Hydrangea arborescens are mound-shaped, lacecap hydrangeas with cane-like roots (multiple stems coming out of the ground). Dark green, egg-shaped, sharply-toothed leaves turn shades of yellow in fall. Small fertile flowers are less showy than larger sterile flowers. Full sun is tolerated if consistent moisture is provided. Tolerant of poor soil conditions. Can thrive in rain gardens and is useful for erosion control. Plants may die to the ground in harsh winters, but no worries: it blooms on new wood!
For the biggest, most abundant blooms and strongest stems, plant where it gets at least six hours of sun each day. A good layer of shredded bark mulch helps minimize water loss. Cut the entire plant back by about one-third its total height each spring, just as the new growth begins to emerge on stems. This serves to build up a strong, supportive, woody base while also encouraging abundant new growth for plenty of flowers.
The flower color of smooth hydrangeas is not influenced by soil chemistry.
Per the Missouri Botanical Garden, ‘Annabelle’ is a naturally occurring cultivar which was discovered in the wild near Anna, Illinois. It differs from the straight species in having much larger, rounder blooms (resembling large snowballs!) which may lead to the stems falling over under their weight, especially after summer storms. But still a showstopper!
Height: 3-5 ft.
Spread: 4-6 ft.
Bloom time: June to September
Sun: part shade
According to Rutgers University, Hydrangeas are in the category “occasionally severely damaged by deer.”
photo credit: Stonehouse Nursery