New introductions of hydrangeas have been showing up at garden centers over the last several years, bringing us larger flowers with richer colors, repeat-blooming, and compact growth habits—finally! If you’ve been wanting a hydrangea, but don’t think your garden has enough space, you are in for a surprise!
Hydrangeas have an old-fashioned look and feel to them; my grandmother had them in her garden—the large shade-loving shrubs bent over with pink or blue ball-shaped flowers always remind me of her.
Perfect for a part-sun or shady spot, Hydrangea macrophylla begins blooming in early summer with flowers frequently lasting until fall. This is a variety that can change flower color from pink to blue depending on the pH of the soil (white ones tend to stay white). Add aluminum sulfate to intensify blue color or apply lime for pink flowers. ‘Niko Blue’ is an older, classic variety that rapidly grows to at least 6 feet tall/wide. For a smaller-growing variety suitable for containers with limited space, try ‘Pia’ (2-3 feet tall/wide) or ‘Endless Summer’ (3-5 feet tall/wide).
Oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) are less common in landscapes, but look magnificent when paired with ornamental grasses in sun or partial shade. Later-blooming than the macrophylla types, the flowers tend to be cone-shaped and creamy-white as they emerge in mid-summer, then slowly age to shades of pink towards fall. The bold, textured green leaves turn various colors of red, orange, and purple in fall. While many varieties reach sizes of 6-8 feet tall and wide, ‘Pee Wee’ and ‘Munchkin’ are compact-growers (4 feet tall by 3 feet wide) and ‘Ruby Slippers’ has a more mounding habit (3.5 feet tall by 4-5 feet wide); these are ideal for smaller gardens with partial shade.
One of my favorite types is the panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) ‘Limelight’. This large, partial sun-loving shrub begins blooming in mid-summer and doesn’t stop until frost! The flowers are large (at least 12 inches long) and cone-shaped, beginning as a pale greenish-white bud and eventually opening to a creamy-white flower before slowly fading to dusky-pink. As a long-flowering, repeat-bloomer, the plant often has flowers of all colors blooming at the same time. Although ‘Limelight’ is a large shrub (6-8 feet tall/wide), ‘Little Lime’ is a newer, compact version which grows 3-5 feet tall/wide.
Other recently-introduced panicle-style hydrangeas include ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ which features huge cones of white flowers that gradually change to pink from the bottom-up, giving the effect of a large strawberry with cream on top. Excellent for large spaces, ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ grows to 6-7 feet tall by 4-5 feet wide; for smaller gardens try ‘Strawberry Sundae’ which grows 4-5 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide. ‘Quick Fire’ blooms earlier than most other panicle types and ‘Diamond Rouge’ has flowers that begin white and then turn a dark shade of red/purple as they age, providing months of stunning color.
No matter the size of your garden or how much sun it gets (most Hydrangeas bloom best with at least some sunlight), there is a hydrangea for you. Long-blooming, easy-care, late-season color awaits you at the garden center today—come see for yourself!