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.

Botanical Name

Chinese Snowball Viburnum: viburnum macrocephalum

Annabelle Hydrangea: hydrangea arborescens

Planting Zones

Chinese Snowball Viburnum: zones 6 - 9

Annabelle Hydrangea: zones 3 - 9

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.

Annabelle Hydrangea: Morning sun and afternoon shade is de rigueur when it comes to 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.


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 six to eight inches in diameter, with the large-scale shrub reaching heights of 12 to 20 feet tall. Not surprisingly, you won't want to overdo it when planting. Just one or two bushes (depending on yard size) is all you'll need to make a statement.

Annabelle Hydrangea: It will reach four 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: Plant Addicts, Inc. suggests pruning sparingly (anytime but the spring), maintaining a limb length of 18-to-24 inches in order to protect against weakened branches that could buckle under the weight of the enormous blooms.

Bonus Points

We love the forgiving blooms of the 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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