10 Unique Hydrangea Varieties to Diversify Your Garden
Think beyond the more common iterations.
Hydrangeas are flowering shrubs that lose their leaves in the fall, only to produce new ones during the next growing season. And while they are plenty popular in border gardens, they can be placed almost anywhere along your landscape—so long as their needs are met in that specific locale, that is. Speaking of their needs: Different hydrangea varieties have unique requirements when it comes to water, sunlight, and soil. Traditionally, these plants prefer to be grown in shady areas that offer their thirsty root systems plenty of water and in acidic soil, which can influence the color of the blooms the shrub produces. That doesn't mean that hydrangeas don't also thrive in locales with drier seasons and sunnier skies, though. Just look to more southern states—hydrangeas grow readily there.
There's plenty to love about hydrangeas, but one major perk is their extended bloom time; with hundreds of varieties that blossom at different times of the year, beginning in the spring and running through fall, there's a shrub for each and every garden. Due to the wide range of hydrangea options available on the market now, you can find everything from petite versions small enough to be grown in a container on your patio or plants that climb up structures and achieve major height over time.
Particularly enthusiastic hydrangea lovers might be intrigued by varieties not typically found at local nurseries. If this sounds familiar, you will enjoy planting a few unique shrubs in your garden; these rare beauties will quickly become a landscape focal point. Ahead, some hydrangea standouts to consider adding to your floral treasure collection.
Candy Lips Pink Hydrangea
It's the bi-color blooms make the "Candy Lips Pink" hydrangea unique, according to Joyce Mast, an expert affiliated with Bloomscape. "As the flowers mature, they display bright watermelon pink with touches of green," she says. Once the flower begins to age, the lime green fades. This variety blooms throughout the spring and loves morning sun and afternoon shade. If you want to add one to your yard, plan on giving it plenty of water; they tend to wilt when they're thirsty.
In early summer, the blooms of an "Incrediball" hydrangea will arrive in their creamy green glory. As the flowers develop, pristine stark white blooms appear—and they hold their color all summer long, notes Mast. "As fall approaches, the large blooms tend to revert to jade green again." The gist? This iteration will put on a show that lasts throughout the summer and well into fall. If you want to add one to your yard, place it in a spot where it receives sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon. They can be grown in USDA Hardiness Zones three through nine, but they are native to the eastern United States.
Pinky Winky Hydrangea
Unusually shaped blooms make the "Pinky Winky" hydrangea a stand-out. In mid-summer, the flowers begin to blossom with white florets, adds Mast. The florets at the base turn a bright pink as they age, giving the existing blooms a two-tone effect, one that perpetuates into the fall. This variety prefers full or partial sun and, unlike many other options, doesn't require extensive watering. Native to China and Japan, this variety can survive in USDA Hardiness Zones three through nine.
Anomala Petiolaris Hydrangea
Unlike its shrub cousins, the Anomala Petiolaris hydrangea prefers to climb. "While it doesn't have the same kind of showy flowers as more classic versions, it's cool because it will climb up a wall or a fence," explains landscape designer Blythe Yost, the CEO and co-founder of Tilly Design. "Once it gets going, it doesn't need support because it has aerial roots that will cling to a wall." You'll just need to be careful, because like ivy, these roots can get left behind when the vine is removed (which can make it difficult to transplant). Native to Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, this hydrangea thrives in USDA Hardiness Zones four through eight and in partial- to full-shade landscapes with plenty of room (it will need space to grow!).
The Paniculata, or "Bobo" hydrangea, is a dwarf panicle hydrangea that's ideal for smaller spaces; it produces a ton of blooms relative to its size, notes Yost. The flowers, which grow on sturdy stems that are resistant to flopping, fade to pink in the fall through a process that is sometimes referred to as antiquing. Originally native to China and Japan, these dwarf shrubs—which are most often successful in USDA Hardiness Zones three through nine—require partial shade to full sun and well-draining soil.
Macrophylla "Glowing Embers" Hydrangea
Although the "Glowing Embers" hydrangea is often considered red, Yost disagrees; she's always found it to bloom a very deep, saturated purple. "This color is a total showstopper and not something I've seen readily from other varieties," she adds. Blooming from summer through the fall, the iteration will fill your yard with color, so long as it is kept in the shade. These richly-hued beauties are native to Germany, but can be grown in USDA Hardiness Zones seven through nine.
Macrophylla "Twist and Shout" Hydrangea
The "Twist and Shout" variety has two kinds of blooms on one flower head, giving the blossom a lacy feel, says Yost. "A variety of the 'Endless Summer' collection that blooms twice per season," she says of this bloom. The mix of larger and smaller blooms are what make this variety truly unique. Plant this rare gem in an area where it will receive partial shade throughout the day; native to Japan, they prefer USDA Hardiness Zones four through nine.
The detail that sets the "Oakleaf" hydrangea (Hydrangea Quercifolia) apart from the rest is, at its name implies, the large, oak-shaped leaves. "They have this ability to have a striking presence during every season," explains Ryan Zawojski, the owner and lead designer at RYZ Designs. "In the winter, they have a beautiful flaky maple-colored silhouette." When spring hits, their leaves reveal a lime green bud that twists out into large oak-shaped leaves. Come summer, Next, large while barrel inflorescence covers the entire shrub. In fall, the flowers dry out and hold their form while the leaves start to turn an array of colors from a dark purple to a golden yellow. They thrive in both shade and partial sun exposure; native to the United States, these grow in USDA Hardiness Zones five through nine.
"Plum Passion" Hydrangea
The "Plum Passion" is a "Lacecap" iteration, but unlike the other species in this family, this one has stunning foliage. "The new growth is a dramatic green with just a hint of purple," explains Georgia Clay, the plants manager at Monrovia. "As the foliage ages, it turns a deep purple with plum undersides." In fall, expect the tops of the leaves to turn gold, while the bottoms remain purple. "Its bicolor blooms also feature pink-white florets that surround the fertile flowers," Clay adds, noting that this a must-have for hydrangea enthusiasts. Native to China, you can grow this beauty in an area with filtered sunlight and evenly moist soil in USDA Hardiness Zones seven through 10.
"Seaside Serenade Cape Lookout" Hydrangea
The blooms of "Seaside Serenade Cape Lookout" hydrangea put on quite a show, says Clay. "Starting out pale green, the large flowers open to a bright white," she says. "Then as the flowers age, they take on a soft pink hue. In the fall, the dark-green leaves turn a wonderful bronze color." These are especially pretty when they are planted in groups, but the "Cape Lookout" makes a terrific container plant, as well. To add one to your landscape, plant it in an area with filtered sunlight, partial shade, or partial sun in soil that retains moisture. This variety is native to the coastal United States, which is where it thrives; it grows well in USDA Hardiness Zones four through nine.