Hydrangeas can flourish in sun or shade. Huge bouquets of hydrangea flowers, which vary from mophead to lacecap types, show beauty from summer to fall. Varieties of hydrangea differ in size, flower shape, color, and bloom time.
Macrophylla—also known as mophead—varieties are what people most commonly associate with hydrangeas. These varieites are the large, rounded clusters of blue, pink, and white blooms. Mophead hydrangeas fall into two categories: old wood or new wood. Old wood bloomers produce their spring flowers in the fall. In the north, winters tend to be too harsh and will kill off these flower buds. New wood bloomers make their flower buds on new growth in the spring. New varieties of mopheads, like Endless Summer, are a combination of the two.
Mopheads are also easily affected by soil pH. If you plant a blue hydrangea in the ground, alkaline soils will slowly change new blooms to purple or pink. If blue is your color, add soil acidifiers to the ground around your plants to keep them that color.
Paniculata, or panicle, hydrangeas are less picky than mopheads. These plants are typically larger in stature, and blooms are cone-shaped rather than round. Panicle hydrangeas are also new wood bloomers, so you won't need to worry about winter hardiness. Soil pH doesn't affect panicle hydrangeas. Most bloom white and, as nights get colder, flowers will fade to pink or even red. Plant panicle hydrangeas in full sun.
Arborescens, or smooth hydrangeas, are similar to mopheads in flower shape but are made of smaller individual flowers. These shrubs are more shade tolerant than the other types and have thinner arching stems. Smooth hydrangeas bloom on new wood, so they can be cut back to the ground each spring. Flower color is generally white or cream and will fade to green as the blooms age. Recently, the first pink-blooming smooth hydrangeas were released.
Quercifolia, or oakleaf hydrangea, is seeing a surge in use. These rugged shrubs love the shade and make great woodland plants. As the nights cool in the fall, the large leaves turn a deep burgundy color. Prune oakleaf hydrangeas back after blooms have faded, as they are old wood bloomers.
If you're growing a new wood bloomer hydrangea, prune it in spring before growth starts. If you're growing an old wood variety, prune after blooms have faded. New wood types can be pruned back in winter or in early spring before growth starts.
More Varieties Of Hydrangea
Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' is a compact variety native to areas of eastern North America that features large clusters of flowers resembling snowballs. Zones 4-9.
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Big Daddy' features some of the largest flowers of any hydrangea. The plant has strong stems, making the blooms good for cutting. It grows 6 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-9.
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Bits of Lace' is a lacecap variety with large white, star-shape florets blushed with pink. It also bears dark green foliage and grows 5 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-9.
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Black-Stem' is a distinct selection with clusters of blue or pink mophead flowers on rich purple-black stems. It grows 6 feet tall and wide. Zones 6-9.
Hydrangea serrata 'Bluebird' is a lacecap type with deep blue clustered fertile flowers surrounded by pale blue sterile flowers. This variety also features red fall leaf color. It grows 4 feet tall and wide. Zones 6-9.
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Blue Bonnet' offers rich periwinkle-blue flowerheads on a plant that grows 6 feet tall and 8 feet wide. Zones 6-9.
Hydrangea involucrata 'Blue Bunny' is a reblooming lacecap with blue flowers from midsummer to frost. It grows 4 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Zones 6-9.
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Cityline Berlin' shows off large, long-lasting pink flower clusters on stiff, upright stems. It grows 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Zones 5-9.
Hydrangea arborescens 'Bella Anna' offers large heads of pink flowers from early summer to autumn on a compact shrub that likes full sun to part shade. It grows 5 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-9.
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Cityline Paris' is great for small spaces because it has upright stems and a compact habit. The long-lasting fuchsia-pink flowers fade to green. It grows 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide.
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Bailmer' blooms continuously from summer through fall, producing clear pink, dusky lavender, or blue blooms, depending on aluminum level in soil. It bears flowers on both old and new growth. Zones 4-9.
Hydrangea macrophylla 'PIIHM-II' is an improved version of the original Endless Summer hydrangea. Compared to the original, it has bigger blooms, sturdier plants, and red stems. It grows 3 to 4 feet tall. Zones 4-9.
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Blushing Bride' offers semidouble flowers that open white then gradually blush to a light pink as they age. The blooms appear on new and old growth all summer and fall. It grows 6 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-9.
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Twist-n-Shout' is a reblooming lacecap with pink or blue flowers from June to frost. It grows 5 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-9.
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Forever Pink' bears extra large clusters of pink flowers on vigorous plants that grow 4 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Zones 5-9.
Hydrangea quercifolia 'Gatsby Star' has double star-shaped blooms on wonderful oak leaf foliage that ages to burgundy in the fall. It grows from 6 to 8 feet tall. Zones 5-9.
Hydrangea arborescens 'Incrediball' offers especially large, pure white bloom clusters on sturdy stems. It blooms on new wood and resists flopping. It grows 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Zones 3-9.
Hydrangea arborescens 'NCHA2' is an improved version of the first pink arborescens hydrangea. Pink blooms in summer fade to a pleasant green. Stiff stems don't flop. This variety grows 3-4 feet tall and wide. Zones 3-9.
This variety of Hydrangea macrophylla is prized for its wildly variegated foliage. Each leaf is painted with strokes of white and yellow. It bears blue or pink lacecap flowers on last-year's stems and grows 6 feet tall and wide. Zones 6-9.
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Lanarth White' is a longtime favorite lacecap variety. Its large flower clusters are faintly blushed with blue or pink. The variety grows 4 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-9.
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Starlight' is a reblooming lacecap variety with blue or pink flowers, dark green foliage, and a compact habit. It grows 3 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-9.
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Light O' Day' features green leaves festively edged in white. It bears flattened lacecap-type flowers in shades of blue. It grows 4 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-9.
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Pink Shira' features strong stems and lime-green buds that become rich pink or lavender flowers. It grows 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Zones 5-9.
Hydrangea paniculata 'PeeGee' is a vigorous shrub or small tree for full sun that can grow up to 20 feet tall and 8 feet wide. It bears clusters of white flowers in summer that fade to shades of rose or green before turning beige in winter. Zones 4-8.
Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight' is a sun-loving selection with large green flowers midsummer into autumn. The blooms deepen to pink in cool weather. It grows 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Zones 3-8.
Hydrangea quercifolia is native to areas of North America and bears snowy cone-shape flowers in summer, but the real attractions are the large, scalloped leaves that redden in autumn. It grows 6 feet tall and 8 feet wide. Zones 5-9.
Hydrangea paniculata 'Pinky Winky' provides a brilliant display of softly fragrant white flowers that fade to pink in mid- to late summer. It grows 8 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-8.
Hydrangea villosa shows off long, narrow fuzzy leaves and lacecap flowers in late summer and autumn. It grows 12 feet tall and wide. Zones 7-9.
Hydrangea quercifolia 'Snowflake' displays showy double florets that fade to rosy pink before turning brown in autumn. The leaves feature wonderful shades of red and purple in fall. It grows 6 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Zones 5-9.
Hydrangea paniculata 'Tardiva' is a sun-loving, white-flowering variety with large clusters of white blooms. It grows 10 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Zones 4-8.
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Sun Goddess' shows off bright golden-chartreuse foliage and clusters of pink or blue flowers. It grows 5 feet tall and wide. Zones 6-9.
Hydrangea serrata 'Spreading Beauty' is a reblooming lacecap type that bears pinkish or bluish flowers from summer to fall on a low, spreading shrub. It grows 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Zones 4-9.
Hydrangea quercifolia 'Vaughn's Lillie' bears large, extra-full flower heads in summer. It's a profuse bloomer that also features great fall color. It grows 4 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Zones 5-9.
Hydrangea paniculata 'White Diamonds' is a sun-loving variety that offers loose clusters of white flowers in midsummer and dark green foliage. It grows 5 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-8.
Garden Plans For Hydrangea
This mix of flowering shrubs and perennials will fill your yard with color all summer long—plus provide interest in spring, fall, and winter.
This garden plan combines easy, adaptable plants to add color to spots that don't see full sun.