Q: Should I cut back my hydrangeas in the fall?

— Mary Delino, Struthers

A: Hydrangeas don’t have to be pruned at all, although they should be trimmed to remove dead or damaged stems and can be pruned to control size or create a neater plant.

When to prune depends on the type of hydrangea. Here’s some guidance:

• Smooth hydrangeas, such as Annabelle: Cutting them down to 6 to 12 inches tall after they finish blooming will create neater plants and encourage blooms next year. Do it in fall or wait till late winter or early spring, before new growth starts.

• Bigleaf hydrangeas, which comprise mophead and lacecap hydrangeas: Prune after the plant finishes flowering. Don’t prune any later than early fall, or you’ll risk cutting off the buds that will produce next year’s flowers.

• Oakleaf hydrangeas: Same advice as for bigleaf hydrangeas.

• Panicle hydrangeas, such as PeeGee: Prune in fall after they finish flowering, or wait till late winter or early spring, before new growth starts.

• Climbing hydrangeas: Avoid pruning these if you can, because they flower mostly near the top of the plant. If a climbing hydrangea needs to be shaped, it’s best to stretch the process out over three or four years by cutting back only one-fourth to one-third of the stems each year.

Don’t know what kind of hydrangea you have? A good identification guide can be found at www.hydrangeas?hydrangeas.com/identify.html.

Have a question about home maintenance, decorating or gardening? Akron Beacon Journal home writer Mary Beth Breckenridge will find answers for the queries that are chosen to appear in the paper. To submit a question, call her at 330-996-3756, or send email to mbrecken@thebeaconjournal.com. Be sure to include your full name, your town and your phone number or email address.