Chinese Snowball Bush Vs Hydrangea: What’s the Difference?

Updated: Feb. 06, 2023

These puffy plants look almost the same! Learn the differences between snowball bush vs hydrangea, including their growing zones and heights.

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chinese snowball viburnum bush vs hydrangeaVia Wayside Gardens
Annabelle hydrangea covered in white blooms

It’s not always easy to tell the flowers in your garden apart. Some look so visually similar that, at first glance, they appear to be the same plant! Such is the case with two cloud-colored favorites; Chinese snowball viburnum (also known as a snowball bush) and Annabelle hydrangea.

Learn how to choose the best hydrangeas for every yard.

Snowball Bush Vs Hydrangea: Similarities and Differences

Hydrangea arborescens or 'Annabelle' flowerRoberto Machado Noa/Getty Images
Annabelle hydrangea is a better choice for small spaces

The amount of overlap between these plants makes it difficult to distinguish them. From their bloom color down to their growing zones, Chinese snowball viburnum (Viburnum macrocephalum) and Annabelle hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) have much in common.

One way to determine whether you have a snowball bush vs a hydrangea is to measure the plant’s mature height. A Chinese snowball viburnum typically grows 6 to 10 feet tall and wide, while an Annabelle hydrangea grows only 3 to 5 feet tall and wide. So, if your plant is on the shorter side, it’s likely you have a hydrangea.

Here’s how to change the color of your hydrangeas.

Flowers of Viburnum macrocephalum, Chinese snowballAlessandroZocc/Getty Images
A Chinese snowball bush is not as cold hardy as an Annabelle hydrangea

Need help deciding which plant you should add to your garden? Take a look at your growing zone. Chinese snowball viburnum grows in zones 6 to 9, while Annabelle hydrangea grows in zones 3 to 9. If you live in a colder growing zone, you should choose a hydrangea.

Discover the top 10 flowering bushes you should grow.

Chinese Snowball Viburnum Care

Chinese,snowball,viburnum,flower,heads,are,snowy.,blooming,of,beautiful, snowball bush vs hydrangeaKuzmenko Viktoria photografer/Shutterstock
Chinese snowball viburnum is sometimes known as a snowball bush

A snowball bush grows best in full sun to part shade. It prefers well-drained soil and needs to stay moist, but that doesn’t mean daily drenching with the hose—once the plant is established, it only needs a light watering a few times a week.

When cared for properly, snowball bush sprouts rounded lime green flowers that rapidly turn white, lasting from May to June. Check your local plant nurseries, or find it at online retailers like Home Depot.

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Looking to add another gorgeous viburnum to your yard? Try brandywine viburnum for tie-dye berry clusters.

Annabelle Hydrangea Care

Hydrangea Arborescens Annabelle AgmMartin Hughes-Jones /Alamy Stock Photo
Plant your Annabelle hydrangea in a location where it will receive morning sunlight

Annabelle hydrangea grows best in part shade in the South to full sun in the North—morning sun is best. Take care not to plant Annabelle hydrangea in sites that get all-day sun because it may wilt.

When cared for properly, its extra-large white flower heads grow up to a foot wide. (Keeping the flowers from falling over can be a challenge, but there are ways to stop this, such as staking and watering on hot days.) The plant flowers from June through September, and its green rounded leaves fade into bronze or brown in fall. You can leave the dried flower heads up for winter interest and then prune them off in spring because these smooth hydrangeas bloom on new wood. (Psst—is your hydrangea not blooming? Here’s what to do.)

Ready to add this plant to your landscape? Check your local plant nurseries, or order your Annabelle hydrangea online.

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Next, check out hydrangea facts that even expert gardeners don’t know