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Charlie Nardozzi

Professional Gardening Expert

Best Blue Hydrangea & Best Hydrangeas

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Once considered your “grandma’s flower”, this widely grown group of shrubs is enjoying a revival of late. No plant rivals the hydrangea when it comes to midsummer blooming shrubs. This diverse group of plants is composed of species native to North and South America, and Asia. However, only five species are commonly grown in the United States. Not only are these shrubs diverse, they produce spectacular flowers that bloom for months into the fall. Some varieties are small enough to be grown in containers. Others grow as large as small trees. One species has a climbing habit and is a great choice for a partly shaded arbor or trellis.

Perhaps the most popular hydrangeas are the blue flowered varieties (Hydrangea macrophylla). These mophead, French, or bigleaf hydrangeas actually have the unique habit of being able to change the color of their flower. A gardener can match colors with other shrubs by raising or lowering the soil pH (acidity or alkalinity). The more acid the soil, the bluer the flower becomes. The more alkaline the soil, the more the flower turns pink. A lacecap version of this hydrangea species has large sterile flower petals surrounding smaller, fertile flowers for an intriguing effect. While older varieties of blue hydrangeas often don’t consistently flower in the North, newer varieties are more reliable and have longer flowering times.

Most hydrangea species thrive in fertile, well-drained, moist soils. Most grow in full sun; however, many will also grow and bloom in partial shade, which makes it ideal for many yards with large trees or a building nearby. In warm climates, provide frequent watering so your hydrangea can tolerate more sun and heat.

The hardiest hydrangea is the panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata). It can be grown into a small tree. One type of hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) has attractive oak-shaped leaves. Another has large “snowball-like” white flowers. It grows quickly in spring from new growth to flowering.

Some varieties, such as ‘Annabelle,’ have been around for years, but are still considered exceptional. Others are new to the trade and worth trying in your landscape.

Find the best hydrangea plants with the help of our experts. We suggest the best hydrangeas in bright colors, from red to blue hydrangea that will enliven your garden.

Best Hydrangeas by Charlie Nardozzi

The Best You Can Get

  • Annabelle

    Charlie says: This smooth-leafed hydrangea is known for its widely adaptability and large, six-inch diameter, white “snowball-like” flowers that bloom for up to two months in summer. It’s more tolerant of full sun than other hydrangeas. The flowers are so large they will bend to the ground after a rain and may need staking. The plants die back to the ground in cold areas in winter and flower on new growth each summer. Pruning in winter in warm areas helps promote stronger stems and less flopping. This is an easy to grow and care for landscape shrub.

    • Hydrangea arborescens
    • Hardy in zones 4 to 9
    • Grows 3 to 5 feet tall and wide
    • Flowers are white, fading to green with age
    • Plant in mass in a mixed shrub border or along a building
  • Endless Summer

    Charlie says: This mophead or bigleaf hydrangea took the hydrangea world by storm in 2003 when it was introduced. It is one of the first blue hydrangeas that flowers on the old and new wood. This means "Endless Summer" can flower reliably in cold winter areas where other mophead hydrangea usually don’t. Even if the tops of ‘Endless Summer’ are winter killed, the new shoots will flower in midsummer. "Endless Summer" flowers for up to three months; first on the surviving old wood and then on new wood. The flower color is blue if the pH is below 5.5 or pink if the soil pH is above 6. This versatile variety is equally at home in a perennial flower border or a container.

    • Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Bailmer’
    • Hardy in zones 4 to 9
    • Grows 3 to 5 feet tall and wide
    • Flowers are blue or pink, depending on the soil pH
    • Great as a small shrub in a border with perennials and other flowers
  • Limelight

    Charlie says: This shrub is one of the hardiest hydrangeas available and tolerates full sun better than other species. It produces 6- to 12-inch wide and long flowers in midsummer until frost. The colorful flowers complement the yellow fall foliage color. This drought tolerant shrub does well in urban settings withstanding heat and pollution. It flowers on new wood each year, so even if winter injured, it will produce blooms the following summer. It’s great used as a dried cut flower as well.

    • Hydrangea paniculata
    • Hardy in zones 3 to 9
    • Grows 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide
    • Flowers start out chartreuse-green, turn white, and then deep pink by fall
    • This large shrub is best used as a foundation or hedge plant
  • Lady in Red

    Charlie says: This heat-tolerant, mildew-resistant, lacecap hydrangea features three seasons of color. It has bright red stems and leaf veins from spring through fall. The 4-inch wide blossoms mature from white to pink to a deep red by midsummer. Often there are three colors of blossoms on the plant at the same time. The fall foliage color is reddish-burgundy. Flowers are formed on old wood only.

    • Hydrangea macrophylla
    • Hardy in zones 5 to 9
    • Grows 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide
    • Flowers open as a blushed white and turn red
    • Best planted as a small shrub in a border with perennials and other flowers
  • Snow Queen

    Charlie says: This native hydrangea features 12- to 15-inch long white flowers in midsummer that fade to pink with age. The dark green, oakleaf-shaped foliage turns a maroon color in fall. The bark exfoliates in winter adding to the four seasons of interest. The stems are strong enough to hold the flowers upright and off the ground. The plant is disease resistant and tolerates deer browsing.

    • Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Flemygea’
    • Hardy in zones 5 to 9
    • Grows 4 to 6 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide
    • Flowers are white fading to pink
    • Best used as a foundation plant, naturalized plant in a woodland or a hedge plant

You will be happy with any of these

  • All Summer Beauty

    Charlie says: Like the widely popular "Nikko Blue" variety, this bigleaf or mophead hydrangea has large blue or pink flowers depending on the soil pH. "All Summer Beauty" also blooms on the old and new wood similar to "Endless Summer", so is a good blue hydrangea choice for cold climates.

    • Hydrangea macrophylla
    • Hardy in zones 5 to 9
    • Grows 3 to 4 feet tall, 3 to 5 feet wide
    • Flowers are blue or pink depending on the soil pH, turn apple green with age
    • Best planted in a mixed perennial flower border or masses in a hedge
  • Climbing Hydrangea

    Charlie says: Unlike most of the other hydrangea species, this Japanese native needs support and is best grown on a strong structure, as this climber can get large with age. It can also be grown as a groundcover over rocky areas. The white, lacecap, 6-to 8-inch diameter flowers form in early summer. The heart-shaped leaves grow on 3-foot wide branches that can quickly cover a trellis. The bark on older vines exfoliates and has a red color. The plant is shade and drought tolerant. It can be slow to get established.

    • Hydrangea anomala petiolaris
    • Hardy in zones 4 to 9
    • Climbing, it grows up to 50 feet tall at maturity
    • Flowers are white
    • Great plant for climbing up a tall tree, trellis, arbor, or fence
  • Mini-Penny

    Charlie says: This mophead or bigleaf hydrangea features a compact growth habit that makes it an excellent shrub for low perennial borders. The 3- to 4-inch diameter blue or pink flowers form on old and new wood, so "Mini-Penny" blooms from early summer until fall. It has mildew resistant foliage.

    • Hydrangea macrophylla
    • Hardy in zones 5 to 9
    • Grows 3 feet wide and tall in a compact form
    • Flowers are blue or pink depending on the soil pH
    • Best grown in containers or in the front of low borders
  • Pee Gee

    Charlie says: Often trained to a single trunk with arching branches, this hardy hydrangea is a stalwart in many public and private landscapes. If allowed to grow into a shrub, it can reach 12 feet wide. In late summer "Pee Gee" produces 18-inch long white flowers that fade to pink and eventually brown. The flowers are often used for cutting and drying.

    • Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’
    • Hardy in zones 3 to 8
    • Grows 10 to 15 feet tall and wide
    • Flowers are white fading to pink and burgundy in fall
    • Best as a specimen shrub or massed in a hedge
  • Shooting Star

    Charlie says: This lacecap hydrangea features double, star-shaped, white flowers in early summer that can last for up to two months. Unlike other lacecap hydrangeas, if used as a cut flower this selection has sterile flowers that won’t drop pollen on a table. This variety is often used by florists to make bouquets for the holidays.

    • Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Hanabi’
    • Hardy in zones 5 to 10
    • Grows 3 to 5 feet tall and wide
    • Flowers are white and double
    • Best used in mixed perennial flower borders or with other similar-sized shrubs

Related Articles

The best hydrangea are making a comeback, no longer your grandma's flower but everyone's favorite. These hydrangeas feature midsummer blooming shrubs that add a touch of diversity to your garden. Choose from the best blue hydrangea, red hydrangea and other colors that brighten your yard with gorgeous blooms.