The hydrangea is a deciduous shrub with mature dimensions ranging from dwarf to tree-sized that boasts showy flower heads in an array of forms and hues.
In this article, you will find 25 of our favorite hydrangeas for containers and gardens in your outdoor living space.
Here they are:
The 25 Best Hydrangeas
- Big Leaf Hydrangeas
- Oak Leaf Hydrangeas
- Panicle Hydrangeas
- Smooth Hydrangeas
- Climbing Hydrangeas
Big Leaf Hydrangeas
Big leaf hydrangea, H. macrophylla, is a large species that encompasses three main groups: lace cap, mophead, and mountain.
Lace caps differ from the classic round ball of flowers that has become synonymous with the word hydrangea.
It has a flattened “corymb” of showy blossoms surrounding a center of small buds. This species is well-suited for USDA Hardiness Zone 6 and above. Here are two you’re sure to love:
1. Cherry Explosion
H. macrophylla ‘Cherry Explosion’
With this type, you get cherry pink/red blossoms surrounding a center of pale pink buds that burst into tiny stars. They may tend toward lavender in more acidic soil. An excellent choice for containers and borders, this compact beauty reaches 2 to 3 feet tall in Zones 4 to 9, where it prefers full sun to part shade.
This shrub is appreciated for being able to tolerate cold. It blooms on both old and new wood, and with deadheading, puts on a showy display from spring into fall, when its leaves darken to burgundy. It has an average growth rate, and is useful as a tidy, low-profile hedge plant.
2. Double Delights ‘Wedding Gown’
H. macrophylla ‘Double Delights Wedding Gown’
The Double Delights™ series ‘Wedding Gown’ has a flattened “corymb” flower head with a double ring of impressive blossoms surrounding a double-bud center. Suitable for Zones 5 to 9, it’s a compact 2 to 3 feet tall at maturity, making it a suitable candidate for large container gardening.
This type prefers light shade. It blooms on both old and new growth, so with deadheading, it should bloom from spring through to fall. Its growth rate is average, and the white color is not affected by soil acidity.
3. Endless Summer ‘Twist-n-Shout’
H. macrophylla ‘PIIHM-I’ PP20,176
This blue lace cap tends toward pink in less acidic soil and reaches a medium stature of 3 to 5 feet tall. It’s called “endless” or “re-blooming” because it produces flowers on both old and new wood from summer through to frost, facilitated by deadheading.
This type exhibits outstanding heat and cold tolerance in Zones 4 to 9. It likes a bit of sun and grows at an average rate. Use it as a specimen planting, to create a hedge of moderate height, or in large containers.
The mophead is what most people picture when talking about hydrangeas. They have fluffy balls of blossoms in shades of blue, pink, or purple. They are pH sensitive and tend to be pinker in alkaline soil and bluer in acidic soil. Flowers bloom on old wood.
This type grows best in Zones 5 to 11. You may need to provide winter protection like burlap, a covering of mulch, or a sheltered location in Zone 5.
Popular varieties include:
4. Big Daddy
H. macrophylla ‘Big Daddy’
With enormous flower clusters that measure from 12 to 14 inches across, this fast-growing variety is either pink or blue depending upon soil acidity. Its mature height is between 5 and 6 feet. From early summer to fall, it puts on a show, blooming on both old and new wood, facilitated by deadheading.
Suited to Zones 6 to 9, this heat-tolerant variety tolerates full sun in cooler regions, and benefits from partial shade in warmer climes. Consider pruning it like a dwarf tree for a single specimen planting, or mass several for an island of fluffy, pastel color.
5. Cityline Paris
H. macrophylla ‘Cityline® Paris’
This is one of the Cityline® series of dwarf plants with smaller-stature flowers for Zones 5 to 9. Its color is deep pink/red in alkaline soil and tends toward purple in acidic. Mature height is just 1 to 2 feet, with no pruning necessary.
If you’ve got a city patio, this is your dream container plant. In gardens, it makes a friendly, low-profile hedge or border plant. This plant grows at an average rate and blooms on old wood from early through late summer. It prefers full to part sun, resists mildew, and tolerates salt.
6. Edgy Hearts
H. macrophylla ‘Horheart’
A sweetheart of a compact shrub, unique pink petals edged with white resemble hearts and combine to form 10-inch flower heads. In more acidic soils, they tend toward blue. Both fade to green.
With a height of 2 to 4 feet, this is a perfect candidate for containers, hedges, or specimen plantings in Zones 5 to 9. This type prefers a location with full to part sun, where it can grow at an average rate. Blossoms form on old wood from early to late summer.
7. Endless Summer ‘The Original’
The first in the Endless Summer® series, this re-blooming type sets buds on both old and new wood for summer to fall flowers. It likes full sun and exhibits better cold hardiness than many cultivars. This type tops out at a modest 3 to 5 feet, for the perfect specimen planting.
This is a pH sensitive variety that may have blossoms that are blue or pink, depending on the soil, in Zones 4 to 9. It grows at an average rate and benefits from deadheading to prolong blooming.
8. Everlasting Amethyst
H. macrophylla ‘Hokomathyst’
A virtual palette of colors with an antique appearance is yours as flower heads mature to shades of fuchsia pink or violet blue, accented by lime green.
Everlasting® series plants bloom on both old and new wood for color from spring to fall. Deadheading encourages reblooming.
This compact style reaches a petite 2 to 3 feet, and is an excellent choice for patio containers, hedging, or small garden specimen plantings. Grow it in Zones 5 to 9 in a location with full sun to part shade, where it can grow slowly.
9. Everlasting Jade
H. macrophylla EVERLASTING ‘Hortmaja’
Another in the Everlasting® series, this type also has an antique appearance like the cottage garden blossoms of a bygone era. The flowers start out bright green in spring, fade a bit in summer, and become green with red edges in fall. It’s a petite style that tops out at a mere 2 to 3 feet, for a pretty pot specimen or garden edging.
In Zones 5 to 9, provide a location with full to part sun, and expect growth at an average rate.
The ‘Harlequin’ mophead is an absolute stunner that can be the centerpiece of any perennial flower garden. Six-inch blooms with pink to lavender florets edged with white bands will ensure that this variety gets center stage. And it does well in part shade, ideal for backyards with large, mature trees.
Harlequins reach 3 to 5 feet and grow up to 4 feet in width. This cultivar does well in Zones 5 to 9 in areas protected from intense full sun.
H. macrophylla ‘Nikko’
Here’s a classic “Dutch” blue variety that reaches a height of 4 to 6 feet. Blossoms tend toward pink in more alkaline soil. This fast-growing option is well suited to hedging, mass planting, or specimen display.
Best in Zones 6 to 9, this type prefers full sun to part shade. It blooms on old wood from early to late summer, and its dry blossoms are noted for holding their color well into the fall.
H. macrophylla ‘QUFU’
This one is a stunning choice for those gardening in Zones 5 to 9. It’s an especially cold-hardy shrub with vivid color and a long growing season. Two-tone blossoms in eye-catching lime and magenta bloom on both old and new wood for a color-changing show from summer to mid-fall.
Reaching 3 to 4 feet tall at maturity, this is a prime candidate for beds, borders, and containers. It grows at a slow to average rate and does best with partial shade, because too much sun tends to reduce its color vibrancy.
The mountain type, H. serrata, is actually a different botanical species with smaller lace cap-style flower heads and smaller leaves that mimic the larger big leaf varieties.
It does well in Zones 6 to 9, and even in Zone 5 with winter protection. One to consider is:
13. Tiny Tuff Stuff
H. serrata ‘MAKD’
If you’ve got a small patio, this one’s for you. At a max height of 18 to 24 inches, this re-blooming blue lace cap will have pink blooms instead in more alkaline soil. It offers noteworthy cold hardiness and blooms on both old and new wood from early to late summer.
Suited to Zones 5 to 9, this type requires full to part sun. It grows at an average rate and does not need pruning.
H. serrata ‘Kiyosumi’
This cultivar is a Japanese mountain hydrangea suitable for Zones 6 to 9. It’s a lace cap style with 3- to 6-inch flower heads that thrives in full sun to part shade. Each flower head consists of a ring of sterile white florets with deep pink edges, surrounding a flattened center of fertile pink-purple buds that open to miniature pink-white blossoms.
Not pH sensitive, the flower color of this variety is consistent across all soil types.
‘Kiyosumi’ is especially cold hardy and blooms on old wood. The foliage is tinged with burgundy in spring and again in the fall. Topping out 3 to 4 feet, it has an erect, somewhat rounded, and compact growth habit.
This is an excellent choice for the back of a border, a friendly hedge, a specimen planting, or a large container attraction. You may find it to be a bit leggy, so low plantings in front may show it to best advantage. Bloom time is from midsummer to early fall.
Oak Leaf Hydrangeas
The oak leaf species, H. quercifolia, has leaves that resemble those of oak trees and redden in the fall. Flowers are produced on old wood.
It’s native to the US and has white, conical, single or double blossomed flowers that turn pink with age. It is cold hardy to Zone 5 with winter protection, and performs best in Zones 5 to 9. A few especially nice ones are:
15. Gatsby Pink
H. quercifolia ‘JoAnn’
Known for its ability to thrive in sun or shade, and in soils of various quality, this oak leaf species is a winner. Blooming on old growth, it boasts conical clusters of vibrant pink blossoms in summer that deepen in color in fall, when its leaves turn from green to purple and red. With mature heights from 6 to 8 feet, this stunner looks great in Zones 5 to 9.
Select a location with full to part sun and expect an average rate of growth. Consider pruning to a tree-like appearance and using this cultivar to flank a driveway for high visual impact, as well as mass or specimen plantings.
16. Ruby Slippers
H. quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’
This dwarf oak leaf type has conical blossoms that adorn shrubs of 3 to 4 feet tall at maturity. They open white and turn ruby red during early to midsummer. The foliage deepens to reddish-brown and the bark exfoliates attractively in the fall.
This is a fast-growing variety that requires partial shade and does best in Zones 5 to 9. Too much sun may be counteracted with extra water during dry spells. In addition, shrubs in Zone 5 may benefit from cold-weather protection, like burlap wraps and mulch, because buds form on old wood.
The panicle kind, H. paniculata, has conical blossom clusters called panicles that start out white and fade to pink. Blossoms form on new wood.
This species grows beautifully in Zones 4 to 8, and possibly Zone 3 with winter protection. A wide variety of beautiful cultivars are available, including:
17. Berry White
H. paniculata ‘Renba’
Conical clusters of blossoms start out white and gradually deepen to dark pink, with a striking two-tone effect during the transition. It’s best suited to Zones 3 to 8. Colors vary with soil pH and climate, making for interesting hues.
This especially cold, drought, and pollution-tolerant variety blooms on new wood from early summer to mid-fall. It reaches a height of 6 to 7 feet, for use as a dramatic focal point, individually, or en masse. Provide a location with full sun and anticipate an average rate of growth.
H. paniculata ‘ILVOBO’
Here is a dwarf variety with white, conical flower heads. There are so many, and they are so large, that they make the bush look one giant, fluffy flower. It reaches a compact height of 2 to 3 feet, making it a solid choice for container gardening and low-profile hedging.
This fast grower requires full sun to part shade. It blooms on new wood from midsummer to fall.
19. First Editions ‘Vanilla Strawberry’
H. paniculata ‘Renhy’
From creamy white to pink and red, the cone-shaped blooms of this fast-grower are sure to delight. They are not pH sensitive and put on an impressive show from summer into fall. And as they fade, they add interest to the early winter garden.
At a mature height of 6 to 7 feet tall, this makes an attractive specimen or hedging plant that provides vertical interest. Provide full sun to part shade for this color-changing attraction.
20. Little Quick Fire
H. paniculata ‘SMHPLQF’
Here’s a dwarf variety for Zones 3 to 8 noted for its cold tolerance. Its upright, cone-shaped blossoms start out white and deepen to pink and red. It’s not pH sensitive, and blooms on new wood from early summer into fall.
At a modest 3 to 5 feet at maturity, this kind offers versatility, performing equally well in large containers, beds, borders, hedges, and mass plantings. Choose a location with full sun where this fast grower can take off.
21. Pee Gee
H. paniculata ‘Grandiflora’
If you’re looking for one of the largest varieties, you’ll love this one. With a mature height of between 10 and 20 feet, you may leave it full, or prune it to form a single-stemmed tree. It thrives in Zones 3 to 8.
Select a location with full sun to part shade for this fast-growing giant. You’re sure to love its conical clusters of blossoms that grow on old wood and reach between 12 and 18 inches across. They start out white and deepen to pink from midsummer into fall, for a gorgeous addition to the landscape.
The smooth type, H. arborescens, produces white “snowballs” that may reach a foot in diameter, and is often called a snowball bush. Flowers grow on new wood.
This species prefers a somewhat sunny location and thrives best in Zones 4 to 9. Some to consider are:
If you remember a hydrangea bush from your childhood, this may be the one. This is known as the classic “snowball” in my locale, with its white, fluffy flower heads ranging from 8 to 12 inches across. This US native shrub grows well in Zones 3 to 9. It is very cold tolerant.
The best location for this shrub is one with full to part shade. It flowers on new wood from early summer to fall, and can withstand a good bit of pruning. The maximum height at maturity is 3 to 5 feet, making it a versatile addition to beds, borders, and containers.
Note that it does tend to get a bit floppy and may require staking.
H. arborescens ‘Abetwo’ Incrediball
This summer bloomer boasts heavy blossoms up to 12 inches across. It starts out lime green, transitions to white, and then back to green again. Flowers open on new wood. It has sturdy branches that are not prone to drooping.
Suited to Zones 4 to 9, this one requires full sun to part shade. It is a US native shrub with an average growth rate.
24. Invincibelle Limetta
H. arborescens ‘Invincibelle NCHA8’ or ‘Limetta’
This dwarf stunner in the Invincibelle series is a summer bloomer that starts out green, turns white, then back to green. It reaches a petite height of only 30 to 36 inches. Display it in containers or use it to create a friendly hedge.
Cultivate this little lovely in Zones 3 to 9. Choose a location with full sun to part shade. It grows at an average rate.
The climbing species, H. anomala subsp. petiolaris, is a slow-growing, long-lived vine that may exceed 50 feet over the years. Train it along a fence or up a trellis, or let it meander as a unique flowering ground cover.
Fragrant flattish “corymb” flower heads that bloom in June resemble small white lace caps. This species is ideal for Zones 4 to 8.
H. anomala subsp. petiolaris ‘Miranda’
The vine variety has fragrant white flowers that resemble small lace caps. It is a slow-growing plant that takes several years to flower. Anticipate at least 30 feet of growth, and plan to provide support. Keep in mind that the vines may leave marks where they cling.
This type grows in Zones 4 to 8 and blooms on old wood from late spring to early summer. It benefits from winter protection like burlap and mulch in cold regions. It grows in full shade, but flowers better with some sun. Some pruning may be required to keep it manageable, and it is somewhat drought tolerant.
Many climbing types are sold without mention of a particular cultivar. They generally have solid green leaves. However, ‘Miranda’ offers variegated green, white, and yellow leaves, and exfoliating bark, for winter interest.
A Profusion of Memorable Blooms
And there you have them – 23 spectacular hydrangeas to love in your landscape. For varieties that are pH sensitive, apply garden lime to your soil for pinker shades, or a soil acidifier for bluer tones.
My favorite hydrangea story is about some relatives that grew two “snowball bushes,” as they’re often called here in the Philly suburbs. When the kids were small, they noticed that the one in the backyard bloomed when it was time for school to get out for the summer, and the one in the front yard, when it was time to go back to school again.
Now it’s your turn to feature these cottage garden charmers in your outdoor living spaces and create happy memories of your own!
Be sure to consult our companion article on how to grow hydrangeas for all you need to know to ensure successful cultivation.
If you enjoyed this article, you’re sure to like our other hydrangea growing and care guides, such as:
© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on December 25, 2019. Last updated: January 13, 2020 at 17:10 pm. Product photos via Burpee, Nature Hills Nursery, and Proven Winners. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock
About Nan Schiller
Nan Schiller is a writer with deep roots in the soil of southeastern Pennsylvania. Her background includes landscape and floral design, a BS in business from Villanova University, and a Certificate of Merit in floral design from Longwood Gardens. An advocate of organic gardening with native plants, she’s always got dirt under her nails and freckles on her nose. With wit and hopefully some wisdom, she shares what she’s learned and is always ready to dig into a new project!