14 Beautiful Hydrangea Varieties

Hortensias
Getty Images

In containers or in the ground, few plants give gardeners the same bang for their buck as the hydrangea. Lacecap, oak leaf, and large-leafed hydrangeas bring diverse texture and form to the summer landscape. Gardeners who crave colors from the cool side of the color wheel, including pink, purple, white, and blue, will delight in the mix of hydrangea hues that are available, sometimes even on a single shrub. Hydrangeas are best planted in moist, rich soil. This is the rare flowering shrub that does fairly well in shady conditions, but for best performance, most hydrangeas do like to experience some sun in the morning.

Most commercially available hydrangea cultivars are derived from a relatively few species of the hydrangea genus: H. arborscens (smooth hydrangea), H. macrophylla (big leaf hydrangea), H. paniculata (panicle hydrangea), H. anomala (climbing hydrangea), H. quercifolia (oakleaf hydrangea), and H. serrata (mountain hydrangea).

Hydrangeas Are Toxic

The buds, flowers, and leaves of hydrangeas contain glycoside amygdalin, which can break down to produce cyanide. People, dogs, cats, and horses can be poisoned by hydrangea, although very large quantities need to be eaten for the effects to be severe. Symptoms include stomach distress and sometimes bloody diarrhea. See medical attention if a child or pet has ingested any parts of a hydrangea plant.

  • 01 of 14

    INCREDIBALL Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens 'Abetwo' INCREDIBALL)

    Incrediball Hydrangea

     

    skymoon13 / Getty Images 

    If sometimes plant breeders are guilty of hyperbole in their plant name selections, this is not the case with Incrediball—the commercial name for the 'Abetwo' cultivar of H. arborescens. In spite of the huge, densely packed 12-inch flowers the shrub produces in abundance, the sturdy stems on this plant will not allow the flowers on this white hydrangea to flop in the mud. One potted plant will make a gorgeous anchor in your summer border, or you can plant several for a showy hedge. 

    • Native Area: H. orborescens is native to the eastern U.S.
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 9
    • Height: 4 to 5 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • 02 of 14

    'Nikko Blue' Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla 'Nikko Blue')

    Nikko Blue Hydrangea


    Han Xiang Chua / Getty Images

    Keep your soil on the acidic side if you want to achieve the bluest blooms possible from your 'Nikko Blue' hydrangea bush. This mophead variety blooms earlier than most, usually beginning in June and endures for two months. Provide winter protection in zone 5, as flowers are produced on old wood. This is a cultivar of H. macrophylla, which is also known as bigleaf hydrangea.

    • Native Area: H. macrophylla is native to Japan
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 6 to 9
    • Height: 4 to 6 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
  • 03 of 14

    Limelight Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight')

    Limelight Hydrangea

    Leonora Enking / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Green flowers are the little black dresses of the gardening world: they flatter all situations. The chartreuse flowers of 'Limelight hydrangeas age to a mellow pink as the season progresses. Plants bloom on new wood, making this a very hardy selection in cold areas. Although 'Limelight' is a slightly more compact cultivar of H. paniculata, it is still a fast grower that has been known to reach a height of 10 feet; in smaller spaces, look for its dwarf cousin 'Little Lime. 

    • Native Area: H. paniculata is native to China and Japan
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8
    • Height: 6 to 8 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • 04 of 14

    'Cityline® Mars' Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla 'Cityline®Mars')

    Cityline Mars Picotee Hydrangea

    Donald Hamilton/Getty Images

    A picotee petal adds a little bling to your hydrangea collection. The dwarf plant is the perfect addition to your patio garden. Like other Hydrangea macrophylla varieties, soil pH affects bloom color. 'Cityline® Mars' shrubs may even sport multiple colors on the same bush the season following installation as the plants adjust to your unique soil chemistry. The specimen shown here is situated in a garden with a neutral pH, which results in a purple shade hovering just between blue and pink. Maintaining such a narrow pH range is easier to do with container culture than in the ground. 

    • Native Area: H. macrophylla is native to Japan
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 9
    • Height: 1 to 3 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    Continue to 5 of 14 below.
  • 05 of 14

    'Zinfin Doll' Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'Zinfin Doll')

    Zinfin Doll Hydrangea

    F. D. Richards / Flickr / CC By 2.0 

    The strawberries and cream coloration of 'Zinfin Doll' hydrangea will not fade in full sun and attracts butterflies all summer long. Although classified as a panicle hydrangea, the full blooms of 'Zinfin Doll' are lush, like those of a mophead hydrangea. No special pH alterations are necessary to achieve the color change from white to pink; it occurs naturally as a consequence of aging. 

    • Native Area: H.paniculata is native to China and Japan
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8
    • Height: 4 to 6 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • 06 of 14

    Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris)

    Climbing Hydrangea
    Photo: Perry Mastrovito/Getty Images

    Anyone who inherits a climbing hydrangea specimen, as pictured here, is lucky. Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris is notoriously slow to get growing. However, once this self-clinging vine gets established, it may climb and sprawl 40 feet or more onto fences, structures, and trees. For added interest, look for the variegated climbing hydrangea 'Miranda' (H. petiolaris subsp. petiolaris 'Miranda'), which features creamy yellow leaf margins in addition to 10-inch flower heads. 

    • Native Area: Himalayas and China
    • USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 to 8
    • Height: 30 to 50 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
  • 07 of 14

    'Gatsby Pink' Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia 'Gatsby Pink®')

    Gatsby Pink Hydrangea

    Through the Greenhouse Glass

    Gardeners who cherish North American native plants should not miss the showy oakleaf hydrangea cultivar 'Gatsby Pink'. A season-long spectacle of color, flowers start white and change to pink, then the foliage joins the display with a brilliant red autumn showing. Because the plants bloom on old wood, panicle hydrangeas like 'Gatsby Pink' require a garden in zone 5 or warmer to prevent winter damage that affects future growth. 

    • Native Area: H. quercifolia is native to the southeastern U.S.
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 9
    • Height: 6 to 8 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • 08 of 14

    'BloomStruck' Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla Endless Summer® 'BloomStruck®')

    Bloomstruck Hydrangea

     

    Jennifer Blount / Getty Images 

    Hydrangeas in the Endless Summer series defy harsh winters by blooming on both new and old wood. 'BloomStruck' is the fourth introduction in the series, sporting deep purple or rose blossoms on four-foot plants. Confused about the effect soil pH has on bloom color? Look for the Color Me Pink or Color Me Blue garden lime and sulfur kits to take the guesswork out of your hydrangea flower color. 

    • Native Area: H. macrophylla is native to Japan
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9
    • Height: 3 to 4 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
    Continue to 9 of 14 below.
  • 09 of 14

    'Blue Deckle' Hydrangea (Hydrangea serrata 'Blue Deckle')

    Blue Deckle Hydrangea

    Cora Niele/Getty Images

    Hydrangea serrata 'Blue Deckle' is a dwarf lacecap type that will thrive in the dappled sunlight of tall deciduous trees in zone 6 and warmer gardens. This late-blooming type that peaks in July and August has more in store for you when autumn arrives, as the brilliant red and purple leaves rival any fall foliage display sought by leaf peepers. 

    • Native Area: H. serrata is native to Japan, Korea
    • USDA Hardiness Zone: 6 to 9
    • Height: 3 to 4 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
  • 10 of 14

    'Eldorado' Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla 'Eldorado')

    El Dorado Hydrangea

    Neil Holmes/Getty Images

    If your garden is saturated with blue and pink, maybe it is time to spice up the landscape with a little red shrub such as the 'Eldorado' bigleaf hydrangea cultivar. This medium-sized mop head hydrangea blooms in the fall in acidic or neutral soil

    • Native Area: H. macrophylla is native to Japan
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 6 to 9
    • Height: 3 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • 11 of 14

    'You and Me Together' Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla 'You and Me® Together')

    You and Me Together Hydrangea

    Photos Lamontagne/Getty Images

    'You and Me® Together' is a double-flowered form that gives you a much more dense flower head than your typical bigleaf macrophylla varieties. Pair with others in the You and Me series for a rich floral display

    • Native Area: H. macrophylla is native to Japan
    • USDA Hardiness Zone: 6 to 9
    • Height: 36 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • 12 of 14

    'Madame Emile Mouillere' Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla 'Madame Emile Mouillere')

    Madame Mouillere Hydrangea

    Gilles Le Scanff/Joelle Caroline Mayer/Getty Images

    'Madame Emile Mouillere' is more than just a very hardy and reliable little mophead hydrangea. Although its blooms appear white, it fades to a pale, ethereal blue or dusky pink as the summer progresses. Look for a tinge of blue or pink in the bloom's eye to get a preview of the color progression. 

    • Native Area: H. macrophylla is native to Japan
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 9
    • Height: Up to 6 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Part sun
    Continue to 13 of 14 below.
  • 13 of 14

    'Miss Saori' Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla 'Miss Saori')

    Miss Saori Hydrangea

    National Garden Bureau

    'Miss Saori' made her debut at the 2014 Chelsea Garden Show, where it was declared the Chelsea Plant of the Year. The sterile flowers appear in June, followed by burgundy fall foliage. Creamy double flowers have picotee rose margins, contributing texture and color to the garden not found in any other hydrangea. The plants are compact and controlled in their growth, making them an ideal specimen plant for the middle of the flower border.

    • Native Area: H. macrophylla is native to Japan
    • USDA Hardiness Zone: 5 to 9
    • Height: 3 to 4 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • 14 of 14

    'Unique' Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Unique’)

    Hydrangea paniculata Unique

    Ruth Brown/Getty Images

    'Unique' is a particularly hardy panicle hydrangea that adapts well to training as a tree form. Remove all lower branches to form a central leader, which becomes the trunk of the tree. Plants flower on new wood.

    • Native Area: H. paniculata is native to China and Japan
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8
    • Height: up to 10 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

Hydrangeas are generally a very easy and trouble-free flowering shrub to grow. But a variety of fungal leaf spot diseases are possible, most of which can be prevented by watering at the base of the plant rather than overhead. If bacterial or viral diseases strike, the affected plant parts should be removed and destroyed. This can require removing entire plants in the case of viral diseases.