How to Grow Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangeas That'll Make the Neighbors Jealous
Unusual colors in the blooms of ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ hydrangea distinguish this showy summer-flowering shrub. Here's how to grow this unique variety in your garden.
Hydrangea ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Renhy’) has taken the gardening world by storm because of its beautiful, full blooms that start out a creamy white in mid-summer, and mature to a rich strawberry-pink color. This popular hydrangea variety also features showy red stems. Introduced in 2009, 'Vanilla Strawberry' was bred in France and is a relative of the classic PeeGee Hydrangea. Just a year later, it was named a top plant by the American Nursery and Landscape Association.
Where to Grow Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea
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.
Tips for Hydrangea Planting
The two best times to plant ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ occur in late autumn, just as this paniculata hydrangea is going dormant, or in spring before rapid growth sets in. Choose a spot with rich, well-drained soil or add compost if the soil is poor. Dig a hole that's deep enough and wide enough for the root ball to sit in comfortably. Make sure the stem is at the same depth of soil as it was in its container. Once planted, water your new 'Vanilla Strawberry' hydrangea well. Pests are not typically a problem. Deer don't prefer hydrangeas, but to play it safe, apply a repellent if you live where deer like to visit.
Blooms of Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea
The flowers on ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ hydrangea are truly stunning. Starting around mid-summer, buds open into densely clustered white flowers with pinkish centers. As they age, the flower heads subtly take on a deeper and richer blush, resulting in a fantastic, deep strawberry-red color. Its 7-inch-long, cone-shaped blooms form continuously all summer long, giving this shrub a multi-colored effect with bright white, beautiful new blooms complementing red blooms. The unique red color lasts for three to four weeks. Expect your plant to start blooming a year or two after planting.
Growth Pattern of Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea
Like many shrubs, 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. Because of its large size and exquisite blooms, ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ hydrangea makes a fantastic flowering hedge plant.
Pruning Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea
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 to encourage fresh growth. This type of hydrangea blooms on new wood, so you don't need to worry about cutting off the next season's blooms.
Cut Hydrangea Bouquets
‘Vanilla Strawberry’ is an excellent cut-flower. 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 flowers can also be cut and dried as indoor decor, too.
Companion Shrubs and Plants
Because of its size, ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ hydrangea is a great back-of-the-border or foundation shrub. While it can stand alone, the pretty white, pink, and red blooms are well-complemented by smaller shrubs or plants in purples, similar shades of pink, or even foliage-focused plants that are lower growing.
So whether you're looking for a new flowering shrub for your garden or a cut flower for your vase, this hydrangea's large cone-shaped blooms will provide a splash of long-lasting color you can enjoy all summer long.