Different Types Of Hydrangea – Learn About Common Hydrangea Varieties

Different Types Of Hydrangea – Learn About Common Hydrangea Varieties

Many people equate hydrangeaswith bigleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophyllia), those stunning shrubswith rounded inflorescences big as a grapefruit. But there are actually a widevariety of hydrangea plant types that might interest you.

Different hydrangea plants add different accents to yourgarden, so it makes sense to investigate the types of hydrangea that would growwell in your area. Read on for information about hydrangea varieties and theircultural needs.

Hydrangea Plant Types

Hydrangea varieties offer an expansive range of foliage andflowers, as well as different growth characteristics. If you have a particularhydrangea “look” in mind, don’t think it’s your only choice. These versatileshrubs are found in every size and shape imaginable.

All hydrangeas share some of their most popularcharacteristics, like ornamental flowers and ample foliage. All are easy maintenanceand virtually pest free. Since you can find hydrangeas across the country,there is very likely a hydrangea that would do well in your backyard.

Different Hydrangea Plants

Bigleaf hydrangea – Let’s start with popular bigleafhydrangea and introduce the two, very different hydrangea plants within thisspecies. Remember that these are the shrubs with flowersthat change colors depending on the soil acidity. Everyone knows the mopheadhydrangea variety (Hydrangea macrophylla), with its full orbs ofblossoms. But there’s a second, very lovely type of bigleaf known as lacecap(Hydrangea macrophylla normalis). The blossom is a flat disk, with around “cap” of smaller flowers in the center surrounded by a fringe of larger,showier flowers.

But that is just the beginning. Other popular types ofhydrangeas include two types that are native to this country: the easy-to-growsmooth hydrangea and stunning oakleaf hydrangea.

Smooth hydrangea – Smoothhydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) is an understory plant and preferssome shade and lots of moisture. It grows as a rounded shrub and gets to 5 feet(1.5 m.) high and wide, with huge white flower clusters. The top cultivar is‘Annabelle,’ with flower heads up to 12 inches (30 cm.) across.

Oakleaf hydrangea – Oakleaf(Hydrangea quercifolia) is one of the few hydrangea varieties to offerbrilliant fall color as the leaves turn to scarlet and burgundy. Its lobedleaves look like extremely large and attractive oak leaves, and the plant growsto 8 feet (2.4 m.) tall. The white flowers are large and abundant, white whenthey first open into conical flower heads but maturing to a pinky mauve.

We can’t write about hydrangea varieties without mentioningpanicle hydrangea, sometimes called the Pee Gee hydrangea or tree hydrangea.

Panicle hydrangea – This shrub or small tree is tall,growing to 20 feet (6 m.) high and wide. It wows with showy pyramidal paniclesof white flowers. Of all the different hydrangea plants, panicle(Hydrangea paniculata) is the easiest to grow since it is infinitelyadaptable. Full sun? No problem. Dry spells? It sails through.

The most famous cultivar is ‘Grandiflora’ that, true to itsname, produces huge white flower clusters up to 18 inches (46 cm.) long.‘Limelight’ is also popular, with its lime green flower buds opening to palegreen flowers.

Climbing hydrangea – Yet another hydrangea thatdeserves a look is the spectacular climbingvine (Hydrangea anomela petiolaris). Once established, it can get to60 feet (18 m.) high, clinging to support with root-like tendrils. Its flowersare romantic lace-cap varieties.

How to Choose the Best Hydrangeas for Your Garden

There are so many types, colors, and shapes of hydrangeas. Knowing which varieties thrive in sun and which plant types prefer shade will help you determine the best hydrangea varieties for your yard.

Mopheads and lacecaps and oakleaves, oh my! Each of these hydrangea types offers large, ruffled blooms on easy-to-maintain plants that make beautiful additions to your landscape. But there are dozens of species and varieties to choose from, with different colors, leaves, growth patterns, and sizes. So where do you start when selecting the best hydrangea varieties for your yard? You've come to the right place! Here's how to find the perfect hydrangea for the soil conditions, sun and shade amounts, and moisture levels of your garden.

14 Beautiful Hydrangea Varieties

The Spruce / Claire Cohen Bates

In containers or in the ground, few plants give gardeners the same bang for their buck as the hydrangea. Lacecap, oak leaf, and large-leafed hydrangeas bring diverse texture and form to the summer landscape. Gardeners who crave colors from the cool side of the color wheel, including pink, purple, white, and blue, will delight in the mix of hydrangea hues that are available, sometimes even on a single shrub. Hydrangeas are best planted in moist, rich soil. This is the rare flowering shrub that does fairly well in shady conditions, but for best performance, most hydrangeas do like to experience some sun in the morning.

Most commercially available hydrangea cultivars are derived from a relatively few species of the hydrangea genus: H. arborscens (smooth hydrangea), H. macrophylla (bigleaf hydrangea), H. paniculata (panicle hydrangea), H. anomala (climbing hydrangea), H. quercifolia (oakleaf hydrangea), and H. serrata (mountain hydrangea).

Hydrangeas Are Toxic

The buds, flowers, and leaves of hydrangeas contain glycoside amygdalin, which can break down to produce cyanide. People, dogs, cats, and horses can be poisoned by hydrangea, although very large quantities need to be eaten for the effects to be severe. Symptoms include stomach distress and sometimes bloody diarrhea. See medical attention if a child or pet has ingested any parts of a hydrangea plant.

These 14 hydrangeas can be perfect for your landscape.

Smooth Hydrangea

Smooth hydrangeas are a larger shrub also referred to as wild hydrangeas, native to the United States but also readily available in the UK. These are typically used as a hedge plant because they can reach up to six feet tall. Hydrangea arborescens can tolerate hotter climates with blooms appearing between June and September. These flowers will start off as green and turn to white as they mature. They are fairly low maintenance plants that require partial shade and full sun on the same day. Most people refer to the Annabelle hydrangea when describing smooth hydrangeas because it is the quintessential smooth hydrangea with its white, round flower heads that take on the appearance of large snowballs and can reach up to 12 inches in diameter.

Plant species: Hydrangea


Hydrangeas are favorites in warmer climate gardens and for good reason! They offer huge bouquets of clustered flowers in various arrangements, flower color, and blooming time. Here is a quick breakdown mopheads are the traditional large spheres of small flowers, lacecaps feature a flat bloom with open flowers surrounding the center of non-flowering bracts, and… Read more »

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All About Hydrangeas!

Ah, the hydrangea! While most shade gardens can boast of at least one plant, if not more confusion still reigns. Questions about color, changing of bloom color, soil acidity, sun requirements and when to prune are very common and answers can be a little murky because of the sheer quantity of hydrangeas on the market… Read more »

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There are many plants that capture our imagination and make us want to plant large swaths throughout our landscape. Sometimes these treasured plants look amazing but don’t fare well over time. This plant, the invincible Oakleaf Hydrangea is another story! Oakleaf Hydrangeas have a totally different look to them than the traditional mophead or lacecap hydrangeas.… Read more »

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