I can hardly imagine a garden without Hydrangeas. Although for many, the attraction is from childhood memories of a grandparents garden, I find myself intrigued by the many forms and the colors. They are easy to grow, even from cuttings, and they are not only great in the ground plants, but do very well as containers plants. Their basic needs are good rich soil, moisture and good drainage.

Their history is interesting. There is still considerable disagreement as to the correct family nomenclature between Saxifragaceae and Hydrangeaceae. There are at least six genera and more than a thousand species. There are some interesting and old favorites that are closely  related to Hydrangea that you may be familiar with, including such as scented mock orange, summer sweet and a famous cousin – Astilbe!

Hydrangea thrive in Zone 4 to zone 7 or 8. Some do better in one zone than another. To discover which are best for your zone go here. They are generally pretty disease resistant. For introducing hydrangea, and to lesson confusion, I will list the four most common types of hydrangea: Hydrangea macrophylla or French hydrangeas or Mophead & Lacecap,  Hydrangea quercifolia or Oak Leaf, Hydrangea paniculata or PeeGee (PG) and Hydrangea arborescens  often called Snowball or by the most popular one “Annabelle”. Each of these can be identified by their leaf and bloom shapes.

Here is a really good chart of the different hydrangeas:

Common Name

Flower Form*

Flower Color

Bloom Time Pruning Time
Bigleafhydrangea, Garden hydrangea, French hydrangea, Common hydrangea(Hydrangeamacrophylla) MopheadorLacecap Pink, Pink Reds,Blue, Blue Violet,Purple (color controlled by soil pH) May thru early July. Deadhead promptly after flowers begin to fade. Deadheading means to remove faded flowers. Some plants mayrebloom in fall. Flowers bloom on last year’s wood. After bloom – July (always before August 1st)
Oakleafhydrangea (hydrangeaquercifolia) Panicle White fading to pinkish purple June – blooms appear later than Bigleafhydrangea and last a longer period of time, typically thru summer. Sets buds on last year’s wood. This plant does not usually need pruning. If reshaping or size-reduction is necessary, prune after blooms begin to fade.
Peegeehydrangea(Hydrangeapaniculata‘Grandiflora’) Panicle White fading to pinkish bronze in fall. May-June.“Tardiva” variety blooms in August. March — Prune entire plant back to 6-12” from ground around March 1st.Plant blooms on current year’s wood.Or leaveunpruned –blossoms will appear on new growth.
Smooth hydrangea(hydrangeaarborescens‘Annabelle’) Mophead White May-June Prune entire plant back to 6-12” from ground around March 1st.Plant blooms on current year’s wood.
Climbing hydrangea(hydrangeaanomolapetiolaris) Lacecap White June. May not need pruning, except to shape. Prune after bloom.

*Description of Hydrangea Bloom Forms:


Round or globe shaped flower cluster, this is the most commonly recognized form of hydrangea bloom. Long (up to 12-14 inches), somewhat cone-shaped flower cluster (particularly in Oakleaf hydrangeas). Flattened cluster of what appear to be tiny, immature buds surrounded at the edges by typical 4 to 5 petal flowers. Lacecaps are named after their likeness to Colonial ladies’headcoverings


Lets look at some of the examples…….all photos and examples are from my gardens.


Oak Leaf Hydrangea. All Oak Leaf flowers are white, slowly changing through the seasons to pale green, pink then almost a parchment peer color. Their leaves change to red in the fall. I can’t imagine not having an Oak Leaf in the garden.


Close up of the leaf……so similar to the Red Oak tree. Notice the conical shape to the flower.

The Oak Leaf flowers are wonderful for both bouquets and for drying later in the season. They are such a pretty white and mix well in a flower arrangement, especially with hosta leaves .

The blue container below started its life as a plain white barrel that we used to water our horses out in the pasture. It has many memories attached to it. Because of it’s size, the horses liked it, but I especially did because when it was full with fresh, cold water from the water pump, they simply couldn’t tip it over during their games. Although it was the perfect water container for the horses, I remember many scorching hot summer days when it needed cleaning, so we would dump the old water, clean it, and we would fill it up with the quite cold water that came out of the pump, and get in and squat just a bit so you were covered up to your shoulders in cool refreshing water. I had a foal that would come when I did this and playfully dunk her head in the water trying to engage me to splash her with either the hose of the water I was in, and I usually did. Often the adult horses would also request a cool off, so I sat in it, hose in hand, cooling off the horses and me. Then I would clean it again, fill it up, and they would drink and drink. It was great fun, and I always felt so refreshed after, as did they. Because of those memories, I brought that water container with me, using it to store tools until I decided to put it in the garden. I got blue Krylon spray paint in the same blue as so many of my pots scattered around the gardens. It totally changed the look. It is now the home for the Hydrangea macrophylla below. This variety  is called Royal Majestic-Mini Penny, and is a repeat blooming Mophead.

The next two photos are of Hydrangea macrophylla . This Lacecap is called Forever & Ever and is particularly good for northern zones because it blooms on new wood.

Next we have the PeeGee.

These bloom later in the summer, and although the bloom resembles the Oak Leaf bloom, you can see that the leaf is very different. I have several around the property and this year looks to be spectacular for them.

I have many hydrangeas throughout my gardens and some bloom pink, and some blue. There is one Hydrangea that is not often included in lists, and it is the Climbing Hydrangea or Hydrangea petiolaris, and it remains a relative unknown in North America which is a shame. Though seen more often in England, even there it is not well known. And guess what? I just happen to have one! They are native of Japan, and very slow to start. They need to be babied, but if they like where they are, they can become lush and vigorous. It does indeed takes several or more years to “catch”, and mine finally did a year ago. It has really grown so much this year because of all the rain, so I am expecting profuse blooms. For now I will share the photos of it as it is climbing my fireplace and also along the ground over a retaining wall. The flowers are lace cap like, creamy white and can last a month or more. If it blooms I will share photos.


Vigorous and climbing onto the roof, which I will prune in the fall.

A pretty heart shaped and glossy leaf.

A really nice web site on Hydrangeas is hydrangeashydrangeas. Good photos for identification. I will do a post on how to propagate Hydrangeas. Quite easy and fun. Until then, thanks for reading.    laters! charisse






  1. Beautiful! I like the white and blue 🙂 Hydrangeas grow well here in the PNW and I love them on my kitchen counter. Gorgeous photos of your garden.


Leave a Reply