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What Is the Best Type of Hydrangea to Grow in Your Garden?

Colorful hydrangea flowers blooming in a variety of colors.

Hydrangea bushes are a delightful addition to any garden, bringing a burst of color and charm. However, with a wide variety of hydrangea types to choose from, it can be overwhelming to pick the perfect hydrangea for your space.

We’re here to remove the mystery from the hydrangea selection so you end up with the best variety for your garden, goals, and preferences.

Whether you have a sunny spot, a shaded corner, a massive backyard, or a small space to work with, there’s a hydrangea variety suited to your needs. Let’s explore the best types of hydrangeas for different garden conditions and how to care for them best.

Hydrangeas for Full Sun

Someone planting hydrangeas
Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock.com

If you’re trying to fill an area of your garden that gets a lot of sun, you want to choose a type of hydrangea that won’t wilt under the heat. Here are a few types of hydrangeas that do well when exposed to a full day of sunlight.

Panicle Hydrangeas

Known for their cone-shaped blooms, panicle hydrangeas can withstand sunnier conditions and are often considered the best full sun hydrangeas. Varieties like ‘Limelight’ and ‘Pinky Winky’ offer a stunning display of white, green, or pink blooms.

Like any type of hydrangea, this variety likes plenty of moisture. If you decide to place this hydrangea in an area that gets sun through the entire day, you want to be especially sure it gets plenty of water.

Proven Winners Puffer Fish Panicle Hydrangea

This panicle hydrangea offers stunning white blooms.

Oakleaf Hydrangeas

With their distinctive oak-like leaves, oakleaf hydrangeas add a touch of elegance to sunny areas. Varieties like ‘Snow Queen’ produce large, stunning flower clusters in white. These hydrangeas thrive in slightly acidic soil that stays moist.

Typically, oakleaf hydrangeas handle the full sun best in cooler climates. If you live in a region with scorching summers, you may want to choose an area of your garden that provides afternoon shade for this hydrangea variety.

Hydrangeas for Shade

Blue hydrangeas blossoming in the shade of a garden.

A lot of hydrangeas thrive in the shade–at least, they thrive in mostly shade. Hydrangeas are notorious for being lovers of shady areas that get small dapples of light. If you’re looking to add some color to your garden’s shady areas, here are some great hydrangeas to consider.

Bigleaf Hydrangeas

These are perhaps the most popular hydrangeas and are known for their large, globe-shaped blooms. Varieties like “Endless Summer” and “Nikko Blue” offer vibrant blue, pink, or even purple-ish flowers.

Keep in mind that even though they are often considered shade hydrangeas, they do like a little bit of sun to encourage stunning blooms. Plant them in partial, dappled shade for the best results.

Endless Summer Collection

This classic hydrangea looks stunning in most gardens.

Climbing Hydrangeas

These are a very unique type of hydrangea native to Asia. They are a trailing variety that adds visual interest and beauty to walls and fences. While they can do well in sunnier areas, they thrive in partial sun and shade. Expect fascinating white blooms in the spring and summer.

Smooth Hydrangeas

Smooth hydrangeas have massive, white blooms that create a classic, irresistible look. They are well suited for shaded areas and tend to thrive near ravines and streams. If they’re happy, they can grow up to 5 feet tall.

Hydrangeas for Small Spaces

Small pink and blue hydrangeas kept in a pot.

If you have limited gardening space, then you may want to consider one of these compact hydrangeas.

Cityline Hydrangea

These petite hydrangeas are bred specifically for small gardens and containers. Enjoy their vibrant colors and adorable petite blooms. They also have the added bonus of being low maintenance since they don’t require pruning.

Dwarf Oakleaf Hydrangeas

If you adore the oakleaf hydrangea but have a smaller space, opt for dwarf varieties. You can reap all the benefits of a stunning hydrangea in a small, manageable size.

Munchkin Dwarf Oakleaf Hydrangea

This little hydrangea is the perfect addition to any small garden.

Hydrangeas for Cut Flowers

A person holds a pair of pruning shears towards a hydrangea bloom.

All hydrangeas offer lovely blooms, so you really can’t go wrong if you want to collect flowers. However, you may want to choose a variety that provides the prettiest, most resilient blooms. Here are some great choices.

Lace-cap Hydrangeas

Lace-cap hydrangeas are incredibly stunning. The name refers to the type of bloom which tends to be delicate, frilly, and showy. They’re the perfect bloom to add to your floral arrangements.

Limelight Hydrangeas

This is a type of panicle hydrangea, so it does well in the sun while providing unique blooms. Their flowers turn from lime green to creamy white, and their sturdiness makes them wonderful for cutting.

Watering Can for Indoor Plants

A watering can with a long spout can be a great way to soak your hydrangea's roots.

Best Hydrangea for Pollinators

A bee buzzing around a hydrangea bloom.

All hydrangeas provide some benefits to pollinators, but not all blooms are created equal. Not only that but just because a hydrangea grows massive, colorful blooms doesn’t mean it’s the best pollinator.

Mixing your hydrangea varieties in your garden is a great way to provide a mixture of nectar and pollen. Include oakleaf, panicle, and climbing hydrangeas to best attract pollinators.

Keep in mind that mophead hydrangeas in the big leaf variety tend to have a lot of sterile blooms that hide their fertile blooms, making them less pollinator friendly. Choosing something like a lace-cap hydrangea that fully exposes its fertile blooms is better.

How to Care for Different Types of Hydrangeas

Blue hydrangeas blooming.

Whether you go with full sun hydrangeas or shade hydrangeas, there are some basic hydrangea care techniques to follow.

The first thing you want to carefully manage is your hydrangea watering routine. Keep the soil consistently moist, especially during the plant’s establishment and growth phase. Use a soaker hose or drip irrigation to prevent wetting the foliage and focus on hydrating the roots.

Mulch is going to be a hydrangea’s best friend. Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of your hydrangea bushes to retain soil moisture and regulate temperature.

For many hydrangea varieties, you may want to consider pruning dead or diseased wood and blooms. This can encourage healthy growth. Some hydrangeas may require more specific pruning methods, so consult care guidelines for your chosen variety.

Light is another key factor you want to consider for your hydrangea, but the perfect amount of light all depends on the variety you’ve selected. For example, full sun hydrangeas can thrive in areas of your garden that get direct sunlight while shade hydrangeas prefer to only receive dappled light.

Lastly, you want to consider your off-season care. If your region experiences harsh winters, consider covering your hydrangeas with burlap to protect them from cold temperatures and drying winds.

gonicc 8 Professional Premium Titanium Bypass Pruning Shears

Pruning shears can be incredibly helpful for keeping your hydrangea looking its best.

With these insights into various hydrangea bushes and their specific needs, you can create a stunning garden that suits your space, light conditions, and preferences. Whether you’re looking for bold blooms, compact varieties, or sun-tolerant options, there’s a hydrangea for everyone.

Abbey Ryan Abbey Ryan
Abbey Ryan is a storyteller, preferably of stories in written form. Across the 5 years of her professional writing career, her work has been featured in The Chicago Tribune, Amazon, The Medical News Today, and more. When she's not writing (which is rare), she's likely traveling, painting, or on the hunt for a good snack. Read Full Bio »
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