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The Main Types of Hydrangeas – Hydrangea Varieties 101

Want to learn more about all of the beautiful types of hydrangeas out there? Read this post to get the scoop on the top hydrangea varieties.

beautiful types of hydrangeas- top hydrangea varieties
Want to learn more about all the different types of hydrangeas? Read all about the various hydrangea varieties here!

Hello and welcome to Hydrangea Love!

If you can’t already tell, we’re totally in love with the big, beautiful blooms that hydrangeas faithfully provide.

But if you’re new to the world of gardening (or just hydrangeas), it can be a little overwhelming to understand all of the different types of hydrangeas.

I remember what it was like when I jumped into the world of hydrangeas, and trust me, I had a lot of questions.

Which hydrangeas like acidic soil? Should I be pruning them in early spring or late fall? What do I do in terms of winter protection?

There really is a lot to know about hydrangeas, but not to worry! We all start as beginners in everything we do.

You just have to get started learning!

By the end of this post, you’re going to be a hydrangea variety expert. 🙂

Types of Hydrangeas: Hydrangea Varieties 101

This is going to be a comprehensive guide to hydrangea types, so let me give you a quick overview of what you’ll find on this page:

  • A list of the main types of hydrangeas
  • Hydrangea variety info – such as hardiness, color options, shape, etc.
  • Beautiful pictures of the hydrangea varieties so you have an example of what each one looks like
  • Where to buy each hydrangea variety you’re interested in

Let’s get to it!

The Beginner's Guide to Hydrangea Varieties

The 6 Main Types of Hydrangeas

Did you know that there are this many types of hydrangeas? I didn’t! Typically, you’ll only see a handful of hydrangea varieties in your area. But there are in fact six main types of hydrangeas. They are:

  1. Bigleaf Hydrangeas or Hydrangea macrophylla
  2. Panicle Hydrangeas or Hydrangea paniculata
  3. Smooth Hydrangeas or Hydrangea arborescens
  4. Oakleaf Hydrangeas or Hydrangea quercifolia
  5. Climbing Hydrangeas or Hydrangea petiolaris
  6. Mountain Hydrangeas or Hydrangea serrata

Let’s go over each of the hydrangea varieties in a bit more detail so that we can learn more about them!

1. Bigleaf Hydrangea

Also known by the botanical name hydrangea macrophylla, this type of hydrangea is the most common of the hydrangea varieties.

If you’ve ever been to a beach town with pretty little cottages decorated by beautiful hydrangeas, you’ve probably seen them! They are also pretty popular in garden centers since they are the most common type of hydrangea.

However, you should know that there are actually two different types of hydrangeas within the bigleaf category: lacecap and mophead.

lacecap hydrangea - bigleaf variety
Lacecap Hydrangea
mophead hydrangea - bigleaf variety
Mophead Hydrangea

Looking at the pictures, you can probably tell the difference between the two. The lacecap hydrangeas are pretty easy to identify considering their name! And honestly, the flower heads of the mophead hydrangeas are pretty easy to figure out as well.

Let’s learn a bit more about bigleaf hydrangeas in general:

  • Zones: Bigleaf hydrangea varieties tend to do well in hardiness zones 5-11. Basically, most varieties do well in the majority of the United States.
  • Size: Bigleaf hydrangeas get up to about 10 feet tall and just as wide. However, it can take several years for them to get to this size.
  • Sun Exposure: Mostly partial shade. Some varieties can do okay in full shade or sun. However, the bulk of bigleaf varieties like some shade.
  • Colors: Typically blue, white, purple, pink, or red. Colors can change depending on soil acidity. (Acidid soil turns hydrangeas blue!)
  • Bloom Time: Usually June to October for most varieties.
  • Origin: Native to Japan.

Other Bigleaf Hydrangea Information

Bigleaf hydrangeas make for beautiful bouquets and arrangements. Most people love them as cut flowers because even when they are just placed alone in a vase with water, they add something special.

Bigleaf hydrangea varieties are also sometimes referred to as Hortensia (Latin for hydrangea) or French hydrangea.

Common bigleaf hydrangea varieties include Endless Summer, Bloomstruck Hydrangeas, “Let’s Dance” varieties, Blushing Bride, and Nikko Blue.

You can take a look at one of my favorite bigleaf hydrangeas here!

2. Panicle Hydrangea

Panicle hydrangeas are also known by the scientific name hydrangea paniculata. This type of hydrangea is known for having cone-shaped blooms and being fairly cold-hardy. Let’s take a look at a few examples of panicle hydrangea:

panicle hydrangea - limelight
Limelight Hydrangea
panicle hydrangea - strawberry sundae
Strawberry Sundae Hydrangea

Pretty cool, right?

A bit more about panicle hydrangeas:

  • Zones: Panicle hydrangea varieties typically do well in U.S. hardiness zones 3-8. This means that overall, they do better in cooler climates.
  • Size: Panicle hydrangeas get up to about 15 feet tall and can get almost as wide. If you ever see something called a hydrangea tree, it’s a panicle hydrangea.
  • Sun Exposure: Mostly part shade. Some varieties can do okay in full sun. However, the bulk of panicle varieties like some shade and cooler temps.
  • Colors: Typically greenish or white flowers, with some special varieties containing some pink.
  • Bloom Time: Late summer to early fall (July to October).
  • Origin: Panicle hydrangea are native to Asia. More specifically, they originally hail from China and Japan.

You Might Also Like: 11 Cone Hydrangea Varieties We Love

Other Panicle Hydrangea Information

Panicle hydrangea variety colors do not change based on the pH of the soil. If their color seems lackluster, it is usually due to water or sunlight issues.

Pruning can be done almost year-round, except for when plants are already forming buds.

Common panicle hydrangea varieties include Limelight, Vanilla Strawberry, Grandiflora, and Pinky Winky.

Check out the beautiful French Manicure Panicle Hydrangea here!

3. Smooth Hydrangea

Another one of the main hydrangea types is the smooth hydrangea or hydrangea arborescens. This hydrangea variety is known for its rounded bloom. Here’s an example:

smooth hydrangea - annabelle
Annabelle Hydrangea

Pretty beautiful if you ask me!

Let’s take a closer look at smooth hydrangeas:

  • Zones: Panicle hydrangea varieties typically do well in U.S. hardiness zones 4-9. This means that overall, they can do well in warmer climates.
  • Size: Smooth hydrangeas get up to about 6 feet tall and can get just as wide. Blooms are typically a bit smaller than bigleaf varieties, but some smooth hydrangea blooms can be quite large.
  • Sun Exposure: Mostly part shade. Some varieties can do okay in full sun. However, the bulk of smooth varieties like some shade.
  • Colors: Typically white to green, with some special varieties containing some pink.
  • Bloom Time: Typically June to September.
  • Origin: Smooth hydrangea varieties are native to the United States. They are highly popular in southern regions.

Other Smooth Hydrangea Information

Smooth hydrangea varieties prefer moist but well-drained soil. They bloom on new growth (AKA new wood), meaning that they need to be pruned pretty intensely for future blooms.

Fun Fact: Sometimes smooth hydrangeas are referred to as wild hydrangeas.

Common smooth hydrangea varieties include Annabelle, Incrediball, and Invincibelle.

You can find my favorite smooth hydrangea, Annabelle, here!

4. Oakleaf Hydrangea

The oakleaf hydrangea, or hydrangea quercifolia, is a less common hydrangea variety known for its unique foliage. Its leaves are quite different than the rest of the hydrangea varieties, making it easy to identify.

Take a look yourself:

oakleaf hydrangea
Snow Queen Hydrangea

Do you notice how different the leaves are here?

oakleaf hydrangea example
Alice Hydrangea

Let’s look at some more details on oakleaf hydrangeas:

  • Zones: Oakleaf hydrangea varieties typically do well in U.S. hardiness zones 5-9. This means that overall, they can do better in warmer climates.
  • Size: Oakleaf hydrangeas get up to about 8 feet tall and can get just as wide. Their leaves can get really huge too!
  • Sun Exposure: Part shade, but most varieties can do okay in full sun. Do well in areas with hot summers.
  • Colors: Typically white to purple and pink. Leaves change colors with the seasons, unlike other hydrangea varieties.
  • Bloom Time: Mid-summer to early fall.
  • Origin: Oakleaf hydrangea varieties are native to the United States. They are highly popular in southern regions and don’t do as well in wet and rainy areas.

Other Oakleaf Hydrangea Information

The most unique thing about the oakleaf hydrangea varieties is not just their leaves. While their leaves are shaped differently and change colors with the seasons, there is something even more intriguing about the oakleaf varieties.

In my opinion, the most interesting thing about oakleaf hydrangea varieties is that they come in two different blossom types. You can get single-blossom varieties or double-blossom varieties. Very cool!

oakleaf hydrangea varieties
Double-Blossom Oakleaf Hydrangea

Common oakleaf hydrangea varieties include Snowflake, Munchkin, Gatsby Star, and Jetstream.

You can find my favorite pink oakleaf hydrangea for sale here!

5. Climbing Hydrangea

Climbing hydrangea or hydrangea anomala ssp. petiolaris are exactly as described. This hydrangea variety grows as an attractive vine and is certainly one of the less common hydrangea varieties.

climbing hydrangea
Climbing Hydrangea

I’m a huge cottage garden lover, so I find these absolutely gorgeous!

Here’s a bit more information about climbing hydrangeas:

  • Zones: Climbing hydrangea varieties typically do well in U.S. hardiness zones 4-9. However, some varieties do well in slightly cooler zones.
  • Size: Climbing hydrangeas get up to about 80 feet long! However, most varieties only grow to be about 50 feet long. They can spread to be up to about 8 feet wide.
  • Sun Exposure: Mostly part sun. Some varieties can do okay in full sun or full shade. However, the bulk of climbing varieties like some sun.
  • Colors: Almost always white – bloom colors are not affected by soil pH.
  • Bloom Time: Late spring to mid-summer (May to July).
  • Origin: Climbing hydrangea varieties are native to Japan and Korea.

Other Climbing Hydrangea Information

Climbing hydrangea varieties prefer moist but well-drained soil. They bloom on old growth (AKA old wood), meaning that they shouldn’t be pruned aggressively for future blooms.

In the winter, climbing hydrangea bark will peel. Climbing hydrangeas are a “long-term investment” because they typically don’t bloom in their first two years and take have relatively slow growth.

Common climbing hydrangea varieties include Miranda and Flying Saucer. However, these varieties are pretty rare. If you find one at your local garden center or nursery, thank the universe and be sure to buy one!

If not, they have a beautiful climbing hydrangea for sale here!

6. Mountain Hydrangea

Last but not least out of the different types of hydrangea are the mountain hydrangea!

Also known by the scientific name hydrangea serrata, mountain hydrangea are typically smaller in bloom size and overall stature. They are actually a subspecies of bigleaf hydrangea, though they are the least common. Have a peek at an example of a mountain hydrangea:

mountain hydrangea - Tiny Tuff Stuff
Tiny Tuff Stuff Hydrangea

As you can see, blooms are lacier and more dainty. (Some mountain hydrangea varieties are double-blooming, too.) Pretty cool!

Here’s a bit more information about mountain hydrangeas:

  • Zones: Mountain hydrangea varieties typically do well in U.S. hardiness zones 6-9. They are fairly hardy and do okay in areas with late spring frost.
  • Size: Mountain hydrangeas get up to about 4 foot tall and just as wide. Their size makes them a good choice for containers.
  • Sun Exposure: Mostly part shade. Filtered sunlight or morning sun (instead of afternoon sun) is preferred.
  • Colors: Mostly pink or blue – can change colors depending on soil acidity. If you want blue flowers, you will need to amend the soil to increase its acidity. There are many products that do this! This soil additive is a pretty popular one for turning your pink flowers blue.
  • Bloom Time: Late spring to summer (May to August).
  • Origin: Mountain hydrangea varieties are native to China, Japan and Korea.

Other Mountain Hydrangea Information

Mountain hydrangea varieties also prefer afternoon shade and moist but well-drained soil.

They bloom on old growth (AKA old wood), meaning that they shouldn’t be pruned much at all for future growth. They have really dark green leaves that tend to have a thicker, leathery texture.

Common mountian hydrangea varieties include Tiny Tuff Stuff, Preziosa, Bluebird and Diadem. However, these varieties aren’t always easy to come by.

If you find one at your local garden center or nursery, thank the universe and be sure to buy one! Otherwise, you’re more likely to find mountain hydrangea varieties online.

My favorite Tuff Stuff mountain hydrangea can be purchased here!

Types of Hydrangeas Hydrangea Varieties 101 (1)

Where To Buy Different Types Of Hydrangeas

Hydrangea plants make a great addition to any garden. Their showy flowers are reliable bloomers and require very little maintenance.

Looking for unique types of hydrangeas? Many local greenhouses and garden centers will only have a handful of hydrangea varieties available for purchase.

Not to worry – we’ve compiled a list of some great places to buy different hydrangea types online.

Here are some great places to shop for different hydrangea varieties:

1. Nature Hills Nursery – Nature Hills Nursery features a huge selection of both specialty hydrangea varieties, as well as classic hydrangeas like Endless Summer and Incrediball.

I should also mention that Nature Hills offers a variety of live plant sizes and also sells some dwarf varieties. So if you’re looking for something for a small space or you want to try your hand at potted hydrangeas, Nature Hills Nursery is worth a look!

Not to mention that as of this article, there are about 100 product listings for hydrangeas at Nature Hills, making this a great place to lose yourself in hydrangea shopping!

2. Park Seed – Their website mentions panicle, bigleaf, and oakleaf hydrangea varieties. As of this article, there are 22 different hydrangea types to choose from. If you’re looking for “regular” hydrangea varieties like Limelight, Magical Ruby Red, Annabelle, or Vanilla Strawberry varieties, you’ll find them all at Park Seed! Don’t forget some great companion plants to go with them. 🙂

3. Planting Tree – If you’re interested in hydrangea tree varieties or maybe even a hydrangea vine, Planting Tree has some interesting and unique finds. They do, of course, also have your classic finds such as Limelight, Endless Summer, Nikko Blue, and more. However, if you’re looking for a climbing hydrangea, it’s definitely worth a visit to PlantingTree.com.

4. Perfect Plants Nursery – While this nursery doesn’t have the largest selection of hydrangeas, it does have a handful of unique finds in the hydrangea tree category. They also offer the option to buy 2-packs of their 3-gallon plants. Their also family-owned and operated in the United States, so brownie points for that!

5. Amazon – Yes, you can really buy live hydrangea plants on Amazon! You can also find hydrangea seeds, hydrangea fertilizer, books about hydrangeas, and so much more! What’s not to love?

That’s it, my friends!

I hope that this article helped you learn a little bit more about the different types of hydrangeas.

Maybe it will help you plan out your next landscaping project or choose the right variety for your hardiness zone. Or perhaps it has helped you pick the best location for the hydrangea species of your choice.

Happy gardening,

Your Fellow Hydrangea Lover

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