Hydrangeas – the Garden Workhorse

Depending on the variety, hydrangea are the longest blooming shrub that we have in our midwest landscapes. There are three types of hydrangea that perform well here.

  • MACROPHYLLA: Commonly referred to as Mophead Hydrangeas, The older varieties are PH sensitive and require soil amendments to achieve the color bloom that you desire, while many of the newer introductions are not as sensitive and will maintain either a deep blue color or deep pink without amendments. The Endless Summer series will bloom on new and old wood making it popular among northern gardeners. Varieties include: Bloomstruck, Endless Summer, Summer Crush
  • ARBORESCENS: Called Smooth or Snowball Hydrangeas, Arborescens varieties are low-maintenance but deliver a show come mid summer. These shrubs will send out large white showy blooms mid-summer through fall most blooms will start out a bright green before maturing to a bright white. Popular varieties include: Annabelle, Incrediball, Incrediball Blush, Invincibelle Ruby
  • PANICULATA: Panicle or Conical Hydrangeas include tried and true varieties that bloom on new wood and can get quite large. Paniculata hydrangea are the most sun tolerant on the market. They will thrive in a full sun, southern exposure. Varieties include: Bobo, Limelight, Little Lime, Little Quick Fire, Quick Fire, Strawberry Sundae


Tips for Growing Hydrangeas


  • Macrophylla and Arborescens are partial sun varieties requiring between 4-6 hours of sun. It is best to avoid the intense midday sun from 1-3 pm with these two, as blooms are more sensitive to the sun at that time of day.
  • Paniculata need to be planted in full sun, 6 hours or more.


  • Hydrangeas are not picky plants, they will grow in a wide range of soils but it is best to add garden soil or topsoil at the time of planting for the best results.


  • Fertilizer can be applied in the spring as the plants are waking up. It is best to apply a slow release fertilizer like Espoma Plant-tone or Fertilome Tree and Shrub.

Winter Care

  • Macrophylla will bloom on new and old wood so it isn’t necessary to cover the plants but we always recommend covering to preserve some of the old wood which will allow your plant to bloom earlier the following season. Cover with a healthy 6” layer of mulch or straw and remove in late March or early April, allowing the plant to break dormancy naturally.
  • Arborescens bloom on new wood so no covering is required. In the spring before the plants start to push new buds you can prune to within 6-8” of the ground.
  • Paniculata also blooms on new wood. Many people prefer to leave these varieties up for winter interest as the blooms dry on the shrub nicely. Prune in fall or spring to maintain the desired height.