Choosing the Right Hydrangea

Which Hydrangea is right for your yard?

Hydrangeas are familiar sights across the Cape. Along with the more familiar varieties, we have many new varieties that you may not have heard of. The biggest advantages to the newer varieties are more compact height, longer blooming times and interesting colors. With hundreds of varieties of hydrangeas it can be tough to choose which is best to plant so here is a guide to hydrangea types as well as information on specific varieties.

Hydrangea macrophylla – Bigleaf hydrangea, or mophead hydrangea best grown in rich soil with medium moisture in part shade but will tolerate full sun only if grown in consistently moist soil.  Soil pH affects the flower color of most cultivars (blue to purple in highly acidic soil and lilac to pink in slightly acidic or alkaline soil).  Some varieties noted below will stay pink or red despite acidic soil and white flowers will stay white.  Add aluminum sulfate to the soil to make the flower bluer or add lime to make the flowers pinker.  Begin soil treatments well in advance of flower (early spring).  These generally need little pruning, but if needed prune immediately after flowering by cutting back flowering stems to a pair of healthy buds.  Prune out weak or winter-damaged stems in early spring.  Most varieties bloom on the previous year’s wood but several newer varieties will bloom on the old wood and new wood which will result in more blooming even when there is winter damage.

  • Nikko Blue Hydrangea

This is a staple in most Cape Gardens and is one of the best known cultivars. Nikko Blue is a “Mophead” Hydrangea with huge round flower heads. This cultivar growing 5′-6’ tall and 6′-8’ wide, prefers part shade and moist, but well-draining soil. The Nikko Blue flowers on the previous season’s wood, so it is important not to cut the stems drastically back in the spring.  If needed, prune right after flowering and cut back to a pair of healthy buds.  Dead or weak stems can be cut out in early spring. This cultivar is also affected by the pH of the soil – in acidic soil, the blooms will be blue and in alkaline soil the blooms will take on a pinkish hue.

  • Endless Summer Hydrangea- ‘Bailmer’

This Hydrangea is the original Endless Summer cultivar. With a height and spread of 3′-4’, this plant blooms on both old and new growth so it’s bloom time is from July through September. The large globe-shaped blooms are affected by the pH of the soil. The more acidic the soil, the more blue the flowers are and the more alkaline the soil, the pinker the blooms are.

  • Endless Summer ‘BloomStruck’

This amazing plant boasts big, beautiful blooms, 3.5″- 5” across, all summer long. As with all of the Endless Summer collection, you are easily able to change the color of the blooms by making the soil more acid or more alkaline. Other interesting characteristics of BloomStruck is that it has beautiful red-purple stems, dark green leaves with red petioles and red veins giving it a great contrast in the garden. BloomStruck grows 3-4’ tall and 4-5′ wide. It prefers partial shade and well-drained, moist soil.

  • Endless Summer ‘Twist & Shout’

This reblooming lacecap hydrangea will continue to bloom all summer and has extra interest with is sturdy red stems.

  • Nantucket Blue

This beautiful blue hydrangea is a prolific bloomer that also blooms on old and new wood so it will rebloom as the summer goes on until frost.  It will get to be 4-6′ tall and wide and has a beautiful blue color in acidic soil.

  • Cityline Series

These dwarf varieties only get 1-3′ tall and wide. ‘Mars’ has a variegated flower ranging from deep indigo-blue to magenta-pink and age to green. ‘Paris’ has deep red flowers that stay red.

  • Let’s Dance Series

Similar to the Endless Summer series, these varieties will bloom on new and old wood giving you more bloom time in the summer.  ‘Rave’ has rich violet purple flowers in acidic soil and saturated pink in alkaline soil.  ‘Rhythmic Blue’ has superior cold climate performance with either deep rich blue or pink flowers.  ‘Blue Jangles’ is a nice compact plant only reaching 1-2′ tall and 2-3′ wide with very good cold tolerance, with heavenly blue large blooms.

  • Mathilda Gutges

This variety boasts a really nice violet flower color in acidic soils and it is one of our favorite varieties.  It will reach 4-6′ tall and wide.

  • Next Generation Wedding Ring

A stunning bicolor flower of light pink to pastel blue with a white scalloped edge this variety also blooms on old and new wood.  It will grow to 3-4′ tall and wide.

Hydrangea Serrata – similar to macrophylla but with a more compact shrub and smaller flowers and leaves typically growing 2-4’ tall and wide with toothed, ovate and dull green leaves and flattened clusters of flowers in lacecap form.  Flowers will be blue in acidic soil and pink in alkaline soil. Blooms on old wood and does best in part shade.

  • Tiny Tuff Stuff Lacecap Hydrangea

As the name implies, this is a lower growing variety of Hydrangea only reaching 24” tall x 24” wide. Because this is a re-blooming Hydrangea, you will enjoy more blooms throughout the season. Pruning is not generally needed but the plant can be shaped after the first bloom of the season.

  • Tuff Stuff

This tough hydrangea has showy pink to purple blue flowers with a tidy habit growing only 2-3′ tall.  It is also a rebloomer with blooms continuing into the fall.

  • Tuff Stuff Red

These deep pink-red flowers won’t change with soil acidity and it will rebloom through the summer into the fall.

  • Seaside Seranade Cape May

With very large lacecap flowers that will be blue in acidic soil and a compact form getting 3′ tall and wide.

  • Bluebird

This outstanding lace-cap hydrangea has gorgeous sea-blue sterile florets surrounding a large cluster of rich blue fertile flowers. This variety blooms in early summer on old wood. Flowers are affected by the pH of the soil. This  plant prefers part shade and grows 4′ to 6′ tall and wide.

6 thoughts on “Choosing the Right Hydrangea”

  1. Exactly the info. I was looking for – a comparison between the blue hydrangeas. I especially appreciated your knowledge and inclusion of the newest varieties – a few I was not aware of. When space is limited, it’s best to get it right the first time.
    Thank you!

    1. There is a brand-new for 2019 Endless Summer cultivar called “Summer Crush”. Bright rasberry-red/pink flowers (or deep purple flowers in acid pH). I am hoping it will go well with the LA Dreamin which is pH-insensitive. I might get a white variety next to complete the ‘cocktail’ of blooms.

      1. Crocker Nurseries

        Sounds good! We have the Summer Crush and it is a really nice bright pink/red color so that should look great!

  2. I am interested in purchasing 2 or 3 hydrangeas and a flowering cherry tree, I think a Japanese flowering one since I have limited sun

  3. I am looking for the best hydrangea for shady areas. Any suggestions?
    Actually, I need a suggestion for a 4′ high perennial shrub/plant that will thrive in a shady area and serve as a center plant around which I will plant ground cover. Any suggestions would be appreciated. THX

  4. Conrad F. Heede

    Any thoughts on the Blue Cassel, Hortensia Blue cassel, hydrangea macrophylla. The label says it is a mounding growth habit and should be paired with six together.

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