How to Grow a Climbing Hydrangea
The hydrangea is the undisputed Queen of the Southern Garden. Whether you grow, a big leaf, panicle, smooth, or oakleaf variety, a well-tended hydrangea will give you lots and lots of gorgeous blooms throughout the season. Looking across a yard at a bank of hydrangea bushes in full bloom is certainly a site to behold, but consider looking upward to the climbing hydrangea, a flowering vine that produces fragrant, lace-cap white flower clusters. Using the suckers on the branches, a climbing hydrangea will scale walls and other structures, sometimes reaching 50 feet tall or more at maturity.
Where and How to Grow
Climbing hydrangea vines can scale tree trunks, sturdy trellises, arbors, and fences. The vines become large and heavy over time so be sure that the host structure can support the weight of the vines and the structure is not something (like the side of a clapboard house) that may rot or need replacing or repainting. The plants can also be pruned to maintain a shrub-like form. Climbing hydrangea can also be used as ground covers, taking root where the suckers make contact with the ground and filling in the area. Some gardeners like to use a climbing hydrangea as ground cover in their moon gardens. Here is one more reason to love climbing hydrangeas: they are salt-tolerant plants and are very popular in seaside communities. The vines commonly don't bloom until they are three to five years old so just be patient.
Climbing hydrangea is one of the few hardy flowering vinesthat tolerate shade. In hot climates, choose a location where the plant will get some partial shade. In the cooler regions of the South, the vine will usually do well in more sunny areas, if adequately watered. Climbing hydrangeas that do get more sun tend to bloom better.
Soil, Feed, and Water
Climbing hydrangea needs a rich, moist, well-drained soil. If your soil needs improvement, mix in a generous amount of compost before planting. Apply a 3-inch layer of mulch to help retain water in the ground around the root zone and reduce weeds. Fertilize this plant in the spring before the leaves begin to bud. Granular fertilizer with a high phosphorous count will create beautiful blooms. Fertilize again after the flowers have bloomed in the summer. As with other hydrangea plants, this species likes constantly moist soil. Place it where it will get watered about 1 inch weekly, or even more often in hot weather. Interesting side note about the word hydrangea: the Greek root hydrrefers to water, and angeon comes from the Greek for "vessel."
Temperature and Humidity
This plant is hardy in USDA plant zones 5 through 7, does well in temperate climates but may wilt in hot, humid conditions. It can be damaged by sunburn and prefers daytime temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit and night temperatures around 60 degrees. It will set buds only if there are six weeks of temperatures below 65 degrees. A sudden frost can damage the buds and you may not see flowers the next year.
WATCH: Essential Southern Plant: Hydrangea
As stated above, newly planted climbing hydrangea vines are slow to grow and slow to bloom. Once the plants are established, however, climbing hydrangea tend to be vigorous growers and, depending on where they are growing, may need pruning in summer to keep them under control, if desired.