How to Choose and Care for Hydrangeas

The best 4 for New Hampshire

There’s just something about hydrangeas that seems elegant and indulgent. Their large, soft blooms are creamy white or saturated in pink, chartreuse, purple or blue and seem to be right off a sultry, Southern plantation. For some reason, we always picture them around a porch. 

But hydrangeas are something of a contradiction. They’re old-fashioned and still decidedly fresh and modern. They appear delicate but new varieties especially are vigorous rebloomers and generally worry-free. They’re hardy in the landscape but can sometimes wilt almost as soon as you cut them to bring them inside (read on for a trick to avoid this).

Personally, their dual nature and Pinterest-pretty good looks are some of the things we like best about hydrangeas. So let’s look at the four types of hydrangeas that you can grow in your landscape and how to choose:


Everblooming Bigleaf (H. macrophylla)

These are long-time favorites you’ve likely seen in gardens growing up. They come in two flower head shapes, rounded mophead and flat lacecap and a variety of colors. These guys can be vulnerable to late spring frosts, so it may be best to plant them in areas shielded from the harsh winds and exposure. 

Planting Plant in partial sun to shade and if you prefer the blue blooms, simply work a bit of aluminum sulfate into the soil. Just follow package directions.

Watering1-2 inches of water per week. Overwatering can delay or prevent blooms.

Our Current Favorite Rebloomer Blushing Bride, a mophead that emerges white and matures to blush pink.


Panicle (H. paniculata) 

If the frost warning worries of the Everblooming Bigleaf aren’t your style, Panicle hydrangeas are the darlings of northern states like New Hampshire, hardy to zone 3 (far north of Bedford) and very cold tolerant. Flowers bloom white or chartreuse in midsummer, eventually turning pink or tan.

Planting Give these beauties some room to breathe when you plant because they will grow to 6-8 feet tall and wide. They also bloom best in full sun. And because of their large footprint and vase-shaped blooms, panicle hydrangeas look great as a garden’s focal point.  

Watering1-2 inches of water per week. Overwatering can delay or prevent blooms.

Our Current Favorites Limelight, Limelight Prime, Little Lime and Puffer Fish  


Smooth (H. arborescens)

This is what you probably envision when you think of the soft, dollop blossoms of the hydrangea, especially the Annabelle hydrangea whose flower heads can get as large as a dinner plate. You can support extra-large blooms by propping the heads with stakes or short wire fences.

Planting Plant in sun to part shade for round, white flowers.  

Watering 1-2 inches of water per week. Overwatering can delay or prevent blooms.

Our Current Favorite Annabelle


Climbing (H. anomala subsp.petiolaris)

This woody flowering vine is easy to grow once established and will reward you for decades. Give yours a little time (a season or two) to establish a strong base. The climbing vine is self-clinging, but we recommend using garden twine, a trellis or other supports once it goes vertical up chimneys, brick walls, railings and arbors.

Planting Plant in filtered or morning light for profuse snowy-white, lace-cap flowers.

Watering 1-2 inches of water per week, possibly more when establishing.

Our Current Favorite Japanese Climbing Hydrangea (also known as Hydrangea anomala)


And that tip about caring for cut hydrangeas? Try cutting yours in morning or evening hours when it’s cooler and bring a container outside so you can place stems in water as soon as you snip them. An added measure, just in case? Boil enough water to immerse the bottom few inches of your stems. Hold them in the water for 30 seconds then arrange them in your vase with room temperature water. Seem strange? Well, sometimes the sticky sap in the stem or trapped air bubbles can stop your hydrangeas from taking up water. The heat will eliminate any barrier. 

Visit the garden center to get the full hydrangea experience. They’re well worth the trip. And if you’re wondering if you can plant hydrangeas now, the answer is almost always yes! If the ground is workable, you can plant. Here’s a Planting and Care Guide to help.