Think you know them all? Think again.


We know our hydrangeas, and we love our hydrangeas. There's one particular hydrangea, though, that doesn't get the love it deserves—and considering how hardy it is and how easy it is to grow, it certainly doesn't receive appropriately effusive praise. We're speaking, of course, of smooth hydrangea, also known as Hydrangea arborescens and, sometimes, wild hydrangea. It's a spectacular garden planting. While it provides everything we love about hydrangeas, in this species, all its most attractive qualities are amplified.

About Smooth Hydrangea

Smooth hydrangea is native to the southeastern United States, so it is right at home in the Southern states. This hydrangea can grow to 10 feet tall and wide. It has long-lasting blooms, and once it begins to flower in the heat of June, it continues on until the chill of the first frost sets in. It also brings fall foliage to the garden when its beautiful, oval, gray-green leaves turn gold in autumn.

The blooms of the smooth hydrangea are stunning additions to the garden, as most selections produce snowball-like white flowers. One of the South's favorites is Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle,' which is small—it grows to only 4 feet—but has a showy flowering season and produces huge clusters of bright white flowers. Beyond the white blooms, some smooth hydrangeas produce blossoms in light blue and soft pink hues.

Smooth Hydrangea Care

The plant itself thrives in a mix of sunlight and shade. Like most hydrangeas, it likes moist, well-draining soil, and it requires only occasional pruning when it becomes leggy. Pruning should happen in late winter or early spring, and that is reliably followed by new blooms in summer.

We love all hydrangeas, but it's time Hydrangea arborescens gets its due. For more information about hydrangeas, planting, and care, read The Complete Guide to Hydrangeas and The Grumpy Gardener's Guide to Hydrangeas.

What's your favorite species of hydrangea? Do you have hydrangeas growing in your garden, or do you want to try your hand at planting some shrubs this season?