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Hydrangea paniculata (photo courtesy of Linda Lamb Peters)
Hydrangea paniculata (photo courtesy of Linda Lamb Peters)

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Zone
Zones 3B, 4-9, 14-24, 26, 28-33, 39, H1
Full SunPartial Sun
Full, Partial
Regular Water
Moderate

Hydrangea macrophylla

Bigleaf Hydrangea, Garden Hydrangea
Hydrangeaceae (Saxifragaceae)
Deciduous, Shrubs

HYDRANGEA

Big, bold leaves and large clusters of long-lasting flowers in white, pink, red, or blue. Summer and fall bloom. Flower clusters may contain sterile flowers (conspicuous, with large, petal-like sepals) or fertile flowers (small, starry petaled); or they may feature a cluster of small fertile flowers surrounded by a ring of big sterile ones (these are called lacecap hydrangeas). Sterile flowers last for a long time (often holding up for months), gradually fading in color.

Hydrangea macrophylla
Hydrangea macrophylla

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Hydrangea macrophylla

Shrub, native to Japan. Symmetrical, rounded habit; grows to 4–8 ft. tall (or more) and as wide. Thick, shiny, coarsely toothed leaves; flowers of white, pink, red, or blue (often depending upon soil pH) are held in big clusters.

Most garden hydrangeas bloom on old wood, but a few—mostly recent introductions—bloom on the current season’s growth as well, significantly lengthening the bloom season. All kinds do well where winters are fairly mild. Those that bloom only on old wood are disappointing in cold-winter climates where plants freeze to the ground every year. Those that bloom on new wood can freeze to the ground (or be pruned hard) every winter, and they’ll still flower if the season is long enough.

The varieties that follow bloom only on old wood unless noted. Good ones with rounded flower clusters (mophead or hortensia types) include ‘Glowing Embers’, which grows to 6 ft. tall and 8 ft. wide, with deep pink flowers; especially cold-hardy ‘Madame Emile Mouillère’, which grows to 6 ft. tall and 6–8 ft. wide, producing white flowers with blue or pink eye, and fall foliage in the red and orange range; ‘Nigra’, with dark purple-black stems bearing light green leaves and flowers that vary from soft pink to blue; ‘Nikko Blue’, with large blue blossom clusters; and ‘Pia’ (‘Pink Elf’), just 1 1/2 ft. tall and 2 ft. wide, with deep pink flowers. Those that produce pink or blue flowers on new wood include ‘All Summer Beauty’, ‘Endless Summer’, and ‘Penny Mac’. ‘Blushing Bride’ has white flowers that age to pink.

Varieties with lacecap flowers include ‘Blue Wave’, with light blue to pink sterile flowers and darker fertile flowers; ‘Lanarth White’, just 3–4 ft. tall and wide, with white sterile flowers and fertile flowers of blue or pink; ‘Teller Red’ (‘Teller Rot’), with a double row of rose-red sterile flowers surrounding pink-and-blue fertile ones; and old favorites ‘Mariesii Variegata’ and ‘Maculata’ (‘Variegata’), with dark green leaves marked with cream and light green. ‘Twist-n-Shout’ blooms blue or pink, depending on soil pH, on both new and old wood.

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