The easiest hydrangea to grow loves the summer swelter.

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Some hydrangeas burn to a crisp in August sun. Others die of thirst. Still others won't bloom if you prune them in fall, winter, or spring. For those of you who hate such results, may I kindly suggest you go to your garden center and purchase a panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata)? This type is easy, easy, easy in USDA Zones 3 to 9A. That's a big chunk of country.

Limelight Hydrangea
Credit: Steve Bender

The one you see above in Grumpy's yard is 'Limelight,' by far the most popular selection and among the most widely planted summer-flowering, deciduous shrubs in the USA. It grows 6 to 8 feet tall and wide and gets its name from large flower clusters borne on the tips of sturdy stems that start off lime green and brighten to white. Mine grows in full sun in soil that's well-drained, but still pretty crummy. It blooms for a good two months or more here in north-central Alabama starting in June and continuing into August. I never spray, fertilize, or fuss over it. It's a keeper. Because it blooms on new growth, winter and early spring are good times to prune to reduce size or remove unwanted growth.

Unfortunately, deer relish hydrangeas, as my brother and sister-in-law discovered at their home in West Virginia. Deer repellents like Deer Off, Liquid Fence, and Bobbex (look for these in garden centers or on amazon.com) prevent this but must be reapplied periodically. My bro protects his hydrangeas inside cylindrical wire cages. He tells me after the shrubs get tall enough, flowers pop out of the tops of the cages and the deer pretty much leave them alone.

'Limelight' is far from the only panicle hydrangea you can buy. After breeders saw how well it sold, they produced smaller versions, earlier-blooming ones, and selections whose white flowers turn rose and burgundy as they age. This latter feature got people all juiced up, but if you live in the South, temper your fervor. For the color change to happen, nighttime temperatures must drop into the sixties or below. Otherwise, flowers stay white and then gradually dry and turn brown. So don't count on pink in USDA Zones 7B, 8, or 9. In Zones 3 to 7A, enjoy the show.

‘Pinky Winky’ Hydrangea
Credit: Jacky Parker Photography/Getty Images

Notable Panicle Hydrangea Selections Include:

  • 'Bobo.' Very compact plant, 2 to 3 feet tall and wide, white flowers may turn pink. Good in containers.
  • 'Little Lime.' Compact form of 'Limelight,' growing 3 to 5 feet tall and wide. Good in containers. Lime-green flowers turn white and may age to pink.
  • 'Little Quick Fire.' Compact shrub, 3 to 5 feet tall and wide. Good in containers. Blooms about a month earlier than other selections. White flowers may age to pink and red.
  • 'Moon Dance.' Large, conical clusters of white flowers held upright on strong stems. Great for cut flowers. Grows 6 to 8 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide. Makes nice informal hedge.
  • 'Pinky Winky.' Very large, conical flower clusters up to 16 inches long age to pink; clusters may be pink and white at same time. Grows 6 to 8 feet tall and wide. Good for informal hedge.
  • 'White Wedding.' Large, pillow-shaped clusters of white flowers appear from spring until fall. Grows 4 to 6 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide. Good for cut flowers, informal hedges, borders.
  • 'Zinfin Doll.' Huge, conical flowers clusters open white, then change to pink from the bottom up. Clusters may be two colors at once. Grows 6 to 8 feet tall and wide. Long bloom season. Superb for cut flowers.