Hydrangeas: We Love Them and You Should Too

We Love Hydrangeas and You Should Too!

Hydrangeas are a Wasson Nursery staple, both in our landscapes and retail spaces.: we LOVE Hydrangeas, and you should too! With 5 main types, Hydrangea choices can seem a little overwhelming, but their color, vigor, and versatility make this the perfect shrub for almost any landscape. Paniculata and Oakleaf are the two Hydrangea families that we recommend the most for our area based on overall health, blooms, variety and hardiness.


While many people are familiar with the Endless Summer Hydrangeas (that can change color from blue to pink) or Annabelle Hydrangeas (large, white, snowball-esque blooms), there are 3 other categories that offer a range of Hydrangeas to suit any need:


Big Leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)

Big Leaf Hydrangeas are beautiful and popular but we want to let you know up front that they have an issue with a loss of bloom over time. You can try to correct this with recommended measures but it could be due to our heavy clay soil and difficult to correct. This being said, they are characterized by large, tightly blooming flowers that look like giant puffballs, with lush, dark green foliage. They prefer morning sun and to stay out of the hot afternoon heat. Oftentimes, homeowners struggle to see blooms, and this can be caused by a lack of sunlight or harsh trimming. Macrophylla Hydrangeas can bloom on both new and old wood, but most of the blooms are set on old wood; any late season trimming or early season frosts can damage buds. Most Big Leaf Hydrangeas fall in the size range of 2-5’ tall and wide, making a great backdrop for smaller perennials or fitting under windows.


Big Leaf Hydrangeas are available in a Mophead, Lacecap, and Mountain variety. Mopheads are the traditional snowball style and include the Endless Summer line: the original Endless Summer blooms blue with an acidic pH or pink with an alkaline pH and is most recognizable. Lacecaps look similar to Mopheads but have larger individual florets that tend to bloom individually rather than as a large ball together. Mountain Hydrangeas, sometimes given their own category under serrata, have a smaller snowball bloom than the Mopheads but are the hardiest of all Big Leaf.


Sun: Part Sun (morning light, shade in the hot afternoon)

Height: 2-5’

Width: 2-5’

Pruning: Prune spent flowers after they have bloomed

Our favorite varieties: Endless Summer, Summer Crush, Twist & Shout

Panicle Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculate)

Panicle Hydrangeas are one of Wasson’s favorite, particularly varieties like Limelight and Quickfire. These Hydrangeas feature large, conical blooms that change color throughout their long bloom time: Limelights emerge chartreuse, fading to pinks and then dried tan, while Quickfires emerge white and turn shades of dusty rose and burgundy, to again fade to dried tan. Their blooms start in mid-late June and can be left on the shrubs over the winter for long term interest, while their leaves turn shades of red, orange, and yellow in the fall for additional interest.


Panicle Hydrangeas love full sun and lots of water, requiring lots of additional watering after planting. Ranging from 2-8’ tall and wide, Panicle Hydrangeas offer a variety of full size and matching dwarf sized shrubs (ex. Limelight and Little Lime; Quickfire and Little Quickfire). These Hydrangeas bloom on new wood, which means there is little to no chance of early spring frost damage. If a harsh prune is necessary, these shrubs will continue to push out new growth all season, with each branch offering another chance for their massive blooms.


Sun: Full Sun

Height: 2-8’

Width: 2-8’

Pruning: Prune any time as needed

Our favorite varieties: Bobo, Quickfire, Limelight, Pinky Winky

Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens)

Smooth Hydrangeas are another Hydrangea many people are familiar with, featuring large, snowball style blooms. These Hydrangeas are also native to the Midwest and very hardy, so there is little chance of winter damage. While most people are more familiar with a variety like Annabelle with large, white blooms, newer varieties showcase shades of pink and purple and are available in a more manageable size.


Smooth Hydrangeas can tolerate more shade than Panicle Hydrangeas, but don’t need as much as Big Leaf varieties. These Hydrangeas also bloom on new wood and will continue to push out new blooms as the season progresses. As a result, pruning can be done as needed and isn’t typically mandatory for shaping. Smooth Hydrangeas can be as small as 1’ and as tall as 8’, depending on the variety, though most sit around the 3-4’ mark. Blooms come in pink, mauve, pure white, and chartreuse.


Sun: Full Sun – Part Sun (does best in part sun)

Height: 2-6’

Width: 2-6’

Pruning: Prune any time as needed

Our favorite varieties: Incrediball, Mini Mauvette, Invincibelle Spirit II

Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

Oakleaf Hydrangeas are a shade tolerant Hydrangea most people aren’t familiar with. Aptly named with leaves shaped like an Oak tree, these Hydrangeas feature long blooms that are typically white, but varieties like Ruby Slippers are available in pink. These shrubs are winter hardy, and can tolerate a wide range of conditions, including good sun, part to full shade, dry soils, and our heavy clay. Often overlooked, Oakleaf Hydrangeas offer great fall interest as their leaves turn brilliant shades of burgundy, red, orange, and yellow.


Although they bloom on old wood, these shrubs don’t often suffer from winter damage as they are a little slower to start in the spring. Full size Oakleaf Hydrangeas range in size from 3’ to 8’ tall and wide, and feature either single or double flowers.


Sun: Part Shade – Full Shade

Height: 3-8’

Width: 3-8’

Pruning: Prune spent flowers after they have bloomed

Our favorite varieties: Alice, Ruby Slippers

Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris)

Climbing Hydrangeas are a vine form of Hydrangea, and climb using little sucker feet that stick to the object they are climbing rather than wrapping around it like a Clematis. They can climb wood, brick, and stone objects better than metal, as the flat metal doesn’t offer anything for the suckers to grip to. Climbing Hydrangeas feature white blooms, although it may take a few years before they flower prolifically.


Climbing Hydrangeas bloom on old wood but, again, don’t typically suffer from winter damage or late frosts. Their vining branches offer some winter interest since they remain all year and can reach 30-50’ in height if left unpruned.


Sun: Part Shade – Full Shade

Height: 30’-50’

Width: 30’-50’

Pruning: Prune any time as needed once plant is established

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