Hardy Hydrangeas

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ (PG hydrangea) and Hydrangea paniculata ‘Little Lamb’ are reliable flowering shrubs for a cold climate. They have lavish, showy flowers with an extended blooming time compared to many shrubs. Their tolerance of part shade is an additional bonus.
Hydrangea paniculata \'Grandiflora\' (PG hydrangea)

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ (PG hydrangea) is a lovely shrub that is very eye catching when in bloom. It has a fairly nice shape and good foliage. However, the large panicles of white flowers are the main attraction. The abundant white blooms cover most of the foliage when they are fully open. They bloom for over a month, and then gradually turn brown. Their flowers last throughout August and into September in my garden. The flowers are still attractive as they fade, so I leave them on over the winter, and remove them in the spring. Only a few of the blooms are open in this picture. There are many more with green buds still to open. This one is in a medium shade location, so I’m pleased with the numerous buds that it has.
Hydrangea paniculata \'Grandiflora\' (PG hydrangea),Campanula

Campanula poscharskyana ‘Blue Waterfall’ (blue waterfall Serbian bellflower) is planted under this hydrangea. It’s quite shadowy underneath, but you can see them better when you click and enlarge the photo. I like the look of the blue stars twinkling around the lower branches of the hydrangea. The heaviest flush of  these bellflower blooms was at the end of June and through July, but they will still flower through the fall.

This is Hydrangea paniculata ‘Little Lamb’. It is new to my garden, just planted a few months ago. It is very similar to ‘Grandiflora’, but the flowers stalks are stiffer and the blooms are held more upright. When it rains, they don’t arch over as much as the PG hydrangea. In the photo, you can see the green buds of the panicles that haven’t fully opened. There are ample blooms for a shrub that is still only 75 cm by 75 cm (2 feet).

Hydrangea paniculata \'Little Lamb\' shrub

The marketing campaign for this shrub describes the flowers as little lambs dancing over the shrub. I think they’re stretching it with the description, as they look very much like other H. paniculata panicles to me, even when I squint and use my imagination. However, it is a good looking hydrangea.

Hydrangea paniculata \'Little Lamb\' closeup

I have a Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ (annabelle hydrangea) too, but it only has 4 blooms. It looks very stingy compared to the other hydrangeas, probably because it’s planted in heavier shade. If it doesn’t bloom more next year, I might move it to a part shade location. I was probably stretching its shade tolerance to plant it in a location that only gets about a half hour of direct sun a day.

The leaves on annabelle are larger than the H. paniculata leaves. When it’s not in bloom, it’s not quite as attractive as H. paniculata.

Hydrangea arborescens \'Annabelle\' (annabelle hydrangea) flower

Here’s a view of the PG hydrangea that the birds see as they’re coming in for a landing on the birdbath.

Hydrangea paniculata \'Grandiflora\' (PG hydrangea) and birdbath

What are your favourite shrubs for shade?

47 thoughts on “Hardy Hydrangeas”

  1. I’m glad you mentioned the blue flowers and clicking on the photo. I missed them the first time then after reading that I did click and it is charming!!

  2. Perennialgardenlover, they are one of my favourites too. They are a definite focal point in the garden right now, with their white blooms in the shade.

    Barbee’, I like the Campanula underplanting, since they don’t mind the hydrangea shade, and the blue stars looks nice with the white panicles.

  3. Beautiful blooms…I like the species H arborescens better then Annabelle. The flowers actually look like a lace cap, I think that’s the right description! Annabelle is Peegee wanna be!

    1. My Mom has it in full sun on a south-facing wall – it is magnificent – with flowers twice the size of her head!

  4. Hydrangeas are such lovely plants. I’m trying to have patience while I wait for mine to bloom, but since it’s already August my patience is wearing a little thin. At least I got to look at your beauties!

    Thanks for the recent visit to my blog.

  5. Hello there Northern Shade ! It has been too long since I have been here .. I love this post and I’m glad you stopped over at my place to let me know you posted about Little Lamb too !
    Mine is on its second year and I have found with all the rain we have had (which really is a good thing ) that my flowers have flopped even with the strong woody stems .. i don’t mind because I know they will rise again when they shake off that water. I love that campanula .. have it too .. but when I went to buy more this year it was a tough cookie to find … darn !
    I bought a ‘Cityline” hydrangea a few weeks ago .. “Venice” .. supposed to be a more compact type ..Have you gotten one of these ? and if so can you tell me what you think of it ? .. it was an impulse purchase and I’m wondering … you know what that is like right ? LOL
    Joy

  6. Cinj, I would have guessed that your hydrangeas would be flowering before mine. Although, my PG hydrangea is not fully out yet. You should have blooms well into the fall when they do come.

    Joy, the Campanula might be labelled ‘Camgood’. That’s its actual name, but it is most frequently labelled under its marketing name ‘Blue Waterfall’.
    Perhaps my Little Lamb will droop a little more as it grows. You’re right though, hydrangeas do perk up again after the rain, unlike peonies. Yeah for a woody stem.
    Unfortunately, the new cityline hydrangeas are not hardy in zone 3. They sound interesting with their sturdy, compact size. You could fit a lot of them into a backyard. : )

  7. Mother Nature, my Hydrangea that are in medium shade are blooming okay, but not in deeper shade. Last year I was overenthusiastic with the pruning of one and it didn’t bloom much either.

  8. I love your “Little Lamb”!!! I have also planted Hydrangeas in the shadow between my Hostas. I also like the Rhododendrons and Buxus the deeper shade. Under my Hydrangeas I did plant Geranium but I think your Campanulas would be very nice also.
    Have a great Sunday Wurzerl

  9. Wurzerl, ‘Little Lamb’ is a cutie.
    It’s too bad that most Rhododendrons aren’t hardy in my zone. A few are borderline hardy, and I’ve debated about trying one.
    Geraniums would look nice under the hydrangea. I love the ones with shimmery blue flowers like Johnson’s Blue and Rozanne.

  10. I have found that my Annabelles do best with some sun – preferrably the eastside of the house. I had an Angel Blush that I planted in shade four years ago that did nothing – not even a bloom. This spring I moved it to the eastside where it is thriving. It apparently needed at least a few hours of sun.

  11. Beth, my Annabelle does need more sun. When I planted it I was looking for a shrub that might handle a mostly shade spot, rather than the best place for the Annabelle. However, with only 4 blooms, it doesn’t make the best display. I might give it one more summer to see it it coaxes out any more blooms, and then try to find something else for the spot, and give Annabelle a better spot.

  12. So far my favorite shade shrub is golden mock orange, which really doesn’t like too much sun. Philidelphus coronarius ‘Aureus’. It does say that it’s hardy to H[4]. You might want to consider it. It has extremely fragrant blossoms in the spring. And I am wanting to get my hands on some hydrangea “little lamb” that is gorgeous. Will need to make some more room, but……
    Jen

  13. Jen, I’ll have to look at the P. coronarius ‘Aureus’. I have a P. lewisii ‘Blizzard’, which I really like. It is compact, and has a fairly high shade tolerance, but not a strong fragrance.

  14. I’m definitely getting a hydrangea education from this site. I’ve been inclined to steer away from them, but these types are really pretty and might work in my shadiest part of the garden (a bit of morning sun).

    I’m a huge campanula fan and interested to hear it isn’t just the types I grow that keep on showing a few blooms for months and months. I love that about them. By the way, if you can’t find a type you like, a lot of campanulas aren’t too hard from seed (though of course it takes longer to get them up and growing). I start seed in fall and that seems to work well in my zone 8 garden, as they seem to prefer coolth.

  15. Pomona, I’m very pleased with my H. paniculata. They survive the cold, tolerate up to medium shade, and grab the attention with their showy blooms. So far, mine don’t seem bothered by any pests or problems.
    All of the Campanula I have, except C. glomerata, have a long blooming period. The ‘Blue Waterfall’ has an extra heavy bloom time for about 6 weeks, and then flowers for the rest of the summer.

  16. I love hydrangeas of all sorts and there are several ones in my garden. Annabelle (growing in the sun) doesn’t have many flowers this year, but they are huge! I have planted now a second one on a different place with more shadow. And then I’ll see, what place this plant prefers. In the shadow I love to have – as you showed in your other posts – campanulas, spireas and also hostas.

  17. Barbara, I’ll be interested to see how your Annabelle hydrangeas compare in the two light exposures. My Annabelle blooms aren’t that large, but then it’s still a fairly small shrub.

  18. I’m having a very hard time deciding between a Little Lamb Hydrangea and a Blizzard Mockorange, it seems that they are somewhat similar in size. It is for an area that doesn’t get much sun, some filtered through a weeping birch. As long as the foliage is nice, I’m not terribly concerend with having loads of blooms, but a few would be nice. Since you have both, I was wondering if you could recommend one over the other. Thanks so much. :)

    1. Rebecca, I really like both of the shrubs for zone 3, and both work well in part shade. If I had to choose one for foliage, I might pick the Blizzard mockorange, since the leaves are finer, and there are more of them. The overall branching habit of the blizzard mockorange is very nice too, and the shape is appealing. It has a much nicer shape than the regular mockorange (Philadelphus virginalis). Also, the blizzard mockorange has reddish stems, which look nice for half the year, when there are no leaves.

      For longevity of flowers I would have to pick the little lamb hydrangea, since they bloom for well over a month, and after that they fade out in colour and look decorative all through fall, and even over winter. The jumbo flower heads are great when everything else in the garden has died back. They are good if you want flowers for August and September in zone 3. The blizzard mockorange has very pretty flowers, but they only last about two and a half weeks, through late June and early July in my garden.

      My blizzard mockorange had fairly quick growth for a small shrub too, quicker than the hydrangea. If you want the area to fill in quickly, the blizzard mockorange is a good choice.

  19. I just purchased a Kyushu Hydrangea, it’s absolutely beautiful and I want to find the perfect spot for it. The front of my house faces east, but is havily shaded by a large spruce. I have a couple of locations in the back that could work, one is more or less full sun, and the other gets very little sun. I’ve had some difficulty determining if the part shade designation of these plants has them preferring shade or sun, I expect it’s somewhat dependant on Zone (I’m 3b/4a). Also, do they tolerate alkaline soil well, or does the pH need to be lowered? Any tips would be appreciated! :)

    (it might end up close to the blizzard mockorange, making a nice white corner of the yard).

    1. Rebecca, I’ve had some of the best blooms on my hydrangeas in part shade, and some have done well in medium shade. I’ve experimented with areas that only get an hour of sun at a low angle, and the PG hydrangea didn’t bloom. My Annabelle hydrangea blooms, but scantily, in about an hour of direct sun, with some indirect light. I’m not sure of the pH requirements.

      One thing I like about Hydrangeas is that I don’t have to fuss over them. I give them some supplemental water, if it hasn’t rained, and I cut the faded blooms off in early spring, and that’s about it.

  20. Good to hear, for some reason, they look like they would be fussy. I’ll observe a few spots over the next few days. I find that I often end up moving shrubs and perennials once or twice soon after planting to a more suitable location.

    1. Rebecca, sometimes it takes a bit of experimenting to find the right spot, although I’d rather move a dwarf perennial than a shrub. I’ve found the Hydrangea paniculata to be fairly accommodating.

  21. NS, just wondering what your thoughts are on moving a newly planted shrub or perennial? I use the rule of thumb that anything in the ground for less than 1 month is fair game to move. I’ve had sucess with this, do you use a specific guideline? Thanks. :)

    1. Rebecca, I don’t move my shrubs much. Usually, I try the perennial in one spot for the season, and if I get a better idea, or think it would look better next to some other plant, or am rearranging the bed, I’ll move it the next year. Occasionally, I’ll move it that fall, if I’m redoing a bed. Since the flowering time is usually off the first year you plant a perennial, after the second year, when I see its blooming time in my garden, I might move it to go with other flowers.

  22. Northern, how do you prune your H.paniculata? I’ve read a variety of things, from prune to 6 inches in late winter, to prune a few stems at the ground, or prune 1/3 to 1/2 of height. I would like to encourage good healthy growth and (of course) flowering. Any suggestions would be appreciated. :)

    1. Rebecca, I mainly just prune off the faded flowers in early spring. My Hydrangea paniculata have a nice shape, so I haven’t had to reshape them. They are not overgrown, so I haven’t had to rejunenate them. I’ve removed the odd dead branch, and that’s about it. They have flowered well for me so far.

  23. Hello Northern Shade,
    Since I found your website, I visit it a lot, as there are not many other websites about gardening in Edmonton. I’m new to this area and it’s very interesting to see, what actually can grow here. First I was very enthusiastic about hydrangeas, I have 1 Little Lamb (planted 2 years ago) and 2 PGs (last year), but they are not doing good at all in my garden. Last year Little Lamb was just hardly alive with little leaves, without any flowers. It’s the end of May now and they look almost dead, even I protected them with big amount of mulch. Only 2 of 3 bushes have just couple little leaves , coming from underground. How yours are looking now? Do they have already any leaves on woody stems?

    1. Gardener_from_Edmonton, the PG and Little Lamb have done well for me. The older PG, especially, gets loads of blooms. They are always slow to leaf out in spring, playing it safe. My Hydrangeas have just a few leaf buds on the woody stems so far, but perhaps with the bit of snow we got this morning, and the almost freezing overnight temperatures, it’s just as well they are delaying. I think they are just waiting for consistently warmer temperatures, or longer sunlight. I’ll post back later in the season about how they do.

  24. Hello Northern Shade,
    I just found your site and it’s been a real inspiration for me. Originally from southern Ontario, I’ve lived in Prince George, British Columbia for about 5 years now…and other than ferns, lupins and peonies I’m still struggling to establish a northern perennial garden, with too much shade!
    I was wondering if you’ve tried the ‘Endless Summer’ hydrangeas. I’ve read that they’re really Zone 4, but they seem to be the only hydrangea in the stores here. I’ve tried twice and they seem to suffer major shock just bringing them home, and they never recover. Your ‘Little Lamb’ looks perfect though…if only I could find one! Are they not so hard to transplant?

    1. Straylight, I haven’t tried the Endless Summer Hydrangea, because of the mixed reports about how they have done in this zone. Though, I should try one to see how it does in my garden. The ‘Little Lamb’ does well, and it was flourishing soon after planting. Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ also does well here.

  25. Hello NS,
    I have a problem and not sure what’s going on. I got a Hyndrangea p. Kyushu and now am not too sure if it is what as labeled. It does bloom for me but mostly of the very tiny ones (these are fertile?) and the usually showy ones are very few. I’m very disappointed and not sure what is going on. It is planted in part shade and probably gets a couple hours of sun a day. An oak tree is about 10 feet near by though. Could this be a problem?
    Thanks.

    1. 3lutz3toe, each of the panicles of Hydrangea paniculata Kyushu has more of the fertile flowers that are subtle and fuzzy looking and less of the sterile flowers that have bolder and fuller sepals, unlike the PG Hydrangea that are pretty much all large petaled sterile flowers. This gives the Kyushu flowers a lacy type appearance, with a few large petals (sepals) separated by more of the smaller, fuzzy ones. Kyushu flowers have an open and airy look compared to the full and fluffy appearance of the all large petaled PG flowers. Kyushu has one of the laciest looks of Hydrangea p. that I’ve seen, and there is probably some variation within it. It sounds like you have a typical Kyushu, but it is always possible that it was mislabeled. The foliage of Kyushu is glossy. Are the leaves of your shrubs shiny?

  26. I’ve tried everywhere near where I live for blue, pink or purple hydrangeas. I have tons of white ones. Hydrangeas, with peonies are my favorite plants. Can you tell me where I might get blue, purple or a strongly colored pink hydrangeas? I know they exist, I’ve had them before but they are so elusive and I cannot get any referral to a greenhouse or vendor etc., who may stock them. Can you help? Thank you!
    Tina

  27. I’m looking for anybody who may stock and sell Hydrangras of any colour but white. I have several white bushes, but I’m trying to recreate a garden that I had in another house. Blue, purple, deep pink shades are desirable. I just can’t find any hydrangeas other than white! Please help!
    Thank you!
    Tina

    1. Tina, if you are in a cold climate like zone 3, your choices in Hydrangea are much more limited when it comes to colours other than white. Most of the more colourful Hydrangea are for warmer zones, since they mostly bloom on old wood, which doesn’t survive our winters well. One pink one that is hardy here is Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pinky Winky’, with its blossoms running the range from white to pink. Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Endless Summer’ is borderline hardy in a cold zone, and comes in pink and blue. It does need some pampering, even though it will bloom on new wood, as it won’t tolerate spring frosts very well, so you have to give it some cover. I, too, wish that there were more cold hardy Hydrangeas for zone 3.

      I fixed the email for you.

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