Al fresco dining, novels spread across hammocks, lounging poolside, long sun-filled days, and gardens bursting with color…Summer is in full swing—hot, hazy, and a bit lazy. And with it are the stunning clusters of elegant hydrangeas, one of the few shrubs flowering this time of year.
Available in a variety of shapes, sizes, and hues – from shimmering white, mint green, and baby pink cone-shaped bunches to bold purple and blue mopheads—hydrangeas (also known as hortensia) complement any garden. While also available as vines and growing trees, the most common type of the hydrangea—native to North America and parts of Asia – is the shrub that thrives in partial shade to full sun. Most buds form in late spring and blossom in June and July.
The Growing Place offers an assortment of this ever-popular plant to suit your unique gardening arrangements, including Panicle Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata), Bigleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla), Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea aborescens), Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia), and Mountain Hydrangea (Hydrangea Serrata). Each has its own needs for planting, sun, watering, pruning, and overall care. Read on for highlights on each variety. More detail is available in The Growing Place Plant Guide. Or visit our Tree & Shrub department for some expert one-on-one advice or a handout.
Panicle Hydrangea or Hydrangea paniculata
One of the hardiest of the hydrangea family, the Panicle Hydrangea, which begins blooming in summer, is known for its interesting color palette of pale pink to chartreuse to white. Available 3′-10′ tall as well as in tree form, while this cone-shaped variety thrives best in moist, well-drained soil with a good balance of sand, silt, and clay, it does especially well with our more alkaline Illinois zone 5 soil. As summer ebbs and fall sets in, the Panicle Hydrangea’s color gradually changes to lovely tints of yellow, orange, and rose. If left on branches, these dried flowers mix nicely alongside winder and holiday flora. For optimal growth, color, and blooms, we suggest pruning the Panicle Hydrangea in early spring.
Bigleaf Hydrangea or Hydrangea macrophylla
The Bigleaf Hydrangea may just be one of the most photographed of the hydrangea family, boasting big, beautiful bunches of round flowers in bright pink, lavender, purple, and blue that bloom early to mid-summer.
Bigleaf Hydrangeas are healthiest in the morning sun with afternoon shade and moist soil. The bluish versions flourish in acidic soil. Due to the more alkaline soil here in northern Illinois, achieving that blue/lavender plume may prove difficult yet many still try. If that’s you—we recommend that a mixture of Espoma® Soil Acidifier and an organic mixture (perhaps pine needles and decomposed oak leaves) or Growing Place Choice Garden Mix—be added to the soil prior to planting.
If you have one of the newer Endless Summer cultivars, we suggest pruning the old blooms and dead wood in May, rather than in the fall. As this variety adjusts slowly and may not bloom for a few years until its roots are well established, a dose of patience is needed but is certainly worth it. We recommend adding Espoma® Holly-tone organic fertilizer in early spring to stimulate growth and continual blooming each season.
Smooth Hydrangea or Hydrangea aborescens
Known for their dainty lace-like flowers and long bloom time, these flat or large mophead-style hydrangeas are a unique addition to any garden. They begin flowering in early summer with green bouquets that turn pink or white and convert back to green by the end of July. The Smooth Hydrangea eventually turns brown and is ideal for dried indoor arrangements throughout the winter.
An adaptable variety, Smooth Hydrangeas thrive best in shade yet tolerate sun with sufficient watering. They grow well in basic soil with mulch that doesn’t crowd the base of the plant. We suggest pruning the shrub back 6”- 12” in late fall or early spring.
Oakleaf Hydrangea or Hydrangea quercifolia
Native to the woodlands of the southeastern US, the coarse-textured Oakleaf Hydrangea is cone-shaped with flowers that bloom winter white and change to rich shades of pink/mauve then red, burgundy and brown. Flowering from early to mid-summer, this 2’-6’ shrub provides stunning foliage and warm fall tones.
Requiring a moist, well-drained soil, the Oakleaf Hydrangea blossoms best in shade and partial sun. For maximum growth, color, and vibrancy, we recommend pruning after flowering.
Mountain Hydrangea or Hydrangea serrata
This small, 2′ – 3′ shrub, that hails from the mountains of Korea and Japan, blossoms with light pink/red lacey, cap-shaped flower clusters in mid-summer. Its supple green leaves often turn a rich red/burgundy in autumn. Thriving best in part shade and in well-drained soil, the Mountain Hydrangea can grow in containers to further enhance patio and deck decor. This type of hydrangea will flower on new and old wood. While seasonal pruning is not needed for optimal health, it’s oftentimes done to help shape the flowers and shrub following the first spring blooms.
Hydrangea Bloomania this weekend!
Hydrangeas offer all season interest for any garden scenario. Learn long lasting care tips and which varieties will grow well in your yard. Talks will be at 11am & repeated at 1pm. Saturday, August 6, 2022 in Naperville & Sunday, August 7, 2022 in Aurora.