What's The Difference Between A Snowball Bush And An Annabelle Hydrangea?

Don't let these blooms confuse you.

Want to really make a statement in your yard? Plant a Chinese snowball viburnum, or, wait, is it a snowball hydrangea? You know, the one with big white blooms, vibrant green leaves, and curb appeal to spare? Head to any garden center in the South and you might find yourself doing a similar jig as the garden pro tries to nail down exactly which stunner you're after. The 'Annabelle' hydrangea (sometimes referred to as a snowball hydrangea) and the Chinese snowball viburnum (also known as the Chinese snowball bush) both check all the boxes, but they do have a number of factors that will differentiate one from the other. We broke down all the facts on these two beloved Southern plants for the ultimate garden showdown.

Grow Blooming Shrubs

Van Chaplin

Botanical Names

Chinese Snowball Viburnum: Viburnum macrocephalum

Annabelle Hydrangea: Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'

Planting Zones

Chinese Snowball Viburnum: Zones 6–9 (USDA)

Annabelle Hydrangea: Zones 3–9 (USDA)

Care & Sun

Chinese Snowball Viburnum: This stunner will thrive in full sun to partial shade, though warmer climates might require additional shade in the afternoon. Prefers moist, well-drained soil.

Annabelle Hydrangea: Morning sun and afternoon shade is de rigueur when it comes to growing hydrangeas, and 'Annabelle' is no different. Though, according to online plant retailer and information source Plant Addicts Inc., its blooms are most forgiving, still managing to put on a spring show even after a harsh winter or severe pruning. Grows best in rich, moist, well-drained soil.


Chinese Snowball Viburnum: It blooms in spring, starting out with lime-green flowers that change to white as they develop. Each flower cluster rings in around 6 to 8 inches in diameter, with the large-scale shrub or small tree reaching heights of 12 to 20 feet tall. Not surprisingly, you won't want to overdo it when planting. Just one or two viburnum bushes (depending on yard size) is all you'll need to make a statement.

Annabelle Hydrangea: 'Annabelle' is a variety of smooth hydrangea, a species that grows wild in the eastern U.S. It will reach 4 feet in both height and width, with huge, white flowering clusters that have been known to hit an expansive 10 inches in diameter. Similar to the Chinese snowball viburnum, the flowers start off green and turn white as they mature.


Chinese Snowball Viburnum: Prune just after flowering in order to shape and remove dead wood, otherwise, let it do its thing.

Annabelle Hydrangea: Prune in fall, winter, or early spring before green growth appears. While you can prune this plant to the ground, Plant Addicts recommends maintaining a limb length of 18–24 inches in order to strengthen branches that could buckle under the weight of the enormous blooms.

Bonus Points

We love the forgiving blooms of Annabelle, especially for those of us who are known to get a little aggressive with the garden shears. As for the Chinese snowball, this stunner gets an A+ for its butterfly-attracting skills.

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