Types of hydrangeas: the best hydrangea varieties for your garden


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Here is an overview of the most beautiful hydrangeas money can buy. From ‘Endless Summer’ to ‘Annabell’, these are our favourites.

Ball-shaped hydrangea-flowers
The deciduous shrubs produce globe-shaped flowers [Photo: Anna Koberska/ Shutterstock.com]

Hydrangeas are deciduous shrubs – they are covered with leafy foliage in summer and are bare in winter. The genus Hydrangea consists of a large number of different species, so there is plenty of variety. Although all hydrangeas originate from America and Asia, the most common is the Japanese Hydrangea macrophylla, also known as the French hydrangea or bigleaf hydrangea. Its flowers tend to cluster into spheres or small, flattened flowers that are surrounded with large, ornamental ones. Surprisingly, these decorative flowers are actually sterile and do not contribute to the plant’s reproduction. The flowers needed for propagation are much smaller. They make up the central, flattened inflorescences, or in some instances are found on long, branched inflorescences. Hydrangeas vary as much in height as flower shape. All hydrangeas reach 1.5m, but some varieties can grow to a staggering 10m!

Here, we look at the best varieties for your garden, from the beloved bigleaf to the exotic tea of heaven hydrangea.

Bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)

The bigleaf hydrangea is a favourite of many gardeners. The flowers are generally white, pink or red. However, with aluminium-based fertilisation and the right pH value, the bigleaf can become a blue or violet-flowering hydrangea thanks to the natural pigment delphinidin. Pruning bigleaf hydrangeas can be challenging. Next season’s flowers form in autumn and it is essential that these young blossoms remain intact. In some newer varieties you won’t have to worry – they are bred to blossom throughout the year. And some garden centres even offer long-stemmed bigleafs, which make it particularly difficult to accidently cut off a flower!

Hydrangea variety endless summer
Farmed hydrangeas like the ‘Endless Summer’ tend to be particularly colourful [Photo: krolya25/ Shutterstock.com]

Mophead varieties of bigleaf hydrangea

As the name suggests, the flowers of these hydrangeas form spherical clusters. Among the mophead bigleaf hydrangeas, the variety ‘Endless Summer’ is perhaps best loved.

  • ‘Endless Summer’: particularly rambunctious; blossoms throughout the year, even on new wood; aesthetic pruning possible but is not necessary; available in pink and blue.
  • ‘Kanmara’: large, globular flowers; striking, dark green foliage; suitable as a potted plant; flowers in delicate, watercolour tones; available in rosé, champagne, lilac, pink and white.
  • ‘Magical’: diverse flower shapes; flowers bloom green before dramatically changing colour; available in white, pink, red and blue-purple.
  • ‘Forever&Ever’: flowers throughout the year, even on new wood; small but covered in blossom; available in the white, pink, red and blue.
  • ‘You and Me Romance’: flat-edged, very large pseudanthium, which are groups of small flowers; the slowers are filled with several petals; available in pink and light blue.
Pink, purple and blue hydrangeas
Hydrangeas come in many different colours [Photo: luck luckyfarm/ Shutterstock.com]

Lacecap varieties of bigleaf hydrangea

The lacecap inflorescences of these bigleaf varieties are especially stunning.

  • Hanabi: white, voluminous, star-like flowers; fragile in winter.
  • ‘Pirate’s Gold’: few blooms; most known for its yellow-green leaf variegation; available in pink.
  • ‘Tiffany’: large, pseudo-flowers edge the plant; the smaller, fertile flowers are very delicate; available in pink and blue.

Panicled hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata)

As the name suggests, Hydrangea paniculata form panicles, which are long, branched inflorescences. Since they are happy to form flowers on new wood, panicled hydrangeas can be pruned in autumn or spring before they sprout. This species is much more petite and heavily branched than other varieties, and displays white-cream flowers. Depending on the variety, these blossoms may change to pink or even an intense red.

  • ‘Grandiflora’: particularly large panicles; flowers fade progressively from green in the budding stage through white to pink; grows quickly.
  • ‘Limelight’: large panicles; long-lasting green budding stage; white to light yellow flowers; flower clusters can be dried.
  • ‘Little Lime’: demanding yet beautiful variety; compact growth; available in lime green, white and pale pink.
  • ‘Phantom’: large, stout panicles; requires regular pruning.
  • ‘Fire and Ice / Wim’s Red’: very long, loose panicles; white flowers change to strong red; requires a lot of space.
Hydrangea Grandiflora
Hydrangea ‘Grandiflora’ has particularly large, panicle-shaped flowers [Photo: JRJfin/ Shutterstock.com]

Smooth hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens)

You will be hard pressed to ignore a smooth hydrangea in your garden. These beautiful, robust shrubs form many enormous, round inflorescences. The flowers are so large in fact, that this North American species tends to droop under their weight! But have no fear – you can remedy this with supports.

Smooth hydrangeas are easy to propagate from root cuttings as they form underground runners. The variety ‘Annabell’ is particularly popular.

  • ‘Annabell’: creamy white flowers that fade to green; very large, umbel-shaped flowers(like an umbrella); happy under sun and shade; thorough spring pruning recommended.
  • ‘Grandiflora’: white flowers; rapid and extensive growth; shoots must be supported; very hardy in winter.
  • ‘Hayes Starbust: after fading to green, the flowers remain beautiful for a long time; delicate, star-shaped inflorescences; grows expansively; resilient.
Hydrangea Annabell
The variety ‘Annabell’ produces particularly beautiful, white flowers [Photo: YukoF/ Shutterstock.com]

Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

This panicled hydrangea species is characterised by oak leaf-shaped, lobed leaves. In autumn, both the striking foliage and flower clusters boast a gorgeous, red hue. Like Hydrangea macrophylla, the oakleaf hydrangea forms its flowers in autumn, so be sure to prune with caution. It is important not to damage developing flowers.

oakleaf hydrangeas
The leaves of the oakleaf hydrangea are very distinctive [Photo: Gerry Bishop/ Shutterstock.com]

Sargent hydrangea (Hydrangea sargentiana)

With thick, elongated and velvety leaves, the sargent hydrangea is referred to as the “velvet” hydrangea in many languages. This woody shrub grows large, so be sure to provide it enough space! As before, prune with caution; the flowers are easily damaged. And if exposed in winter, this variety can be sensitive to frost, so it may need some winter protection. Its flowers are flattened and surrounded by large, sterile pseudo-florets.

Sargent hydrangea
Because of its velvety leaves, many languages call the sargent hydrangea “velvet hydrangea” [Photo: haraldmuc/ Shutterstock.com]

Climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris)

The climbing hydrangea has, as the name suggests, a unique ability to climb. Its white flowers are flattened and surrounded with pseudo-florets, similar to those of the Hydrangea macrophylla. This variety need not be pruned, but it can help remove weak or dead shoots to maintain the plant’s overall health. Its buds form in autumn, so if you can, protect the growing shoots from the cold. Come spring, you will be rewarded with beautiful blossoms.

Climbing hydrangea
Climbing hydrangeas are a delight [Photo: JNaether/ Shutterstock.com]

Mountain hydrangea (Hydrangea serrata)

At first glance, it is easy to mistake a mountain hydrangea (also called “tea of heaven”) for a bigleaf hydrangea. However, Hydrangea serrata is quite unique. It is short and exhibits petite flowers that make it look particularly delicate. Fortunately however, this type is robust through winter. Similar to many other hydrangeas, the tea of heaven forms buds in autumn so avoid pruning it: this variety is much too small and compact. Its flowers may be white, pink or red, or even, if there is enough aluminium in the soil, blue and purple.

Hydrangea serrata often gets confused with lacecap hydrangeas [Photo: High Mountain/ Shutterstock.com]

Decided on your favourite? Now it is time to plant! Our article on how to plant hydrangeas has everything you need to know.

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