A Guide to Identifying Hydrangea Varieties and Pruning Tips

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Video identify hydrangea by leaf

Have you ever wondered how to identify different types of hydrangeas and determine the best time to prune them? With a wide array of hydrangea varieties available, it can be challenging to know which one you have. In this guide, we will explore the main types of hydrangeas and provide valuable insights into pruning techniques. So let’s delve into the enchanting world of hydrangeas!

What Kind of Hydrangea is This?

While there are a staggering 49 species of hydrangeas, only six types are commonly grown in Canada and the United States. These beautiful photos, courtesy of Proven Winners, will help you identify your hydrangea and understand its specific pruning requirements. Contrary to popular belief, most hydrangeas do not require pruning. However, understanding your specific variety will enable you to know when or if pruning is necessary. To learn more, grab a copy of our free Hydrangea Pruning Tips here.

Types of Hydrangeas

Let’s dive into the different types of hydrangeas that may be thriving in your garden:

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Bigleaf – Hydrangea macrophylla

Large blue hydrangea flowers.

Bigleaf hydrangea, also known as Florist’s Hydrangea, Hortensia, Mophead, or Lacecap, is a popular variety. It is hardy to USDA zone 5 and blooms on old wood. Unlike most hydrangeas, it does not require pruning. It’s important to protect this delicate hydrangea during winter and spring frosts to prevent any damage to the buds.

Panicle – Hydrangea paniculata

Fire Light® Hardy Hydrangea paniculata by Proven Winners

Panicle hydrangeas, such as the Fire Light® Hardy Hydrangea, are hardy to zone 3. They bloom on new wood when the plant is at least two years old. Pruning is recommended in late winter or early spring. These hydrangeas may not bloom if they don’t receive sufficient sunlight. Another favorite from this category is the Limelight hydrangea.

Smooth – Hydrangea arborescens

Incrediball® Smooth Hydrangea arborescens by Proven Winners

Smooth hydrangeas, like the beautiful Incrediball® Smooth Hydrangea, are hardy to USDA zone 3. They bloom on new wood when the plant is at least two years old. Pruning is recommended in late winter or early spring. Similar to other hydrangeas, they may not bloom if they don’t receive enough sunlight. Smooth hydrangeas also provide nectar and pollen to visiting insects, supporting local wildlife.

Climbing – Hydrangea petiolaris

Climbing hydrangeas, like the charming Hydrangea petiolaris, are hardy to USDA zone 4. They bloom on old wood and produce the best blooms when they are at least 5 years old. Pruning is not necessary for this variety.

Mountain – Hydrangea serrata

Tiny Tuff Stuff® Mountain Hydrangea serrata by Proven Winners

Mountain hydrangeas, such as the exquisite Tiny Tuff Stuff® Mountain Hydrangea, are hardy to USDA zone 5. They bloom on old wood and require protection for their flower buds during spring frosts. Pruning is not necessary for this variety.

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Oakleaf – Hydrangea quercifolia

Gatsby Gal® Oakleaf Hydrangea quercifolia by Proven Winners

Oakleaf hydrangeas, including the Gatsby Gal® Oakleaf Hydrangea, are hardy to USDA zone 5. They bloom on old wood, and plants that are at least 5 years old produce the best blooms. Pruning is not recommended for this variety, and it’s important to protect them during winter.

Growing Tips

To ensure your hydrangeas thrive, consider these essential growing tips:

  • Choose a variety suitable for your growing conditions and gardening zone.
  • Read and follow the instructions on the plant tag.
  • Select the best location, considering factors such as sun exposure, soil drainage, and winter wind protection.
  • Hydrangeas require well-draining soil and consistent moisture. Avoid letting them dry out or sit in soggy soil.
  • Most hydrangeas do not require pruning. Identify your type of hydrangea before deciding to prune.
  • Morning and afternoon sun is ideal for most hydrangeas, except for panicle hydrangeas, which can tolerate full sun in northern climates.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I grow hydrangeas from cuttings?

Yes, you can propagate new hydrangea plants from cuttings. Consult our tutorial on how to grow hydrangeas from cuttings for detailed instructions.

Can I change the flower colors?

Certain varieties, such as bigleaf and mountain hydrangeas, can have their flower colors changed deliberately. However, the availability of aluminum in the soil determines the color of the blooms. Acidic soil produces blue blooms, while alkaline soil results in pink blooms. Some hydrangeas may even transition between colors as they adapt to different soil conditions.

Help! My hydrangea is not blooming! What can I do?

If your hydrangea is healthy and at least two years old, a few factors may be inhibiting blooms. Ensure your hydrangea receives the right amount of sun, water, and fertilizer. Some varieties require specific conditions for optimal blooming. Avoid heavy pruning, as this may remove the old growth necessary for flowering. Additionally, some hydrangeas may take a few years to mature before blooming reliably.

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My hydrangea leaves are turning brown and falling off. What’s going on?

Uneven watering, either too little or too much, can cause problems. If the brown leaves have reddish-purple rings, it may indicate a fungal infection called anthracnose. Consult a gardening expert for treatment advice.

When should I transplant my hydrangea?

The best time to transplant a hydrangea is late fall, before the first frost, or early spring, before the buds form.

If I can only have one, which type should I choose?

Limelight hydrangea is a popular choice, as it offers graceful and understated elegance with its creamy-white flowers tinged with a hint of green. It thrives in colder climates, making it suitable for USDA zone 3.

How Do I Plant Hydrangea?

Watch this video to learn how to properly plant a hydrangea:

Planting Hydrangeas

We hope you found this guide useful and will enjoy a long and delightful garden love affair with these stunning hydrangea varieties.

~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛

Remember to visit the Ames Farm Center for all your hydrangea needs!

6 popular types of hydrangeas