4 Secrets to Successfully Growing Snowball Hydrangeas

Frustrated by no flowers? While an extra-cold winter could be the culprit, here's how to make sure you'll have a gorgeous floral display year after year.

The snowball hydrangea is known for its enormous, spherical, white flower heads. These beautiful native shrubs often become so covered with 10-inch blooms that it can look like a fresh blanket of snow has fallen on them, hence their name. But occasionally these hydrangeas don't bloom the summer after planting, even though they survived the winter. The problem could be your soil, the growing conditions, or how you pruned your snowball hydrangea. Or all of these variables together could be the reason for the lack of blooms. Make sure to follow these four steps to ensure your hydrangeas put on a beautiful show for you every summer.

snowball hydrangea
Matthew Benson

1. Give Your Snowball Hydrangea Ideal Growing Conditions

If you've just purchased a snowball hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens), also known as smooth hydrangea, think carefully about where to plant it. This hydrangea will grow between three and five feet tall so make sure to place it where it will have room to reach its full size. This plant will tolerant a variety of soils, but does best in rich, well-drained soil that stays consistently moist. It's especially important to keep your newly planted snowball hydrangea well watered through its first year while it gets established. This shrub blooms best with morning sun and afternoon shade, or dappled shade all day. The more morning sun it gets, the better it blooms. However, stronger afternoon sun can scorch the leaves.

2. Know Your Hydrangea's Bloom Time

Expect your snowball hydrangea to bloom from June to September. If you have planted your shrub in the ideal growing conditions, but you don't get flowers the first year, your plant might still be adapting to its new location and putting more energy into root growth than flower production. So be patient, you may see flowers next year. The flowers will be rounded and change from a pale green to an off-white color during the summer. The flower heads will remain attractive all summer and into the fall.

3. Check Your Plant Hardiness Zone

A snowball hydrangea thrives in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-9. This means it can survive winter temperatures down to -40°F. If you aren't sure which Zone you live in, you can refer to the USDA Hardiness Zone map to make sure this type of hydrangea will survive in your area’s weather conditions before you buy.

4. Prune Snowball Hydrangea in Late Winter

Trimming your hydrangea at the wrong time of year can also cause a lack of flowers. Snowball hydrangea blooms on the current season’s growth, also called new wood. Pruning in late spring or early summer after new growth has appeared will remove potential flower buds. It’s best to prune your snowball hydrangea to the ground in late winter so that strong new stems will grow and produce plenty of flower buds.

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