Unusual colors in the blooms distinguish this showy summer-flowering shrub. Here's how to grow the unique variety in your garden.

The deliciously named 'Vanilla Strawberry' hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'Renhy') has taken the gardening world by storm since it was introduced in 2009, thanks to its stunning blooms. Starting around mid-summer, buds open into densely clustered white flowers with pinkish centers. As they age, the flower heads take on a deeper and richer blush, resulting in a fantastic, deep strawberry-red color. The huge, cone-shape blooms form continuously all summer long, giving this shrub a multi-colored effect with bright-white, beautiful new blooms complementing reddish-pink blooms. The unique rosy coloring lasts for several weeks; plus, this popular hydrangea variety also features showy red stems. This show-stopping shrub will grow in most areas of the country and is easy to care for.

vanilla strawberry hydrangea flowers
Credit: Courtesy of Getty Images

Where to Plant Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea

Like most panicle hydrangeas, 'Vanilla Strawberry' does best in full sun, though it appreciates afternoon shade in warmer climates in the southern and western regions of the country. Its mature height is 6 to 7 feet with a spread of 4 to 5 feet, so make sure to plant it where it will have room to reach its full size. This summer-flowering shrub is hardy in Zones 4-9.

How to Grow Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea

The two best times to plant 'Vanilla Strawberry' occur in spring before rapid growth sets in, and in late autumn, just as this panicle hydrangea is going dormant. 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, keep your new 'Vanilla Strawberry' hydrangea well-watered. Depending on the size you're starting with, expect your plant to begin blooming a year or two after planting. Pests and diseases are not typically a problem. And deer don't prefer hydrangeas, but to play it safe, apply a repellent if you live where deer like to visit.

Pruning Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea

This type of hydrangea blooms on new growth, instead of the previous season's stems like some other hydrangea varieties do. That means you don't need to worry about cutting off the next season's blooms when you trim your plant or when a late spring frost zaps all the blooms for the season. Plus, the blooms that remain at season's end provide wintertime interest; they'll dry and turn a parchment color. To remove the old flowers to make way for new ones, and to encourage fresh growth, the best time to prune this hydrangea is after the worst of winter's cold has passed—most likely in February or March. You can trim it back by as much as a third every year.

Cut Hydrangea Bouquets

'Vanilla Strawberry' makes 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 for indoor decor, too.

What to Plant with Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea

Because of its size, 'Vanilla Strawberry' hydrangea is a great back-of-the-border or foundation shrub. It also makes a fantastic flowering hedge plant. 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.

Whether you're looking for a new flowering shrub for your garden or a cut flower for your vase, this hydrangea's huge, beautiful blooms will provide a splash of long-lasting color you can enjoy all summer long.

Comments (5)

Better Homes & Gardens Member
June 29, 2021
I live in Alabaster, burbs of Birmingham, AL. I planted 9 years ago (maybe 1-2’ stick hahaha) and now it’s easily 12 feet tall and about 6 feet wide. The blooms are HUGE!!!! But as others have mentioned, hotter climates like the southeast are not ideal for achieving the pink. My blooms are gorgeous, full, plentiful, and sadly mostly all white. But again still beautiful. I do get a few blooms with a little pink, nothing like my cooler climate friends. With all that said, I wouldn’t say I wasted my money or that I’m completely disappointed; it’s just not what I had hoped for. I wish I could post a photograph so others can see what to expect in hotter climates. Angela Roberson Reardon
Better Homes & Gardens Member
September 30, 2020
To Anonymous, I am so sorry you didn't get the desired result with your Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea. I am in Southern Illinois and watched and took pictures as mine turned more and more strawberry color daily. Absolutely stunning. If you are the person who asked about coffee grounds turning hydrangeas blue, it works! I use them on my Endless Summer hydrangeas which were pink before I started adding used coffee grounds.
Better Homes & Gardens Member
March 31, 2020
Planted these several years ago in Birmingham, Alabama. (soon after they were developed.) Have never had the desired result. Bloom white, then turn brown and dry. I spoke with the nursery and was told that Birmingham is too hot for them to change color, which was not known when we purchased them. I would not recommend them for this area.
Better Homes & Gardens Member
February 26, 2020
Planted Strawberry Hydrangeas 7 years ago. They had not been available very long. Only bloom white and quickly turn brown. Garden shop where I bought them said they have since found out, Birmingham summer weather is too hot for the color to change. They are a big disappointment. Check thoroughly that your weather allows the color change. Don’t waste your money, like we did.
Better Homes & Gardens Member
January 30, 2020
The Video is misleading, part of the video shows Phlox Paniculata and not Strawberry Vanilla. I am very familiar with both plants and think you are giving people false information. Strawberry Vanilla is never that pink/red color and the flower shape doesn't match the others in this short film. Please Correct