Types of Hydrangeas

by dustytoes

Here you can familiarize yourself with the varieties of hydrangeas available to beautify your landscape.

Perennials are notoriously more expensive than annuals, and you will pay a pretty penny for hydrangea shrubs, so knowing all you can before purchase is essential.

The hydrangea is hardy and easy to grow without needing much special attention. They generally don't need pruning or special fertilizer and will bloom year after year without your help. They grow into good size shrubs that can be used as singular points of interest in the garden or grouped to form a beautiful hedge. No wonder this flowering shrub is a favorite among gardeners.

Hydrangeas grow in many parts of the world, but the ones I am most familiar with grow in my area of the northeastern United States. Before you buy online, consult a Zone Map to help you choose which ones will thrive in your area.

Here Are Pictures of Hydrangea Flowers

Macrophylla and Paniculata
Macrophylla Bloom
Macrophylla Bloom
Paniculata Bloom
Paniculata Bloom
My photo (Pinky Winky)

The Hydrangea Flower Comes in Two Basic Shapes

They many tiny petals will form a shape that is either round and ball-like or long and pointed.

The hydrangea flower can be rounded and full or long and pointy. Here are the two types I've most often come across.

Hydrangea macrophylla - Roundish flowers that are pink, white or blue which may change to lavender and green by Fall. The macrophylla's are also called "Big Leaf Hydrangeas" and "Mopheads" and coloring of the flower depends on the type of soil it grows in.  It can be changed by amending the soil. (The Lacecap - see below -  is part of this group and they have unique flowers that are more flattened, but they are not as hardy and don't grow where I live in New Hampshire.)

Hydrangea paniculata - This type of flower tends to be elongated and lightly colored pink or green, but starting out white.  It is more tolerant of cold weather and can be pruned into a small tree if you begin with a plant that has a central stalk. This flower color will not change with soil amendments. 

The Lacecap Variety

This one will not survive in extremely cold climates.

blue lacecap hydrangea flower

The Lacecap hydrangea (h. macrophylla normalis) has a distinctive flower which looks as if the center of the bloom has not opened.  Petals will be open around a central flat portion of the flower. 

It is cold hardy to Zone 6 only, and since I live in Zone 5 I don't grow it in New Hampshire. 

Because it is a macrophylla, the color of the blossoms will change according to the soil acidity. 

Applying lime, to make the soil more alkaline, will change the color to pink.  However, if you live in an area where the soil is normally acidic it may be difficult to keep the flower pink, unless you grow it in a pot.

(Photo credit: Morguefile)


The Paniculata Hydrangea Can Be Shaped Into Tree Form

By trimming them you can keep them small or let them branch out.

hydrangea treesIn my photo here you can see some hydrangeas that have been shaped into small trees.  I took this picture when vacationing in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

There are a few varieties that can be used to do this. The one shown is the limelight (I believe) which flowers in white with blooms turning light green as the season progresses.

Another variety that makes a pretty tree is the Pee Gee (H. paniculata grandiflora)

The H. Paniculata Grandiflora is Better Known as The Pee Gee

I think this is my favorite hydrangea.

pee gee grandiflora white hydrangea

The delicate, pure white flowers of the Pee Gee hydrangea make it a favorite of mine.  As you can see, the petals are more rounded than those of the macrophylla version.  This is a newly planted, small shrub so the flowers are a bit sparse.

The name is a shortened version of it's correct, longer name: paniculata grandiflora.

It has smaller leaves than the mopheads and the flowers have little knobby centers that remind me of a pearl.  The flower bud will be greenish becoming white and as it ages the flowers will turn light pink and cream colored. (See my image below of flowers I had cut, after they had dried on the branches.)

Dried Pee Gee Flowers
Dried Pee Gee Flowers
My photo

The Round Mophead Variety in Blue

Hydrangea photography poster.

The Pinky Winky is My Newly Planted Paniculata

With white, changing to pink flowers, this one is unique.

Pinky WinkyThe pinky winky is unique because the elongated (cone-shaped) flowers begin as white and then turn pink from the bottom up. (See my photo of this one as a white bud near the top of this page.)

My plant, shown in the photo, bloomed the first summer I planted it.  I expect the flowers to be more striking by next year.

It did attract a lot of bees, but it never wilted on the hot summer days, and will grow into a large shrub of about eight feet tall and wide.

If you can't find this type at the local garden center (Zones 3-8), it's available at Amazon.

The Climbing Hydrangea Variety

This one will need a sturdy support as can grow quite large.

I don't know much about the climbing hydrangea (h. petiolaris) except from reading comments from growers. This species has pretty, lacy looking white flowers and I've read that although it may take a year or two to get established, it will take off and grow like mad after that.  It will need a sturdy structure to cling to, such as a big fence, tree, or wall of the house itself because it can grow to 80 feet tall!

I've found a photo of this type at Wayside Gardens, where they can be purchased.   It grows in Zones 4-8.

The Oak Leaf Has Showy Fall Color

It also produces long, white flowering panicles in summer.

oak leaf hydrangea leaves

The Oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia) gets it's name from the leaves that are differently shaped from other varieties of hydrangea.  Also, it's leaves will turn red and bronze in fall and especially if it's planted in a sunny spot in the yard.

It also produces long, cone-shaped flowers in summer.

This one will grow in Zones 5 to 9 and reaches around eight feet in height.

(Photo Credit: Morguefile)

An Overall Look at Hydrangeas

Growing, flower colors and pruning.
  • Check the climate and zone maps when you decide to purchase a hydrangea online to make sure it will survive in your landscape.  Some of them need freezing conditions to grow and others can't stand extreme cold.
  • Macrophyllas, or "mopheads" are smaller shrubs with round, ball-like flowers.  They will wilt in sun and dry conditions and may require daily watering in summer.  The flowers will bloom as pink, white or blue according to the soil.
  • Paniculatas are hardy and need very little care.  The ones I recently planted never wilted like the mopheads did.  They can be shaped into tree form.  The flowers are elongated and will not change color according to the soil.
  • Hydrangeas don't need to be pruned, but they can be if they get too large for the space. I prune my Limelight shrubs in late fall so the snow won't break the long branches. (Consult pruning guidelines for each type.)

Wall Clock With Photo of Colorful Cut Flower Bouquet

This clock comes in round or square shape and does NOT make a ticking sound.

Thanks to These Pages Where I Found Help While Writing This Article

I've learned a lot from buying and growing my own shrubs, but I don't know everything!

HydrangeasHydrangeas Blog
This page has many photos of the PeeGee in tree form.

Dave's Garden
This site is an interactive, members website about all kinds of plants with photos, trade requests and personal information with tips and advice on growing most anything.

Updated: 05/22/2014, dustytoes
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?

Do you grow hydrangeas?

dustytoes on 01/25/2014

Great idea.. thank you!

ologsinquito on 01/25/2014

I'm pinning this to my Victorian board.

dustytoes on 10/31/2013

@cazort, I found a bit of info at Dave's Garden site on the Silverleaf, http://tinyurl.com/pq9a6db ...and I'm excited to hear it loves the shade because I have so much of it in my yard. Thanks for the info.

cazort on 10/31/2013

I've recently started landscaping exclusively with native plants, and I was pleased to find it is native to North America. Another beautiful native one is the Silverleaf hydrangea, Hydrangea radiata. There's also the ashy hydrangea, Hydrangea cinerea; the silverleaf one is more shade-loving and the ashy one more sun-loving from what I've read. I was surprised to find 3 species native to the US because I normally think of these as an East Asian plant.

dustytoes on 10/30/2013

Thanks very much Derdriu.

DerdriuMarriner on 10/30/2013

Dustytoes, Hydrangeas are so lovely and so fragrant, and their colors are enchanting. The purity of their whites and the blueness of their blues captivate on their own, and then a breeze comes along to remind one and all that hydrangea flowers are more than just a pretty face: their aroma matches their beauty.
Your creativity in transferring their beauty to your art is inspiring.

dustytoes on 06/12/2013

Thank you for the visit!

WriterArtist on 06/12/2013

Love the hydrangeas, they are beautiful and come in many shades.

dustytoes on 05/30/2013

Ha ha... I'd love to have a hydrangea tree!

BrendaReeves on 05/30/2013

There is a house on my street with a tree that gets beautiful, huge, pink flowers. I've been trying to find out what that tree is for four years. Now I know it's a hydrangea tree. You solved the mystery for me.

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