Hydrangea Plant Varieties

Buying, Care & Pruning Guide

Heavy blooming Hydrangea plant varieties for sale. Planting and growing instructions for bush, tree, and climbing Hydrangeas. How to manipulate flower color in pink and blue shrubs.

Buy Annabelle Hydrangea Plants

Hydrangea, in full blossom, is the most endearing of flowering shrubs.  In spring and summer, these old-fashioned bushes cover themselves with globes of white, pink, red, purple, or blue blooms.

Growing Hydrangeas is simple as long as you understand which variety you are raising.

The problems gardeners encounter when caring for this plant are, essentially, limited to these two:

  • They wanted a blue Hydrangea and the one they’ve planted is producing pink blooms.
  • Their plant is failing to bloom at all.

In the first instance, the problem lies in the pH of the soil.  Bigleaf Hydranges planted on sweet soil (pH of 6 or higher) will bloom pink.  Acid soil gives rise to blue blossoms.

Failure to bloom is usually the result of improper pruning.  The gardener is pruning one variety as if it were another and, in so doing, removing the flower buds.

Hydrangea Care

The Few Things You Need to Do to Keep a Hydrangea Happy

  1. When growing Hydrangeas in the ground, it is important to choose types that are completely winter hardy in your planting zone because if you plant a cultivar that is only marginally hardy where you live, the cold may kill the flower buds. 

    (Most types are recommended for zones 5-9. If you live in zone 5a, you are at the margin of this hardiness range.)  To avoid this, where winters are frigid, grow the plants in containers and protect them from frost.
  2. All types perform best when planted on moist, free-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. 
  3. Part shade is the best exposure for most cultivars.  Bigleaf Hydrangeas (H. macrophylla) also do well in full sun when growing in coastal gardens.  The Oakleaf Hydrangea (H. quercifolia) will also thrive in full sun.

    Avoid siting any of these plants in deep shade as this can hinder their ability to bloom.

Hydrangea Color Magic

To get Bigleaf cultivars to bloom pink, add lime to sweeten the soil.  To get blue flowers, add aluminum sulfate to acidify it.
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Hydrangea Pruning Tips

Pruning Instructions:

Cut every cane that has bloomed back to a height of 2 feet.  If new growth has started, cut just above the new growth.

To Rejuvenate a Bush That has Stopped Blooming: cut all its canes back to 2 feet.

French or Bigleaf Hydrangeas (H. macrophylla) are upright-growing shrubs with broad leaves up to 8 inches long.  They range from 3-6 feet in height and spread by suckering.  They grow quickly and perform best in zones 6-9.

There are two types of macrophyllasHortensias, which produce large balls of sterile flowers, and Lacecaps, which bloom in flat, plate-sized clusters with tiny, fertile flowers in the center ringed by larger, sterile blooms.

The vast majority of Hydrangea plant cultivars are members of the Hortensia group.  Prune them after the flowers fade.

Hydrangea macrophylla’s flower buds form during the previous growing season, so trimming the plants prior to bloom will prevent flowering.

Order an Ellen Huff Oakleaf Hydrangea

Oakleaf Hydrangeas (H. quercifolia) feature large (to 8 inches long) lobed leaves which look much like those of an oak tree.  The foliage is deep green throughout summer, but really sparkles in the fall garden when it displays its red, orange, and purple autumn colors.

Hydrangea quercifolia grows 4-6 feet tall and will spread, by suckering, into a 6 foot wide clump.  This type blooms in the spring, producing cone-shaped flower clusters up to a foot long.  The long-lasting blooms start out white and, like the leaves, undergo a color change–from green through rose and tan–as the season wears on.

This species is more cold hardy than H. macrophylla.  Plant it in zones 5-9 and prune it right after the blooms fade.

Oakleaf Hydrangeas are best used as specimen plants in the landscape.

Pruning Tip:  To grow this species solely for its sensational foliage, cut it to the ground each year in early spring.

If you want flowers, cut canes that bloomed during the previous season back by half their length.  Also remove old, weak, or damaged shoots.

The ‘Grandiflora’ Types
Prune this type in early spring before new growth begins.

Hills-of-Snow Hydrangeas (H. arborescens) is a compact (to 4 feet)  and cold hardy species which can be planted in zone 4.  Six inch rounded flower heads smother the bright green foliage in midsummer.

Peegee or Panicle Hydrangeas (H. paniculata) are tall shrubs or trees growing to 30 feet in height.  Their foot-long conical flower heads are quite showy in midsummer.  The flowers open white and progress to pink or purple.  They cling tenaciously to the branches well into winter unless they are cut and brought into the house to make bouquets or wreaths.

Peegees are hardy into USDA zone 4 and make wonderful flowering hedges or showy trees.

How to Prune a Peegee: Frequent heading back of overly vigorous new shoots will be required in order to maintain it as a hedge.  Do this in late spring and early summer. 

To grow it as a shrub, cut the previous season’s canes back to 2 buds, and remove weak, damaged, or crossing canes.

Trim trees by topping them, crepe murder style, in early spring.

The Climbing Hydrangea (H. anomala petiolaris) is a vine which climbs by clinging to its support, or may be grown, without support, into a sprawling shrub.  H. anomala needs to mature before it will bloom, but, when it does, it produces show stopping, white, dinner-plate-sized, lace cap style flower clusters.

Cinnamon-stick-hued, exfoliating bark adds to the ornamental value of older specimens.

How to Prune a Climbing Hydrangea: Wait until it is climbing well before trimming off wayward shoots that refuse to cling to the support.  Cut flowering shoots back to 2 buds in early spring.

Growing Hydrangeas in Pots

Purple Hydrangeas and Japanese forest grass fill a raised planter with color.

Watering Tip:

Never let the soil in a Hydrangea plant’s pot dry out.

If it does, immerse the container in a tub of water to rehydrate it.

If you live where winters are bitter or you wish to grow a type of Hydrangea that is not winter hardy in your zone, take heart.  Hydrangea plants grow beautifully in containers.

The low-growing Hortensia is the kind most often displayed in containers.

  • Pot a new plant, or rooted cutting, in an 8-12 inch pot, depending on how large you want the plant to grow.  Use an acidic soil mix for a blue Hydrangea.  No special soil or treatment is necessary for pink varieties.
  • Begin feeding using a liquid fertilizer as soon as buds break in the spring.  For blue cultivars, use soft water and a food which contains sequestered iron to help the flowers retain their blue color.  Feed every two weeks until after the flowers fade.
  • Keep flowering plants in a cool, bright environment (indoors or out) and they will bloom for as long as 8 weeks.
  • Prune the plants back to a healthy pair of leaves after they bloom and repot them, or start fresh plants from cuttings for next season.
  • Overwinter containerized Hydrangeas at 45-50 degrees F. (4 degrees C.) indoors, or keep them in a frost-free greenhouse. If they are kept too warm over the winter, they may not bloom the next year.

Propagating Hydrangea Bushes

Hydrangea cuttings root easily.  Take them from mid-spring on, from non-flowering shoots.  Root the cuttings in soil and pot them singly in 5 inch pots.  Pinch back the growing tips to encourage branching.

Planting Hydrangeas in the Landscape

Use compact Hortensias to fill the tiniest strip of land with flowers.

The exuberant blooms of H. macrophylla will keep the most formal landscape looking lively.

Other Beautiful Flowering Shrubs:

Gardenias: Fragrant Flowers for Southern Gardens
The Irrepressible Knock Out Rose
Rose of Sharon: a Cold Hardy Hibiscus
Pink Weigela

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