Hydrangeas are one of the most popular flowering shrubs you can have in your landscape. There are 23 different species and types of hydrangeas on the market today. Of those 23 varieties, Ashcombe stocks 4 types. These four are the best for our region and growing in Pennsylvania soil. We will talk about the tips and tricks for bigleaf, panicle, smooth, and oakleaf hydrangeas.
Bigleaf or Macrophylla is the most common hydrangea and is probably what people are referencing when talking about hydrangeas. These shrubs come in mop-head and lacecap shapes. The bigleaf variety blooms for a while, they’re one of the longest blooming hydrangeas last from late June into August. For repeat blooms select a variety like Endless Summer or Forever and Ever. Bigleafs can bloom on new or old wood, be sure to follow the best pruning practices for your particular plant. If you prune at the wrong time you can lose your blooms for the following summer. These shrubs like a little more shade than others. Look for a spot with morning sun and afternoon shade. For the soil, look for a more acidic option.
The lower your pH, the more blue or purple the blooms will be. The higher the pH, your blooms will lean towards pink. Get your soil tested. You can get a soil testing kit here at Ashcombe or work with the Penn State Extension to get your test done. This testing will let you know the pH of your soil and what nutrients are available to plants.
Panicle or paniculata hydrangeas are a larger variety of the shrub. They can take a little more sun than the bigleafs because they are a larger shrub growing from 6 to 8 feet. If you’re looking for the panicle style without the size look for varieties like Bobo or Little Quickfire. If the spot you’re looking to plant in is sunny with well drained soil, lean more towards the panicle variety. These shrubs look a little different than other hydrangeas with cone-shaped flowers that are usually white or lime green. During the cooler fall months, the blooms may change pink or red depending on the variety. These will bloom from July all the way through to the first frost of the year when the color change will begin. Prune panicles anytime from late winter to late spring and you’ll still get your blooms in the summer. For more tips on pruning see our blog about pruning panicle hydrangeas.
This arborescens or smooth hydrangea. They are also known as Anabel types. These have big blossoms. Their color starts out white and transitions to green in the later summer. This shrub blooms on new wood only so it is important to prune them in the spring. Prune them down hard so the stems aren’t floppy. There are many varieties in this category like Incredible and Invincibelle-Mini Mauvette. The shrubs can grown 3 to 4 feet and the like full sun. Be sure your soil is well drained and the spot doesn’t get too wet.
Oakleaf or quercifolia hydrangeas have a very different leaf shape from other shrubs. These have an oakleaf shaped leaf with cone-shaped flowers. These, like panicles, start as white or lime green then transition to pink or red. These plants like dry shade. Prune in the winter time. If you prune oakleaf in the fall, you’ll be cutting of your blooms for the following season so be sure to prune after the bloom. There are many varieties of oakleaf hydrangeas ranging in size from the Ruby Slippers type at 3 feet to Snow Queen at 8 feet!