Some sources say there are 23 species of hydrangea, others claim there are 49 and still others say there are as many as 80! However many there are, only six types are commonly grown in American gardens. Check out the information below to compare their characteristics.

‘Endless Summer’ starts blooming early and keeps producing flowers (on new and old wood) throughout the season. Photo by: Susan A. Roth.

Botanical name:

Hydrangea macrophylla

Zones:

5-11

Height/Spread:

6-10 feet/6-10 feet

Exposure:

Part to full shade. Full sun only with consistently moist soil.

Color:

White, pink, blue, purple or red

Bloom time:

June to October

Pruning:

Generally needs little pruning, just tidying up. Remove dead wood as spring growth begins, being careful of flower buds.

Other:


  • Sometimes called French hydrangeas, mopheads or hortensias.
  • Newer varieties bloom on old and new growth, and older cultivars bloom on old wood.
  • Flower color depends on soil composition (see Flower Color)
  • Good for cut flowers.
  • Two flower types: Mophead with large globe-shaped flower heads, and lacecap with flattened head of small flowers surrounded by larger flowers.
  • Common selections: Endless Summer, ‘Nikko Blue’, ‘Tokyo Delight’, Pistachio

'Annabelle' is graced with huge white flower heads for two months in summer. Photo by: Karin Jaehne / Shutterstock.

Botanical name:

Hydrangea arborescens

Zones:

3-9

Height/Spread:

3-5 feet/3-5 feet

Exposure:

Part shade. Full sun only in consistently moist soil.

Color:

White to pink

Bloom time:

June to September

Pruning:

Prune close to the ground every other year in late winter to keep neat and encourage new growth.

Other:


  • Blooms on new growth.
  • Intolerant of drought.
  • May die to the ground in harsh winter.
  • Native to Eastern North America
  • Common selections: ‘Annabelle’, Incrediball, Invincibelle Spirit

The flowers of ‘Limelight’ start off green, then change to white, finally turning pink when the season segues from summer into fall. Photo by: Dmitry Trubitsyn / Shutterstock.

Botanical name:

Hydrangea paniculata

Zones:

3-8

Height/Spread:

8-15 feet/6-12 feet

Exposure:

Full sun to part shade.

Color:

White

Bloom time:

July to September

Pruning:

Prune as needed in late winter/early spring, promotes larger flower clusters.

Other:


  • Blooms on new growth.
  • The most winter hardy variety.
  • Cone-shaped flower heads.
  • Common selections: ‘Limelight’, Pinky Winky, Vanilla Strawberry, Bobo, Little Quick Fire, ‘Grandiflora’ (commonly called PeeGee)

In addition to handsome oaklike foliage and attractively peeling silvery brown bark, Snowflake features footlong, pyramidal, drooping heads of sterile flowers that look like stacked stars. Photo by: Lee Anne White.

Botanical name:

Hydrangea quercifolia

Zones:

5-9

Height/Spread:

6-8 feet/6-8 feet

Exposure:

Full sun to part shade.

Color:

White to purple/pink

Bloom time:

July to September

Pruning:

Prune after flowering as needed, cut back winter-damaged stems in early spring.

Other:


  • Blooms on old wood.
  • Native to the US, found in woodlands throughout the Southeast.
  • Good fall color, flowers change from creamy white to dark rose and leaves to a combination of orange, yellow, red, purple, and burgundy.
  • Common selections: ‘Pee Wee’, ‘Ruby Slippers’, Snowflake

Expect a summer show of creamy white, fragrant lacecap flowers draped along layered branches. Photo by: MBP-Plants / Alamy Stock Photo.

Botanical name:

Hydrangea anomala ssp. petiolaris

Zones:

4-8 (doesn't thrive in zone 7)

Height/Spread:

30-40 feet/5-6 feet (grown upright)

Exposure:

Part to full shade.

Color:

White

Bloom time:

May to July

Pruning:

Prune lightly after the vine is done flowering to control its height and width. Heavy pruning to rejuvenate a damaged plant should be done in late winter or early spring.

Other:


  • Can cover up to 200 square feet if unsupported and grown along the ground.
  • Grow against walls (brick, stone, or wood), on arbors, fences or over low walls.
  • Common selection: ‘Miranda’

Photo by: Mr. Megapixel / Alamy Stock Photo.

Botanical name:

Hydrangea serrata

Zones:

6-9

Height/Spread:

2-4 feet/2-4 feet

Exposure:

Part shade

Color:

Pink or blue

Bloom time:

June to August

Pruning:

Prune after flowering as needed, cut back winter-damaged stems in early spring.

Other:


  • Blooms on old wood.
  • Similar to H. macrophylla (lacecap varieties), but more compact, with smaller flowers and leaves.
  • Good choice for container planting due to its size.
  • Common selections: ‘Blue Billow’, Tuff Stuff, ‘Bluebird’

Free Weekly NewsletterSign up for weekly gardening inspiration and design tips

Join thousands of readers, from avid to casual gardeners, for plant information, gardening solutions, and design inspiration to make the most of your outdoor spaces.

* Required Fields
We will never sell or distribute your email to any other parties or organizations.

More about the newsletter

Follow Us Garden Design Magazine Facebook Garden Design Magazine Twitter Garden Design Magazine Google Plus Garden Design Magazine Pinterest Garden Design Magazine Instagram Garden Design Magazine Youtube

Shop Garden Products

From tools to furniture, these garden products are sure to delight

Discover unique garden products curated by the Garden Design editors, plus items you can use to solve problems in your garden right now, and best sellers from around the web.

Shop Garden Design!