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What Hydrangeas Can I Grow? Options for Sun and Shade

pink, blue, and purple hydrangeas Ted Lare

Many people think that you need a shady garden in order to grow hydrangeas. While that is true for some varieties, some hydrangeas thrive in sunny spots and even need full sun to develop into the fullest plants and the brightest blooms. 

There are many types of hydrangea available, so it’s important to know which specific varieties you can grow in sun or shade. Here are a few of our favorite perennial hydrangea options for sunny spots and for shady spots in Iowa.

Invincibelle hydrangea Ted Lare
Shade-Loving Hydrangeas

Annabelle, Invincibelle, and Incrediball are three hydrangeas that perform well in mostly shaded sites. All three of these like plenty of moisture and protection from the afternoon sun for best blooming. These hydrangeas feature the classic dense bloom clusters, but Invincibelle and Incrediball have larger bloom clusters than Annabelle.

Incrediball and Annabelle feature white flowers, while Invicibelle features light pink flowers. These hydrangeas will not change color with soil pH changes.

These hydrangeas should be watered if they start to wilt. A thick layer of mulch around the base of hydrangeas will help regulate soil moisture and protect the roots from winter kill. All three of these hydrangeas bloom on new wood, so they can be pruned back quite hard in the spring.

For color changing hydrangeas, check out large leaf types such as Endless Summer. In alkaline, or “sweet” soil, they’ll bloom pink; in acidic soil, they’ll bloom blue. There are kits available that you can use to change the soil pH to change the color of the blooms. 

Large leaf hydrangeas bloom on old and new wood (last year and this year’s growth), so they bloom best if they’re not pruned. Winter does usually cause some dieback, so you can easily just remove dead wood in spring. 

Little Lime hydrangeas Ted Lare
Sun Hydrangeas

There are definitely more options for full sun hydrangeas. They also tend to have larger blooms that come a little bit later in the year than shade hydrangeas. Sun-loving hydrangeas do not change color. 

Little Quickfire and Mystical Flame have pink flowers, and the bloom clusters are less densely packed and have a more light and airy look than other varieties. They are smaller, only maturing at 3-4′. Both varieties can tolerate full sun or part sun conditions. 

Little Lime hydrangeas are excellent performers for full sun areas; they can even be grown in planters! While this hydrangea can be kept small, it can also grow from 3-5′ tall, if given the space. The blooms on these start out white and fade to green, sometimes with pink undertones. There is a larger version of this that is called Limelight hydrangea, which grows up to 8′ tall and wide. 

Sun-loving hydrangeas bloom on old and new wood, so you don’t want to cut them back right to the ground, or they may not bloom for a year. You can safely prune them back by ⅓ without disrupting the next season’s show. 

pruning hydrangeas Ted Lare
General Hydrangea Care 

Hydrangeas like to have consistently moist, but not saturated, soil conditions. When you get a variety for the location you have, full sun or shady, they’ll establish into very low maintenance shrub. There is no need for extra maintenance or fertilizers, and you can prune plants to maintain the desired height and shape, or let them grow as they please. Hydrangeas really take care of themselves, only occasionally needing some water during the hottest and driest days of summer.


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There are many more varieties of sun-loving hydrangeas available. Talk to the staff at our garden center to explore some of the best varieties under the sun!


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