The Best White Hydrangea Varieties for Your Garden

oakleaf hydrangea bloom
Photo: Marty Baldwin

Hydrangeas are rockstars of the shrub world. Their medium height can add structure to your garden design, and their beautiful blooms provide four-season interest when you let them dry on the plant. These hydrangea varieties with white flowers make especially elegant additions to any landscape.

01 of 15

White Hydrangeas in the Garden

Patio with hydrangeas
Richard Felber

White is an essential color in the garden. It can light up a shady area, give the space a sense of calm, act as a neutral foil against other colors, and serve as an exclamation or focal point. Thanks to their massive blooms, white hydrangea plants fill this need perfectly.

02 of 15

Choosing the Best White Hydrangea

snowball hydrangea
Matthew Benson

There are many types of white hydrangeas, each needing specific locations and care to perform best. These are the four most common types:

Smooth (H. arborescens): 'Annabelle' is the most popular variety. Smooth hydrangeas flower best in full sun, but southern gardeners should site the plants in part shade.

Bigleaf (H. macrophylla): Bigleaf hydrangeas are the classic florist types of hydrangea that everyone loves, but not everyone can grow. Bigleafs grow best with partial shade in moist, well-drained soils. Most are hardy to Zone 5 or to Zone 4 with winter protection.

Panicle (H. paniculata): Tough and easy to grow, panicle hydrangeas produce cone-shaped flowers. They prefer full sun and survive in all but the coldest climates (Zone 3). Panicles bloom later than other varieties, usually midsummer. Heights can range from three to 10 feet, depending on the variety.

Oakleaf (H. quercifolia): These plants have oak-shaped leaves, which turn eye-catching shades of burgundy, rust, or orange in the fall. The white flower heads usually transform to pink or tan as the weather cools. Cultivars of this native species, generally hardy to Zone 5, do well in dry soils and in sun to partial shade.

03 of 15

'Annabelle' Smooth Hydrangea

'Annabelle' Smooth Hydrangea
Marty Baldwin

'Annabelle' is a bit like Garrison Keillor's famous Lake Woebegone, the little town that time forgot that the decades cannot improve. Smooth hydrangeas are native to much of the eastern United States, so changes were bound to occur. In the 1960s, a horticulture professor discovered that a smooth hydrangea bush growing in Anna, Illinois, had bigger white flowers than the traditional species. Since then, this variety has become a popular favorite.

Name: Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'

Hydrangea Type: Smooth

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade. Provide extra water in extreme heat.

Size: 5 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3-9

04 of 15

Incrediball Smooth Hydrangea

incrediball hydrangea blooms
Andre Baranowski

'Incrediball' is 'Annabelle' with even bigger flower heads, as large as 12 inches wide, held on sturdy stems. This shrub is tall and wide, making it perfect as a screen or focal point in the landscape. Like 'Annabelle', it's cold-hardy, so a harsh winter won't affect its summer blooming performance. It might even perform a little better in northern climates than in the south.

Name: Hydrangea arborescens 'Incrediball'

Hydrangea Type: Smooth

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade. Provide extra water in extreme heat. Prune in late winter to early spring to encourage new growth and blooms.

Size: 4 to 5 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3-9

05 of 15

'Haas' Halo' Smooth Hydrangea

'Haas' Halo' Smooth Hydrangea
Courtesy of Plants Nouveau

Imagine 'Annabelle' if you flattened out the blooms so they were about 14 inches wide and an inch or two deep. That would describe 'Haas' Halo'. This lacecap smooth hydrangea is drought-, humidity- and heat-tolerant.

Name: Hydrangea arborescens 'Haas' Halo'

Hydrangea Type: Smooth

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade; prefers morning sun, afternoon shade.

Size: 3 to 5 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3-9

06 of 15

Snow Queen Oakleaf Hydrangea

Oakleaf Hydrangea
Ralph Anderson

Oakleaf hydrangeas are native to the southeastern United States, so they tolerate hot, humid weather and aren't quite as cold-hardy as other hydrangeas. 'Snow Queen' has 4- to 12-inch-long white panicles that change to a rosy shade by fall when they coordinate with the red-burgundy-purple color change of the leaves. Attractive peeling cinnamon-color bark adds interest in the winter after the leaves have dropped.

Name: Hydrangea quercifolia 'Snow Queen'

Hydrangea Type: Oakleaf

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade (tolerates more sun the farther north it grows). Prefers well-draining soil with average moisture.

Size: 7 to 10 feet tall and wide

Zones: 5-9; may need winter protection in northern gardens

07 of 15

Gatsby Gal Oakleaf Hydrangea

white hydrangea flowers
Courtesy of Proven Winners

If you like 'Snow Queen' oakleaf hydrangea but don't have enough room, take a look at 'Gatsby Gal'. The white flower cones are oversized for the shrub's dimensions and held upright on strong stems. Tim Wood, product development manager at Spring Meadow Nursery, calls it "a showy flower display."

Name: Hydrangea quercifolia 'Gatsby Gal'

Hydrangea Type: Oakleaf

Growing Conditions: Moist, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade.

Size: 5 to 6 feet tall and wide

Zones: 5-9; may need winter protection in northern gardens

08 of 15

Gatsby Moon Oakleaf Hydrangea

Gatsby Moon Oakleaf Hydrangea
Courtesy of Proven Winners

The individual flowers on the upright cones of 'Gatsby Moon' are packed tightly together. They present an attractive quilted look that makes you want to run your fingers across them. The white panicles age to green over time, and the foliage turns a shiny burgundy in the fall. This white hydrangea almost seems to glow in the evening.

Name: Hydrangea quercifolia 'Gatsby Moon'

Hydrangea Type: Oakleaf

Growing Conditions: Moist, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade.

Size: 6 to 10 feet tall and wide

Zones: 5-9; may need winter protection in northern gardens

09 of 15

Gatsby Star Oakleaf Hydrangea

Close up of white hydrangeas
Courtesy of Proven Winners

When it comes to double-flowered oakleaf hydrangeas, 'Gatsby Star' lives up to its name. This white hydrangea variety sports gorgeous white double petals that are pointed instead of rounded, so each blossom looks like a tiny star. In the fall, the flower color turns pink, and the leaves become burgundy. This is a white hydrangea you'll want to see up close.

Name: Hydrangea quercifolia 'Gatsby Star'

Hydrangea Type: Oakleaf

Growing Conditions: Moist, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade.

Size: 5 to 6 feet tall and wide

Zones: 5-9; may need winter protection in northern gardens

10 of 15

'Little Lamb' Panicle Hydrangea

'Little Lamb' Panicle Hydrangea
Courtesy of Proven Winners

'Little Lamb' is as cute as its namesake. Tiny, densely clustered blossoms make each white flower head look like a fluffy baby sheep. This variety begins blooming in midsummer, and the flowers may turn a rich pink in the fall.

Name: Hydrangea paniculata 'Little Lamb'

Hydrangea Type: Panicle

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade. Tolerates drought.

Size: 4 to 6 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3-8

11 of 15

Polar Ball Panicle Hydrangea

Polar Ball Panicle Hydrangea
Courtesy of Proven Winners

Do you want it supersize? Look for 'Polar Ball', with huge, snowy white blooms. According to Wood, this hydrangea stands 6 to 8 feet tall with "outrageously oversized" flowers. "I'd say the sepals—the large decorative petals—are about four times as large, and the flower head is 50 percent larger [than an average white hydrangea]," he adds.

Name: Hydrangea paniculata 'Polar Ball'

Hydrangea Type: Panicle

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade. Tolerates drought.

Size: 6 to 8 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3-8

12 of 15

White Diamonds Panicle Hydrangea

White Diamonds Panicle Hydrangea
Jane Milliman

Diamonds are among the toughest substances on the planet. While this white hydrangea can't be used to drill holes, it stands up to heat and drought better than some others. Upright, sturdy stems hold white flower heads that transition by fall to a pale tan.

Name: Hydrangea paniculata 'First Editions White Diamonds'

Hydrangea Type: Panicle

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade. Tolerates drought.

Size: 4 to 5 feet tall, 5 to 6 feet wide

Zones: 4-8

13 of 15

Bobo Panicle Hydrangea

Bobo Panicle Hydrangea
Courtesy of Proven Winners

If you have room for a large container, you have enough space to grow 'Bobo', a dwarf white hydrangea that reaches 3 feet if it's feeling tall. Though it's on the small side for a hydrangea bush, 'Bobo' is still a total show stopper with pure white flowers that almost appears to glow in the garden. "This dwarf hydrangea has so many flowers it looks like a little puff ball of blooms; you can hardly see the leaves," Wood says.

Name: Hydrangea paniculata 'Bobo'

Hydrangea Type: Panicle

Growing Conditions: Part shade, especially afternoon shade, in evenly moist, well-drained soil.

Size: 3 feet tall, 3 to 4 feet wide

Zones: 3-8

14 of 15

Wedding Gown Bigleaf Hydrangea

Wedding Gown Bigleaf Hydrangea
Courtesy of Ball Ornamentals

Say "I do!" to 'Wedding Gown', a bigleaf white hydrangea. Each of the small blossoms that form the flower head features double petals, like a wedding bouquet on a stem. This smaller hydrangea variety also works well in containers.

Name: Hydrangea macrophylla 'Wedding Gown'

Hydrangea Type: Bigleaf

Growing Conditions: Part shade, especially afternoon shade, in evenly moist, well-drained soil.

Size: 2 to 3 feet tall, 3 to 5 feet wide

Zones: 5-8

15 of 15

Blushing Bride Bigleaf Hydrangea

Blushing Bride Bigleaf Hydrangea
Dean Schoeppner

This daughter of 'Endless Summer' hydrangea blooms on both new and old wood. Round white blooms about 6 inches wide age to a pretty pale pink or blue, depending on the soil pH. Robust stems keep the large white mopheads upright. Pruning can be done in fall, or dried blooms can be left on the stems for winter interest until spring.

Name: Hydrangea macrophylla 'Blushing Bride'

Hydrangea Type: Bigleaf

Growing Conditions: Part shade, especially afternoon shade, in evenly moist, well-drained soil.

Size: 3 to 6 feet tall and wide

Zones: 4-9

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