How to Grow Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangeas That'll Make the Neighbors Jealous

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
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Buy It: Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea ($32, Jackson & Perkins)

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.

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