricultural extension agency. But I think less flowering is more likely a result of timing w/ your pruning or constantly pruning to train a tight framework against a wall (or fence).

      When you prune it’s fine to just remove the dead flowers for cosmetic reasons, but you can also take this time (soon after flowering) to prune excess stems and aggressive growth.

  • John
    10:55 AM, 19 May 2012

    I moved into a house with one that was pruned to be a shrub. It’s planted about two feet from the foundation and sends out branches in all directions and grows very quickly. I’ve got vinyl siding and am worried that if allowed to climb, it will get into the seams and really mess things up. It must be decades old, so I don’t know if it’s reasonable to transplant it. As of now, I basically prune it throughout the growing season to keep things in check. Seems a poor life for a plant that wants to climb. Any suggestions?

    • Roger
      1:02 PM, 19 May 2012

      It’s so smart you’ve kept that climbing hydrangea in check. Allowing it to climb on the house and vinyl siding would not be good.

      The fact that it’s so old makes me question the idea of transplanting. If you’re tired of constantly pruning it and want to try transplanting, wait until early spring when it is still leafless (e.g. March). Then, prune it back dramatically to make it easier to manage during the transplant, plus it would reduce the work the plant would have to do to re-establish. Without seeing the actual plant it’s hard to say what the chances are of success.

      Not to be insensitive to the old plant and the effort to save it, but sometimes it just makes sense to remove it. Here’s an article I wrote on deciding to transplant that might help you with your decision.

  • Elisabeth
    10:58 AM, 10 June 2012

    Our 16 year old hydrangea climber just came off our fence where it had happily been “attached” for all that time. Having read all your advice I now realize that we did not trim back the excessive weight of the branches growing away from the fence and that caused it to release. We have tied it back up to the fence using rope and are now wondering if we trim aggressively back to the 2 inch (or larger) thick trunk if new growth will come from the old wood? Plus will the new growth try to reattach to the wood fence and eventually support the larger older trunk? Thank you

    • Roger
      9:01 PM, 10 June 2012

      It’s good that you’ve tied it back on the fence. Just make sure to monitor those ties so that they don’t grow into the stems over time.

      It’s OK to prune back the branches that are causing the excess weight that’s pulling the vine down. Many of those wayward branches can be followed back to the main stalk and cut there. I would try to leave some foliage: 1) for appearance, and 2) so that the plant has some leaf surface remaining to go about its physiological processes.

      Sometimes when rejuvenating a plant like this we’ll do it in 2 or 3 phases so it’s not so traumatic for the plant (and to look at). So in other words this time around you could do a good portion of the pruning-back, let the plant stabilize the rest of this year, and then prune it again hard next year.

      I do think it will start to cling on the fence again once the weight is off the plant and it puts its energy back into the main stem and framework.

  • Roz
    10:36 PM, 10 June 2012

    My neighbor hired a laborer to clean up her backyard. He took it upon himself to cut back my climbing hydrangea that was growing on my trellis fence. The main trunk has been severed at about 4 ft (it had previously reached to the top of the fence). All the lateral branches have been cut on one side (about 10 feet of growth) and all the lateral branches above 2-3 ft on the other side (also about 10 ft laterally). Obviously I’m devastated and furious in equal measure. Gardening in Brooklyn, NY is already a struggle — poor soil, tree roots, shade, concrete run off etc etc — without this kind of ignorant destruction. But what are my options now to try to rescue this 10 year old vine? Will it grow back? Will it always be lop-sided? Should I dig it up and start anew? Any advice gratefully received.

    • Roger
      11:54 AM, 12 June 2012

      Hi Roz,
      Sorry it took a while to respond to your comment. June, as you might expect, is busy for us in the trade.

      If there is foliage remaining on what’s left of the plant it has the capacity to rejuvenate. It’s difficult to say how long it will take to regrow to the point you’d like to see it. Although, since it is well-established (10 years), and it is a vigorous grower, I’ll bet it’s going to surprise you.

      There’s probably some additional pruning (believe it or not) that I would do to put the vine “in balance” visually. And at the same time this pruning would encourage the regrowth where it’s most needed. I really can’t be specific with this additional pruning advice because I’m not there to evaluate the situation.

      In terms of any additional fertilizing or special care – if the plant was healthy with good growth and leaf color, I’d let it be.

      Alternatively you could purchase a climbing hydrangea already well-advanced on a trellis. These can be difficult to find in the market and costly too, but they do exist. A more typically available climbing hydrangea comes in a 7 gal. container and is grown on a 36″ trellis. This would retail for around $75.

  • John
    11:30 AM, 23 June 2012

    HI Roger
    My climbing Hydrangea has very few flowers this year i pruned it hard last year. Is lack of flowers due to my excessive pruning? To encourage more flowers next year do i have to remove this years dead flowers.

    • Roger
      1:24 PM, 23 June 2012

      Hi John,
      It could very well be the hard pruning affected this years bloom. Also, it is characteristic of climbing hydrangea to flower more towards the growing ends. (If the plant is climbing that would be towards the top.)

      I don’t know that removing the spent flower heads necessarily increases flowering, but make sure if you do that (and any other pruning) you do it soon after flowering. Next year’s flower buds begin to form soon after flowering and you don’t want to remove them this time around.

  • Jim Hosick
    11:32 AM, 1 July 2012

    Hi John

    I have planted 4 climbing hydrangea evenly along a sidewall on my brick house to take advantage of low light conditions and after their third year, they have all have taken off splendidly! Is there an optimum way to prune them on the wall to minimize ‘cross over’ branching which I dont suppose is good for each plant.

    Thank you


    • Roger
      6:08 PM, 4 July 2012

      We often space climbing hydrangea on fences and walls with the intent that they grow and coexist together.

      It’s not too great a concern that some of their growth overlaps each other. More so we’re concerned about keeping the growth close to the fence or wall by judicious pruning. This ensures each plant develops a strong, central framework close to the wall. If you allow the lateral growth to grow unfettered it will become heavy on the central stem(s) and framework, and begin to pull the entire plant away from the wall or fence.

  • Amy
    5:19 PM, 16 August 2012

    We inherited ours. It has reached the 2nd level windows. We have wood siding. We need to get the house painted. It has not been pruned in 5 years. I will certainly have to prune it quite severely and then will have to pull it away from the house for the painting to be done. Do you think it will survive all this? The painting is planned to start in about 3 weeks. Thanks!

    • Roger
      10:11 PM, 18 August 2012

      I would not let climbing hydrangea cling to wood siding – it’s too damaging. Stone and brick surfaces would be OK. Alternatively you could have a trellis or fence section to grow the climber on in front of the wood siding; 8″+ away from the siding.

      I’m not sure how old and established the plant is, but you can cut it back severely. Transplanting (after cutting it back) is an option too, although I’d wait till mid to late October before transplanting.

  • Gina
    4:36 PM, 26 September 2012

    Hi Roger,

    I just bought a house that has a retaining wall that is adjacent to a concrete driveway. Can I plant a climbing hydrangea at the top of the retaining wall and train it to climb “down”? There is no soil between the driveway and retaining wall.

    Thank you

    • Roger
      7:34 PM, 30 September 2012

      Hi Gina,
      Yes, I think that will work. But a couple of things come to mind.

      If you let the climbing hydrangea naturally “fall” over the wall it may be slow in doing so as it could tend to mostly just creep and mound on top of the wall.

      Also, when it did finally “fall” over the top, it may billow outward more than you would like (or you have room for). You may need to preserve as much of your driveway area as possible.

      Therefore, to address these concerns, I would create some type of “guide” or trellis on the wall to enable you to affix the climber’s stems as they grow. Not only can you be selective with the stems you pick, but you can keep them relatively close to the guide or trellis (w/ pruning too) so that you don’t encroach too much on the driveway area.

      I personally like the idea of running guide-wires from on top where the soil is to the bottom of the concrete wall. You could anchor them easily in the soil by using a metal stake to attach the wire to. Then, run the wire down the face of the wall to some type of hardware (e.g. eye-hook) at the bottom and attach it. Each one of these single-wire guides will give you a stationary point to gently affix the stem with a twist-tie or similar.

      You can decide how many of these wires you’ll need based on how much of the wall you want to cover. If your intention is to have a solid cover over the wall, I’d say you’ll need to space these vertical guide wires approximately 2′ apart. Eventually each stem you guide down each wire will produce lateral branches so the 2′ space will fill in. Plus, you’ll be constantly pruning back the lateral branches that grow away from the wall and this will stimulate fuller growth too.

      Needless to say the stems guided by the wire and held close to the wall will produce the aerial roots that ultimately cling to the concrete wall.

      I hope this makes sense. Let me know if you have any questions.

  • Katherine
    12:08 PM, 13 October 2012

    Hi Roger,

    My 3 year old climbing hydrangea vines took off just as you have written about! And I finally got some flowering this summer, but only at the tops, which are now about 7 ft high. (I have them growing on trellises along the dege of my patio for privacy). I now need to prune back. I was thinking to do it about this time of year (mid-late October) before winter sets in. Curretnly, the leaves are still green, but starting to turn yellow and drop off. Now I’m thinking maybe wait until spring? I noticed the leaf buds coming out as early as February (mild winters in Oregon) last year. Should I prune before buds start to appear again? Wait until spring or do it now (fall)?

    • Roger
      2:34 PM, 13 October 2012

      Hi Katherine
      I would prune the climbing hydrangea now. And you can be as aggressive as you wish to get the plant(s) under control. In fact, when they drop their leaves you may take a second look and see other “cuts” you might want to make.

      It’s typical that climbing hydrangea flower more towards the top as they mature. Perhaps with the pruning they’ll flower a bit lower.

      Enjoy their fall color. Mine are beautiful when they change color.

  • Marsha Hunter
    6:41 PM, 22 October 2012

    Dear Roger,
    I have just realized that I need to prune my five or six year old plant now, rather than in the spring. It has covered half the length of a 4.5′ chain link fence, but hasn’t grown up into my neighbor’s arbor vitae on the other side of the fence, which is fine. It has blossomed well over the past three + years, and I enjoy looking at the blossoms even into fall. However, if I am to prune (next year obviously) after it flowers, am I cutting off the blossoms, as well as the long shoots?

    • Roger
      1:36 PM, 23 October 2012

      Whether you prune now or in the spring you’ll most likely be removing some of the blooms for summer 2013. But I always value the shape and size of a plant in terms of how it’s developing (in the space it has) over the loss of some blooms.

      Therefore, if you feel the climbing hydrangea is becoming unwieldy, I’d prune in the early spring. In addition to cutting it back to stop and/or reduce its growth down the fence (i.e. length and area of coverage), I’d cut back shoots that are growing outward and away from the fence too. If you feel you’d have to remove too much growth to achieve the look and containment you want, do it over 2 or 3 years…in stages. Don’t worry about hurting the plant. I’ve cut climbing hydrangea back severely and it’s come back gangbusters.

      Alternatively you could wait until after the climber blooms next summer. And yes, you would most likely be removing the “spent” flowers along with the longer shoots. But, the following season you should have a nice show of blooms as the plant will then set its buds after you’ve pruned.

  • Deborah Cerbone
    5:42 PM, 15 December 2012

    I am a Landscaoe Architect, in New Jersey and I have a client that has an old climbing hydrangea on a stucco wall that needs to be repainted. This would require pulling the younger stems off the wall, pruning back substantially and retraining the main trunk and laterals to the wall. They were planning on painting in the spring, but have asked me what the best time would be for this task to protect the health of the hydrangea, and specifically if there is anything we should be doing now before getting into the winter. Thank you and have a great holiday season!

    • Roger
      10:08 PM, 15 December 2012

      Hi Deborah,
      I am familiar with your name as I work mostly in the Bergen County area and some of the contractors in my network have mentioned you and your firm in conversation.

      I’m so happy you came upon my site and left your comment/question.

      Climbing hydrangea can look so beautiful and I can understand why you and your client are concerned about it before, during and after the painting of the stucco.

      Without having seen the climber these are some of my thoughts:
      The plant now (late fall) has stored foods in its system. If schedule allows and no construction or wall prep is required, I would leave it alone through the better part of winter.

      In late winter, perhaps the last week in Feb. – beginning of March, I would prune back to the climber’s main framework; strategically leaving some short laterals where the plant will rejuvenate from.

      The painters will want the climber pulled back enough for them to work. Is the main stem so mature & strong that once it’s free from the wall it can support itself? If so, is it just a matter of tying it back to a neighboring tree, stake or other stationary object to get room to work?

      Or is the main stem or stems younger and flimsy? In which case you’ll need to support and protect them, and not have them lie precariously on the ground during the work.

      After the stucco wall is painted, how do you intend to re-train the plant back onto the wall?

      It could be that if the main stem is mature and sturdy enough, it can be leaned back against the wall and held there with support from wood braces and stakes until enough new “aerial roots” take hold. You probably want to avoid installing any kind of fasteners into the stucco to help hold the plant until it “grabs”.

      It could be that the homeowner does not wish to go through this process again after they see what’s involved. We’ve built decorative trellis adjacent to stucco and other siding that needs occasional maintenance, and grown climbing hydrangea on that. You can design the trellis panel so it can be detached from the decorative posts that support it – or from wall cleats that may hold it onto the wall. This way you can actually leave the plant on the trellis panel and move it just enough for maintenance on the wall. Perhaps you’ve considered that, and it’s not applicable in this situation.

      I hope this helps. Please don’t hesitate to send me a pic if you think it would help better illustrate the situation.

  • Ed Kern
    12:14 AM, 7 March 2013

    Hi Roger,

    I have a small shaded area about 5ft x 6ft for a vine. Could I prune/train the Hydrangea to be confined to this space and still have an attractive plant?


    • Roger
      2:50 PM, 7 March 2013

      Hi Ed,
      I’m presuming your 5ft x 6ft area would be the vertical surface area (e.g. wall, trellis, etc.).

      It’s possible to restrict a climbing hydrangea to a space/area like that, but not without regular pruning. And by regular I’m implying no less than once/year. And if you want to improve the chances of blooming each year, prune soon after the plant flowers.

      I can think of several instances where we’ve used and “maintained” climbing hydrangea in limited space. The look is well worth the effort IMO.
      Take care.

  • Vee
    11:25 AM, 6 April 2013

    We inherited a beautiful climbing hydrangea. The previous owners placed the lower climbing branches BEHIND the gas meter pipes. The branches have continued to grow and we can see it will cause problems. This particular branch is the main “climber”. It has climbed successfully blooming, I’d say, 20 feet up. It’s early spring – is it ok to prune way back (to 2-3 feet) so it can have a succesful future? I’m afraid if we don’t prune it until after it blooms, it will have climed another 5-10 feet over the summer. (hindsight – should have taken care of it last fall … I know I know)


    • Roger
      5:26 PM, 6 April 2013

      It certainly makes sense to get that main stalk out from behind the gas pipes. Yes, now would be a good time to make the necessary cuts to do that.

      If there are any smaller, lateral branches that can remain…all the better. These will assuredly push new leaves and growth, which will support the plant and help it rejuvenate from your hard pruning cuts.

      In any case, this is one tough plant and should be fine over time.

  • Vee
    11:16 PM, 6 April 2013

    Thanks so much for the push to do this. I cut the main stalk, but there was a lateral, fairly established one I was able to pull through and tie up. I used forked branches to tie off a lot of the smaller “fingers” to help guide them towards the bricks. I’ll be keeping a keen eye on it.
    Thanks again !!

  • Anne
    5:13 PM, 10 April 2013

    My hydrangea has never bloomed. It is on a south wall on a brick chimney. i am in Northern Ontario and I do see blooming climbers. What can I do? Thanks.

    • Roger
      7:33 PM, 10 April 2013

      Hi Anne,
      You say it’s never bloomed. Do you ever prune it? That, as you probably know, can stop blooming depending on when you are pruning.

      Also, climbing hydrangeas tend to bloom more, if not exclusively, towards the upper part of the plant. Any blooms up high you’re not seeing?

      Is the hydrangea otherwise healthy?

      South exposure should be fine, especially in Ontario.

      I have seen instances like this, without being able to solve the problem. Perhaps, some of these instances are just specific to a particular plant and its physiology. It would be interesting to experiment by buying a small climbing hydrangea and planting it in the same area…just to see if it flowers.

  • Allie
    1:32 AM, 15 April 2013

    I planted my climbing hydrangea last year. It’s about 4′ tall. It’s doing very well! I’m wondering if I’m suppose to prune the vines that are growing at the bottom of my plant. They are rooting into the ground.
    Also, if I cut one off the bottom, can that be planted to start a new plant?

    • Roger
      8:15 PM, 27 April 2013

      Hi Allie,
      Rambling branches will often root from laying on the ground. This is another feature and example of climbing hydrangea’s desire to “take-over” a space… vertically and/or horizontally.

      Think about the space you want your plant to occupy and follow a pruning regimen that makes that happen. I have a wisteria vine on my deck that I literally prune all season long. If I relax from this schedule it will take over the deck. Just remember if you can to prune right after flowering so as not to interrupt next year’s blooming cycle.

      And yes, you can prune off a branch which has rooted and start another plant. This is actually a form of plant propagation called “layering“.

  • Mary
    11:16 AM, 15 April 2013

    Hi. We had extensive damage over the winter due to heavy snows and winds. Our trellis, to which my climbing hyderagea was trained, collapsed and in order to replace it we need to cut the very mature vine back. I understand how to do it, but it must be done now (April) before it blooms. I am afraid of killing the vine. Just looking for suggestions and reassurances. Thank you.

    • Roger
      11:15 PM, 15 April 2013

      Hi Mary,
      I think the hydrangea will be fine.

      You’ll want to preserve as much as you can, but at the same time cut it back so it’s manageable. No need to be too careful – this plant is extremely resilient.

      Think of the process as a fresh start for the plant. You’ll probably build a new trellis (make it a strong one), and then you can “arrange” the pruned-back vine onto the trellis.

  • joyce Sparls
    12:59 PM, 16 April 2013

    i have had a climbing hydrangea for over 5 yrs . nwo and i cnnot get it to bloom. the plant is plush and green. every year it get larger but still not bloommx. i tried pruning not pruning for 2 years. what am i doing wrong?
    joyce Sparks

    • Roger
      7:58 PM, 27 April 2013

      Hi Joyce,
      Please check out the comment I just made to Alice, who also asked about non-blooming plants.

  • Andy
    6:22 PM, 18 April 2013

    Hi Roger,
    Our climbing hydrangea is approximately 7 years old. We live in Bucks County PA outside of Philadelphia. We planted the hydrangea in front of our wood carriage house (approximately 140 years old). Long story short, this plant is a direct relative of the one in Little Shop of Horrors. I just put a new roof on the structure and I’m afraid it will break through it. It has attached itself to the wood and shingles like super glue. It broke through the windows on the second floor and is literally eating the building! It’s beautiful when it blooms in the spring (green leaves) and summer (flowers)but is unsightly in the fall and winter. If I pull it off, I’m going to lose the walls. Any ideas of when and how I should get rid of it? Should I send you a picture so you have an idea of what I’m dealing with?

    • Roger
      11:15 PM, 18 April 2013

      Hi Andy,
      I hear what you’re saying – this plant is a beast, especially when not kept “in-check”.

      I had installed it on an all brick 2-story home, and it grew behind the window shutters (dislodging them), into the windows (not through them like yours), and up into the soffit by the roof. We were able to pull the vine off the brick, but it wasn’t easy. The live “air roots” stuck to the brick and it was only over time that the fragments dried and wore off. We now keep the vine aggressively maintained at a definite height and width.

      On wood you’ll probably have to let the remaining fragments dry and then use a stiff bristle brush. Perhaps a wire brush and/or sand paper for spots where the regular brush does not do a good enough job. Repainting or refinishing will probably be needed do. It sounds like you’ll need to do some structural repair as well.

      After this you may want to transplant the climber to the base of a tree or rock wall where it can grow and not do any damage. You really learn a lot about a plant when you live with it…kinda like people. 🙂

      If you’d like to email me a pic please do. It’s always interesting to see plants in different situations.

  • Alice
    7:12 PM, 22 April 2013

    Hi Roger,

    Interesting thread and a lot of good information.
    I have two hydrangeas that I planted about 6 years ago (started as 2-3 ft tall healthy bushes). From what I read about these plants, I expected them to “swallow” the house in couple of years. They grow on a western side of the house, in semi-shadow, good loamy soil, good support on trelises, a lot of room to grow. Never pruned them – I want them to be “monster vines”! 🙂
    Surprisingly, they are still very modest in size and have never bloomed. Healthy, strong, beautiful foliage, thick woody vines, but just about 8 ft tall and 5-6 ft wide.
    I knew they are supposed to be slow growers at first, but it’s been 6 years! What can be the reason?



    • Roger
      7:44 PM, 27 April 2013

      Hi Alice,
      These climbing hydrangea of yours sound like beautiful plants. And perhaps they could be a bit larger for their time in the ground, but I wouldn’t be disappointed. It sounds like they’re having good steady and strong growth rather than rapid and possibly flimsy growth.

      Are they growing out from the trellis at all? If so you may want to prune that growth back closer to the main stems and framework of the plant.

      Why is a certain plant not flowering, or not flowering as much as it should? There are many reasons this could be happening, e.g. nutrient issue, pH issue, etc. They face west – it could be that the winter sun on particular days and conditions damages the over-wintering flower buds. If you wanted to you could send out soil and tissue samples to your state’s agricultural extension service and try to get answers. I also believe that plants, as living things, can have peculiarities & idiosyncrasies that are responsible for these “abnormalities”.

  • stephen wright
    1:58 PM, 7 May 2013

    I have a hydrangea that covers 1/2 of my garage en wall, going up the one side to top of roof. It now wants to continue down the other side. I am about to paint the wall. Wondering what I should do with it. The garage is of horizontal wood paneling, does the plant cause damage like rotting of the wood?. The plant has just climbed and attached itself on the wall with no help by me.


    • Roger
      2:52 PM, 19 May 2013

      As beautiful as it might look, it’s not doing the garage and wood any good covering like it is.

      On certain masonry and stone work it’s fine to let it cling and cover, but I would not recommend it directly on the wood garage.

      In this instance could you cut it way back and build a trellis structure that would be 8 to 12″ away from the building? This would be the better way to enjoy the plant and preserve the building at the same time.

  • stephen wright
    1:59 PM, 7 May 2013

    Forgot to check off the notify square under on my previous email. Would like reply (if I get one) sent to email address. Thanks

  • Stuart Fisher
    2:14 PM, 12 May 2013

    I am on year 3 with my climbing hydrangeas. They have just reached the top of my 8′ arbor. . To promote growth, shoul I prune the lower branches or just remain patient? The lower branches have the blooms.

    • Roger
      3:20 PM, 19 May 2013

      If you don’t yet need to prune to control growth I would just leave the plant alone.

      You’ll probably see that with time the blooms will be happening more towards the top of the vine.

      With all the arbors where we’ve planted climbing hydrangea, it’s become a constant pruning challenge to keep the plant in check. It’s the price you pay to get that beautiful look. And this is often the case with climbers that are used in defined spaces and applications.

  • Chris
    4:00 PM, 18 May 2013

    Hi Roger,
    I had a landscaper help design my foundation plantings. He suggested planting a Hydrangea Petiolaris as a shrub. Is this possible or will it take over the rest of the garden horizontally? He did not intend for it to climb the house. Also, what is a Rainbow Leveothoe?

    Thank you,

    • Roger
      5:42 PM, 19 May 2013

      Hi Chris,
      To use Climbing Hydrangea (petiolaris) as a free-standing shrub form you would need to have open and available space all around the plant for it to ramble and “do its thing”. Otherwise you’ll forever be trying to contain it. In a foundation planting you’d be better off with another type of hydrangea such as a Bigleaf variety (macrophylla) or Annabelle (arborescens). These are shrub forms and given the proper space work beautifully in a foundation planting.

      The other plant is Rainbow Leucothoe. Here’s a link to Monrovia Nursery’s webpage of the plant.

  • Rhonda
    9:38 AM, 9 June 2013

    I seem to have the opposite problem. My climbing hydrangea won’t climb. It’s happily spreading horizontally on the ground with 2 or 3 vertical shoots heading upwards. Any advice on how to encourage the climb?

    • Roger
      11:37 AM, 3 September 2013

      Climbing Hydrangea climbs by attaching aerial roots to surfaces. Other climbers wrap themselves by tendrils around things, e.g. Clematis, Morning Glory, etc.

      In order to help Climbing Hydrangea attach itself w/ its aerial roots to a surface, it often needs some assistance, especially in the beginning.

      Recently a customer of mine had their house power-washed & painted. Evidently the painter either deliberately or by accident pulled the climbing hydrangea off a brick wall. Rather than drill and install eye-hooks or other fasteners into the brick, we’re just going to dig next to the foundation and install pressure treated 2X4’s flat against the brick. This will give us something to attached the fallen climber to. In a short time the climber should reattach itself to the brick because its branches will be close to and touching the brick.

      Hope this helps.

  • Cindy stevens
    6:55 PM, 9 June 2013

    I live in zone 6 Massachusetts. Last fall I pruned by about 1/3 a very old climbing hydrangea. This year it has not leafed out yet, although there are some leaf buds that are struggling to grow and open. Have you every heard of this plant being this late. Or, do you think it is dying?

    • Roger
      10:00 AM, 3 September 2013

      Sorry I missed your comment/question. But I’m curious how the Climbing Hydrangea you pruned is now doing.
      I’ve never known this plant to be so late in leafing-out in the spring.
      Was this plant growing well before you pruned it? You mentioned pruning it in the fall – was it in full-leaf during that growing season.
      It could be that the plant was stunted a bit from the degree of your pruning, and this spring had to push new buds and growth at points on the plant that it would not have directed its energy.
      I hope the climber has recovered for you.

  • Margaret
    11:31 AM, 15 June 2013

    What is the problem and best solution when a section of my Japanese Hydrangea [about an 1/4th of the plant] appears to be dying? Several branches have no flowers, are far less leafy and/or are leafless. Otherwise it’s a lush large
    10’x 3′ specimen that has climbed up and over a pergola. The new loss of growth is only on top of the pergola. Could it be too much sun? The top portion gets about 6 hours of sun on late spring and summer days.

    • Roger
      3:43 PM, 2 September 2013

      I have seen Climbing Hydrangea get some leaf scorch from sun exposure, but not to result in leaves falling off and die-back.

      If the rest of the plant is healthy, I would follow back the damaged branch or branches to see where they transition/connect to healthy plant. That might tell you something.

      The fact that it’s isolated to certain parts while the rest of the plant remains fine tells me that it could be that the failing portion is affected by something “mechanical,” such as broken branch, restricted branch due to a constricting tie of some kind, etc. I’m not ruling out other things, just giving you my first thought.

  • Patsy Stoneman
    6:29 PM, 21 June 2013

    What I want to know is how to prune petiolaris to keep it flowering from year to year. My well-established plant is covered in flowers, but they are held 30 or 40cms away from the wall. Since it flowers on last year’s wood, if I cut these stems back to a reasonable length, I get no flowers next year, but if I leave some of this year’s growth, the whole thing gets bushier and bushier. At present I have a cycle of cutting back one year and getting flowers the next. Is there a way to avoid this?

    • Roger
      2:47 PM, 2 September 2013

      I too wish there was a definitive strategy to keep Climbing Hydrangea “in-check” and have it flower consistently from year to year.

      I try to follow the general rule to prune plants that flower on the previous year’s growth right after flowering. But it’s not often I can because in my design & PM work I’m frequently coming across overgrown plantings that must be pruned at that moment in time (if possible) just to begin to correct the situation.

      Keep in mind that Climbing Hydrangea will naturally begin to flower more towards the top as they mature, especially when they’re being maintained/trained within certain bounds. The best examples of flowering I’ve seen are on those that are left alone. I know…how many applications are there where we can allow them to “do their thing”?

      Perhaps there are gardeners with more experience pruning climbing hydrangea as it relates to flowering that could offer specific strategies. Maybe commercial growers of the plant in your region could be helpful w/ information, or even local garden clubs whose members might have climbing hydrangea.

      When you practice your cycle of pruning one year to then let it flower the next, are you doing that pruning right after flowering?

  • Christine Wryn
    8:51 PM, 13 October 2013

    I was wondering about my climbing hydrangea. It hasn’t done much flowering in the past couple of years. Its up aganist the fence and doesn’t get all day sun mostly shade. Also it has a bug of some kind eating the leaves. Can you help me? Should I cut it back in the fall?

    Thank You,
    Christine Wryn

    • Roger
      9:24 PM, 13 October 2013

      Hi Christine,
      Check out the other comments on this post. Many folks have asked about the flowering (or lack there of).

      Climbing Hydrangea should do very well in the shade. In fact, I like they way they look (and grow) in a shady environment vs. sunny.

      I’m not sure what’s eating the leaves w/o seeing it. The climber will lose its leaves in the fall and start fresh again in the spring. If you start to see the leaves getting chewed again, take a sample to your local garden center or contact your state’s agricultural extension service. Their website is temporarily down during this partial government shutdown.

      If you feel the plant needs pruning it’s certainly OK to prune it this fall. You could say some of the flower buds for next season may be removed with the pruning. I prioritize w/ the pruning because often I have to correct an overgrown climber on my client’s properties.

  • Freeradicalfree
    6:04 PM, 14 October 2013

    Hi all,

    I too have had “something” chewing my climbing hydrangia leaves: in fact, it caused so much leaf loss I thought the plants were dying. BUT, I looked closely, there were tiny spiders all over. I have found a solution: get some liquid neem, add it to the correct amount of water and use a spray canister to thoroughly spray the plant top to bottom. Do it early in the spring- on days where the plant is dry and it’s not expected to rain for at least another day. Do it weekly in the spring once the leaves have popped out. Then, monthly throughout the summer. Keeps the plant happy w/large dark green leaves! Good luck!

  • jack
    10:01 AM, 19 October 2013

    my hydrangea was cut at the bottom of the stem ( Uuuhhhhgggg ) Will it
    eventually grow back, if so how long?

  • Roger
    10:13 PM, 2 November 2013

    Depending on how much of a stem is remaining, the plant could push new growth from the base. The spring will be the determining time. Look for new buds and some growth from the base by mid-spring. If none shows the plant is probably not alive.

    Did you ask “the landscaper” why he cut the plant?

  • Susan D
    9:39 AM, 17 November 2013

    We have hardiplank siding. What’s the best way to train climbing hydrangea so to avoid damaging the hardiplank and attracting insects?

    • Roger
      8:41 PM, 17 November 2013

      I would construct a trellis structure so that it’s a minimum of 6″ from the hardiplank. We typically use pressure treated 4 X 4″ timbers for our uprights, and then construct a “framed” trellis panel that fits within the two 4 X 4″ post/uprights. With a little planning you can have the framed trellis panel screwed in place so that it can be loosened and separated from the uprights. This feature will come in handy if you have to get behind the trellis and climber to maintain the hardiplank. The climbing hydrangea will remain flexible enough to bend forward with the loosened trellis panel.

  • Jamie
    10:02 AM, 19 March 2014

    I just discovered that the friend I hired to do some spring cleanup (leaf raking, weeding) in my yard as I prepare to sell my house cut my 20 year old climbing hydrangea back to the stems!! I’m sure she thought she was doing the right thing. We live in Pittsburgh. PA. Is there any chance it will grow back?

    • Roger
      10:57 AM, 19 March 2014

      Pruning back the old, climbing hydrangea should not be a problem. This 20 year old plant is well-established and will rejuvenate without a problem.

  • Michele
    9:52 AM, 27 March 2014

    I would like to string netting up between three trees in my woodsy, Alabama backyard as a trellis for a vining plant to screen the house behind us. I’ve been looking at the climbing hydrangeas.
    Will they do well in a shady understory of oak trees, and will they attach to a trellis of netting at all?
    If not, what’s a good vine for shade? Thanks!

    • Roger
      9:23 PM, 2 April 2014

      Climbing hydrangea will do well in that shady setting. But using netting may not be the best choice of material. I like the idea you have, but the material should be heavy gauge wire or braided wire cable.

      Don’t underestimate the support the climber will need. I’m on a job right now where 2 climbing hydrangea were planted on either side of an arbor. The arbor is now on its side from the weight and growth of the climbers. We’re cutting them back severely to free the fallen arbor.

      If you secure & anchor the wire or cable properly, and make a web-like trellis, your idea should work great.

  • Michele
    8:17 AM, 3 April 2014

    Roger, thanks for the info. Sounds like climbing hydrangea has some of the same armature-destroying tendencies as wisteria. Now, I just have to figure out how to make the wire trellis. After a bit of googling, I’m thinking maybe some galvanized steel field fencing would be in order, but would have to figure out how to get it staked, if you will. If I use the existing trees, I’m assuming that the fencing would be absorbed by the trees over time. Pretty sure that won’t be so good for the trees, but I’m also not sure that I care! No way I’m going to get hubby to build an armature to put up in the woods… Hmmm… braided wire cable… need to do more googling! Thanks again!!

  • Freeradicalfree
    10:07 PM, 3 April 2014


    I’ve used the climbing hydrangea for privacy climbing on 7ft metal trellises and secure them side by side and at ends with 3 ft rebar (spray paint same color as the trellises) and zip ties. This is the 5th year and they have woven in between the trellises and I’ve pruned them back each fall. Working great and it’s not expensive or time consuming!

    However, the privacy won’t be there in the winter with the leaves gone….

    good luck!

  • Michele
    12:03 AM, 4 April 2014

    Freeradicalfree – thanks for the info. You don’t happen to have a photo or two, do you?!

  • freeradicalfree
    2:46 PM, 4 April 2014

    I do, but I have no clue how to upload them on this site…..

  • Michele
    11:26 PM, 4 April 2014

    No problem – if you are amenable, I’d love to see some photos of how you put together the trellises and staked them, and could get them at erkermk(at) Thanks!!

  • Irina
    10:12 AM, 24 April 2014

    We moved to a new house early last summer, and noticed a climbing vine on the back of the house. It was very green and bushy, reaching the roof, spreading onto the phone cable, and almost entirely covering one of the windows. The vine flowered some, in the late fall, but not much, only at the very top, producing white flowers. During the winter, leaves turned dry, but the plant only lost a small portion of them, so this spring, the vine looked a mess, dry leaves everywhere and covering the window. We did not know what this vine was, but I identified it as a climbing hydrangea. We tried to prune it back in the second week of April, cutting off majority of the branches, almost to the main plant structure (although we tried to cut branches above the buds). We probably pruned 1/2 to 2/3 of the plant. Now I am a little concerned that we might have damaged it by our pruning. It is still early spring here in Wisconsin, and leaf buds just stared to come out from plants, but I do not see any leaf buds on the hydrangea yet. Not sure if it is just still to early or if plant is not doing well. Also, wondering, since we already pruned so much, will it be better to just cut the whole vine back leaving 3 foot long stumps and hope it will rejuvenate, or just wait and see what happens?

    • Roger
      9:38 PM, 3 May 2014

      The Wisconsin plant zones are 4 and 5, so you’re slightly behind us, here in NJ. Right now, early May, our climbing hydrangea are just about in full leaf. You should have growth showing on the climbing hydrangea in your area by now.

      However, since you cut it back strongly, I’d give it some extra time because the plant will need to push growth from points that not necessarily had growth occurring before. And frankly, the plant could be stunted from being cut back.

      If you’re able to, give it another month or so. At that point you can safely make a judgement call as to its condition and its potential.

  • Maureen
    7:50 PM, 27 April 2014

    I’ve come to the right place! My climbing hydrangea has two big problems:
    first, every spring/summer the leaves get devoured by something. This is the Pacific Northwest, so the nursery suggests slugs. Or…. No one can seem to really identify the culprit properly. I will look for the spiders, and find some neem if I see them. But – I just bought slug bait, horrible, but I’m desperate. One year I’d like to have an un-chewed plant. It’s a miracle it survives the yearly beating. Anyhow,the other thing, it is growing abundantly at the base, not so much up. It sends out sucker things along the ground. And it grows out from the wall a lot, towards the light of course. I think I will just prune those lower branches away to keep the leaves off the ground at least. I can send photos.

    • Roger
      9:53 PM, 3 May 2014

      I’m not sure what could be “nibbling” at the leaves on your climbing hydrangea. And you say if occurs annually.

      In situations like this I always suggest sending in a sample for analysis through your state’s Agricultural Extension Service. I use the Extension Service here in NJ all the time. Sometimes I’m sure what’s bothering a plant, but often I’m not – and I need accurate diagnoses if I’m advising customers. In NJ it’s Rutgers University that provides the diagnostic services. After they get the sample I send them, I get back a diagnosis and their recommendations. It’s great, and I’m sure you have something similar in your area.

      Feel free to email a pic it you’d like. I’m always curious to see something new in the field. 🙂

  • Victoria
    11:55 AM, 5 May 2014

    Hi Roger. I have just bought a climbing hydrangea but haven’t planted it yet. Do you think it will do
    OK on a west facing wall? I have no north facing walls available. The west facing wall is in the shade of the house part of the day. I live in the UK. Thanks for your help!

    • Roger
      4:59 PM, 11 May 2014

      Yes, I think the climbing hydrangea would do OK on that west wall. However, if the afternoon sun gets real hot on that side, the plant might get some scorch on the leaf margins. You could counter this with ensuring plenty of moisture with some supplemental irrigation.

  • Kim
    2:16 PM, 6 May 2014

    How do you re root a climbing hydrangea

    • Roger
      5:15 PM, 11 May 2014

      I’m not sure what your situation is, but if you have an existing climbing hydrangea, you can propagate (or re-root) off of that plant.

      The technique is called “layering”. You take a branch or runner off the main plant and bury a portion of that branch or runner below the soil. The remainder of that branch/runner stays above ground. You can use a stone or similar to help hold the buried portion underground. After several months check to see if roots are forming at the buried point. When there are enough roots formed, you can cut that branch/runner from the main plant to now have a rooted new plant to move where you wish.

      Check out the diagram at the bottom of this webpage.

  • Alice
    5:08 PM, 6 May 2014

    Hi roger
    I am hoping that you can help-I actually live in the UK in a very old cottage with a very mature climbing hydrangea that covers two thirds of the front of our house. Last winter we had some work done on the front of the house and the workmen cut off a huge part of the plant (without asking us I may add, and I was devastated as it was also completely unnecessary- just laziness). Now that it is spring the remaining plant is covered in fully grown leaves apart from one section where the leaves are trying to emerge from the buds but are making very slow progress and where the leaves have slightly started to grow, they are turning brown at the edges-but the leaves are tiny-max 1cm. My initial thoughts are that the branch has been damaged but I can’t see anything obvious. Are there any other reasons for this stunted growth to this one section do you think? I’m just wondering if it may recover in time or if there’s anything we can do to help it recover or whether we need to remove this section… I’m happy to email a picture if this helps. Thank you so much!

    • Roger
      5:43 PM, 11 May 2014

      Whenever I come across a condition like this, where a portion of an otherwise healthy plant is struggling or dead, I first do what you did – look for a broken or damaged point on the plant that relates to that dead or struggling section.

      In addition to a broken, scarred or damaged point in a stem or branch, it could also be some kind of restriction, such as a wire, cord, or some other fastener that is now constricting at some point. Sometimes you can’t even see this restriction because the plant/bark has grown over it.

      It could be a boring insect of some kind that has penetrated a point just below where the branch/section is failing.

  • Sue shortley
    9:47 AM, 19 May 2014

    Dear Roger, I have a beautiful Climbing Hydrangea on (believe it or not) the south side of my home on a chimney. It has taken off beautifully after six years and finally flowering prolifically. However one side has just come loose from the wall. You said something in an earlier post about putting wood strips up and that should help the plant reattach itself. However, what would I use to attach the plant to the wooden strips until it takes hold on its own again? Thanks for your help.

    • Roger
      10:35 AM, 26 May 2014

      It’s just a matter of holding the hydrangea close to the wall/chimney long enough for it “to grab”.

      You could use just about anything because it is temporary and should eventually be removed. Any cord (like clothesline or similar) would work fine. Just don’t tie it too tight as it might take a year or two for enough of the vine to grab to stand on its own.

      You may have to prune back some of the excess lateral branches, or perhaps even shorten the stem itself to make it more manageable for this “re-attachment” process.

  • Irina
    9:49 PM, 19 May 2014

    Hi Roger,
    Thank you for your reply. I wanted to update you on my hydrangea which I trimmed heavily late winter and it did not come back. Well, I do not think it is alive. I cut one of the vines at the base, and it was complete dry, other vines look the same. I actually bought another climbing hydrangea to plant. Very nice, healthy, probably 2-3 year old plant with lots of blooms. I am thinking to plant it in the same location, but a little hesitant, in case the old hydrangea died because of some sort of disease or bug, rather than weather vs me trimming it too much. How would I know if the old place is safe? Also, comparing the stems of the old hydrangea to the one I just bought, they do not look similar at all. The bark on the old hydrangea is more gray, consistent of thread like vertical lines, not peeling much. The stem has no rootlets, but instead lots of tendrils. But the leaf shape and flowers were very similar to the new one. Are there different kinds of climbing hydrangeas out there?
    Thanks again.

  • Jane Lendway
    8:41 AM, 3 June 2014

    Our Master Gardener Chapter takes care of the garden at our local library – a historic, 2-story granite building. We have a young, healthy cliimbing hydrangea planted against an east-facing wall that has no windows. Someone has made an attractive, unusual 8′ trellis out of wooden ladder pieces. Do we have to anchor the trellis to the granite walls, or by setting the base well into the ground about a foot forward from the wall will this work? Or do we want the plant to be closer to the wall from the start? We can push some re-bar in to hold it firmly. The hydrangea will have plenty of room to spread both up and out from the trellis. Thanks!

    • Roger
      10:19 AM, 20 July 2014

      I love the look of climbing hydrangea on stone, brick or masonry walls, but realize the plant is extremely tenacious. Unless someone is monitoring this climber and keeping it in check, you’re probably better off going with the “ladder” trellis idea.

      I would probably mount the trellis using strong posts (e.g. 4X4″ or 5X5″ pressure treated lumber) set securely in the ground. And one foot from the building wall sounds just about right.

  • Sal
    8:28 AM, 6 June 2014

    I planted a climbing hydrangea last Spring. I live in Philadelphia, PA and on the east side of the street. The plants get a western exposure. The plants are climbing up a 5 foot wall and have reached the top. They are thriving. I have flowers on the ground but not on the wall. What’s the issue?

    • Roger
      10:41 AM, 20 July 2014

      That’s odd because climbing hydrangea characteristically flowers more towards the top as it grows.

      It sounds as if the plant is really doing well. And like with so many other flowering plants its flowering one year can be different in terms of amount and positioning on the plant. It’s likely that next season it will flower differently again and perhaps more towards the top.

  • Sal
    1:25 PM, 20 July 2014

    Thanks, Roger.

  • Nancy
    12:00 AM, 27 July 2014

    I planted our climbing hydrangea 3 years ago( in the shade). It is growing well, but still has no flowers. Any suggestions for getting it to bloom?

    • Roger
      1:54 PM, 6 October 2014

      Sometimes it’s difficult to pin-point the reason for a plant not flowering. There can be absolute causes like not enough sun or improper pruning (including timing of pruning), issues with the soil, etc. But there are also instances that are a combination of conditions, or it’s just the nature of that particular plant.

      I wish I could be more helpful, but “why a plant isn’t flowering” doesn’t always have an absolute answer.

      If the plant is healthy, and it sounds like it is, it could surprise you and decide to start flowering next season. 🙂

  • Ann J.
    3:38 PM, 28 July 2014

    Landscapers planted a climbing hydrangea on a brick wall in the front of our house about 25 years ago. For years, the plant had beautiful green leaves in Spring and Summer. We didn’t know it was supposed to bloom! About 5 years ago we saw a climbing hydrangea in a nursery and it had blooms. When we commented on it we were told that our plant should have been blooming all these years! We followed suggestions to “shock the roots” and to add Sol-u-Cal to the base. We got one bloom one year and 2 the next. This year there were 2 puny blooms, and they didn’t last long. Now the plant looks as though it’s dying. It’s been dry here (in VA) and my husband started watering by soaking with a hose. There are some little green buds scattered about, but I’m wondering if we should start over – cut down this plant and put in a new one that blooms.

    • Roger
      11:18 PM, 21 November 2014

      It would be difficult to give definitive advice w/o seeing the plant.
      A comprehensive soil test could possibly reveal something too. You can contact your state’s Extension Service about soil testing. I doubt that there’s anything significantly wrong with the soil, unless a contaminant was dumped there. But there could be some deficiencies or a pH imbalance that could be improved upon to optimize for climbing hydrangea.
      You could certainly start over with a new, young climber. If the new plant languishes or declines, I’d definitely do a soil test.

    11:52 AM, 29 July 2014



    • Roger
      11:22 PM, 21 November 2014

      Hard to say how long the climber will last in a pot. There are so many variables that come into play here.

      Climbing Hydrangea is one tough plant. If the planter/pot is good sized, soil quality is good, you fertilize once/year and irrigate when it’s dry, I think it’s going to last for quite a while.

  • Liz
    4:36 PM, 5 August 2014

    Hello Rodger,

    I have an established climbing hydrangea in a courtyard where it’s irrigated. It gets a lot of morning sun directly on its leaves. The plant has been in ground for over 3 years. This year it completely turned brown and the leaves are dropping off quickly. I don’t see any signs of breakage. Would a soil borne illness cause browning and leaf drop?

    • Roger
      11:40 PM, 21 November 2014

      Hard to say why the climber failed like that without seeing it and the site. Over-watering (broken irrigation line), under-watering (are you sure the plant is getting water), planted too deep, wire or other fastener girdling main stem, borer or other insect, and yes, a soil pathogen/disease.

      You can dig down to check soil conditions, examine the main stem and base of the climber for obvious physical damage like boring insects, etc. A soil test is another consideration.

      Are other plants in the vicinity OK? Do you know if it had been declining previously (in year 1 or 2)? The exposure sounds OK for the plant, i.e. morning sun.

      I wish I could be more helpful.

  • Pat C
    9:15 AM, 11 August 2014

    Hi Roger, We have a climbing Hydrangea that is probably about 20 years old and is attached to one side of our deck that has lattice and an arbor. The deck is off our dining room about 5 feet off the ground (raised ranch). The plant has not been pruned much…how much pruning (in inches/feet) should be taken off each year? Also, How low should the plants branches be to the ground? This is Upstate NY. Thanks so much.

    • Roger
      9:50 PM, 22 November 2014

      Climbing Hydrangea aspires to grow almost continuously, so you must control it by pruning.

      I really can’t give you an amount/measure to prune – you simply prune as much as you have to. Don’t hesitate to prune aggressively if needed. This plant can take it.

      I allow the branching to come right to the ground. I do prune-back runners at the bottom that are moving out into the garden. This keeps the plant in-check and from invading other areas.

      I suspect you’ll have your hands full keeping the climber from growing up and onto the deck. Again, prune back whenever you have to!

      I have wisteria growing from the base of my raised deck, which is 8′ from ground level. I keep hand pruners in my kitchen so when I’m on the deck I’m pruning it back – all summer long. 🙂

  • Amy
    7:51 AM, 13 September 2014

    Hello. I have a well established climbing hydrangea that grows on a 5 foot fence. It has beautiful and very full dark green leaves. I see new growth reaching away from the fence. We have lived on our property for 6 years and it has never flowered. Any advice?

    It is in part shade and we live in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

    • Roger
      10:59 AM, 30 November 2014

      If you read through some of the other comments you’ll see this is a common question.

      There are numerous reasons and/or possibilities why the climber is not flowering. Also, experience tells me that a particular plant may just not flower or flower very little.

  • Rich
    11:04 AM, 16 September 2014

    I would like to know if or how I can cut some of my 20 year old plant to try and transplant those cuttings somewhere else. I need to move my current plant and I think it is just too big to try and transplant and want to know if can take some clippings to use for transplanting.

    • Roger
      11:50 AM, 16 September 2014

      Plant propagation is an area I’m not that experienced or knowledgeable in. However, if you have some time before you need to try and transplant the climber (spring 2015?), you could root a couple of lower branches/runners by placing a portion of that branch/runner just beneath the soil line. You can place a rock or brick on that covered portion to help hold it down securely. Do not cut that branch from the main plant at this time. There’s a good chance that by next spring there will be roots formed at that point on the covered branch. You can then cut that branch with its new roots from the mother-plant and transplant it.

      I think this is a great “proactive” idea. We rarely attempt to move large climbing hydrangea on jobs because the success rate is poor.

  • Jim Landscape Architect
    12:18 PM, 16 September 2014

    Although I havent tried it on Petiolaris, we have used rooting hormones for euonymus and have gotten good results. Simply cut the woody portion of the stem, dip the ends in rooting hormone and put in a small well drained container and care as normal. Might be worth a try. Contact your local garden centre to see if they carry.

  • Rich
    12:24 PM, 16 September 2014

    Thanks for the quick response. I will give that a try since I am not planning on working on that area until spring. I will let you know how it works.

  • Jim Landscape Architect
    12:33 PM, 16 September 2014

    I would be interested to know how it works out Rich-thanks.

  • Bob
    2:40 PM, 18 September 2014

    Hi Roger,
    Great site!
    I have 4 climbing Petiolaris about 18 years old and they are covering everything is sight.2 are vertical against the house and are ok but the other 2 are climbing horizontally over an extensive stone wall and are about 30 feet in length which is fine.However,they are now 12 to 18 inches at least on top of the wall and are blocking the view,etc.I need to severely prune them back so that their height above the wall is maybe 6 inches.Can I do that this fall without killing the plants??

    • Roger
      11:21 PM, 18 September 2014

      If you’re able to, I’d do that heavy pruning in early spring. Climbing Hydrangea would likely be OK pruning it now, but the safest bet would be early spring.

  • bob
    7:20 AM, 2 December 2014

    Hi Roger,
    last winter between the heavy snowfall and the colder than normal temps,many of my foundation plants were savaged by the deer despite fencing.
    This year I’m using black plastic sheeting to cover the plants thinking that they will be less attractive if the deer cannot see them behind the fencing.BUT now I’m concerned that 3 months under the black plastic,depriving the plants of what little sun light we get at that time of year in northern NJ might be a problem? Any thoughts??

    • Roger
      9:41 PM, 28 February 2015

      I’m not sure about wrapping plants in plastic. We’ve certainly wrapped plants (completely) in burlap for winter protection, and never had a problem.

      With black plastic I might be concerned that the plastic will generate warmer temperatures inside from the sun. This could cause more fluctuating temperatures than normal throughout the 24 hr. day. And then in late winter/early spring I’d really be concerned as the days get longer and the sun gets stronger. You could have the plant(s) becoming active too early, and that’s not good.

      If you have had the plants wrapped in plastic up to this point (March 1), think about removing the plastic as soon as the temperature starts to warm for spring. Error on the side of early.

  • Lin
    2:50 AM, 10 April 2015

    I have a climbing hydrangea on an extension wall which plant sits between two windows and grows both sideways and upwards, a beautiful burst of flowers each year, one of the windows is being replaced with patio doors, the plant is in bud currently, I have to prune back the plant before May and am concerned I could really damage this specimen, any advice you can give?

    • Roger
      10:05 PM, 13 April 2015

      I would not be too concerned. Climbing hydrangea is one tough plant.

      Go ahead and make the necessary cuts to bring back the branches and stems that are in the way.

      What’s funny and coincidental is, this weekend I replaced my wood mailbox post which had rotted at the base. And on that post is a climbing hydrangea. I had to prune back the climber aggressively to “disconnect” it from the post and make room to install the new post. After the new post went in I leaned the climber back against the post and tied it with arbor-tie. I’m confident it will be fine, except for missing a few flowers this season. 🙂

  • Jane
    9:34 AM, 2 May 2015

    Great site. Thank you for the tips. We planted three of these climbing hydrangea three years ago and they are just beginning to get a few flowers. When I saw them in England last summer all over homes and fences I knew I had made a good choice. Now the question: We desperately need to replace the old fence these are on. Yes, we should have done that when we planted them but didn’t think that far ahead. I had hoped to get the fence done before they leafed all out, but couldn’t get it scheduled. Now we are looking at having to “peel” these in full leaf off the fence in the next few weeks (May here in Kentucky). Thoughts on how to preserve them with as little damage as possible since i hate to start all over by pruning them down to the ground or ripping them out. Thanks in advance. Jane

    • Roger
      1:26 PM, 2 May 2015

      Actually, it should not be too difficult to have success with this.

      Make sure plants are well-watered prior to doing any of this work. It will just help with the “stress” aspect.

      Simply do your best to pull the stems & branches off the old fence. And have a hand-pruner handy to cut any that break in the process.

      If the stems are narrow and flexible, they should lean or lie down opposite from the fence. If the stems are thicker and less-flexible you might have to tie them back away from the fence while the work is being done.

      You’ll want to advise the fence contractor to take care while they’re working around the plants.

      After the new fence is in you can use eye-hooks and twist-ties to get the stems & branches up against the fence. Over the next season or two just keep an eye on the twist-ties so they don’t dig into the stems. Eventually you should be able to remove them.

      I know you want to preserve as much of the plant(s) as possible, but don’t hesitate to prune broken stems & branches back, or other stray branches that are awkward or in the way. The fact that you’re not disturbing the root system will enable this plant to recover relatively quickly.

  • Jane
    3:51 PM, 3 May 2015

    Thanks so much Roger. I really appreciate it. One last question, I was working weeding around them yesterday and noticed that one in particular is trying to creep along the ground too Can I cut back as long is it is training up the fence and is well established? Again, thanks. Jane

    • Roger
      8:48 AM, 4 May 2015

      Absolutely. I prune back the runners on the ground all the time to keep the climber in-check and on the wall or trellis.

  • susan
    8:32 PM, 6 May 2015

    My hydrangea has a lot of dead branches the bottom near the ground is leafing and looks good but the top looks like it is dying. Any helpful suggestions

    • Roger
      10:13 PM, 6 May 2015

      Without seeing it I’m not sure why it’s in that condition.

      It’s unlikely to be winter damage, although not impossible. Is it tied off at points on the stems to attach it to a trellis? If so, check those points that they’re not digging into the stems.

      All you can do at this point is prune it back to live buds and leaves — and let it recover from there.

      If there’s something else wrong, the plant will likely continue to die back. Again, without seeing the plant there are just too many possibilities to discuss. Sorry.

  • Bob
    8:48 AM, 7 May 2015

    Hi Roger,
    I contacted you originally on Sept 18,2014 re hard pruning my large climbing hydrangeas.I followed your advise,waited until the end of March and cut them back.Now in the 1st week of May they are covered in new leaves,etc! Thanks,Bob

    • Roger
      10:25 PM, 7 May 2015

      Fantastic! Climbing Hydrangea is such a great plant. I’m glad it responded well to your hard pruning.
      I really appreciate the update. It’s great hearing the results folks have.

  • Patty
    9:33 AM, 8 May 2015

    Hello! I just purchased three climbing hydrangea. I live in La Crosse, WI (zone 4) and I want to cover roughly 45 feet of aluminum fence that is 6 feet tall. Do you think this is a good choice? Any idea on how long it will take to fill in and tricks for a successful planting? Thanks!!

    • Roger
      9:04 AM, 9 May 2015

      3 plants will eventually cover the 45 feet, but it will take some time.

      In my experience, the first year the plant is just establishing itself — no real top growth. After that I’d estimate 3 – 5 years to cover the full 45 feet.

      You’ll want to direct some of the stems to move horizontal by using fasteners/ties to “loosely” affix them to the fence.

  • Mary
    5:41 PM, 9 May 2015

    Do theses climbers require a fertilizer or woul that make them grow too much too fast???

    • Roger
      8:37 PM, 9 May 2015

      I usually don’t bother fertilizing Climbing Hydrangea unless I know of or suspect a deficiency.

      However, if you’d like to feed them just use a general, organic feed like Plant-tone from Espoma.

  • karen
    12:05 AM, 11 May 2015

    hi! i have a climbing hydrangea that is about 7 years old but it is very sparse, only covers an area of about 24 square feet and has a tendency to grow outwards in sparse shoots rather than densely upwards. it is growing along a trellis that also houses a clematis montana (a monster) which overshadowed the hydrangea. the clematis died this spring (no idea why) and i am trying to get the hydrangea to grow over the entire trellis. is it possible that the hydrangea has this strange growing habit because it was overshadowed by the clematis and now that the clematis has been cleared out, the hydrangea will grow thickly and spread? otherwise should i be pruning it to make it more dense?

    • Roger
      8:43 AM, 11 May 2015

      Interesting that the hydrangea languished while the clematis grew well.

      It’s hard to say, but I would think the hydrangea would start to improve. It no longer has water & nutrient competition from the clematis, but also the top plant is no longer shaded or vying for space.

  • Donna Thompson
    10:06 AM, 25 May 2015

    I just purchased two climing hydragas to plant in a shady area against the house. The bottom half of the house is brick with vinyl siding above.i want to make sure it will not attach to the house since I live in a co do, I have a nice painted metal screen,will that work it does it need to be a pours material?

    • Roger
      10:23 AM, 27 May 2015

      I’d have to see the metal screen to give an opinion, but climbing hydrangea climbs and attaches by aerial rootlets. And I’m not sure your painted screen would have enough texture for those rootlets to grab hold.

      Perhaps you could give it a go, and maybe if you can help the climber along at first by using a twist-tie (or similar) to affix several of the plants stems up against the screen — just to help get it started. And actually, that might become the method you use in this application. Just remember to always keep the twist-ties loose and not tight against the stems.

  • Antony
    3:49 AM, 31 May 2015

    Roger – approx 62 years ago I was given a Peteolaris by my staff and wherever we have lived I have taken a piece of it with me and the present shrub is 43 years old and as you say, vigorous and a picture right now. However Ive never been good with hydrangeo pruning and it seems to me, i order to subdue the plant I must do without flowers the following year , I do make it spread horizontally rather than Vertically, However will try your method but not over optimisic. !

    • Roger
      10:00 AM, 31 May 2015

      Thanks for your comment.
      That’s remarkable how you’ve managed to keep a piece of the original climber with you over the years.
      It’s not unusual to have a customer request we transplant a plant of theirs that has sentimental meaning to them when they move. I think it’s great!
      I would not worry about controlling the climber by pruning. You can see how tough they are.

  • roger
    12:08 PM, 1 June 2015

    I just bought a house on a lake. There is a stone wall (basically large smooth stones, not cemented in) at the water’s edge. I have appx 100 feet of lakefront. There is an appx 8 foot drop to the actual water. I would like to plant two or three climbing hydrangea somewhere in, along or above the wall, to eventually cover much of the wall, (that is only seen from being on the water). Where would be a good place to plant a 6 foot long climbing hydrangea. Could I plant on the lake floor (the water at the base of the wall is usually about 2 feet deep). Should I plant them on top of the wall and try to get it to grow down and horizontal. Should I pull a couple of large rocks out and plant them on the side of the wall above the water line. If so at what level?
    The wall is on the east side of the property, so the plants will get only morning sun.
    thanx in advance

    • Roger
      8:31 AM, 2 June 2015

      Congrats on your new home.
      It’s hard to give an accurate opinion w/o seeing the situation, but my overall thought is to plant above the wall/rockwork and let the hydrangea sprawl and cascade downward and laterally.
      I would think the plant would begin to grow out along the top and out into the yard. The question is how much of the growth will “naturally” cascade down the rocks. I think a fair amount will.
      Keep pruning the plant to discourage it from growing into the yard (unless you want that too).
      I just like the idea of having the plant(s) on top and managing them from there.
      Climbing hydrangea can extend growth 30′ w/o a problem — so the potential is certainly there to do what you’re trying to do.
      I love the idea and the look should be spectacular.

  • Patty
    4:29 PM, 29 June 2015

    Hello…I want to plant a climbing Hydrangea on an old pine that is about 60 feet tall. Is this a good idea? Would it eventually over take the pine and kill it? The tree is amazing and I don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize it!! Thanks for your help!

    • Roger
      9:12 PM, 29 June 2015

      I’m guessing the trunk of the pine is exposed for quite a bit before branching starts. And this exposed trunk is where you’d like the hydrangea vine to grow.

      I think that would be fine, but with one caveat. I would keep the climber contained just on the trunk, and not let it get into the branching and needles of the pine.

      Climbing Hydrangea is a perfect climber for this application

  • Ed Challenger
    3:43 PM, 12 July 2015

    I have a climbing hydrangea that is about 10 years old. It has grown on a fence and extended itself beautifully. This year in spring I pruned it back because it was taking over other plant areas and it looked a little sparse. Now it looks terrible, leaves dropping, lots of empty branches,and I don’t know what to do. Gave it some Plant Tone but it looks like it’s dying. Would appreciate any advice. Should I prune it way

    • Roger
      11:03 PM, 12 July 2015

      Without seeing the plant and the surrounding conditions it’s very difficult to offer any kind of diagnosis.

      Are other plants also declining nearby? Was it in full leaf and healthy last summer and fall?

      The fact that the entire plant is struggling could indicate something universal is affecting the root system. Was anything done near the plant since it was last healthy? Digging, construction, painting, etc.?

      Check at the base and lower trunk to see if there’s anything restricting around the neck of the plant, such as a tie or wire that was left on — or used to secure to a trellis.

      Having fed the plant with Plant-tone was good. And watering only if the soil is dry.

      I would wait until next spring to prune back. Climbing hydrangea pushes growth very early in spring. Waiting till then will allow the plant to show any signs of new growth and clearly tell you what you need to prune back.

  • Julie
    2:53 PM, 18 August 2015

    Hello Roger,

    I just planted a 2 gallon Climbing Hydrangea on the East Side of my 10′ deck in full shade. It may never flower but it’s main purpose is for privacy as I live in a row of Condominiums but I am hoping for a miracle that it will flower in the shade. My current issue is that the deck will be replaced within a couple of years but I bought the vine to grow up the side of the wooden deck. To get around this issue I thought I could make my own trellis so I purchased 50′ of 16 gauge Looped Trellis Wire and strong twine but I’m now wondering since it won’t grow that much in 1 year whether I could leave the small bamboo trellis the plant came with attached to the plant in the ground until next spring? I’m hoping to train the plant to grow horizontally but if and when the hydrangea reaches the top of the deck (approx. 7′) can it grow over the top of the deck and down the other side? Any advice you have on both how to secure it initially and your thoughts in the location where it is planted would be appreciated. I’m hoping that if it grows horizontally to the North side of the deck that it will eventually get a little sun as I have a clematis on the corner which does get maybe a dozen flowers on it.
    Thanks so much in advance 🙂

    • Roger
      11:02 PM, 19 August 2015

      I’m not sure I get the whole picture, but here are some of my thoughts.

      If the deck is to be replaced in a couple of years, it makes sense to not train the vine on that structure. I like the idea of planting the climbing hydrangea in its spot, but give it its own trellis to grow on. And this could be as simple as 2 of 2X2″‘s sunk in the ground about 18″ apart — like a ladder. Add a couple of cross-pieces (2X2 pieces are fine) — spaced maybe every 18″ (again, like a ladder).

      Let the climbing hydrangea grow up the trellis/ladder during the 2 or 3 years until the new deck is built. Once the deck is built you should be able to remove the temporary trellis and re-attach the climber to the new deck however you see fit.

      Climbing hydrangea can easily grow 30’. So you’ll have no problem growing and training the climber (to do whatever you’d like it to do). 🙂

  • Anne
    9:00 PM, 5 December 2015

    Hi Roger,
    I just moved into a house that has several well-established climbing hydrangea covering the front of the house. The leaves have just fallen after turning a beautiful yellow. It has remnants of flowers so assume it was not pruned after flowering. It looks a bit messy right now so my inclination was to try to clean it up but try to avoid cutting the flower buds. I noticed in comments to others that you urge that pruning be done in early spring. Should I just leave the plant alone until the spring or is it OK to clean it up a bit? Thanks very much in advance.

    • Roger
      11:17 PM, 6 December 2015

      If you’re just cleaning up the plant a bit, that’s fine to do now. Any more drastic pruning should wait until spring. And don’t be afraid when the time comes to make those strong cuts to get the climber back in-check.

      Aggressive and corrective pruning in spring is good as the plant can then begin to rejuvenate and respond to the pruning. However, climbing hydrangea flowers on the previous year’s growth — so you may end up losing some blooms (as you mentioned). I usually accept that and put a higher value on the benefits of the pruning. FYI, older plants that are climbing on a wall or trellis typically flower more towards the top. So you could pruning less towards the top.

  • leelaa
    6:58 PM, 15 December 2015

    I have a healthy climbing hydrangea on the front wall of my house which is a dry stone wall.
    The hydrangea has produced over the years substantial sized branches some going into the wall. Should I be worried that they will expand and disturb the stone wall? Or are the branches soft enough that the stones will not be effected ? I look forward to your comments. Thanks.

    • Roger
      1:04 PM, 17 December 2015

      On a solid masonry built stone wall (with mortared joints) I would not be too concerned about climbing hydrangea. But you describe your situation as a dry stone wall. This sounds to me as though there are spaces between the stones where the climbing hydrangea could go and possibly cause problems.

  • curly
    5:22 PM, 5 January 2016

    I have a new climbing hydrangea and I am debating having it grow up the approximately 30 ft of bare trunk on a beautiful old oak or having it grow over the roof of a partially submerged new garage. Would this be OK on a roof, or would it damage the shingles? I saw a beautiful picture in the Wayside gardens catalog and was inspired but cautious. Thanks!

    • Roger
      9:27 AM, 7 January 2016

      It’s always charming to see climbers on buildings and structures. One of the primary goals of good landscape is to unify structures with the land.

      However, I too would be cautious here. I don’t have absolute evidence that the climbing hydrangea would cause problems with the roof, but I’m just imagining various scenarios. Also, I would want to always be able to monitor the condition of the roof and if necessary make any repairs. Having the climber on the roof would make both things difficult.

      I prefer to use climbing hydrangea on structures that are made of materials that are not easily affected. Or, in the event they are affected (over time) are not relatively important structures or costly to repair.

      I love the idea of growing your climbing hydrangea on the oak. It’s a natural and beautiful way to display the plant and let it “do its thing”. 🙂

  • Richard L
    9:16 AM, 19 January 2016


    I bought two petiolaris to grow up a blank rough cast wall facing SW here in a temperate seaside area of Scotland. The ground is sandy but fertile. In the 3 years since planting 3 feet apart, they have not yet flowered. Both both are shooting upwards to straggly heights of about 10 feet. It all seems a bit sparse. Should I prune to avoid horizontal growth down near the base to encourage hopeful upward growth. And I seem to read two suggestions for time of pruning…is it after eventual flowering or is it late winter?
    Finally I mulch my garden with seaweed in winter. Is this good for hydrangea?
    Richard L

    • Roger
      10:29 AM, 19 January 2016

      When you said the soil was sandy and fertile I was waiting to read how well they’re growing. However, it can take a few years for climbing hydrangea to “take off”. And flower too.

      It might be a good idea to do a soil test — at the very least a pH reading. The pH should not be above neutral (7.0). Is the foliage a deep green? If it’s not and the color leans more yellowish you could try adding chelated iron. But check the pH — it could be too high (alkaline). In which case there are pH lowering products (with sulfer) that you can add.

      Re pruning to encourage top growth: In general it’s smart to keep the sides pruned just to “contain” the climber, especially when training against a structure. And this should encourage upward growth. As far as when to prune: I prune just about whenever I have to. The only detriment to this is possibly affecting the flowering. Where flowering is a concern, then pruning soon after flowering is best.

      Re seaweed: I don’t have any experience with mulching with seaweed. But seaweed extract is sometimes used in soil conditioning. Seaweed helps with supplying micronutrients — and that’s a good thing. I would think mulching with seaweed would be fine. If anything I would just make sure it’s rinsed of any salt water residue.

  • Richard L
    11:26 AM, 19 January 2016

    Many thanks…as we say here…ta very much


  • sheila byrne
    5:52 AM, 10 February 2016

    Richard, I have a climbing hydrangea that has got out of hand on a wall right near the house. I don’t want to loose it, but it is very much out of shape with large gaps. I would like to take it right back and down to about 3 ft from the ground ( a bit like starting again) and then ideally prune as it grows and hopefully get a better shape and control it. If I do this brutal hack will I kill it, or will it cope. sheila

    • Roger
      9:21 AM, 10 February 2016

      Your climbing hydrangea should tolerate the “brutal hack”. Of course it will take some time to recover.

      Here is a picture of a climbing hydrangea that’s been kept in-check by diligent pruning. I’d say twice/year I take the pruners to it. I cut back the aggressive growth to its “point of origin,” and also thin-out branching where it might be getting too thick & heavy.

      In your situation you’ll need to first make the strong cuts to reduce the plant overall. I would cut back the side shoots and lateral growth to reasonably close to the main, heavy stems (perhaps within 6 inches or so). You could allow those lateral shoots to be a bit longer towards the base (see pic).

      Then, you’ll have to make the even strong cuts to the main, heavy stems to make the plant shorter.

      The climber should push new growth from the remaining, short lateral shoots you left — and likely from points close to the main heavy stems too.

  • sheila byrne
    12:28 PM, 10 February 2016

    Thank you Roger, that is so helpful. I will take a closer look at the giant and work out, with your current advice my plan. What month do you suggest I do this drastic hack, ideally would like to get it done asap, but do want to give the old plant the best chance of surviving

    • Roger
      8:22 AM, 11 February 2016

      You can prune (hack) the climbing hydrangea in early spring.

  • Joyce
    11:31 AM, 11 February 2016

    I have had irises for about 12 years and have divided them about three times
    last year none of my large irisis bloomed. why would this happen.?

    • Roger
      4:07 PM, 13 February 2016

      Without seeing them it’s hard to comment. But since it’s all the large iris it’s likely an environmental/climate condition or event that occurred that disrupted the flower cycle. Cold weather, wet weather, etc.

      You can’t rule out other causes, but that’s my suspicion.

  • Christine K
    8:03 AM, 29 February 2016

    I am considering planting some Climbing Hydrangeas to use as a privacy screen against my 6′ fence made of farm wire. I know the plant will drop leaves in the winter (I’m in zone 6A) but curious as to what the plant will look like when it does. Do you have any photos to share? Thanks.

  • Sharon Monson
    12:17 AM, 3 March 2016

    Hello, I planted a climbing hydrangea two summers ago. It is going ok but as expected is slow at the beginning. My question is that I am training it to go up and across the bottom of our deck (which is about 12′ off the ground) and wondered if I can use several lengths of taught cable wire for it to climb along once it reaches the 12′ mark.

    • Roger
      8:11 AM, 3 March 2016

      Sure. A cable wire would work as a guide. You would have to tie off the hydrangea every couple of feet to the cable as it grew.

      How are you training the hydrangea up the deck supports? Are the supports wood and you’re using fasteners of some kind (e.g. eye-hooks)?

      Is there a wood beam (or other structural part) at the 12′ height that runs the length of the deck where you could attach fasteners?

      Otherwise the cable idea should also work.

  • Mary Ellen
    11:15 AM, 20 March 2016

    Hi there,

    Hello, I planted a climbing hydrangea approximately five summers ago in Ontario in front of our Maibec green wood sided home. It has mainly grown on a small gate in front of our home, but last summer got away on me. My question is how can I get the aerial roots off our home without damaging the wood? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanking you in advance.
    Mary Ellen

    • Roger
      8:40 AM, 21 March 2016

      Mary Ellen,
      The aerial roots (and their remnants) can be difficult to remove from anything. I hesitate to recommend any method for removal on your Maibec wood shingles without checking with the company — especially if there’s a warranty (for the shingles) at stake.

      From my experience — whether on stone, masonry or wood — I invariably end up using an abrasive method (with great care) such as a wire brush or sandpaper. With wood, as you’d expect, I’ll need to re-paint or re-stain afterwards. This is why I’d contact Maibec first.

  • Andrée
    8:21 AM, 4 May 2016

    Dear Roger,

    I have a young climbing hydrangea that I hope to cover a wide fence in my garden. It’s planted at the center of the fence and currently has two shoots, each about 4 feet long. One shoot is climbing straight up the wall, and the other is attaching to the ground to the left. I’m curious if the one on the ground will send shoots up the wall above it, or should I retrain the strand onto the wall? And if leaving it one the ground is preferred, then how to encourage another ground shoot to the right, in order to cover the other half of the wall?

    Also, might you have any general advice about pruning to encourage growth in certain areas?

    Appreciate your guidance,

    • Roger
      9:40 AM, 4 May 2016

      Generally, I would encourage the climber to grow on the wall/fence. Is it possible to lift the branch on the ground and attach it to the wall/fence (with a twist-tie or similar)?

      You can encourage individual branches and stems to push buds and growth further down the stem or branch by simply pruning the end growth. It’s just like a houseplant you want to make fuller by pinching the branch ends. 🙂

      Any “wayward” growth that begins to move away from the fence/wall can (and should) be pruned back to the main stem (close to the fence).

  • Nicole
    8:58 AM, 8 May 2016

    I would like to plant Climbing Hydrangea on a six foot tall 12 foot wide piece of vinyl fence. Can I prune it to just that size? I’m reading a lot about how big it gets and it makes me nervous.

    • Roger
      10:18 PM, 8 May 2016

      Here’s a picture of climbing hydrangea at the base of a raised deck. It’s being pruned and kept to around 6′ high.

      Actually, you could cover that 12′ span of fence with just one plant (if you wished). Two would just get you complete coverage a bit quicker.

      Do not hesitate to be aggressive with your pruning when needed. The climber will tolerate it no problem — and it’s the only way to keep it in-check.

  • Karen
    11:56 AM, 13 May 2016

    Dear Roger –

    Great article!

    I’m zone 5a east of Toronto. I’m considering planting a climbing hydrangea to cover a fence beside my (wooden) house on the north side and building a trellis to support it.

    The area it will cover will be contained — around 10′ x 10′ — softening the corner of a fence, growing over a gate and possibly trailing beside stone stairs.

    I’m now wondering — is a climbing hydrangea too much for this small area? Should I choose another plant, given that my house is wood?

    AND.. any tips on building a trellis? I’ve read it should be very sturdy, 1.5 to 3 feet from a wall and made of rot-proof wood. I’m hiring help to build it, but will need to give direction.

    Thank you, your blog has been helpful.


    • Roger
      11:22 PM, 15 May 2016

      I think a climbing hydrangea would be a great choice for what you’re trying to do. I would not let it touch or climb on the wood house itself.

      A sturdy trellis is a great idea as the main “host” for your climber(s). I think 1.5′ from the wall is plenty. Yes, I’d use rot-proof lumber. And just about any design or configuration would work. The main thing is it’s strong and there are intermittent points on the trellis where the climber can be tied to help train it.

      Keep an eye on the growing climber(s) and prune to control and train it. Once established they do grow fairly quickly, but with diligent pruning you can create amazing effects with the plant.

  • Fionna Barrington
    2:03 PM, 13 May 2016

    Roger. I have a climbing hydrangea I planted 2 years ago next to a brick wall. It’s now going gangbusters but isn’t suckering to the wall. How do I hold it to a brick wall? I don’t really want to drill into the brick if I don’t have to. It’s on a small trellis but is now higher than the trellis. Is there anything that will stick to the brick? It has lots of aerial roots but it just flops over. Any advice would be great. Thanks.

    • Roger
      11:10 PM, 15 May 2016

      That’s odd that its aerial roots are not clinging to the brick. Is the brick painted?

      Can you somehow gently put pressure on some of the stems & branches so they come in contact with the brick? Perhaps lean a 2X6″ (or similar) piece of lumber against the plant. After a period of time, if the climber still does not adhere, then there could be an incompatibility between the climber and brick wall.

  • Anne Adlington
    11:13 PM, 22 May 2016

    I found this page because I also have a climbing hydrangea that won’t stick to the wall. It also hasn’t flowered much since I planted it 5 years ago. I’m about to give up on it. It’s in shade, moist soil. The brick isn’t painted. I bought brick clips for hanging Christmas lights and I’m currently using a few of them to hold some of the branches against the brick in hopes they will start to stick. I wish I was writing about them getting away on me like so many of the above comments but no such luck.

    • Roger
      8:24 AM, 25 May 2016

      Plants can be so mysterious at times. Believe me, I know! You do everything right in terms of selecting the right plant for the spot and taking care of it… And then it just doesn’t do what it’s suppose to!

      Perhaps if I was right there on the site I could offer a suggestion or two, but it sounds like you’ve “checked most of the boxes” to grow climbing hydrangea.

      If the clips on the brick don’t work (or don’t hold) you might consider a nice, decorative trellis.

  • Carole
    10:35 AM, 26 May 2016

    I wanted to share that I had two locations for my climbing hydrangea before it took off climbing a very tall tree. First was a telephone pole which it refused to climb,, probably due to creosote. The second was a redwood pergola which it also refused to climb. At the risk of killing it we dug it up in February (now 5 years old) & moved it to present happy location.

    • Roger
      10:59 PM, 26 May 2016

      Thanks for sharing. I admire the fact that you didn’t give up on it, but kept moving it around until it was happy. 🙂

      Here’s a pic of climbing hydrangea we’re growing on a client’s utility pole. Full disclosure: I used eye-hooks placed into the pole so I’d have something to fasten the growing climber to. At this stage (several years now) this climber has such a strong “framework” that it stands on its own. Plus, we prune the top and sides now so it stays close to the pole and doesn’t get any taller. This is the same technique (eye-hooks) I’d use on the pergola too.

    8:28 PM, 27 May 2016

    My climbing hydrangea has never bloomed. Growing great. Very green. no flowers in four years. ???? paulette

    • Roger
      1:31 PM, 30 May 2016

      There are a number of reasons the climber is not blooming. And in my experience, sometimes plants just can’t be made to bloom as we’d like them to.

      Often times pruning at the incorrect time can affect blooming. Climbing hydrangea should be pruned soon after they bloom. The normal blooming time (here in the Northeast) is right about now (early June).

  • Suzanne
    12:22 AM, 4 June 2016

    I moved to a house last year with a climbing hydrangea last summer. This is the second summer and no blooms. Not sure if it ever has. Any ideas on what to check to encourage blooms. I know pruning is after blooming but if no blooms then what. Many thanks

    • Roger
      11:05 PM, 4 June 2016

      Why a plant is not flowering is a question I get a lot — not only about climbing hydrangea, but other plants too.

      The timing of pruning, as you mentioned, can be a cause. But there are a number of issues that could be in play.

      Light and exposure can play a part, to a degree. But if the plant is generally healthy in its existing exposure then there should be some amount of flowering.

      A severe weather event such as drought or wind and cold can affect flowering.

      Soil pH, relative to a plant’s preferred pH level, can affect flowering. Climbing hydrangea is fairly adaptive. A soil pH of 5.5 to 7 is OK, but it does prefer to lean more acidic (towards 5.5).

      Soil nutrient levels are also a factor. A soil test will not only reveal pH level, but also nutrient levels. There are private soil testing labs, or you can find out your state’s lab recommendation through their agricultural extension office.

      And after all my experiences with plants I’ll offer this: Sometimes, even with thorough analysis, some plants just inexplicably don’t flower. In those cases I’ve found contentment if the plant is just healthy. 🙂

  • Cathy
    10:36 AM, 7 June 2016

    I have an established climbing Hydrangea on the back of my house. The constant pruning to keep it out of the gutters,outdoor lighting and electric meter box has gotten tobe too much. Can you recommend how and if I can prune it back to grow as a shrub or ground cover as I’ve read elsewhere?

    • Roger
      11:36 PM, 8 June 2016

      When climbing hydrangea is planted out in the open it will mound up a bit, but tend to ramble along the ground.

      I’ve never done what you’re suggesting, but I guess if you consistently prune back any of the wayward runners the plant will be forced to mound into a shrub form of sorts.

  • Julie
    9:50 AM, 8 June 2016

    Hi I have an established climbing hydrangea that is about 10years old. For the past couple of years it has flowered beautifully but this year it only has one flower! It’s still has the dead flowers from last year as I didn’t prune it (they normally fall off). Can you tell me why it has stopped flowering? Thanks

    • Roger
      9:29 AM, 9 June 2016

      A few days ago I answered a similar question from Suzanne. Check it out above.

      You might want to prune off what remains of previous flowering just for aesthetics. In fact, do any of the pruning you might like to at this point (early June). This way the plant will be ready to hopefully set flower bud for next year.

  • Arianne Sarkinen
    1:16 AM, 18 June 2016

    Hi there!

    I purchased just today a climbing hydrangea for a tall brick wall on my home. It is north facing and gets very little sun if any. Two questions:
    Will it grow ok in full shade?

    How far away from the wall should I plant it? I eant it to grow on the wall.

    • Roger
      10:53 AM, 21 June 2016

      The climbing hydrangea should grow fine on that north wall. If anything, the full shade will “tame” the vigorous growth they typically have in more-light situations — and that’s a good thing! 🙂

      We plant almost next to the wall. You’ll leave some space between the wall and rootball so you can fit some nice backfill soil between the rootball and the wall/foundation.

  • Elizabeth
    10:47 AM, 26 June 2016

    Hi Roger,
    I have two climbing hydrangeas – one is doing beautifully by the house and your advice on pruning is great. The other is at the fence at the back of the garden and was doing well until this year. Some branches are fine but on a number of them the leaves are wilting and others don’t have leaves at all – almost like the plant is dying. What can I do to save it?


    • Roger
      11:26 AM, 26 June 2016

      There could be a number of reasons the climbing hydrangea has that die-back. The fact that a section of the climber seems to be fine is encouraging.

      This past week I was on a property we had landscaped last year. The climbing hydrangea we planted was in a similar condition to yours. Originally it came on a 3’X3′ trellis as a 5 gal. container plant — very nice.

      Now, half the plant was either leafless or with a few wilted leaves. The left side and base of the plant looked OK. I pruned out all the dead stems and branches, made sure the irrigation system was covering it, and asked the homeowner to give it another season.

      Like with yours, I’m encouraged by the remaining healthy section of the plant. If all goes well it will recover and push new growth. If it doesn’t recover (by next season) we’ll replace the plant. And then we can examine the root system and soil beneath to possibly see what the problem was.

  • Stacey
    9:55 AM, 9 July 2016

    Hello Roger,
    I am so glad to find this article! We bought a very healthy climbing hydrangea in May and it is attaching itself nicely to our pergola post, and has grown quickly. I understand about pruning as it gets taller, but I’m not sure if I need to cut back the new growth reaching out on the sides. Is there a way to send a photo to you?
    Thanks so much!

    • Roger
      1:15 PM, 10 July 2016

      You’ll want to keep the side growth to a minimum and close to the pergola post.

      Here is a climbing hydrangea we’ve trained up a utility pole. It’s the same concept. The maintenance gardener keeps all the side growth pruned back close to the pole.

  • Keith
    8:57 PM, 5 September 2016

    Thanks for the great article Roger.

    I have a couple of trellis question. I planted a climbing hydrangea in my back yard. I built the trellis using (4) 4x4x10 posts that are four feet apart. I attached steel fencing onto it for the vine to attach to. The fencing has 2”x3” spacing. After building the trellis and planting the climbing hydrangea, I did some more research on the plant. This vine likes to attach itself to rough surfaces like brick and wood. It sounds like it won’t wrap around the fencing like a Clematis would do.
    So my question is should I take down the steel fencing? And should I add more wood for the vine to attach too?
    I buried the post 18′ deep and added cement to the base. Will this be enough support for a large vine?


    • Roger
      8:58 AM, 7 September 2016

      The trellis looks great! In terms of strength, the fact that your posts are 4′ apart (and you have 4 of them) should give the overall trellis ample strength. Realize, of course, that the 4×4″ wood posts are not forever. No doubt they are pressure treated for long-life, but eventually they will rot at the base. Wood fences that use these same posts will last anywhere from 15 to 25 years depending on conditions.

      I think the 2×3″ wire fence you attached should work fine. You are correct that climbing hydrangea naturally clings to surfaces, but you can use two methods (or a combination of both) to help the vine attach to the wire fence.

      1) Use wire pieces to gently hold the stems close to the fence. Ideally you want a continuous spool of wire so you can cut pieces to any length. If you Google “garden twist ties” you’ll see all the options. Be careful not to affix the wire tie too tightly on the stems — allow room for growth.

      2) As the vine grows take the end of growing stems and weave them through the wire fence. It’s not necessary to do a lot of this, but every now and then as the vine is growing.

      I would recommend combining the two methods. Climbing hydrangea develops a fairly strong, woody framework over time. It’s not like a more “fleshy,” floppy vine like clematis.

      I think it will look great over time as the climbing hydrangea grows through the wire fence on both sides. I would train the vine to stay close to the wire fence. Always be pruning and training the growth to keep it tight and compact to the fence. This will look great and also keep it from getting too wide and top-heavy.

  • Steve
    9:08 AM, 10 September 2016


    Great thread on one of my favorite plants. You’ve made great recommendations on general pruning, but can you comment on deadheading? Is the assumption of “prune after bloom” appropriate?

    • Roger
      7:54 PM, 11 September 2016

      You are correct. Climbing Hydrangea flowers on the previous year’s growth. Therefore, you’ll want to prune soon after the climber has flowered. If you’re just deadheading, i.e. removing the dried blooms, then timing is not that critical as you’re not really going into the area where buds are forming.

  • Connie
    9:42 PM, 15 September 2016

    Hi Roger,
    Some of your comments seem to indicate climbing Hydrangeas should not be planted near a home with wood siding. My home is (bottom half) brick and (top half) painted cedar. Is cedar ok for climbing hydrangeas to climb without damage?

    • Roger
      11:05 AM, 18 September 2016

      I would not allow the climbing hydrangea to climb on the cedar. It’s not good for the wood in general and will be a nightmare to paint and care for the wood when the time comes.

  • Ginny
    1:18 PM, 5 October 2016

    Roger : I’m in the UK, East Anglia. Four years ago we moved house and inherited a very vigorous climbing hydrangea on the south-facing wall of a sheltered walled garden. I pruned it after flowering in the Spring for the first couple of years, but probably not hard enough as the growth became more vigorous. So last year I left it alone and this year it flowered profusely and grew outwards from the wall. It is still covered in dead heads and it is now October. Should I prune it now and be ruthless, or will I destroy next year’s new flower buds ? I have rather lost control of it but I’m frightened of spoiling it for next year.

    • Roger
      9:03 AM, 13 October 2016

      I would prune back the climber aggressively to get it back under control. Yes, you’ll forfeit some (or most) of the flowering for this coming season, but it’s the right thing to do in the long-run.

  • Suzanne
    3:50 PM, 15 October 2016

    I have a ten year old climbing hydrangea that is successfully growing on a wooden arbor. The arbor needs to be replaced but the plant is intertwined in the arbor. Can I cut back the plant without killing it?

    • Roger
      9:33 AM, 17 October 2016

      It is possible to cut back the climber enough to remove the old arbor. The question is: how much of the plant remains after you’ve cut it back enough to free the old arbor? It may take the plant a couple of seasons to recover, but it should push new buds and growth from the main stems (that remain).

      We did this on a project with a metal arbor that needed replacing. By the time we freed the old arbor there was so little left the customer decided to have us just replace the climber with a new one. You’ll have to see for yourself what’s left of the plant and then decide if you can wait the time it will take for it to recover.

      If possible I’d do this in the early spring.

  • Cornelia
    10:09 PM, 5 February 2017

    Roger, this thread is really helpful and makes me feel confident that I can prune hard the 20+ year old climbing hydrangea I have inherited in our new, old house. It is climbing the trunk of a 80ft pin oak, the vines all the way up to the branching crown. It has also crept uncontrolled along a short wall beside the tree. It bloomed a little last summer but not as much as it was in the realtor’s photo of the tree in full bloom! I plan to hard prune it in the early spring and will let you know how it goes. Thank you!

    • Roger
      8:04 AM, 6 February 2017

      Yes, this thread has really filled out with information — so glad it’s helping.

      We all look forward to hearing how the climber responds to your pruning!

  • Babs
    11:14 AM, 20 February 2017

    My hydrangea already has a trunk about 3″ diameter. It looked so sweet growing over the white arbor between the house and garage when we moved in…Now it’s growing and taking the arbor apart a little more each year. Can I prune it WAY back and remove or replace the arbor? Can I dig it up and move it?

    • Roger
      10:39 PM, 20 February 2017

      This is what this climber does — it’s developing to its potential (mature size). Yes, pruning aggressively from day-one will help keep it in-check — and extend the usable period of time on the arbor. But the climber will eventually mature where it becomes “just too much plant”.

      A practical approach would be to simple remove the existing climber. If you wanted to save it and possibly transplant it, late winter and early spring would be the time to do that. Cut it way back to a manageable stem so you can handle it easier — and then transplant it. They move fairly well.

      If you replace the arbor and want to plant another climber, you might try something less woody and aggressive, such as Clematis, certain varieties of honeysuckle — and there are other climbers too. Perhaps visit your local garden center or nursery for what’s available. You can ask their advice — and then take their recommendations and do a little research yourself to see exactly what each climber’s characteristics are.

      Also, if you replace the arbor look into metal and composite versions that are stronger and will last much longer than wood (even cedar).

  • Jim
    8:56 AM, 1 April 2017

    Our climbing hydrangea has been doing well for years and pruned. However about 2 feet up main body it is soaking wet and dripping liquid just like water. A constant drip. Any ideas?

    • Roger
      4:48 PM, 1 April 2017

      Hard to say, particularly without being on-site to look the plant over.

      Nothing comes to mind right off. But I’d first be focused on the source or point where the liquid is coming from. Is it coming from the plant itself — perhaps a point where a wound or entry from a boring insect is?

  • Jim
    4:14 PM, 2 April 2017

    Thank you Roger.

    Unfortunately we have discovered it was recently pruned by my father, which has caused it. We were debating on removing so now it is decided.

  • Jean Tansley
    1:10 PM, 17 April 2017

    I have 2 x cimbing hydrangeas and they are out of hand. I believe they are around 5-6 years old. Can I hard prune it to above ground level or should I cut it back to an accept able height and prune back side shoots after it has flowered

    • Roger
      7:52 AM, 20 April 2017

      I’d have to see the plant(s) to give a more specific opinion, but I’d rather not see you prune to ground level.

      If the flowering is important to you this season you can’t prune too aggressively until after flowering. It sounds as though they should be brought under control ASAP. In most cases like this I’ll prioritize on controlling the plant size (and form) and prune. Your call, of course.

      I would try to leave and work around the main stem(s) of the plant — bringing back (pruning) wayward lateral growth closer to these main stems. Think of it as compacting the framework of the plant. And you can certainly reduce the height too by pruning down the main stems. The climbers should overtime push new growth from this compact framework.

  • judy
    5:44 PM, 18 April 2017

    Thanks so much for your advice…I bought one 2 yrs ago and it’s blooming now…I just hope that I can keep it contained…


    • Roger
      7:59 AM, 20 April 2017

      The fact that you’re aware of the plant’s growth potential is a plus right there. Now you can keep an eye on it and make sure it behaves! 🙂

      In fact, after flowering this season you may want to do some pruning to shape the climber. This regular pruning not only keeps the plant in-check, but makes for a stronger plant in general.

  • Rhys
    7:37 AM, 25 April 2017

    We have a very large hydrangea which is 20 years old and climbing up the back of our house. Unfortunately in the last 6 months it has reached our guttering and is climbing onto the roof.
    it is a victorian red brick house. We had someone to come and take it off, but they said it was starting to pull off the bricks below the guttering, so he didn’t’t want to continue.

    Does it normally damage brick work – what should we do?

    • Roger
      4:29 PM, 25 April 2017

      I’ve yet to see climbing hydrangea damage brick. It could be that the jointing on the brick was deteriorating, and not necessarily from the hydrangea. Most masons will not like the idea of anything climbing on their brickwork — and I understand that. It’s just that I have so many projects with the climber on mortar-jointed stonework and brickwork, and I can’t recall any problems.

      If you still have more of the climber to remove, it may be easier to cut the climbing stems (you want to remove) so that they die first. Overtime they’ll dry up and have less of a grip on the brick. With a scraper/putty knife you should be able to scrape the dead air-roots and stems off the brick. Possibly power-washing afterwards would also help and/or a stiff bristle brush.

      Also, it sounds like a mason will need to re-joint those bricks that are loose.

  • Jean
    5:46 PM, 25 April 2017

    Thanks for that advice Roger. I will leave it uunt after it has flowered

  • Trish
    5:57 AM, 28 April 2017

    My climbing hydrangea is growing beautifully and I’d love to “share” some shoots with my friends to grow. Is this possible? I tried snipping some last year for a friend and she couldn’t get it to grow. Any tips?

    • Roger
      10:37 AM, 28 April 2017

      I did some quick research and discovered that climbing hydrangea is not that easy to propagate. Cuttings would be taken in late spring, treated with rooting hormone and set in a rooting media and kept under specific conditions. Not easy.

      I might try taking a rambling branch that’s close to the ground and bury a portion (beneath the soil). Perhaps it will develop roots over time, at which point you could cut that branch off of the “mother plant” and have the newly rooted piece survive. No guarantees — think of it as an experiment. 🙂

  • Anne Nanni
    6:51 PM, 2 May 2017

    I have a beautiful old vine that is very happy, but during this harsh winter, the show pulled a good deal of the vine off our brick wall. The main branch is about wrist size in diameter, and it seems like it would be difficult to reattach to the wall. Where would be an appropriate place to trim back the vine so it can reestablish itself on our wall.

  • Barbara Cucheran
    2:41 PM, 15 May 2017

    My 20 year old climbing hydrangea was blown off the garage wall it has been growing on. I would like to save the plant as it is a beautiful focal point in my front garden. Can I prune off some of the heavy top branches now while it is in bud or should I wait? Do I have to build a frame like you did in the response to Anne? I am thinking brick clips with garden wire but I not sure it will have enough strength. I am in zone 4/5 in Ottawa Canada if that makes any difference in how I should proceed.

    • Roger
      10:21 PM, 16 May 2017

      I would prune back the plant (now) to make it more compact and manageable.

      I used the simple trellis support because I did not want to drill into the brick or its joints to install anchors or other attachment hardware. The aerial roots soon reattached to the brick — and we were back in business. 🙂

      As your climber starts to grow and reattach itself, try to keep it pruned closer to the wall. You want a stronger, more stout framework for the plant. You can let it get higher/bigger over time, but if not pruned regularly it tends to get longer stems and branches too quickly. This makes for a less strong framework and one likely to come off the wall again.

  • Patricia
    5:21 PM, 3 June 2017

    Thanks for the information on your site. Our hydrangea is covering our patio fence–vertically and going over the top and through the fence boards in places. Will it damage the fence from its weight? Also, when we need to replace the fence, it will need to be removed or severely pruned back. Is it possible to do that without permanently affecting flowering?

    • Roger
      4:54 PM, 4 June 2017

      It’s best to keep the climbing hydrangea on the surface (outside) of the fence, and not allow it to grow “through” the fence.

      Wood fences naturally decay over time — especially where the posts come in contact with the soil. And you may also need to repair, replace or paint/stain the fence. Having the climber on the surface of the fence will make it easier to remove whenever those repairs, etc. are necessary.

      Even at that it’s almost always necessary to cut back the climber when fence work is done. It just makes the process so much more manageable. This cutting back will likely affect flowering, but not permanently. In one or two seasons it will get back on its flowering schedule. 🙂

  • Carlene Lafer
    5:55 PM, 11 June 2017

    My Japanese Hydrangea is about 12 years old and always did beautifully on a trellis against my house.This year only a few of the branches have leaves on it.
    I live in Michigan and it was a mild winter so I am not sure what happened.
    I was going to Prune it hard to about 2-3 feet to see if it comes back. When is a good time to do this.

    • Roger
      12:05 PM, 25 June 2017

      Without being on-site and seeing the climbing hydrangea and the surrounding conditions, it’s hard to give an opinion as to why the plant is struggling. I do think your idea to prune it way back is a good tactic.

      Typically a hard pruning like that is best in the early spring. But considering the condition of the plant I’d prune it back now. Keep the soil moist — not wet. And you could use a liquid fertilizer for plants that prefer slightly acidic soil.

  • Rebecca
    4:50 PM, 21 June 2017

    Hi Roger,
    So glad to have stumbled upon your wonderful resource. I want to plant a climbing hydrangea but I’ve got a basement window right next to the spot along my brick wall that’s otherwise perfect. My hope is that there’s enough width for the BASE of the plant to start climbing and then I’ll keep it pruned down by the ground so that all the action is up top (where there is two stories of windowless brick for it to spread out on). I’ve got about 3′ of brick wall till the window starts. (The plant would already be taller than the window). Just trying to figure out what these mature guys look like near the ground!

    • Roger
      12:30 PM, 25 June 2017

      Typically the climbing hydrangea is full with branches and leaves from the ground up. But there’s no reason you can’t either contain that growth and foliage near the base, or gradually expose the base stems and trunk by pruning away that growth. These climbers are tough and “malleable”. 🙂

  • Ann
    1:01 PM, 24 June 2017

    Just bought a climbing hydrangea and I’m getting nervous reading about how they grow. I had planned to put it at the corner of my house to cover the utility pipe going up to the roofline. Is this a bad idea? Will it grow over the cable/ electric wires causing a problem?
    How about a waist high rock wall instead? Will it grow horizontally in both directions to cover it or will it grow through the wall and displace the rocks?

    • Roger
      12:38 PM, 25 June 2017

      I would not recommend growing the climbing hydrangea to hide the utility pipe. Yes, it will grow over the cable and wires too. It’s way too aggressive.

      Planting by the rock wall sounds like a great idea. Yes, it will grow on the wall and trail horizontally. I don’t think it will displace any stones. However, if the wall is not sturdy and fitted and made with substantial stones, it could potentially move some of the loose, smaller stones.

      As you’d expect, you’ll need to monitor and prune the plant a bit — and even guide/train it to do exactly what you envision.

  • Susan
    6:16 PM, 24 June 2017

    Roger, I’m in zone 6 and just planted an hydrangea anomala petiolaris in the center of a metal 6.5 foot obelisk in dappled shade. The obelisk is sunk 18 inches in ground and the soil is amended clay. I was told by someone at the garden center that this vine would grow to about 8 feet and I stupidly did not read the label to verify.

    Now I realize that it can get to 80 feet! My question: Will it be relatively easy to keep it under control in the center of my obelisk under the conditions I mentioned? I’m frequently out in my garden and like tending plants so regular pruning is not a big deal to me, but I wonder if constant pruning of this plant will weaken it over time.

    Secondly, I’ve read it’s attractive to Japanese beetles. How should I fend them off? Thanks in advance for your reply.

    • Roger
      12:53 PM, 25 June 2017

      I would not recommend climbing hydrangea for the obelisk. This climber is too aggressive and will, over time, become to unwieldy — even with diligent pruning. And at that, would likely harm your obelisk.

      I would select a less aggressive climber that will be easier to control. A clematis variety perhaps. You can do some research on what climbers are available in your local area.

      With regard to the Japanese beetle issue, I’m not aware that they are especially a problem with climbing hydrangea — I guess they could be. There are traps that people hang in their yards to capture these pests, but I understand these traps can do the opposite (of what you want) and attract more beetles into the area. I wish I could be more helpful on this matter.

  • Susan
    6:54 PM, 24 June 2017

    Oops, I should clarify that there is 6.5 feet of vertical space inside the obelisk after installation, and the inside diameter of its rings is 14.5 inches. This is a relatively large and sturdy structure.

  • Tracee
    2:15 PM, 27 June 2017

    I have a climbing hydrangea that is about 4 years old. It had a woody trunk when I planted it that was about 3 feet long. This trunk was too heavy to support itself and now lies on the ground with many arms branching off of it. It has never flowered and really is not climbing the wall support well. I have wondered if pruning the woody trunk off would encourage it to climb better and become a better looking plant.

    • Roger
      10:59 AM, 10 July 2017

      It’s hard to give absolute advice when not seeing the actual plant and situation. But based on what you’ve said I would prune back the climber as close as you can to the main stem/trunk so that the stem/trunk can be redirected towards the trellis or wall you intend it to climb. Then use some kind of fastener(s) to help hold the stem and branches against (or at least towards) the trellis or wall. You’ll need to monitor and help the climber as it develops by pruning, guiding and securing it to the surface you want it to climb.

  • Kathy
    12:00 PM, 13 July 2017

    1. Can I plant a climbing hydrangea at the base of a dead/dying poplar tree?

    2. Can I plant a climbing hydrangea to grow up a living river birch (max height 40

    3. I have old fashioned asbestos shingles (over clapboard). If planted against the
    house will the plant grow under the shingles like ivy would?

    4. Does a climbing hydrangea require extra water as regular hydrangeas do?

    • Roger
      9:51 PM, 15 July 2017

      For me, I’ll plant climbing hydrangea at the base of mature, large shade trees — and let them cling to and climb the large trunk. And I won’t allow them to reach the upper branches/canopy (by monitoring and pruning).

      I guess you could use the dead poplar, but that tree will eventually decay and fall. I don’t think the birch is a good idea. The trunk is not large by comparison to a mature shade tree, and it’s likely the birch branches are low enough that the climber will soon get up and into them.

      I would not grow climbing hydrangea on or near your house shingles. Generally I’ll only grow on stone, brick or some other solid masonry.

      Once established climbing hydrangea is probably more tolerant to dryness than standard hydrangeas. But you’ll still need to watch them during dry spells. Established plants will warn you they’re thirsty by wilting. It’s always good to avoid having a plant wilt. It can weaken them if you consistently wait for wilting to water them.

  • Bonnie Scali
    1:29 PM, 13 July 2017

    Hello Roger,

    I’m so glad that I found your site. I have a CLIMBING HYDRENGA that is about 25 years old. Our home is brick and I planted it originally in the ground of a South facing wall There is a small portion of our fence beside it so the base of it is kinda protected from the elements. I didn’t realize until I read your comments that I should have been trimming it years ago. I was only trimming it when it got to the top near my soffits and fascia, I have had no problem with it until 2 years ago when I wasn’t getting any flowers on the bottom part of it. So I gave it a real trimming but just on the bottom and about 6 feet up the main stem. I did as you said and cut most of the branches back to the main stem, but left a little bit of branch on it. Now it has taken a couple of years, but it is finally getting a lot of leaves, but I will be patient for the flowers. The part of the vine that was above that is now out of control the branches are now quite thick and sticking out quite a bit from the wall about 2 feet, and have big spaces now between branches. I got lots of flowers this year on that part. The flowers were big but the little white petals on them didn’t come out that much, most of the flower was brownish in color with just maybe 5 or 6 full petals on them. When the petals were coming out all this yellow flakey stuff came off onto the ground, which it usually does when the petals open. There was so much of it, but hardly any petals. I don’t understand unless all of the plant’s energy is going to produce leaves. I really don’t know what to think. I want to get up on some scaffolding and cut back the branches but leave some leaves on each one, but the branches are quite thick. I really don’t want to cut them right back to the main stem as it is quite beautiful. I would send you a picture of it, but can’t on your site. I need some advice soon as the flowers that were on it are almost finished. I live in a city in Northern Ontariio, Canada called Sault Ste.Marie, and our summer as been extremely wet this year, would that have anything to do with the petals on the flowers not coming out as much? I need your advice. Thankyou!

    • Roger
      10:02 PM, 15 July 2017

      I’m not sure about your climbing hydrangea flowers other than the fact that climbing hydrangea will naturally flower more towards the top as they mature. It’s characteristic of the plant.

      As far as the size of your climber and the fact that you have not pruned the upper portion — that’s exactly what you’ll need to do. For the sake of the plant don’t worry about disturbing its flowering. Just focus on getting the climber under control, even if you have to hire someone.

      We would use an extension ladder and pruning tools such as hand-pruners and loppers. And I would prune just as you did on the lower section. Prune way back and away from any wood, soffits and fascia. Your pruned climber will fill in and get stronger if you keep it to a short, stout framework. Eventually flowering will come back and normalize, but I still think most flowering will occur at the upper portion of the plant.

  • Bonnie Scali
    1:18 PM, 16 July 2017

    Thank you Roger for your advice. I will trim the upper portion almost back to the original stem. I’m 66 and hope that it will return to flowering before I’m 70. Thank you again…. Bonnie

  • Paige
    1:59 AM, 8 August 2017

    I felt I had to comment to say what a wonderful resource this is, and that it is so kind of you to respond to individual comments. I think you’re the only guy on the internet who does that! Bravo and thanks for a great site.

    • Roger
      8:13 AM, 8 August 2017

      Thanks for your kind words. There’s so much to learn in this field, and conversations in the comments just bring out more information for all of us.

  • Debra
    12:08 PM, 8 September 2017

    Hello Roger, I am so happy that I came across your site! I have been researching something to make a very ugly block wall look more attractive and I believe a climbing hydrangea is the perfect solution!

    It doesn’t sound like the aerial roots would damage the wall. Hydrangea’s are one of my favorite flowers but I didn’t know there was a climbing variety. I don’t mind the pruning.

    I’ve marked your site as a favorite so I can visit from time to time.

    I’m so excited and look forward to planting my hydrangea next spring!!

    Thank you.

    • Roger
      3:16 PM, 17 September 2017

      Thanks for your comments. Yes, climbing hydrangea should work well on your block wall. And yes, stay diligent with the pruning to keep it tight to the wall.

  • Ed
    1:04 AM, 23 October 2017

    I just tore two down that were at the front of my house. Too much work climbing a ladder to stop covering windows. It left residue on window frames. Is there any solvent that would remove residue from aluminum window frames.

    • Roger
      9:38 PM, 23 October 2017

      I’m not aware of any solvents to help remove climbing hydrangea remnants. Since it’s organic matter it helps to first make it soft by wetting it. I don’t have a lot of experience with this problem, but I can tell you (for me) it usually ends with using something abrasive like a wire brush or sand paper. And I understand that would be damaging to the finish on the aluminum window frame. I wonder if adding some vinegar to water and then soaking it might help. Vinegar seems to be in so many household remedies — and it shouldn’t harm the window frames either. Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful.

  • Jean
    8:45 AM, 30 October 2017

    Well my climbing hydrangea HAS probably met that 60′ height you mentioned!. It is climbing up a spruce tree and is pretty nearly at the top. Do you think I should just lop it off? Will it kill the tree or is it fine where it is? The tree is no great shakes on its own!

    • Roger
      9:09 PM, 4 November 2017

      I would probably leave it. I think the two can coexist, and it sounds like the spruce needs the companionship. 🙂

  • Catherine Schaefer
    2:13 PM, 25 November 2017

    15 yo healthy plant over 20 ft high, climbing up a converted barn.
    I need to prune the middle section which is growing out and is too heavy. When?
    Can I prune now in late fall with the leaves off.
    This is the Pacific Northwest where winters are mild.
    I can send a photo

    • Roger
      9:41 AM, 27 November 2017

      You can certainly prune now, but realize you may be removing some flower buds for the coming season. Personally I never let that affect my decision to prune because I always prioritize on controlling the climber. Ideally you would prune right after flowering.

      If I’m planning to “severely” prune back a climbing hydrangea, I’ll try to schedule that for early spring. It doesn’t sound like you’re planning that kind of pruning.

  • Diane
    7:50 PM, 15 March 2018

    Dear Roger,

    I have a 6 year old climbing hydrangea with is starting to grow taller and flower more. I have heard that it’s best to train the vine to 2 main stems. Should I prune off the small shoots coming up from the ground?


    • Roger
      8:57 PM, 15 March 2018

      Training the climbing hydrangea with 2 (or 3) main stems is probably a good thing if your training it on a trellis. There you can focus on positioning and directing those few main stems strategically on the trellis. Then: prune, direct and attach the lateral shoots (coming off those few main stems) to cover the trellis however you like.

      In this picture I have a climbing hydrangea on a granite wall — no trellis. I focus my main pruning on keeping the growth tight to the wall — and not too worried about the number of main stems.

  • Deepak
    11:33 AM, 11 April 2018

    Hi Roger – We have a small garden and I bought Hydrangea petiolaris variety last week in view to grow it in a big pot and climb near our main door (no place to dig) possibly using a trellis or something.

    Alternatively we can put it in a corner where fences meet at right angle to cover the fences around our garden. Is it possible to grow this in big container you think to keep its growth controlled? Thanks

    • Roger
      5:26 PM, 11 April 2018

      You should be able to container-grow the climbing hydrangea. Of course you’ll have to monitor the soil moisture more closely as planters always dry-out quicker than the ground.

      Anytime you take a woody plant that typically is planted in the ground, and now “persuade” it to grow in a raised container, you’re subjecting the plant to more variables and, in turn, possible challenges.

      We’ve certainly done it before. And when done with a little extra attention to the plant, you should have success. Plus, the affect can be really interesting from a design standpoint. 🙂

  • Mary
    4:41 PM, 21 April 2018

    Hi Roger –

    We planted some climbing hydrangeas along the brick foundation of our stucco house. We planted them two falls ago. They are still attached to the little trellis’s they came with but it looks like this year they are ready to leap! Should I cut off the ties that attach them to these trellis’s? And what method’s have you used to start them adhering to a wall? You said you could temporarily attach them? Any suggestions on a good way to do this to brick?

    • Roger
      9:54 AM, 22 April 2018

      I like the idea of “temporary” because I’d rather not drill into masonry (i.e. brick, mortar joints, stucco, etc.) and install anchors or other connectors.

      Climbing hydrangea wants to attach to something if it can. And if its branches are touching the brick or stucco, etc. it will attach itself. So any (temporary) thing you can do to cause a branch to touch the wall will work.

      When we plant climbing hydrangea with this intent, we’ll actually lean the plant towards the wall to encourage this. Depending on the circumstance and size of the plant, we’ll leave the trellis or stake (that came with it) for a year or two till the plant has attached to the wall. Then come back and remove. These grower trellises are usually thin and flimsy and can be easily taken apart.

      Other times we’ll take the climber off the grower’s trellis during planting and allow it to lean against the wall. You can take wooden stakes or pieces of lumber (e.g. 2×4’s), cut them to appropriate length and use them to “gently” prop and push branches against and/or towards the wall. Again, this is just till you see the branch start to attach itself.

      Once it begins to attach, remove the stakes/supports. Now, comes the task of maintaining and controlling the plant. Be diligent with pruning to keep it in-check and not grow beyond where you want it. Also, keep it pruned tight to the wall — it looks better and will keep it from pulling away due to outward growth getting too heavy.

  • Doug Pearson
    3:42 PM, 11 May 2018

    We had a climbing hydrangea on our north facing wall for the about 40 years. Sadly it has died and I have been busy removing it all. I would like to replant another one in the same position. Do you think this is wise? I don’t know the reason for the demise of the previous one. I have assumed it had reached it’s natural life span.

    • Roger
      10:27 AM, 13 May 2018

      Hard to say what caused your climbing hydrangea to die. But you may be correct in that it reached the end of its life cycle.

      I think it’s safe to replace with another one. I’m presuming other plants nearby are OK, and no painting or other (toxic) work was done recently in that area.

  • Lisa Donovan
    1:50 PM, 28 November 2018


    I have just planted some hydrangea Seemannii in my garden to cover a boundary of railway sleepers about 5ft high in places up to 8ft in others. Will theses plants climb up higher than the top of the sleepers as I’d like to add some height for privacy between our house and the neighbours would love to add another 2 or 3 ft on top. Is this possible and how far apart should these plants be spaced ?

    Thanking you in advance


    • Roger
      10:53 PM, 1 December 2018

      I’m not familiar with this particular climbing hydrangea (seemannii). Hydrangea anomala petiolaris is the climber I typically use. Seemannii is recommended for zones 7-11 — not hardy enough for the northeast where I’m located.

      After reading about seemannii it seems to behave similarly to petiolaris. Therefore, I think once it reaches the top of the timber walls it will not grow much higher — but rather begin to creep on top or cascade down.

      You could build off the timber wall with some trellising of some sort. The climbing hydrangea will easily grab onto that and continue growing up higher.

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