Vanilla Strawberry (Hydrangea paniculata 'Renhy') is a hybrid of an easy-growing, sun-loving hydrangea species. Vanilla Strawberry was discovered in France and is a relative of the classic PeeGee Hydrangea. Introduced in 2010, it took the gardening world by storm because of its full blooms that mature to a rich strawberry-pink color. In fact, it was named top plant by the American Nursery and Landscape Association.
Like most paniculata hydrangeas, Vanilla Strawberry does best in full sun. Its mature height is 6-7 feet, with a spread of 4-5 feet. This summer-flowering shrub is hardy in Zones 4-8.
Hydrangea planting is fairly easy: Dig a hole that's deep enough and wide enough for the root ball to sit comfortably in, and ensure the summer-flowering shrub gets enough water. The spot should be in rich, well-drained soil. Pests are not typically a problem for Vanilla Strawberry hydrangea.
There are two good times to transplant Vanilla Strawberry: late autumn, just as this paniculata hydrangea is going to sleep, or in spring before rapid growth of this summer-flowering shrub sets in. To successfully transplant Vanilla Strawberry, make sure to get enough of the root ball out. To do that, dig out beyond where the roots are and give the paniculata hydrangea plenty of water to acclimate it to its new spot.
The blooms on Vanilla Strawberry hydrangea are the true stunner: Buds bloom out in incredibly dense white flowers with pinkish centers. As they age, blooms subtly take on a deeper and richer blush, ending in a fantastic, deep strawberry-red color and large cone-shape blooms that form continuously all summer long. The summer-flowering shrub has a great color effect, with bright white, beautiful new blooms complementing red blooms. The unique red color lasts for three to four weeks.
Like many shrubs and bushes, the ground needs to be warm for Vanilla Strawberry to begin to leaf out in deep green foliage. Springtime buds turn into flowers; flowering typically stops in late fall, depending on the weather. Blooms that remain at season's end can be left on the plant for wintertime interest; they will turn a parchment color. This summer-flowering shrub also has beautiful arching stems that turn red for three to four weeks in summertime.
Because of its large size and exquisite blooms, Vanilla Strawberry hydrangea makes a fantastic flowering hedge plant.
To ensure a healthy plant, plan for pruning this hydrangea after the worst of winter's cold has passed (February or March). You can trim it back by as much as a third every year.
Vanilla Strawberry is an excellent cut-flower hydrangea. Simply snip off blooms and group several together for stunning hydrangea bouquets. Or, add complementary blooms in purple and yellow as well as foliage for more variety in hydrangea bouquets. The panicles can also be cut and dried as indoor decor, too.
Because of its size, Vanilla Strawberry hydrangea is a great back-of-the-border or foundation shrub or bush. While it can stand alone, the pretty white, pink, and red blooms are well-complemented by smaller shrubs or plants in purples, other pinks, or even foliage-focused plants that are lower growing.