Hydrangea for zone 4

Hydrangeas are certainly among the most popular plants in gardens all over the world! Moreover, they have been called the America’s favorite flowering shrub and you’ll find them on most top lists of flowering shrubs, like this one on Dengarden. They come in various colors, ranging from white to dark purple.

However, hydrangeas with crimson red flowers are certainly the ones that stand out. In this article, will tell you everything you need to know in order to find and successfully grow red hydrangeas.


What Are They?

The old-fashioned charm of these flowers is always mesmerizing. Moreover, these shrubs are also very easy to grow and to care for. According to the Farmer’s Almanac website, hydrangeas can tolerate almost any soil. For these reasons, the growing popularity of these shrubs in gardens shouldn’t come as a surprise.

The word hydrangea is actually the name of a genus that contains about 100 species of flowering shrubs. The luscious flowers appear in dome-like bunches at the top of the stems. Some varieties start flowering in the early spring, but with some species, the flowering can last until the late fall.

How to Choose and Plant Hydrangeas

According to SFGate, only five species of hydrangea are commonly grown in the United States. Among these five species, only three have red varieties. Probably the most common is the bigleaf hydrangea. Its Latin name is H. macrophylla. This sort gets its name from it’s large, broad leaves, but the plant itself is also usually quite large. According to SFGate, the average height and width of this sort of bigleaf hydrangea is 10 feet. The plants from this species usually start blooming in late spring.

The second species that comes in red varieties is the panicle hydrangea, also known as H. paniculata. The flower clusters on these plants are longer and shaped more like a pyramid than like a dome, which is the case with other types of hydrangea. According to Fine Gardening, this species tolerates cold much better than its cousins.

Finally, there is the oakleaf hydrangea, also known as H. quercifolia. With this sort, you won’t actually get red flowers, but its leaves turn decidedly red during the fall. This species usually reaches the height and width of 8 feet.

Red Types


#ILoveBlue #ILoveHydrangea Rt”@PattyHankins: Bigleaf Hydrangea pic.twitter.com/VwsFm0kgeM“

— Graciela De Luca (@gradeluca27) March 19, 2015


Bumblebee basking in the Limelight Panicle Hydrangea. pic.twitter.com/q7Qef7HJmG

— Caroline Petti (@pettiplease) October 27, 2019


Ruby Slippers Oakleaf Hydrangea. https://t.co/WFYotVH8oY @GardenDesignMag @laurin_lindsey pic.twitter.com/wLrnsCkzp9

— Jan Johnsen (@janjohnsen23) June 26, 2017

Other Popular Non-Red Options


Love my Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Zorro’ – beautiful lacecap with stunning black stems 🌿 pic.twitter.com/JdpDSMgUAR

— Brigitte @ In The Green (@InTheGreen2) June 29, 2018


Smoothhydrangea。。。#紫陽花 #花 #アナベル#ファインダー越しの私の世界#写真好きな人と繋がりたい pic.twitter.com/sJLDKUiq2D

— 珠璃 *・。゚♬*゜ (@heliostitanes) June 23, 2016


The best climbing hydrangea I’ve ever seen pic.twitter.com/8Zc20u6CsA

— karen gimson (@kgimson) June 25, 2015

Red Hydrangea Varieties

The majority of red varieties comes from the family of bigleaf or French hydrangeas. DIY Network has an article listing some of the most popular red varieties from this species. They recommend the Royal Red and Lady in Red varieties of hydrangea for adding a shot of crimson to your garden. The Lady in Red variety also has red stems that add to the scarlet sensation, but the color of the flowers can range from light pink to dark crimson.

Concept Plants also recommends Red Sensation, a stunning variety of H. macrophylla. This variety is much smaller than other varieties from this family, which makes it perfect for balconies or other smaller spaces. It usually grows no higher than 35 inches. Another red variety is Ami Pasquier, recommended by Southern Living.

When it comes to panicle hydrangeas, Fire and Ice is a really interesting variety. It starts with pale green flowers in early summer which gradually turn to dark red as autumn approaches. As we have already mentioned, oakleaf hydrangeas don’t really come with red flowers, but their leaves can turn red in the autumn. The color of the leaves can be quite vibrant which makes it a nice addition to autumn gardens.

Hydrangea Colors

Hydrangeas come in a range of colors. White flowers are the most common, but they also come in colors ranging from green, over blue, violet, and purple, to dark red. However, many hydrangea varieties also have a rare ability to change the color to a certain degree.

The reason for this is the fact that these plants accumulate aluminum from the soil.

According to Garden Therapy, acidic soil makes the flowers blue. If the soil is more alkaline, the flowers of your hydrangea will lean towards a pink or red hue.

Keep in mind that not all hydrangeas change colors. White flowers will always remain white. Furthermore, bigleaf hydrangeas are more likely to change color than other species. Additionally, while the acidity of the soil has an impact on the hue, the intensity of the color largely depends on the variety.

How to Keep Hydrangeas Red

If your red hydrangeas start turning pale or getting a bluish or purple hue, this means the soil is probably too acidic.

In order for the flowers to remain red, the plants shouldn’t be getting aluminum from the soil. A higher pH level in the soil will generally result in less aluminum being taken in by the plant. If you want to be sure, you can purchase a soil testing kit from your local garden equipment store in order to determine the exact pH value of the soil.

According to Plant Addicts, your goal is to get the pH from the soil somewhere between 6.0 and 6.2. It is also possible to check the acidity of the soil without any special equipment. To learn how to do this, check out this guide on Garden Therapy. To make the soil more acidic, you can try adding dolomitic lime from time to time.

Plant Addicts also recommends using a fertilizer that contains high levels phosphorus as an alternative strategy. This helps to reduce the levels of aluminum that get to the plant and thus keep the flowers red. If none of this works, the soil in your garden might just be very rich in aluminum. If this is a case, you might want to consider growing your red hydrangeas in large pots, since it’s much easier to control all the conditions this way.

Red Hydrangea Care

All hydrangeas require at least a couple of hours of sun exposure during the day. However, it’s also possible to grow some varieties in partial shade.

They don’t like dry soil, so the area around this plants should always be somewhat moist. They also thrive in rich soils, so you should definitely consider adding compost to the soil if necessary.

Cold Hardy Hydrangeas: Choosing Hydrangeas For Zone 4

Almost everybody is familiar with the hydrangea plant. This old-fashioned bloomer is a staple in mature landscapes and has captured the imagination of many a traditional and modern gardener. Botanical experimentation has developed varieties of hydrangeas for cold climates as well as specimens that conform to any size preference, bloom form and resistance to certain diseases. This means there are even hydrangeas for zone 4, so northern gardeners don’t have to forgo these eye catching bushes.

Cold Hardy Hydrangeas

Growing hydrangeas in zone 4 was once a no-no due to their frost and snow tenderness. Today, we are fortunate enough to have plant enthusiasts that are constantly developing new species and cultivars with the ability to withstand extreme temperatures. There are now numerous cold hardy hydrangeas from which to choose, with the leading hardy cultivars stemming from H. paniculata and H. arborescens. The former is a panicle forming bush while the latter is in the smooth leaf category. Both bloom off new wood so their buds aren’t killed off in winter.

Hydrangeas are classified by their blooms and leaves. While the huge French hydrangeas with their mop-head clusters of flowers may be the most familiar, there are also lacecaps and panicle forming varieties. French hydrangeas are only reliably hardy to about USDA zone 5. Similarly, the lacecap varieties may also only withstand temperatures to zone 5.

The panicle varieties have some species that are hardy down to zone 3 and even “shoulder” hardy specimens can survive in microclimates or areas of protection in the landscape. One of the oldest of this group is ‘Grandiflora,’ which originated in 1867. It has a prolific blooming habit but stems are floppy and heads nod in airy indifference. More compact and tidy cultivars are available which will still reliably produce blooms from June to September.

Panicle Forming Zone 4 Hydrangea Varieties

Choosing hydrangeas for cold climates depends upon your vision as well as the USDA designation for zone. Some plants develop arching stems while others are tightly formed bushes. Flower and leaf differences are also considerations for zone 4 hydrangea varieties. As one of the hardiest species of hydrangeas for zone 4, H. paniculata produces long, conical clusters of tiny flowers. Since they bloom off of new wood, there is no loss of bud in winter and you can prune them quite harshly in spring and still expect flowers that season.

Panicle types are native to Japan and China and form bushes of 6 to 10 feet in height with a similar spread. These are some of the best hydrangeas for cold climates. Some forms to try include:

  • Grandiflora – Creamy white blooms, often called Pee Gee
  • Limelight – Startling lime green flowers
  • Compacta – Great for smaller spaces or containers. 4 feet tall
  • Pink Diamond – Antique blush blooms
  • Tardiva – Late blooming variety
  • Pinky Winky – Lovely rose pink flowers
  • Quick Fire – Starts out white and turns reddish pink
  • White Moth – Flower heads may reach 14 inches in width

Hydrangea arborescens Varieties

The species Hydrangea arborescens is smaller than the panicle varieties. They develop into bushes of only 3 to 5 feet tall and have long-lasting, mainly green maturing to white blooms. These compact shrubs have the typical ball form flower heads and large leaves.

Plants are tolerant of a wide range of soil pH levels and can bloom in partial shade locations. They also bloom off the spring wood, which preserves the buds from freezes. One of the most common is ‘Annabelle,’ a snowball form with huge creamy blooms up to 8 inches across. Stems are stout and do not droop even when flowers are laden with rain. This outstanding performer is a parent to several spin off cultivars.

  • Grandiflora – Sometimes called Hills of Snow due to its prolific but small white flower clusters
  • White Dome – Thick round clusters of ivory flowers and vigorous grower
  • Incrediball – As the name implies, this has one of the more outstanding huge white flower heads
  • Incrediball Blush – Same as above only in a sweet pale pink color
  • Haas’ Halo – Unique arborescens with lacecap type white blooms


Hydrangea shrubs add grace, stature and depth to mixed borders

Philibert Commerson discovered Hydrangea in China during 1767! Since then many different varieties have been created. Hydrangeas like an acid soil for best results, so apply plenty of peat containing compost whilst planting. When growing Hydrangea, you may want to test the pH of your soil so that you will be sure of what flower color will emerge. In soil with a pH greater than 7.0, hydrangea will be pink; in soil with a pH less than 7.0, the blossoms will be blue.

There are various Hydrangeas varieties available such as the Hydrangeas paniculata types, the Hydrangeas macrophylla types, Hydrangea serrata, Hydrangea sargentiana and Hydrangeas aspera types.

How to care for Hydrangea

Hydrangea’s flower from early summer to the first frost and have a compact growth except for the variety Annabelle that will grow up to 1.5 mtr in one season.
hydrangea requires a moist retentive Soil that is enriched with organic matter. Choose a sheltered position against a wall or under a tree but avoid Hedges. Add peat at time of planting & water well. Protect against severe frost in winter. Do not remove dead flower heads – leave them on through the winter as they help protect the plant from frost. Cut back in spring by removing dead or diseased branches down to the first Healthy bud. In spring feed established plants with a fertiliser and apply a thick layer of mulch for protection of the roots.

How to prune the hydrangea

Most macrophylla and serrata species thrive on old wood, or steals that have grown last year. If you cut back these species in the spring, you also cut out all the flowers. If strong pruning is not necessary you can better prune back a third of the branches to 20 to 30 cm above the ground each year, the other branches then give enough flowers. Because the buds of these species are formed early in the spring, they are sensitive to night frost. The old flowers can therefore best be left untill the beginning of March, because that gives some protection.

Hydrangeas that bloom on new wood are the paniculata and the arborescens. These can be pruned back to about 30 cm each year. They will return strongly every year with the right fertilization. Especially the arborescens species such as Annabelle give such large flowers that some support is sometimes desirable because otherwise the stems (especially after rain or strong wind) can collapse under the weight. We have the correct plant supports in stock for this. These green supports do not or hardly reappear in the course of time. Hydrangea Annabelle strong is a new variant with a stronger stem, that does not work and there is also a pink variant known, the Invincibelle Spirit.

Buy all your garden plants at Gardens4You

You can buy Hydrangea quickly and easily at gardens4you, your online garden center. Pay your hydrangeas easily afterwards and not good money back. Large range of Hortensias to choose from directly from the nursery.

On all our Hydrangea shrubs you get standard bloom guarantee, if you are not satisfied you get new plants or your money back. So you can order with peace of mind. We have the best quality bushes.

Also take a look at our other bushes. Such as the very popular rhododendron, butterfly bush budleja and hibiscus.

‘Baby Lace’ Panicle

Hydrangea paniculata Panicle Hydrangea ‘Baby Lace’ Sun tolerant, 3-4′ from the Gardeners Confidence collection. Lacecap. Sun tolerant with afternoon shade. Finally a compact hydrangea for small spaced yards! ‘Baby Lace’ features stunning white flowers and deep green foliage. Blooms on new wood so pinch back the spend blossoms to encourage a repeat bloom in summertime. May be container grown. Sun.

‘BloomStruck’ Endless Summer Mophead

Hydrangea macrophylla Endless Summer bigleaf ‘BloomStruck’ 3-4′ re-blooming. Shade tolerant from the Endless Summer collection. Depending on soil pH, you may have vivid rose pink or purple flowers. A good choice for southern gardens, ‘BloomStruck’ is disease and heat resistant. All summer long this bush will produce large, showy flowers and be a focal point in your yard. The stems are a vivid red with large, deep green leaves. Plant ‘BloomStruck’ in mass as a hedge, in a container or as a single shrub in a border garden.

‘Blushing Bride’ Endless Summer Mophead

Hydrangea macrophylla Endless Summer bigleaf ‘Blushing Bride’ 3-6′ . Shade tolerant from the Endless Summer collection, re-blooming. Pure white semi-double florets. The stunning flowers of ‘Blushing Bride’ are pure white semi-double florets, which will mature to blush pink or pale blue depending on the pH of your soil. Like many hydrangea bushes the blooms on ‘Blushing Bride’ are perfect as cut flowers. Flowers all summer for constant color in your yard.

Cityline ‘Mars’ Mophead

Hydrangea macrophylla dwarf bigleaf ‘Mars’ 1-3′. A Proven Winners plant, shade loving. A small cultivar with pretty pink or blue flowers. Ideal for a front door container garden or a small space where dramatic color is called for. Petals are edged in white offering a lovely, old fashioned look. Great for a cottage garden.

Cityline ‘Paris’ Mophead

Hydrangea macrophylla dwarf bigleaf ‘Paris’ 3′. A Proven Winners plant, shade loving with intense pink red summer flowers. The blooms have a long season and will change to green as they age. Dwarf form makes it a good flowing shrub for a small space. Mildew resistant. Soil pH affects flower color.

Cityline ‘Vienna’ Mophead

Hydrangea macrophylla dwarf bigleaf ‘Vienna’ 3′. A Proven Winners plant, shade loving with dark pink or blue summer flowers. Soil pH will affect bloom color. Cityline ‘Vienna’ has a compact, low, mounding shape which will not outgrow its garden location. Compact and disease resistant, an easy to grow flowering shrub for southern gardens.

Climbing False Hydrangea ‘Rose Sensation’

Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Rose Sensation’ false hydrangea. Vine. Shade tolerant. A Proven Winners plant. Elegant and distinctive with unique pink flowers, false climbing hydrangea ‘Rose Sensation’ is an excellent pick for homeowners who would like something different for their landscape. ‘Rose Sensation’ is a showy, climbing variety with large, pink blooms which open in early summer. It is a good choice when used to train up a north facing wall, fence or in a woodland setting.

‘Dooley’ and Penny Mac Mophead

Hydrangea macrophylla bigleaf ‘Dooley’ and Penny Mac. Shade tolerant. Blue or pink depending upon soil acid levels. Huge, show stopping blooms during summer, ‘Dooley’ and Penny Mac have long been a gardener’s favorite. ‘Dooley’ and Penny Mac hydrangea bushes are low maintenance and require little care but will offer an amazing return with the oversized flowers it produces.

‘Edgy Hearts’ Picotee

Hydrangea macrophylla Proven Winners picotee ‘Edgy Hearts’ 3-5′. A Proven Winners plant. Bloom color is affected by soil pH. Shade tolerant. What makes this shrub unique is the white picotee coloring along the edge of the florets, which refers to a variation in color along the edges. ‘Edgy Hearts’ has distinctive, large flowers in summer. The petals of the rounded flower heads fold lengthwise to produce a beautiful a heart shaped look.The individual petals are edged in white, while the rest of the color can be red-pink or blue. An alkaline soil will turn the petal interior pink while acidic makes them blue. ‘Edgy Hearts’ has a beautiful, old fashioned appearance, which is simply show stopping. ‘Edgy Hearts’ also makes a Good cut flower. Leaves are glossy green.

‘Everlasting Revolution’ Mophead

Hydrangea macrophylla bigleaf ‘Everlasting Revolution’ Shade tolerant. ‘Everlasting Revolution’ features stunning maroon, pink to blue color changes on a single shrub which will create a show stopping look in your yard. All of these shades may be present on the blooms at once, with delicate green highlights as the flowers mature. ‘Everlasting Revolution’ is a heavily reblooming bush and will flower again late in the season. Part of the Everlasting series, ‘Everlasting Revolution’ was bred for the cut flower market so designed to produce many flowers.

‘Fire Light’ Panicle

Hydrangea paniculata Proven Winners Panicle Hydrangea ‘Fire Light’ 5′ Sun tolerant. A Proven Winners plant. ‘Fire Light’ is a new panicle hydrangea that produces large flower heads in midsummer. It features a unique white to red color; the blooms open to a lovely snow white, then mature to a beautiful deep red as summer progresses. ‘Fire Light’ makes an impressive display in any landscape and will be sure to attract attention. The red and white color blends beautifully with roses or evergreen shrubs for curb appeal in a front yard. It may be grown as a single specimen or in a mass planting along a fence or border. ‘Fire Light’ will begin to flower slightly earlier than other panicle hydrangeas.

‘Let’s Dance Blue Jangles’ Big Leaf

Hydrangea macrophylla Proven Winners bigleaf ‘Let’s Blue Jangles’ 2-4′. A dwarf shrub which blooms on both old and new wood. A great idea for a small space due to the compact, tight growing habit. Reblooming variety with full, large flower heads. Changes to blue in acid soils and pink in alkaline soil.

‘Let’s Dance Diva’ Lacecap

Hydrangea macrophylla Proven Winners bigleaf ‘Let’s Dance Diva’ 3-4′ Shade tolerant. A Proven Winners plant, part of the Let’s Dance series. Blue to pink color depends upon soil pH. Re-blooming mophead variety. You can have a variety of colors in purple, blue or pink with the ‘Let’s Dance Diva’ bigleaf hydrangea. An alkaline soil will turn the petals a mid to deep pink while acidic soil will change them to a purple blue. ‘Let’s Dance Diva’ has attractive, glossy foliage with a deep green color. ‘Let’s Dance Diva’ blooms on both new and old wood.

‘Limelight’ Panicle

Hydrangea paniculata Proven Winners ‘Limelight’ 6-8′ Sun tolerant. A Proven Winners plant. This variety has unique bright chartreuse flowers which begin in mid-summer. ‘Limelight’ holds its refreshing color into fall when the blooms change to a rich, deep pink color. ‘Limelight’ has large flower heads for a showy display in any garden. Sun tolerant.

‘Little Lime’ Panicle

Proven Winners ‘Little Lime’. Sun loving, a dwarf hydrangea variety with flowers similar to ‘Limelight’. ‘Little Lime’ has the the same blooms but in a smaller shrub for small space gardens. Beautiful green flowers change to pink in fall. ‘Little Lime’ is good for containers or use in cut flower arrangements. Sun tolerant.

Dwarf Oakleaf ‘Munchkin’

Native Hydrangea quercifolia Oakleaf Hydrangea ‘Munchkin’ 3′. ‘Munchkin’ is a compact oakleaf for the small space landscape. It blooms in a profusion of large flower clusters which contrast beautifully against dark green, deeply lobed leaves. Flowers open white and will age to a gentle pink color, remaining reliably upright. The fall foliage on ‘Munchkin’ is brilliant mahogany for multi season interest.

Oakleaf ‘Queen of Hearts’

Native. Hydrangea quercifolia Oakleaf Hydrangea ‘Queen of Hearts’ 6-7′. Nine inch long flower heads are held upright on this oakleaf variety. ‘Queen of Hearts’ flowers about a week later than most oak leafs extending the bloom season in a garden. Flowers open white and will slowly age to a deep pink. Dark green summer foliage turns a beautiful mahogany red during fall and exfoliating bark provides winter interest.

Oakleaf ‘Ruby Slippers’

Native Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’ 3-5′. Semi dwarf. Exceptionally large flower clusters bloom in summer, displayed against deeply lobed, dark green, oak like leaves. Flowers first appear white and then quickly age to delicate deep pink. Foliage has the classic trait of an oakleaf and turns a wonderful maroon purple for fall, lighting up any woodland garden area. ‘Ruby Slippers’ is a compact plant that is well suited for small landscapes.

‘The Original’ Endless Summer Mophead

Hydrangea macrophylla Endless Summer bigleaf ‘The Original’ 3-5′ Shade tolerant mophead from the re-blooming Endless Summer collection. Flower color may be altered to pink or blue with soil pH. Repeat blooming hydrangea ‘The Original’ can flower on both the current season’s growth as well as the previous year’s. May be container grown.

Next Generation Pistachio Hydrangea

Hydrangea macrophylla Next Generation Pistachio 2-3′. ‘Pistachio’ is re-blooming and has beautiful flowers with unusual coloration of strong blooms in green to rose red. Centers are purple and this shrub will bloom from spring through fall for beauty throughout the season. A unique, new color combination for Hydrangeas. A showpiece for any landscape design.

‘Quick Fire’ Panicle

Hydrangea paniculata Proven Winners hardy hydrangea ‘Quick Fire’. Sun loving, a Proven Winners plant, blooms up to a month earlier than other hydrangeas. ‘Quick Fire’ stands out due to the early summer bloom time with flowers in large, upright panicles. Flowers on new wood and blooms continues throughout summer, then into fall. Each panicle is made up of abundant showy, sterile florets which open white but turn pink. Later in the season they will become a reddish purple color. Easy to grow, sun tolerant.

‘Twist-n-Shout’ Endless Summer Lacecap

Hydrangea macrophylla Endless Summer ‘Twist-n-Shout’ 3-5′ Shade tolerant from the Endless Summer collection, re-blooming. Blue to pink color depends upon soil pH. A re-blooming lacecap. Pink or Blue Flowering begins in early summer and will continue through the autumn months. The deep green leaves of really make the flowers stand out. Plant ‘Twist-n-Shout’™ in mass, as an accent shrub or informal hedge. May be container grown.

Tree Form Hydrangea – For something unique in a landscape design, try tree form hydrangeas. Our plant nursery carries these in limited supplies so please ask. Tree formed shrubs are ideal for planting in large containers at a front entry way or door, at the end of a driveway or as a front yard accent.

Hydrangea bushes for sake in our plant nursery garden center are subject to change.

Types of Hydrangeas

There are 5 main types of hydrangeas that you will find in North America. We’ve made this ultimate guide to help you identify hydrangeas easily by looking at images for reference as well as main characteristics that each type commonly have. Click through on each type for more detailed information. Also, there is an easy guide at the bottom of this article to quickly read through the information.

1. Bigleaf Hydrangeas | Hydrangea macrophylla

Also called French hydrangeas, florist’s hydrangeas, & hortensia. This is the most common type of hydrangea found in the United States. There are 3 different types of hydrangea macrophylla; mophead, lacecap and mountain hydrangeas.

I. Mophead Hydrangeas

These are the most popular bigleaf hydrangea. Many recognize these due to their large flower heads that are purple, blue and pink. In general, mophead and lacecap leaves are relatively thick and crisp, somewhat shiny, and often heart-shaped. Their edges are coarsely toothed. They are approximately 4″-6″ long and 3″-5″ wide, but in some cases, they may grow even larger. Leaf stems (petiole) are short, causing the leaves to hug close to the main stems in most cases. Stems often have tiny black or red streaks or speckles. Mopheads and lacecaps have identical leaf forms.

II. Lacecap Hydrangeas

The scientific name for lacecap hydrangeas is Hydrangea macrophylla normalis. Lacecaps are identical to mopheads in every way except the shape of their blooms. The little buds in the center of the lacecap are the fertile flowers, and the large showy blossoms around the outer edge are the sterile flowers.

III. Mountain Hydrangeas

The scientific name for mountain hydrangeas is Hydrangea macrophylla ssp. serrata. These are the least common bigleaf hydrangea. These have much smaller flowers but the plants are extremely hardy and built to survive harsh winters and climates.

2. Panicle hydrangeas | Hydrangea paniculata

Panicle hydrangeas are known for their cone shaped flower heads. These are large blooms typically start white and may turn to pink. These are the most cold hardy hydrangea and can grow from zones 3 to 7.

The leaves of PG hydrangeas are relatively easy to identify when compared with other hydrangeas. They are smaller, thinner, and rougher than leaves of the mophead hydrangea, typically 3″-6″ long and 3″-4″ wide. The edges are finely toothed in some varieties and more coursely toothed in others. They are medium green with a matt finish.

One feature that will aid in identification of the H. paniculta is this: three leaves grow from a stem-node and are distributed around the node in a whorl.

PG hydrangeas are the only hydrangeas that will form trees. Their central stem(s) can be developed into very attractive trunks.

3. Smooth Hydrangeas | Hydrangea arborescens

These are also called wild hydrangeas, these shrubs are native to the United States. These bushes can tolerate hotter climates and are hardy from zones 4 to 7. These are sometimes planted as hedges because of their size. The leaves of arborescens are generally heart shaped, thin, and floppier than the mopheads (macrophylla). They have a matte surface and a courser texture than the smooth leaf of the mophead. The leaf stems (petiole) are long and hold the leaf away from the main stem.

4. Oakleaf Hydrangeas | Hydrangea quercifolia

It is easy to see where the Oakleaf Hydrangea gets its name. It’s leaves are shaped much like those of a red oak. The leaves can be 4″ X 4″ or they can be a huge 10″ X 10.” The foliage on these hydrangeas also changes color in the fall and are the only type of hydrangeas that do that. The color will change from orange to red to mahogany.

5. Climbing Hydrangeas | Hydrangea petiolaris

These are easy to spot because they are actually vines. Climbing hydrangeas are native to Asia (Japan, Korea and Siberia) and can grow in zones 4 to 8 and are becoming more popular due to the uniqueness of growing up structures and having large blooms. Also called Hydrangea petiolaris, these can grow 30 to 80 feet long.

Another climbing hydrangea is the Japanese hydrangea vine, which will grow 15 to 30 feet high. The botanical name for those is Schizophragma hydrangeoides and this plant is native to Japan.

  1. Hydrangea macrophylla
    1. Mophead
    2. Lacecap
    3. Mountain
  2. Hydrangea paniculata
  3. Hydrangea quercifolia
  4. Hydrangea arborescens
  5. Hydrangea petiolaris

Hardy Hydrangeas for Iowa

Hydrangeas are popular shrubs for the home landscape. Their large, elegant flowers charm homeowners and visitors alike throughout the summer months. In the past decade there has been an explosion of new cultivars with varying flower colors and shapes. Surely there is one (or two) that will work in your landscape.

Species and Cultivars

Several hydrangea species can be grown in Iowa. Two species are easy-to-grow, reliable performers. The others can be a bit more challenging.

Annabelle Hydrangea

Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens)

One of the most durable and reliable of the hydrangeas is smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea aborescens). This 3- to 5-foot shrub flowers freely from June to September. The flowers are rounded and change from an apple green to creamy white during the summer. Flowers are also showy in the fall as they fade to tan and persist into the winter. ‘Annabelle’ is one of the most popular cultivars and is noted for its large (almost 1-foot-diameter) flower heads. This cultivar can be spotted from a great distance. The flowers are often so heavy they weigh the stems to the ground giving the shrub a “weeping effect”. For plenty of flowers and dense, dark green leaves, plant smooth hydrangea in partial sun to partial shade. Smooth hydrangea is tolerant of many soil types but thrives in moist, well-drained soils. This is one of the cold hardiest of the hydrangeas surviving well into Minnesota.


Height (Width)


3-5 (4-6)

Large white snowball flowers

Bella Anna

5 (5)

Pink flowers


5 (6)

Large white snowball flowers

Invincibelle Ruby

3 (2-3)

Pink to ruby red flowers

Invincible Spirit II

3-4 (3-4)

Pink flowers that fade to green

White Dome

5 (4)

White lacecap flower

Hydrangea Endless Summer

Mophead Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)

The mophead or big leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) has the colorful blooms that are commonly sold in florist shops and supermarkets as a cut flower. It is the only hydrangea species where the flower color depends on soil pH – blue in acidic soils and pink in alkaline soils. In Iowa most mophead hydrangeas are purplish-pink due to our slightly alkaline soils. Many of the newer introductions bloom on new growth, in addition to the previous season’s growth. Despite their improved flowering habit, some cultivars are finicky and bloom erratically. When purchasing plants, check the label for cold hardiness recommendations as there are several cultivars that are not hardy in zone 5 for Iowa.


Height (Width)


3-4 (4)

Pink, blue, or purple

Blushing Bride

6 (6)

White flowers that age with pink blush

Endless Summer

3-4 (4)

Blue, purple, or pink flowers

Let’s Dance Moonlight

2-3 (2-3)

Pink or blue mophead

Twist and Shout

5 (5)

Pale pink or blue lacecap flowers

Panicle Hydrangea Quick Fire

Panicle Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata)

The panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) blooms later than the smooth hydrangea, often not flowering until July. But the 6- to 12-inch-long, cone shaped, creamy white flowers are equally persistent. As the flowers age, they often fade to pink. This is the largest of the shrub-type hydrangeas, sometimes reaching 15 feet or more in height. There are many wonderful cultivars in this species including ‘Grandiflora’ or PeeGee. Once again the flowers are so large they often weigh down the branches. Panicle hydrangeas are a vigorous growers and can be pruned as small trees. Panicle hydrangeas perform best in moist, well-drained soils in full sun to partial shade.


Height (Width)


12-18 (8)

Large white flowers that fade to pink or green


8 (6)

Greenish white flowers that blush pink

Little Lime

3-5 (3-5)

Lime green flowers age to pink

Little Quick Fire

3-5 (5)

Creamy white flowers that turn a deep pink

Pink Diamond

8-10 (8-10)

White flowers turn pinkish

Pinky Winky

8 (8)

White flowers that fade to pink

Quick Fire

6-8 (6-8)

Creamy white flowers that turn a deep pink


8-10 (6)

Large, open white flowers

Vanilla Strawberry

6-8 (5)

Flowers change from vanilla white to strawberry red

White Diamonds

5 (5)

Open white flowers

Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

One of the most interesting hydrangea species is the Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). The coarse leaves are 3 to 8 inches long and shaped like oak leaves (hence the common name). The foliage is also noted for its attractive, red-burgundy fall color. This 3- to 5-foot shrub has showy, cone-shaped, creamy white flowers in June and July. Like the panicle hydrangea, its flowers often develop pinkish undertones as they mature. The oakleaf hydrangea is considered hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 5. It should perform well in protected sites in southern Iowa, but may not survive in northern areas of the state. It prefers partial shade in fertile, moist, well-drained soils in areas protected from harsh winter winds. Several cultivars are available.


Height (width)

Gatsby Star

6-8 (8)

Double greenish white star-shaped flowers


6 (8-10)

Double flowers that fade to rosy pink

Vaughn’s Lillie

4 (5)

Large flower heads

Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris)

Not all hydrangeas are shrubs. One such example is the climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris). It clings easily to tree bark and various structures and can climb to 50 feet. The white flowers appear in 6-to 10-inch-diameter, flat-topped corymbs in early July and persist for several weeks. The glossy dark green leaves provide the perfect backdrop to show off the blossoms. Another interesting feature of this plant is its exfoliating brown shaggy bark which is rather striking in the winter landscape. Climbing hydrangea thrives in partial shade in a moist, fertile, well-drained soil. Plants are slow to establish, taking a few years before vigorous growth begins. Support will also be needed as the plants become established and to direct growth. Japanese beetles may partially defoliate plants in some years. Climbing hydrangea is hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 4.

Another added bonus to most hydrangea flowers is that they make excellent cut and dried flowers. You can bring the blossoms inside to brighten the indoor landscape.

For more on pruning hydrangeas, see the Horticulture and Home Pest Newsletter article from March 23, 2017.

Blue Hydrangea macrophylla

Panicle Hydrangea Vanilla Strawberry

Panicle Hydrangea Limelight

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *