Hydrangea Varieties + Growing Tips

Hydrangeas are a beautiful summer shrub that abundantly produce colorful, globe-like blooms. They’re fast growers and, depending on the variety chosen, can quickly add dramatic, full foliage to yards with a large footprint.

Hydrangeas at Garden Heights Nursery in St. Louis

The term “hydrangea” is merely the genus name for all varieties of hydrangeas. Likewise, it’s important to know the different varieties as well as their growing patterns and needs before selecting one for your yard. Keep reading to learn about each hydrangea variety available at Garden Heights as well as a few tips for hydrangea care!

Hydrangea Varieties

Hydrangea Macrophylla (or Hortensia)- Bigleaf Hydrangea

Hydrangea Macrophylla- Oak Leaf Hydrangea, Red n Pretty Hydrangea at Garden Heights Nursery in St. Louis

This variety is what people normally think of when they think of hydrangeas. Its leaves grow to be about six inches in length, and blooms are hemispherical or even fully globe-like! This hydrangea grows best in areas of medium shade with cool, moist soil.

Here are a few types of hydrangea macrophylla available this season at Garden Heights! We’ve included the colors of their blooms to make them recognizable while you’re shopping!

  • Lemon Daddy- Chartreuse

  • Blushing Bride- White

  • Pink Elf- Pink (Dwarf variety)

  • Wedding Gown- White

  • Twist-n-Shout- Pink or Periwinkle

Depending on the soil pH, hydrangea macrophylla that bloom blue or pink can even change color! This is a common trait of hydrangeas, but not all varieties respond as readily as hydrangea macrophylla. When grown in alkaline soil, blooms will turn pink or purple-red, and in acidic soil they’ll turn blue or purple. Many materials such as coffee grounds (acidic), compost (acidic), lime (alkaline), and aluminum sulfate (acidic) can be used to alter the soil pH.

The Twist-n-Shout hydrangea is a perfect one to start with if you want to experiment with this unique property! Only start attempting to change their color one or two years after planting, and it may take up to a year of changing the acidity of the soil to see results. The waiting is worth it, though, and you’ll see blooms the color of your choice for seasons afterward!

Hydrangea Quercifolia- Oak Leaf Hydrangea

Hydrangea Quercifolia- Oak Leaf Hydrangea at Garden Heights Nursery in St. Louis

This variety, also known as the Oak Leaf hydrangea, likes shade and doesn’t require very much attention. It can survive in dryer conditions than most hydrangeas and doesn’t require pruning. Quercifolia produces conical, white blooms full of either single or double-blossom flowers and grows to be about four to six feet tall.

Hydrangea Serrata

Hydrangea Serrata at Garden Heights Nursery in St. Louis

This shade-loving hydrangea produces blue, lilac, or pink blooms and blooms on old wood (stems that formed during the previous growing season and before). Although very similar to hydrangea macrophylla in color and habit, hydrangea serrata is more compact (growing two to four feet tall and wide) with smaller flowers and leaves. Its flowers appear in small, lacecap clusters with color-altering ability, similar to hydrangea macrophylla. More contained in size, this variety is perfect for planting near patios or closer to the house.

Hydrangea Arborescens- Smooth Hydrangea

This hydrangea is a Missouri Native (originating from Anna, Illinois in fact!) and produces dome-shaped flowers that are two to six inches wide. Unlike hydrangeas quercifolia and serrata, hydrangea arborescens is sun-loving, needing about four to eight hours of sun per day. This hydrangea is easy to grow and can be planted with other natives for a garden that helps preserve Missouri’s unique plant and animal ecosystem!

Hydrangea Arborescens- Incrediball at Garden Heights Nursery in St. Louis

The Incrediball Smooth Hydrangea pictured above produces beautiful basketball-size blooms! Other varieties available at Garden Heights include Annabelle, Lil’ Annie (a dwarf hydrangea), and Invincibelle Mini Mauvette.

Hydrangea Paniculata- Panicle Hydrangea

Hydrangea Paniculata- Little Lime, at Garden Heights Nursery in St. Louis

Another sun-loving hydrangea, hydrangea paniculata is named for its pinnacle-shaped blooms that appear midsummer into fall. This variety is a reliable grower and is available as either a patio tree or a dwarf shrub! Larger hydrangea paniculata varieties can be eight to fifteen feet tall in maturity, growing up to two feet per year, whereas the dwarf shrubs can be as little as three feet tall and wide. A fun tip- for larger flowers, you can prune this plant back to having only five to ten primary shoots.

This hydrangea is one of our best-sellers at Garden Heights due to the wide array of dwarf varieties we have available! Dwarf varieties have large blooms that almost take over the plant due to their compact habit, making them a perfect focal point when planted in bunches or as a border. Also due to their size, dwarf paniculatas are some of the best hydrangeas for growing in containers!

Here are a few varieties we love of dwarf paniculatas to help with your garden planning:

  • Bobo: White flowers that turn pink in autumn and cover the plant all the way to the ground! Even better, its thick, strong stems reduce flopping and sagging blooms.

  • Little Lime: Produces soft green blooms at first, which turn rich pink toward autumn. This hydrangea is a perfect addition to a cut flower garden and is a favorite for containers.

  • Little Quick Fire: This dwarf hydrangea blooms a whole month before most other hydrangeas, producing white flowers that turn pink-red later in the summer. It’s drought tolerant and perfect for extending your garden’s hydrangea season!

Stop by to see our full selection of hydrangea paniculatas, and we’d love to help you select just the right one!

Hydrangea Anomala- Climbing Hydrangea

Hydrangea Anomala Petiolaris- at Garden Heights Nursery in St. Louis

Although slow-growing and shrubby at first, established climbing hydrangeas expand rapidly and add dramatic, lacecap blooms to walls, trees, or stonewalls in your yard. Be sure to plant in an area with moist soil and afternoon shade, and use a phosphorus-rich fertilizer in earlier spring to encourage more blooms!

Growing Tips

Although each variety of hydrangea has unique needs, here are some general hydrangea care instructions and growing tips:


As a general rule for pruning, wait until new growth comes out in Spring and prune any dead wood. It used to be that hydrangeas only bloomed on last year’s growth, but certain new varieties can bloom on both old wood and new. Likewise it’s important to know what variety you have planted and plan your pruning accordingly. Hydrangea aborescens and paniculata, for example, respond well when reduced in size in the spring, and the pruning will encourage blooms on new wood. Pruning new wood on hydrangea macrophylla, though, should be avoided as it could remove potential new blooms.


Water deeply once a week and more often during the hottest summer weeks.

Soil and Drainage:

Hydrangeas can handle moisture better than dryness, so be sure to plant in a soil that won’t dry out and mulch to ensure moisture retention. Add compost when first transplanting to ensure hydrangeas have adequate nutrients to adjust to their new environment. Hydrangea macrophylla and quercifolia particularly prefer more acidic soil.


Fertilize hydrangeas once in early spring, and use a phosphorus-rich fertilizer to encourage more blooms!

We hope this post has prepared you for a beautiful summer of hydrangea care, and as always, we’d love to help you pick out the perfect hydrangeas to fill your garden!

Click here to view all of our seasonally available varieties, or stop by today!


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See you soon!