'Limelight Prime'. Photo by: Proven Winners.

Hydrangeas are one of the most popular garden shrubs, valued for their showy long-blooming flowers and ease of maintenance. Panicle hydrangeas have cone-shaped flower heads in colors of white or lime green that bloom for weeks in summer and fall. Flowers shift to hues of pink or red as they age, creating a captivating, ever-changing display.

These tough deciduous shrubs are the most winter-hardy hydrangeas, and are tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions. There are many dwarf varieties suitable for smaller yards and containers. Here’s how to grow panicle hydrangeas and how to use them in your landscape.

On this page: Basics | Planting | Care | Pictures | Landscaping with Hydrangea

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PANICLE HYDRANGEA OVERVIEW

Botanical name:

Hydrangea paniculata

Zones:

3-8

Height/Spread:

Bushy or compact habit; 18 inches to 15 feet tall, 2 to 12 feet wide

Exposure:

Full sun to partial shade

Bloom time:

Summer to fall

Growth habit:

Panicle hydrangea is a multi-stemmed deciduous shrub with an upright, bushy, compact, or vase-shaped habit. This bush can also be trained into a tree form with a single trunk.

Flowers:

The large panicles, which can reach 12 to 16 inches long, are cone-shaped, with clusters of tiny flowers in colors of white, cream, or lime green that acquire hues of pink or red when temperatures cool in fall. Blooms occur from early summer to frost, depending on the variety. The long-lived flowers make an excellent addition to fresh or dried flower arrangements.

Foliage:

Oval-shaped pointed green leaves have pronounced veining with slightly serrated edges. Some varieties produce yellow, red, or burgundy fall color. Stems can be green, red, or dark burgundy/brown.

Are panicle hydrangeas poisonous?

Hydrangeas contain hydrangin, a cyanogenic glycoside that is toxic to pets and children if any part of the plant is ingested. If you suspect your pet or child has ingested any part of the plant, contact your doctor, veterinarian, or poison control center. Avoid bringing freshly cut or dried hydrangea flowers indoors if your pet is prone to chewing on plants.See more Common Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats.

Are panicle hydrangeas deer resistant?

All hydrangeas are susceptible to damage from deer grazing. Deer are especially partial to the tender flower buds and flowers. If you live in a deer-prone area, provide protection, use deer repellant, or plant other more deer-resistant shrubs.

PLANTING PANICLE HYDRANGEAS

When to plant:

Plant panicle hydrangeas during milder months in spring or fall to avoid transplant shock from extreme cold or summer heat.

Where to plant:

Place in a spot that receives at least 4 to 6 hours of direct sun during most of the growing season. More light is preferable to insure robust growth and more prolific blooms. In hotter climates, provide afternoon shade to prevent leaf scald.

How to plant:

Loosen soil in the planting area and amend with compost or other rich organic matter. Dig a hole twice as wide and slightly deeper than the root ball. Remove plant from the nursery container and loosen roots if potbound. Place in the hole so the top of the root ball is level with the surrounding soil. Fill in the hole with soil, tamp down gently to remove air pockets, and water thoroughly. Provide regular water until plants are established.

Planting hydrangeas in pots:

  • Use a bagged potting mix rather than garden soil.
  • Mix in a slow-release fertilizer.
  • Leave 1 to 2 inches between the top of the soil and the rim of the pot for watering.
  • Make sure the pot has drainage holes and has room for the plant to grow.

PANICLE HYDRANGEA CARE

How to prune panicle hydrangeas:

Panicle hydrangeas bloom on the current season’s growth. Plants look best when allowed to grow into their natural shape and size. If desired, plants can be pruned back by up to one-third of their size in early spring as new growth is emerging. Remove dead, diseased, or errant branches and shape as needed. Cut branches to just above a leaf bud. For panicle hydrangeas trained into a tree form, avoid cutting into the trunk. (Read more on how to prune tree form hydrangeas.)

Temperature:

This shrub performs best in cool to moderate temperatures. Flowers may turn brown in hotter climates when nighttime temperatures are consistently at 70 degrees F or above.

Soil:

Panicle hydrangea is tolerant of a wide range of soils including clay, though good drainage is essential to prevent root rot. Soil pH can be slightly acidic to alkaline. Unlike bigleaf hydrangea (H. macrophylla), the flower color is not sensitive to soil pH levels. Amend soil with compost or other rich organic matter at the time of planting. Plants are shallow rooted and will benefit from several inches of bark mulch applied around the base each spring to keep roots cool, suppress weeds, and retain moisture.

Amendments and fertilizer:

Panicle hydrangea needs little or no supplemental fertilizer. To promote vigorous growth, apply a slow release granular fertilizer in spring that’s especially formulated for trees and shrubs according to instructions.

Water:

Panicle hydrangea prefers moist conditions. Don’t allow the soil to dry out, especially during bloom time, as flowers may turn brown. Provide supplemental water during prolonged heat or dry spells. Avoid overwatering, as panicle hydrangeas can develop root rot with too much water.

Pests and diseases:

When grown in the right conditions, panicle hydrangeas are free of most pests and diseases. Pests can include aphids, mites, scale, slugs or snails. Diseases include bacterial wilt, bud blight, leaf spot, powdery mildew, and rust.

TYPES OF PANICLE HYDRANGEAS

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Photo by: Proven Winners.

LIMELIGHT PRIME®Buy now from Proven Winners

Habit: Upright bushy habit
Height/Spread: 4 to 6 feet tall, 4 to 5 feet wide
Bloom time: Early summer to fall
Color: Lime green flowers age to pink-red; green foliage

This improved form of the ever-popular ‘Limelight’ hydrangea blooms earlier for a longer flower display, a trait that is especially valuable in cold short-season climates. Lime-green flowers develop vivid red and pink tones as they age. The compact habit is versatile for containers, foundation plantings, hedging, and borders.

2023 National Hydrangea of the Year

Photo by: Proven Winners.

QUICK FIRE®Buy now from Proven Winners

Habit: Upright bushy habit
Height/Spread: 6 to 8 feet tall & wide
Bloom time: Summer to fall
Color: White flowers age to pink; green foliage, gold and burgundy fall color

Quick Fire® blooms earlier than most other panicle hydrangea varieties, beginning in early July. Flowers open to white, turning pink before aging to deep rose-pink in fall. Unlike most panicle hydrangeas, this variety produces brilliant fall foliage in shades of gold and burgundy that stand out against the dark pink blooms. Use as hedging, an accent in a mixed border, or stand-alone focal point.

Photo by: Proven Winners.

PUFFER FISH™Buy now from Proven Winners

Habit: Compact bushy habit
Height/Spread: 3 to 5 feet tall & wide
Bloom time: Summer to fall
Color: White flowers with hints of lime-green age to pink; green foliage

Large fluffy blooms are especially prolific, covering the entire plant. Blooms open to pure white, fading to lime green, with new white flower panicles emerging at the tips. This compact variety is suitable for small yards, containers, and foundation plantings.

Photo by: Proven Winners.

LITTLE QUICK FIRE®Buy now from Proven Winners

Habit: Compact bushy habit
Height/Spread: 3 to 5 feet tall & wide
Bloom time: Early to late summer
Color: White flowers age to deep pink; green foliage

This dwarf form of Quick Fire® is especially compact, suitable for small spaces, containers, hedging, and edging. Plants bloom a month earlier than many other panicle hydrangeas. Flowers open to white, fading to pink-red through the summer. Lightly prune to shape as needed.

Photo by: Proven Winners.

TINY QUICK FIRE™Buy now from Proven Winners

Habit: Dwarf bushy habit
Height/Spread: 18 to 36 inches tall, 24 to 36 inches wide
Bloom time: Early to late summer
Color: White flowers age to pink; green foliage

This dwarf variety is the smallest of the Quick Fire® series. The rounded blooms open to white, fading to pink in late summer. Plant this diminutive shrub in containers, at the front of a border, in mass plantings, and for edging.

Photo by: Proven Winners.

BOBO®Buy now from Proven Winners

Habit: Dwarf bushy habit
Height/Spread: 30 to 36 inches tall, 36 to 48 inches wide
Bloom time: Early summer to early fall
Color: White flowers age to pink; green foliage

One of the most popular panicle hydrangea varieties, Bobo® blooms prolifically with large conical flower heads that nearly smother the entire plant. The blooms are held upright on sturdy stems, with snowy white coloring that ages to pink in fall. Use this dwarf variety in containers, mass plantings, as hedging, or in foundation plantings.

Photo by: Proven Winners.

FIRE LIGHT TIDBIT®Buy now from Proven Winners

Habit: Dwarf bushy habit
Height/Spread: 2 to 3 feet tall, 3 feet wide
Bloom time: Early summer to fall
Color: White flowers age to pink-red; green foliage, burgundy and red fall color

Large showy flower panicles appear in early to mid-summer, smothering the entire plant. Blooms start out white, aging to vivid pink-red, holding their color well until frost. The brilliant fall foliage, an unusual trait for panicle hydrangeas, comes in variable shades of red and burgundy. Plant this dwarf variety in mass plantings, mixed borders, containers, or as low hedging.

Photo by: Proven Winners.

FIRE LIGHT®Buy now from Proven Winners

Habit: Upright bushy habit
Height/Spread: 6 to 8 feet tall and wide
Bloom time: Early summer to fall
Color: Creamy white flowers age to red; green foliage

Fire Light® is an exceptionally showy variety, with huge full flower heads borne on upright sturdy stems. Flowers emerge creamy white, aging to vibrant red for stunning color all summer long. Use this medium-sized variety in foundation plantings, as hedging, in mixed borders, or as a stand-alone accent in an island bed. The colorful flowers make a great addition to fresh or dried arrangements.

Photo by: Proven Winners.

PINKY WINKY®Buy now from Proven Winners

Habit: Upright bushy habit
Height/Spread: 6 to 8 feet tall and wide
Bloom time: Mid-summer to early fall
Color: White and pink flowers; green foliage

Pinky Winky® has oversized flowers up to 16 inches long that open in mid to late summer, lasting into fall. The white flowers age to pink around the base, producing new white florets at the tips for a stunning two-toned effect. Plant this medium-sized bush in borders, beds, foundation plantings, or as a stand-alone accent.

Photo by: Proven Winners.

LITTLE LIME®Buy now from Proven Winners

Habit: Compact bushy habit
Height/Spread: 3 to 5 feet tall and wide
Bloom time: Summer to fall
Color: Lime-green flowers age to pink; green foliage

This variation of ‘Limelight’ has a smaller stature, with strong upright stems and prolific bloom. Rounded conical flower heads start out pale lime-green, obtaining hints of pink before aging to deep pink in fall. This medium-sized variety is suitable as hedging, in foundation plantings, or massed in the landscape.

Photo by: Proven Winners.

PEEGEE HYDRANGEA
Hydrangea paniculata 'Grandiflora'

Habit: Upright bushy habit
Height/Spread: 10 to 20 feet tall, 8 to 16 feet wide
Bloom time: Mid-summer into fall
Color: White flowers age to pale pink; green foliage

Peegee hydrangea is an older standard variety, valued for its larger size and tolerance of different growing conditions. Pure white flowers 6 to 8 inches long develop hints of soft pink as they age. This larger variety is often grown as a tree form, developing an elegant vase-shaped habit. Use as screening, hedging, in borders, or as a focal point in an island bed.

Photo by: Proven Winners.

'TARDIVA'
Hydrangea paniculata 'Tardiva'

Habit: Bushy habit
Height/Spread: 8 to 12 feet tall, 7 to 10 feet wide
Bloom time: Late summer to fall
Color: White flowers age to pink; green foliage

‘Tardiva’ blooms later than most other panicle hydrangea varieties, producing long, slender conical panicles with loose, open form. Flowers start out snowy white, fading to blush pink. Use as informal hedging, in beds, borders, or foundation plantings. This classic variety is one of the most cold-hardy.

LANDSCAPING WITH PANICLE HYDRANGEAS

There are many ways to use panicle hydrangeas in your landscape. Here’s how:

For borders and landscapes: Grow in a mixed border, woodland garden, foundation planting, as hedging or screening, in mass plantings, or as a stand-alone accent in a lawn.

For slopes and hillsides: Mass along a slope, hillside, or steep bank to help stem erosion.

For containers: Smaller specimens including bush or tree types can be grown in containers on a deck or patio, or as a focal point in the landscape.

  • Use a taller variety as a background plant in a mixed border.
  • Plant a larger showy specimen in an island bed to break up a large expanse of lawn.
  • Plant a smaller to medium sized variety as hedging to divide garden rooms.
  • Grow a small to medium-sized variety in a foundation planting with other shrubs that bloom at different times for season-long color.
  • Plant a larger specimen at the end of a pathway as a focal point to draw the eye through the landscape.
  • Line a pathway with a small or medium-sized variety for a long-lasting showy display.
  • Place a dwarf or tree form in a decorative container and display on a deck, patio, or near an entryway for a dramatic focal point.
  • Plant a medium to large variety in a row as screening along a fence or property line.

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