6 diverse and beautiful types of hydrangea

6 diverse and beautiful types of hydrangea

Hydrangeas form a popular class of flowering shrubs native to Asia and the Americas, although they were first cultivated in Japan. It is known and loved for its gorgeous globe-shaped flowers, which provide color from spring through fall.

There are 75 known species of hydrangea. Most commercially available cultivars are derived from just six of these species, commonly known as smooth, cluster, bigleaf, climbing, oak-leaf, and mountain. They differ in both their leaves and flowers. Some produce round flowers, while others are flat or conical. Some produce lobed leaves like the oak tree. Others are oval.

Learn about the six common hydrangea species and how to grow them in your garden.


Hydrangeas are toxic to cats and dogs. For more information about the safety of specific plants, check out the ASPCA's searchable database.

Large-leaved hydrangea (Hydrangea large-leaved)

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Large-leaf hydrangeas are among the most popular flower plants found in flower gardens in the United States. Also called French hydrangea, it is known for its large leaves – hence the name “big leaf” – and round flower clusters.

This type of hydrangea is actually a group that includes dozens of varieties. The two most popular are mophead (Hydrangea macrophylla) and Rabat (Hydrangea Macrophylla normalis). The two are almost identical except that the mopheads show rounded flower heads while the lacecaps appear flat. Moufhead flowers last longer too, blooming for up to six months.

Both mophead and lacecap flowers are blue or pink but are also often white. One benefit of growing the less common variety is that its lush flowers are a boon to pollinators.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 9.
  • Sun exposure: Morning sun, afternoon shade.
  • Soil needs: Rich, moist and well-drained.

Hydrangea panicula (Hydrangea paniculata)

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What visually distinguishes cluster hydrangea from other varieties is the conical flower clusters. These pointy, football-sized flowers aren't just pretty; It is also very reliable and powerful. You can count on hydrangeas for consistent blooms that begin in mid-summer and continue through the winter.

As the season progresses, you will notice the flower clusters changing from green or white to lilac to pink in the fall, and finally to brown. The oval flowers of this variety also turn red during the fall, adding to the beauty of the shrub beyond that of other hydrangeas.

Hydrangeas are the most sun tolerant and are believed to be the easiest to grow of any other hydrangea. In the northern part of the ideal growing zone, they can even thrive in full sun.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8.
  • Sun exposure: Partial to full sun.
  • Soil needs: Rich, moist and well-drained.

Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens)

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Although native to the warm southeastern United States, downy hydrangeas—also known as wild hydrangeas—are surprisingly cold-hardy. It is often grown as an alternative to the mophead variety in cooler climates. In the northern part of their range, they can survive freezing temperatures during the winter.

Aesthetically, the soft hydrangea is known for its giant clusters of white, blue, pink or green flowers. Its distinctive dark green, heart-shaped leaves turn yellow in fall. While the entire hydrangea family is classified as “fast growing,” smooth hydrangea is at the extreme end of fast growth—and is known to spread. Their tendency to expand can be a blessing (hello, corrosion control) or a curse.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9.
  • Sun exposure: Partial to full sun.
  • Soil needs: Rich, moist and well-drained.

Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea hydrangea)

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Oak-leaf hydrangea gets its name from its lobed leaves, which resemble the leaves of an oak tree. These leaves steal the show in the fall, when they turn bronze, purple-red or bright red. Even when it finally falls, the plant remains beautiful with its rich, coppery bark.

This hydrangea cultivar is certainly a year-round highlight, bursting into oblong-cone clusters of white flowers in summer, then turning pink or red three to four weeks later. Although oakleaf prefers a little shade, it does better than most other hydrangeas where summers are very hot.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9.
  • Sun exposure: Partial to full shade.
  • Soil needs: Rich, moist and well-drained.

Climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris)

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This is arguably the most distinctive of the six hydrangea species because it is the only one that trails like a vine. It has aerial roots that attach to roofs, walls, pergolas, and the like. It frames the windows and creates a decidedly romantic facade with large clusters of flat white flowers. The flowers themselves resemble those of hooded hydrangea.

The thing to remember when growing this popular climbing plant is that it grows slowly at first, requiring several years to become established. But once they hit their stride, they grow vigorously and may require a little extra maintenance. For example, crossing branches should be removed to prevent them from rubbing against each other and creating an entry point for diseases.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9.
  • Sun exposure: Partial to full sun.
  • Soil needs: Rich, moist and well-drained.

Mountain hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla serrata)

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Mountain hydrangea is sometimes considered a subspecies of large-leaved hydrangea because it produces flat, hood-like flowers. However, they have gained botanical distinction due to their smaller (in fact, not “large-leafed” flowers at all). They are also known to be more cold hardy due to their native habitat in the mountainous regions of Korea and Japan.

If the item He was If it were included in the Bigleaf category, it would certainly be the least common. Gardeners may be keen to choose it over its more popular large-leaf cousins ​​when they learn that mountain hydrangea is more heat-tolerant. And Cold, not to mention they are more consistent pants.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9.
  • Sun exposure: Partial to full sun.
  • Soil needs: Rich, moist and well-drained.

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