Growing up in the South, you have seen the large mop head flowers of the blue, purple and pink hydrangeas. These quintessential Southern plants bring color and joy to all gardens and landscapes. These plants are easy to use for fresh flowers on a kitchen table or to propagate from cuttings. That is why they are a favorite flower to have in just about any homeowner’s yard.

There are actually four main categories of hydrangeas that you will find in Southern gardens. The first is Hydrangea macrophylla. This group is made up of the old “mophead” hydrangeas. Lacecap hydrangeas are also included in this group. This group is one of the most popular and includes many of the old pink and blue varieties. ‘Nikko Blue’ in an improved variety in this group.

The second group is categorized by the botanical name Hydrangea arborescens. This group includes Annabelle hydrangea, which was the 1995 Georgia Gold Medal winning shrub. This hydrangea was discovered by two ladies who were horseback riding near Anna, Illinois. Annabelle is a June-July flowering shrub with huge white blooms. It is perfect for shady garden areas where it really brightens up the landscape.

The third hydrangea group is Hydrangea quercifolia. This includes the oakleaf hydrangeas that are native to this area. They are known for their coarse oak-like foliage. They bear white flowers during the summer months and grow well in dryer locations. If oakleaf hydrangeas get morning sun and a little afternoon shade they will develop nice burgundy colored foliage with the arrival of autumn.

The Pee Gee hydrangeas, Hydrangea paniculata, make up the fourth main group. These plants can tolerate partial sun and can grow quite large. In some cases they can reach 8 to 10 feet in height. In recent years the old Pee Gee types have been outclassed by some new arrivals. In fact, one local nurseryman says that the new varieties make the blooms of the old Pee Gees “look like a pair of dirty old socks!”

Limelight is a relatively new hydrangea that produces masses of huge flowers with a light green cast. Limelight flowers in August through September. Near the end of the season these blooms will assume a distinctive pink cast. Another relative newcomer is Little Lamb. As the name implies this hydrangea bears much smaller white flowers. The tight flower heads appear in mid-summer.

Another new hydrangea is Pinky Winky. This variety is very cold hardy and can tolerate extremely cold winter temperatures. Pinky Winky does well in sun to partial shade. Pinky Winky bears flowers on strong reddish stems. What makes this hydrangea so unique is the fact that the blooms open white and then as they age they turn dark pink. This creates multi-colored flower stalks that are white at the tip and dark pink at the base. The effect is colorful and makes Pinky Winky a real standout in the landscape.

The abundance of hydrangea types and varieties is a wonderful asset to gardeners. You can pick the color, the sun tolerance, the moisture requirement, and the bloom time to fit your needs. Truly there is a hydrangea variety for every landscape.

For more information about hydrangeas or other plants in your landscape contact Ashley Best at the Newton Extension office by phone, 770-784-2010 or by email, abest22@uga.edu.

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