Growing Hydrangeas

Growing Hydrangeas

Posted by Megan Nichols on Jul 13th 2019

Hydrangea season is here, and Minnetonka is pretty much the capital of hydrangea gardens (because we said so) and you can never have too many. Here’s what you need to know, from how to choose the right one for your location, lifestyle, and personal taste, to overwintering and pruning.

When choosing which hydrangeas to grow, first take into consideration the available light where you’d like to plant. How many hours of sunlight, and during what time of day? The answers to these questions will determine which type of hydrangea best suits your location. You’ll likely have several options to choose from, so after that it will just be personal taste. Here are the basics on different hydrangea varieties.

Hydrangea arborescens

Annabelle arborescens hydrangea Photo from

This group, also known as smooth hydrangea, includes the very common Annabelle hydrangea with huge, round white blooms. They have a tendency to flop in the rain but will also bounce back. Annabelles can grow in as little as 2 hours of sunlight and all the way up to full sun. To prune Annabelles (and other arborescens, such as Invincibelle Ruby) cut down to the ground in fall after a couple hard frosts. They’ll send up new shoots in spring, and they’ll spread out, quickly growing to 5 feet tall and wide. After a while, the shrub can be separated if it becomes too large and encroaches where it’s not wanted.

Panicle Hydrangeas

Limelight Panicle Hydrangea Another very common group of hydrangeas is the panicle type. These varieties have sturdy stems and start out blooming white, cream, or lime green and turn a shade of pink or red. How soon they turn and how deep the shade depends on variety. Panicle hydrangeas also come in a wide range of sizes. The very popular Limelight Hydrangea keeps lime green blooms well into fall when blooms finally take on a pale, rusty pink. Limelight grows 6 to 8 feet tall and wide. If that’s too big, don’t worry, he has a little brother, Little Lime, that grows just 4 to 5 feet tall and wide. Another small option is Bobo, who only reaches 2.5 to 3 feet tall and wide. Other fun panicle varieties include Quickfire, Little Quickfire, White Diamonds, and Diamond Rouge, to name just a few. Hydrangea trees are also panicle varieties.

Macrophyla Hydrangeas

Macrophyla Hydrangea

Yet another type is the Big Leaf, or Hydrangea macrophyla, type. This group includes the Endless Summer collection from Bailey Nurseries that has some types whose blooms can turn from blue to pink and back again, depending on acidity. For hydrangeas with this capability you’ll want to add acid to the soil for blue blooms. The soil and water in our area is naturally alkaline, so if pink blooms are your wish there’s really no need to add anything, but garden lime will ensure pink of you want to help them along. This group also includes the Seaside Serenade series from Monrovia. Big Leaf hydrangeas bloom on new and old wood and should produce blooms all summer.

Climbing Hydrangeas

Climbing hydrangea, photo by Monrovia Photo from

Finally, the last type of hydrangea hardy to our area is the climbing hydrangea. These are very slow to get going and require winter protection, but they are worth it. Growing 20 feet tall as they cling to brick or another appropriate surface, they bloom white and are spectacular once established. Choose either a green or variegated leaf.

Besides available light, consider size, landscape needs, and lifestyle. Large hydrangeas, such as Limelight are excellent as a hedge at to cover a fence. Smaller, big leaf hydrangea are great for lining a front porch. Remember, though, there may be additional work to keep the correct color. Panicle hydrangeas are fairly easy to prune, but Annabelle and other Arborescens are by far the easiest. To learn more about how to prune the different types of hydrangeas, check out our blog post and video on pruning hydrangeas.

Whatever you landscape goals, style, and desire, there is almost surely a hydrangea to fit. These shrubs tend to be long lived and have one of the longest bloom times of any shrub. Add one, add many, collect them all! Or, maybe be reasonable and start out with a few.

See you at Tonkadale!