Incrediball Hydrangeas

Description, Pruning Information

Incrediball hydrangea (photo) is so called due to its massive flower head. It's incredible!
Incrediball hydrangea is named for its massive flower head. David Beaulieu

Plant Taxonomy of Incrediball Hydrangeas:

Plant taxonomy classifies this shrub as Hydrangea arborescens 'Abetwo' Incrediballâ„¢. 'Abetwo' is the cultivar name, while "Incrediball" is a trademark name. "Incrediball" was presumably chosen as the name to trumpet the impressive size of the "balls" of flowers (i.e., rounded flower heads). Unfortunately, the name will inevitably be misspelled by many as "Incredible."

Plant Type for Incrediball Hydrangeas:

Broadleaf, deciduous flowering shrubs (bushes).

Characteristics of Incrediball Hydrangea Plants:

Incrediball hydrangea plants exhibit an upright growth habit and will reach a height of 4-5 feet tall, with a similar spread. Flower heads (composed mainly of sepals) are large: My largest so far measured 9 inches across at its widest point. The color is white at their peak, although they start out with a hint of green, which returns as the flower head ages. Mine began blooming in late June this year, and they will continue flowering into fall.

Planting Zones for Incrediball Hydrangea Plants:

Grow Incrediball hydrangeas in planting zones 4-9. Possibly hardy to zone 3 in a suitable microclimate.

Sun and Soil Requirements for Incrediball Hydrangea Plants:

From Spring Meadow Nursery: "If planted in full sun, sufficient moisture is needed. Will require additional watering on hot dry summer. In South, should be planted in partial shade." Color is not effected by soil pH: This is a white hydrangea plant, pure and simple.

Outstanding Feature of Incrediball Hydrangea Plants:

Incrediball hydrangea plants were originally marketed as an improvement on the Annabelle hydrangea. Annabelle had been highly valued for its hardiness, the size of its flowers, and the fact that it blooms on new wood (see below). But Annabelle's branches tend to flop over easily in the rain, as water accumulates in the flower heads. An Annabelle-like hydrangea shrub -- but with stronger branches -- was sought. Incrediball was supposed to be the answer (but see below); and its flower heads turned out to be even bigger and more floriferous than Annabelle's, to boot!

Wildlife Attracted by Incrediball Hydrangeas:

Incrediball hydrangeas are plants that attract butterflies.

Uses for Incrediball Hydrangea Plants:

Incrediball hydrangea plants can be used in the landscape in a number of ways. These shrubs are attractive enough to be used singly as specimen plants. Some will wish to grow them en masse along a property line to form a border, while others may include them in foundation plantings. Their shade tolerance makes them suitable for woodland gardens, although I did notice that mine produced larger flower heads in full sun than in partial shade.

My Impression of Incrediball Hydrangea Plants:

I can confirm the beauty of this shrub's flower heads. And other growers' reports may be able to lend credence to the claim of branch strength. In my own experience, however, the claim about the shrub's strong, no-droop branches didn't hold up: The branches on mine with the largest flower heads not only flopped over after a heavy rain, but actually snapped!

Incrediball Hydrangea Care: Pruning:

Incrediball hydrangea plants and other hydrangea shrubs in the native American "smooth leaf" (arborescens) group (including Invincibelle Spirit, another variety inspired by Annabelle) bloom on new wood. Consequently, the question of when to prune is greatly simplified, because there is no issue of losing flower buds that formed on old wood (the prior year's growth). For the same reason, flower buds won't be killed during a cold winter.

Prune Incrediball hydrangea plants (if, indeed, any pruning is called for, at all) anytime between the first hard frost of fall and early spring. Depending upon your tastes, pruning cuts can be made right down to the ground; new shoots will be generated. Most opt for an early spring pruning, taking advantage of the visual interest the dried flower heads add to the fall yard: Because the flower heads consist mainly of tough sepals, they persist right through autumn (although the color does fade to a tan). People often cut some of the flower heads for use in dried arrangements.