Hydrangea-loving gardeners who live in growing zones where big-leaved hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) frequently fail to bloom are often a frustrated bunch. While the big pink or blue flower clusters of that species of hydrangea are beautiful, the plants are unpredictable bloomers in many regions. Gardeners can go years without seeing a single flower. Sometimes the overwintering buds freeze out, other times improper pruning is the culprit. And sometimes you do everything right, but the plants still fail to bloom. If you love hydrangeas and you want flowers each and every year without fail or fuss, skip the big-leaved hydrangeas and grow panicle hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata) instead. These spectacular hydrangeas never disappoint.
We’ve teamed up with the good folks at Bloomin’ Easy® to introduce you to three drop-dead gorgeous cultivars of Hydrangea paniculata that will have you falling in love with hydrangeas in a whole new way.
What’s so special about Hydrangea paniculata?
Commonly called panicle hydrangeas, there’s a lot to love about Hydrangea paniculata. Here are just a few of the things that make this species so darn perfect.
• Unlike varieties such as the mophead hydrangeas, Hydrangea paniculata (and its close cousin Hydrangea paniculata grandiflora – the peegee hydrangeas) produces flower buds in early spring on new growth and new wood, not on the woody stems formed during the previous gardening season. This means the buds are formed in the spring, so there’s no way they can freeze out. It’s impossible for you to lose blooms due to bud-freeze when growing panicle hydrangeas.
• Panicle hydrangeas are among the most winter-hardy hydrangeas available to gardeners. In fact, the three varieties we’re about to introduce you to are hardy all the way down to USDA Zone 3. That means they’ll brush off temperatures as cold as -40˚ F/C like a champ.
• Pruning Hydrangea paniculata is no-fail (no kidding!). Unlike big-leaved hydrangeas whose care requires thoughtful and timely pruning, panicle hydrangeas are super flexible when it comes to pruning. Even if you don’t prune at all, the plants bloom prolifically. We’ll share some pruning tips in a bit, but there are no hard-and-fast rules to follow with this species.
• The blooms are nothing short of spectacular. Large, elongated, conical flower clusters top each stem starting in mid summer. The blooms are incredibly long-lasting, often exhibiting a dramatic color change as they age in late summer, for example from white flowers to burgundy and other similar changes. They dry beautifully, too.
• Panicle hydrangeas are adaptable to a broad range of growing conditions. They don’t need a targeted soil pH to perform their best, nor are they particular about the amount of sunlight they receive. Anything from full sun or morning sun to partial shade to afternoon shade works just fine. As long as you make a home for them in a spot that receives several hours of sun per day, they’re happy as can be.
• Hydrangea paniculata is also fairly tolerant of road salt. So, if you’re looking for a blooming shrub suitable for areas where salt spray or road salt run-off is problematic, panicle hydrangeas are the answer.
• One final positive attribute of this powerhouse hydrangea: it makes a stunning hedge. Whether for privacy, windbreak, or wildlife habitat, a tight row of panicle hydrangeas is among the most attractive hedgerow available to gardeners. Their foliage is lovely.
Now that you know why Hydrangea paniculata is so prized, let’s meet three special selections with tons of star-power for the garden.
3 panicle hydrangea varieties that steal the show
If panicle hydrangeas have a downside, it’s their tendency to grow fairly large. Typically reaching up to 10 feet tall, many varieties take up way too much garden real estate. But, the following three choices were bred to stay compact. Reaching just a third to half the height of traditional varieties, they’re perfect for smaller gardens, flower borders, foundation plantings, and even containers and raised beds.
1. Candelabra™: Topping out at 4 to 6 feet wide and tall, Candelabra™ is both award-winning and breathtaking. The flower cones open white and as summer progresses, they turn a brilliant red-pink. The stems are sturdy, so there’s no staking or caging required to keep the blooms upright. Pop it into a garden bed, keep it watered until the plant is established, and you’ll enjoy the blooms for many seasons to come.
2. Flare™: A pint-sized dwarf Hydrangea paniculata, this little guy reaches just 2 to 3 feet tall and wide. It’s perfect for tiny backyards, urban shrub beds, and patio containers. The blooms stand upright on short, stocky stems. Each panicle is a creamy white when it opens, but over the course of a few weeks, it turns a lovely deep pink from the bottom up.
3. Moonrock™: This is the perfect panicle hydrangea for those who want elegance and bloom-power wrapped together into one sweet package. Maxing out at 4 to 6 feet tall and wide, Moonrock™ shines in large or small landscapes. Foot-tall conical clusters of lime-green blooms age to pure white. The flowers strut their stuff from early summer well into the autumn and stocky, rigid stems mean no staking is required.
Caring for Hydrangea paniculata
As previously mentioned, maintaining panicle hydrangeas is fairly straightforward. Plant them in conditions where they’ll thrive, and follow these hydrangea care quick-tips and success is yours.
Panicle hydrangea care tips:
- Feed panicle hydrangeas yearly with a complete, granular, organic fertilizer in the spring. Amending the soil with leaf mold or compost is a good idea, too.
- Mulch the plants with a 2 to 3-inch-thick layer of shredded hardwood each spring. Be careful to keep the mulch from coming into direct contact with the base of the stems.
- Keep the plants well watered until they are established; at least through the plants’ first full growing season.
- Prune the plants in mid spring, if you feel like it. You can either just trim each branch back to its highest developing bud or prune the entire plant back by a third. As stated earlier, as long as any pruning you decide to do is done in the spring, you really can’t go wrong. The strong stems will not disappoint.
- In general, panicle hydrangeas are not prone to issues from insects or pests like mites and aphids, but if they do become problematic, horticultural oil is a simple solution
We hope you’ll find a place for these panicle hydrangeas in your landscape; we’re sure you’ll find them as beautiful and carefree as we do. A big thank you to Bloomin’ Easy® for sponsoring this post and making it easy to have the most beautiful hydrangeas in town.
Do you grow panicle hydrangeas? We’d love to hear about it in the comment section below.
For more excellent shrub choices for your landscape, check out our post on 5 Flowering Shrubs for Your Garden.