Hydrangeas – Summer Beauties

By Wilma R. Penland

The genus Hydrangea contains a wide variety of species and cultivars (at least 75).  

 Some of the most popular are those in the Hydrangea macrophylla (bigleaf) family. These bloom blue, pink, or shades in between depending upon soil ph. They set buds in summer for the following year and flowering can be “hit or miss” if the buds are damaged by winter cold and/or pruned at the wrong time. Prune just after flowering. Reblooming cultivars like “Endless Summer” are now available and will rebloom later in the season even if they are damaged by early frost.

 Hydrangea arborescens (smooth) and Hydrangea quercifolia (oakleaf) are native to the southeastern USA. Smooth hydrangea is one of my favorites – I love seeing it growing “wild” along mountain roadsides. Prune in late winter and again just after summer flowering for a possible second round of bloom in September. ‘Annabelle’ is the classic, ‘Incrediball’ has large white flowers and the ‘Invincibelle’ series has pink flowers.

 Oakleaf hydrangeas are really making a show now with large white flower panicles. In addition to the showy flowers, they are attractive in all seasons with peeling bark and good fall color. Prune just after flowering.

Hydrangea paniculata (panicle and sometimes called PeeGee ) is a tough hydrangea that does well in cold winters and full summer sun or part shade. Prune in late winter/early spring for mid-summer flowering. The large white (some with a tint of pink) blossoms remain on the plant and can be used for drying. ‘Limelight’, ‘Little Lime’, ‘White Wedding’, and ‘Diamond Rouge’ are a few of the cultivars.

 The Garden Center is well-stocked with many types of hydrangeas. Now is a great time to add one or more of these to your landscape for summer color!

Wilma R. Penland is the co-founder of Reems Creek Nursery and our horticultural mentor.