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The Best Hydrangea Bush for Every Yard and Growing Condition

Discover what makes hydrangea bushes so versatile and our top picks for full sun, shade, pots, cut flowers and more!

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hydrangea bushCourtesy Steven Burk
American lady butterfly on a Pinky Winky panicle hydrangea

How to Pick a Hydrangea Bush

A hydrangea bush in full bloom can stop you in your tracks and—even better—there’s a type for nearly every yard. They thrive in almost any garden, according to Miranda Niemiec, a horticulture content specialist at hydrangea.com, as long as you know a few hydrangea facts.

Miranda emphasizes that you only need to know two main things to be successful. She says to always be aware of “what hydrangea species you have and whether it blooms on old or new wood.”

Bigleaf, mountain, oakleaf and climbing hydrangeas all bloom on old wood. If you must prune your hydrangea, do it sparingly. Panicle and smooth hydrangeas flower on new wood. Give them a light trim in late winter or early spring to encourage even more flowers.

Now that you know the secret to success, all you need to do is pick the right plant. These cultivars listed below boast some of a hydrangea bush’s best attributes.

Limelight Prime panicle hydrangea offers rich pink color.Photos Courtesy of Proven Winners - provenwinners.com
Limelight Prime panicle hydrangea offers rich pink color.

Best Cold Weather Hydrangea

Limelight Prime Panicle Hydrangea

Zones 3 to 8

Chilly temps can cause some hydrangeas not to bloom, but not this cultivar.

“Panicle hydrangeas are the best for cold climates, even down to Zone 3,” Miranda says. She explains that panicles, such as Limelight Prime, bloom on new wood, which grows only after cold winter temperatures have passed. They bloom earlier in the summer and flowers boast stunning fall colors.

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Let's Dance Can Do reblooming hydrangea has green, pink and purple blooms throughout the length of its stems.Photos Courtesy of Proven Winners - provenwinners.com
Let’s Dance Can Do reblooming hydrangea has green, pink and purple blooms throughout the length of its stems.

Best Hydrangea for Full Sun and Heat

Let’s Dance Can Do! Bigleaf Hydrangea

Zones 4 to 9

Long hot summers are challenging for some hydrangeas, but panicle, oakleaf and bigleaf varieties usually tolerate the heat—and Let’s Dance Can Do! is no exception. “It is a reblooming hydrangea bush that sets more flower buds than any other,” says Miranda. “Southern gardeners can enjoy nonstop flowers.”

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Incrediball smooth hydrangea has giant white ball-like bloom clusters.Photos Courtesy of Proven Winners - provenwinners.com
Incrediball smooth hydrangea has giant white ball-like bloom clusters.

Best Hydrangea for Cut Flowers

Incrediball Smooth Hydrangea

Zones 3 to 8

With oversized flower heads and sturdy stems, Incrediball makes a real statement in an arrangement. Miranda notes that its blooms slowly change hue, saying, “While the flowers start white, they age to jade green as the season progresses.”

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Gatsby Pink oakleaf hydrangea features long stems filled with delicate pink flowers.Photos Courtesy of Proven Winners - provenwinners.com
Gatsby Pink oakleaf hydrangea features long stems filled with delicate pink flowers.

Best Hydrangea for Shade

Gatsby Pink Oakleaf Hydrangea

Zones 5 to 9

As understory plants, oakleaf hydrangea shrubs love shade. Sometimes the lack of sun means fewer blooms—but not for Gatsby Pink. Miranda says, “It produces white, fragrant flowers that age to pink, which will surely brighten your shady spots.”

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Tiny Tuff Stuff mountain hydrangea has beautiful dark green serrated leaves that contrast the lilac-colored bloom clusters.Photos Courtesy of Proven Winners - provenwinners.com
Tiny Tuff Stuff mountain hydrangea has beautiful dark green serrated leaves that contrast with the lilac-colored bloom clusters.

Best Hydrangea For Pots

Tiny Tuff Stuff Mountain Hydrangea

Zones 5 to 9

Miranda promises that this one lives up to its cultivar name—its truly a shrub for small spaces. She says, “As one of the smallest mountain hydrangeas on the market, at only 2 feet tall and wide, Tiny Tuff Stuff is perfectly sized for containers.”

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Let's Dance Big Band reblooming hydrangea has light green flowers that transition to deep purple.Photos Courtesy of Proven Winners - provenwinners.com
Let’s Dance Big Band reblooming hydrangea has light green flowers that transition to deep purple.

Best Blue or Pink Hydrangea

Let’s Dance Big Band Bigleaf Hydrangea

Zones 5 to 9

All bigleaf hydrangeas are chameleons, depending on the soil acidity. But Let’s Dance Big Band is an especially easy hydrangea bush to change color. “They turn a vibrant pink in basic soils, a deep blue in acidic soils, or a rich violet if your soil falls somewhere in the middle,” Miranda says.

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Next, learn why the ‘Wee Bit Giddy’ hydrangea is the GORGEOUS flower missing from your garden.

Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find he reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.