This gorgeous variety is similar to 'Vanilla Strawberry', but it has stronger stems and even richer colors.

By Andrea Beck
August 18, 2020
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Hydrangeas are the superstars of summer, and ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ is one of the most popular varieties of this showy shrub (especially among Better Homes & Gardens readers!). But if you’ve planted and loved ‘Vanilla Strawberry’, or even just admired the stunning photos, there’s a new hydrangea variety this year that gives the old favorite a run for its money. ‘Berry White’ hydrangeas have similar pink and white flowers, but they’ve also got stronger stems (so they’re less likely to flop over from the weight of all those blooms), plus deeper, richer fall color that will add interest to your landscape even after the last days of summer have faded away.

Credit: Courtesy of First Editions Shrubs & Trees

How to Grow ‘Berry White’ Hydrangeas

A type of paniculata hydrangea, ‘Berry White’ performs best in full sun (six to eight hours of direct sunlight every day) or part shade, and well-drained soil, though it can also tolerate some drought. It’s hardy in Zones 3-8, so it’ll survive the winter in almost any part of the country. Once the plant matures, it can reach up to 6 or 7 feet tall and about 5 feet wide.

Like other paniculate hydrangeas, the best time to plant ‘Berry White’ is either in late autumn, just after the plant goes dormant, or in spring before it starts growing. If the soil is poor, add compost before planting. Dig a hole about twice the width of the pot and deep enough for the root ball to sit at the same depth as it was in its container. After filling in soil around the root ball, water deeply to help eliminate any air pockets.

Left: Credit: Courtesy of First Editions Shrubs & Trees
Right: Credit: Courtesy of First Editions Shrubs & Trees

Usually, ‘Berry White’ hydrangeas start blooming around the same time as ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ in mid-summer and last into the fall. In July, the cone-shape clusters of flowers will open up white, then turns dark pink, starting with the flowers at the base of each cluster. Especially when it’s in bloom, there’s never a bad time to admire ‘Berry White’, but it looks especially stunning when just some of the flowers have started to change color, leaving two-tone clusters of pink and white. Eventually, as summer ends and fall takes over, all of the blooms will change to deep pink (almost red), giving the plant even richer color than ‘Vanilla Strawberry.’

Thanks to the strong stems on ‘Berry White’, those heavy panicles of flowers will remain upright all season long. They also make good, sturdy cut flowers; since the clusters of blooms are so large, you could easily fill a vase with just three or four stems from the plant. When the flowers start to wilt, you can revive them for a few extra days by soaking them in water for a few hours.

Credit: Courtesy of First Editions Shrubs & Trees

Fertilize with a balanced, slow-release NPK fertilizer in late winter or early spring. Like other hydrangea varieties, the best time to prune ‘Berry White’ is late winter or early spring (usually February or March) once the worst of the cold has passed. This will help your plant produce even more flowers; if you want, you can just shear off the ends of each branch, or if it needs intense pruning, you can cut the plant back to about one foot above the ground while it’s still dormant. Paniculata hydrangeas bloom on new growth, so pruning encourages the plant to produce new stems and more flowers.

If you’ve had your eye on ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ in the past (or even if it’s already one of your favorites), you’ll love ‘Berry White’ even more. It’ll look gorgeous as a stand-alone shrub in your landscape, but you could also use it for hedge plantings or even privacy around the border of your yard. Once it starts blooming in the middle of summer, ‘Berry White’ will completely steal the spotlight in your garden!

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