Beautiful Hydrangeas for Every Garden

Left: ‘Little Lamb’ panicle hydrangea. Photo: Bill Johnson. Top: ‘Lemon Daddy’ bigleaf hydrangea. Photo: Susan Calhoun. Bottom: Variegated mountain hydrangea. Photo: courtesy of JC Raulston Arboretum at North Carolina State University.

There is perhaps no more iconic flower than the hydrangea. Whether it’s the massive blossoms of the bigleaf varieties (Hydrangea macrophylla and cvs., Zones 5–9) or the interesting star-shaped blooms of the mountain types (H. serrata and cvs., Zones 6–9), hydrangeas add drama to the garden like no other plant.

Not all hydrangeas are built the same, however. Some flower only on old wood, so their buds are susceptible to early frosts. I can’t even estimate how many times I’ve been asked throughout my career in horticulture, “Why hasn’t my hydrangea bloomed?” Most times the answer is that the flower buds on the old wood have been damaged by cold snaps or pruned away inadvertently.

Thankfully, not all hydrangeas blossom from old wood. Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens and cvs., Zones 3–9) and panicle hydrangea (H. paniculata and cvs., Zones 3–9) both flower off new wood, so no amount of chilly spring weather or heavy-handed pruning will prevent them from putting on a show.

Oakleaf hydrangeas (H. quercifolia and cvs., Zones 3–9), which flower on old wood along with some bigleaf and mountain types, tend to be planted more for their foliage than for their flowers (although their blossoms are still impressive). The large, lobed leaves are rough to the touch and seem almost tropical, though these shrubs are native to the southeastern United States.

Not all hydrangeas grow into shrubby mounds either. There are climbing hydrangeas (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris and cvs., Zones 4–8) that scale walls brilliantly and sport flowers similar to those of a mountain hydrangea, albeit on a larger scale. Looking for an impressive vine for shade? Look no further than climbing hydrangea.

In this collection you will find a hydrangea that suits nearly every condition. There are options for sun and shade, hydrangeas that get 12 feet tall, and ones that top off at only 2 feet. There are options for cooler zones and ones for areas of the country that are blazing hot for most of the year. If you can’t find a hydrangea that’s the perfect fit for your garden in these articles, you might not be looking hard enough.