When the leaves fall off in winter, and the bare sticks are left over, those are what we call 'Old Wood' and is where the blooms are! Those are the branches that must be protected! I gather mine together and tie them so that I can get a cage of chicken wire around them, then fill the 'cage' with dry leaves, then wrap the whole thing with burlap and stake it down so it cannot blow over and that stays until I KNOW FOR SURE there will be no more freezes! HA! With the kind of spring we had it's very hard to keep them under cover but I didn't go back and cover them again when the weather turned cold, so it's my own durned fault!
To get the REALLY dead wood, wait until the plant is fully leafed out to look for branches that didn't make it. Best of luck to you this year!
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I live in Iowa and I have never had any luck with mophead hydrangeas. Even the Endless Summer variety are iffy. I think the people who are in zone 5 are just lucky that they come back again with flowers. Usually the plant always come back but the buds freeze off in the spring. I would say if you have trouble getting blooms, to do as the first poster said and use the chicken wire with leaves. I have two paniculatas (Limelite) and they do well with no protection but not the mopheads.
I'm grateful to the person from OH who said she never prunes her hydrangea and her grandmother never pruned hers either. I live in NE PA and have never pruned mine nor have I ever covered mine. All these postings about pruning have made me feel negligent in some way. lol
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