So much it deserves repeating: hydrangeas are more popular than ever! They belong on the list of plants for new gardeners who demand low care plants and also on the lists of seasoned gardeners who live to be working in their garden. They are easy care. Some people do almost nothing at all and the plants give them lots of satisfaction. Some gardeners fine tune their hydrangeas with thoughtful but simple pruning and applying the correct fertilizer to create the most vivid colored flowers.
The selection and diversity of hydrangeas has expanded to a dizzying level. You probably will need me to help you find the right plant for your location, and personal style. Fall is an excellent time to plant hydrangea.
That said, here is a list of most kinds of hydrangeas available at nurseries and garden centers:
Oak Leaf Hydrangeas
Rustic good looks followed by dazzling fall color on leaves, a backbone garden plant and easy care. Select a dwarf variety unless you are among the rare homeowner with tons of land. The species can easily be 8′ x 8′ given time. There are dwarf and semi dwarf plants to fit every landscape. I will repeat myself, this is a very low maintenance plant IF you get the right size. Its a sad day and a no win situation if you get one that gets too big. You’ll chop on it and spoil it and it will have to go. It is low water once established but must have good drainage. No fertilizer is needed, I would use garden mulch or compost each fall for the nutrients needed.
Basic Mop Head Hydrangea
The old tried and true Hydrangea macrophylla is beloved by old and young, in modern and cottage garden styles.
Mop heads need a special fertilizer called Nitroform Blue if you want the intense blue flowers they are so well known for. It can take a few years to accomplish so be sure no other fertilizers get near these plants. Joy Creek Nursery stocks it. The new thing with this plant is the twice blooming or ever blooming hydrangea such as Endless Summer and Blushing Bride. The 2nd flowering of fresh flowers in the fall is beautiful. It was developed for areas that are so cold you can lose the first flowering. Here on the west coast the price you pay however, is you lose the subtle and yummy intense coloring of the flower that ages in place.
The biggest changes in hydrangeas have occurred in this species. We now have many varieties that require nearly full sun. The size of the flower has also increased dramatically. They use to only come in whitish green (such as the old Pee Gee Hydrangea) but now they have created varieties of palest pink to raspberry sherbet.
Here is my list of hydrangeas you should know about.
Lace-cap Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blaumiese’)
This vase shaped hydrangea can take a great deal of shade but don’t get crazy. There are no hydrangeas for deep shade.
Mine was attractive in deeply dappled afternoon sun.
It’s also listed as a Great Plant Pick so other experts have picked it out of the crowd.
Mountain Hydrangea (Hydrangea preziosa ‘Serratta’)
This smaller hydrangea (highlighted in my October enewsletter) takes a lot of sun, has intense fall flower color changes and the leaf has strong fall color which is unusual for a mop head.
Dwarf Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea Quercifolia ‘Sikes Dwarf’)
This hydrangea will mature at 24 to 30” tall. Be sure to plant it where it has excellent winter drainage, so never in a low or a heavy clay area. Hydrangea ‘Pee Wee’ is larger, more like 4’ x 6’, so don’t be fooled by the name Pee Wee. (Pee Wee can also take a lot of sun.) Sikes Dwarf is best with some afternoon shade.
Photo courtesy of The Morton Arboretum
Mop head Hydrangea Pistachio (Hydrangea Macrophylla ‘Pistachio’)
This is a new “over the top” chartreuse and raspberry sherbet colored flower and has to be seen to comprehend. Portland’s own famous garden writer, Kym Pokorny loves it!
I am not sure about it using it casually in a design. It needs integration and special placement.
Photo courtesy of Ball Ornamentals
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pinky Winky’
Its roots will mature into taking a full sun position but the plant will show sun damage for several years even with much needed regular irrigation.
For more fun and less fear, plant it where it will get shade at the hottest part of the day.
Photo courtesy of Proven Winners