Summer Showstoppers: Hydrangeas

There are a multitude of summer flowers, but one particular shrub always wows us with beautiful, show-stopping flowers: the hydrangea.  With long-lasting pink, red, white, chartreuse, blue, and violet flower colors, hydrangeas will look right at home in any garden. While there are many species of hydrangeas, I would like to feature a few most often seen growing in PNW gardens.  

Note: the availability of the hydrangeas mentioned in this blog can vary. We would be happy to help choose the best hydrangea for your garden, whether in person or using #heyswansons on social media.

Bigleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)

This classic hydrangea goes by a few different names; Bigleaf, Mophead, Lacecap, and French Hydrangea. There are two distinct flower types within the species: Mophead and Lacecap. Mophead flowers are very recognizable as puffy, round blossoms while Lacecaps have showy florets forming a ring around a center cluster of smaller flowers.

Bigleaf Hydrangeas are native to Japan and prefer growing in a location with evenly moist soil that has protection from our afternoon sun. Both Mophead and Lacecap varieties bloom from June to October in many different colors; white, pink, blue, purple, and even red!

The flower color of some Bigleaf Hydrangea varieties can change over time, as the color is influenced by the soil pH and how easily the plant can absorb aluminum from the soil. Acidic soil allows aluminum to be more easily absorbed by the plant and slowly changes the flower color to blue.  Alkaline soil prevents the absorption of aluminum and the flowers tend to bloom pink. Sometimes Bigleaf hydrangeas can bloom with multiples colors on the same plant! The mature height and width of these hydrangeas varies depending upon individual varieties.

Panicle Hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata)

What’s not to love about Panicle hydrangeas? With many different varieties staying compact or growing tall and wide, there is a Panicle hydrangea to fit any spot in your garden! The name “paniculata” describes the shape of the flowers, resembling a cone. Blooms emerge pure white and as temperatures begins to cool in the fall, the flowers change to stunning colors of pink and red. This species is native to China and Japan and grows well in full sun or part shade. The flowers offer beautiful color from summer to fall.  The mature height and width of these hydrangeas can vary depending upon individual varieties.  

Oakleaf Hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia)

It’s easy to see where Oakleaf Hydrangea gets its name, as the leaves look similar to the shape of Red Oak leaves. Native to the southeastern U.S., Oakleaf hydrangeas offer interest all year long with dark green leaves, summer flowers, stunning fall foliage,and beautiful cinnamon-brown peeling bark in the fall. These hydrangeas grow well in full sun or part shade with moist soil and are perfect for adding a splash of color. Flowers emerge white then turning to striking tones of pinks and reds in the fall. The mature size of Oakleaf hydrangeas can vary depending upon varieties.

Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens)

Smooth hydrangeas, another native of the southeastern U.S., are favorites of many gardeners and are outstanding for planting en masse or in a mixed shrub border. This species blooms from early summer to fall with large, rounded white flower clusters. Unlike other hydrangea species with flowers that start out white, these blossoms emerge lime green and then mature to a bright white. Smooth hydrangea prefers growing in part shade with protection from hot afternoon sun, although can be grown in full sun if regularly watered. The mature size of Smooth hydrangeas depends upon specific varieties.

Annabelle Hydrangea

Whether you have acres of gardening beds, a small backyard or even a single container, there is a hydrangea for every garden. Which hydrangea will you plant this year? Which are your favorites? Let us know in the comments or on social media using #heyswansons. P.S. We love to see your photos!

Photography credits
Teller’s Blue: Great Plant Picks
Limelight: Monrovia
Ruby Slippers: Monrovia
Annabelle: Monrovia
All others: Swansons Nursery