Hydrangea Guide For NWI Gardens

Hydrangeas are a top seller here at the nursery, and for good reason! These flowering shrubs are easy to care for and give off an abundance of colorful blooms.

You can successfully grow hydrangeas by

1) Making sure you’ve matched the right type of hydrangea to its ideal amount of sun exposure. 2) Prior to planting, you monitor that the soil stays moist and  that the area drains water well. 3) You know when to prune, and when not to prune.

Water and Sun Exposure

Most people don’t realize that hydrangeas have relatively shallow roots. When the area dries out quickly, this can affect the plant. Adding a few inches of mulch will help with moisture retention. Hydrangeas are happiest when planted in moist but well-drained soil. They do not like “wet feet”!

Hydrangeas need at least four hours of sun each day to bloom. While morning sun is generally preferred, the panicle (and some oakleaf types) are typically sun tolerant. When you visit our garden center, you’ll probably notice that we do not keep all types of hydrangeas together. We have separated the varieties based on sun exposure needs because some hydrangeas prefer more shade than sun. If you have any questions about this, feel free to talk to an associate.

To Prune or Not To Prune

Different types of hydrangeas have different flowering habits. It is important to know which type you have so you don’t accidentally prune off next year’s bloom. Both panicle and smooth hydrangeas flower on “new wood”, which is the new growth from this season. These types are reliable bloomers in general. Most other hydrangea types flower on old wood, which is the growth from the previous season. Flower buds on these old wood types begin to form in late summer. These old wood hydrangea types will not flower if they are pruned, damaged, or eaten by wildlife. It is advisable to protect these in the winter when possible. There is a third type commonly referred to as the “reblooming hydrangea” ( certain types of big leaf and mountain hydrangeas). Reblooming hydrangeas can flower on both old and new wood.

The Common Types of Hydrangeas


Hydrangea macrophylla, also known as “mophead” or “lacecap” hydrangea.

  • Hardy to USDA zone 5
  • Blooms on old wood: do not prune
  • Endless Summer Brand and the following Proven Winners® varieties: Abracadabra® series, Cityline® series, Let’s Dance® series
  • Some varieties bloom color may change from pink to blue based on soil aluminum levels.
‘Lets Dance Blue Jangles’

Hydrangea paniculata, also known as “peegee” hydrangea.

  • Hardy to USDA zone 3.
  • Blooms on new wood: prune in late winter/early spring.
  • Typically tolerates full sun
  • Proven Winners® varieties include: Bobo®, Fire Light, ‘Limelight’, Little Lime®, ‘Little Lamb’, Pinky Winky®, Quick Fire®, Little Quick Fire®, Ziinfin Doll®
Fire Light

Hydrangea arborescens is commonly referred to as “Annabelle” hydrangea.

  • Hardy to USDA zone 3
  • Blooms on new wood: prune in late winter/early spring
  • Proven Winners® varieties include: Incrediball® series and Invincibelle® Spirit II
‘Invincibelle Mini Mauvette’

Hydrangea quercifolia

  • Hardy to USDA zone 5
  • Blooms on old wood
  • Native to North America
  • Typically more drought tolerant than other hydrangea varieties
  • Proven Winners® varieties include: Gatsby series


Hydrangea serrata are

  • Hardy to USDA zone 5
  • Blooms on old wood
  • Proven Winners® varieties include: Tuff Stuff series

Hydrangea petiolaris is a large and weighty vine that requires substantial support, such as a wall. Though slow to establish, after the first few years it will vigorously grow to 30-50 feet. Although they can certainly be pruned back, the habit of this plant makes it impractical for the average gardener, hence why they are not commonly found in garden centers.

  • Hardy to USDA zone 4
  • Blooms on old wood.
  • Grows well in full sun to partial shade, but prefers some shade in hotter climates

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