The best hydrangeas for shade

The best hydrangeas for shade

Last updated on June 22nd, 2020

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Hydrangeas are a great shrub for any garden, offering dozens of varieties with all manner of leaves, growth sizes, and colors. Where do you start though, if you have a heavily shaded yard or garden? Can hydrangeas grow in shade? Absolutely. In fact, many of the most common varieties like mophead and lacecap are perfect for shaded regions or shaded environments.

Which varieties of Hydrangea grow in shade?

  • Hydrangea aspera
  • Climbing hydrangea
  • Mophead hydrangea
  • Lacecap hydrangea

Hydrangea Aspera

Rough-leaved hydrangeas, known as Hydrangea aspera, take on a more tropical appearance, offering larger flower buds which are velvety and have dark green leaves. They prefer partial shade over a very shady spot and will also thrive in full sun making them perfect for nearly all light conditions.

Rough-leaved hydrangeas, known as Hydrangea aspera, take on a more tropical appearance, offering larger flower buds which are velvety and have dark green leaves. They prefer partial shade over a very shady spot and will also thrive in full sun making them perfect for nearly all light conditions.

Plum Passion II

One variety is the plum passion II, which is a hydrangea with purple leaves. This unique shrub provides green-purple foliage. The variety creates a dramatic contrast with its wispy flowers. These plants, in fact, need partial shade which makes them the perfect variety for those who have shaded yards.


Another variety is villosa with larger, velvety leaves and knobby, rose-coloured flower buds. The iridescence of these will attract bees too and its very hardy making it ideal for sheltered or exposed areas.

Climbing Hydrangeas

The Climbing Hydrangea is a shrub that climbs. It has very large leaves that are shaped like hearts and spiky white flowers. It is the biggest of all the hydrangeas out there and it can climb up to 50 feet and spread as wide a 6 ft. If you leave it on the ground and don't let it climb it will cover a space of 200 square feet or more. It's very drought tolerant and will grow very quickly.

Climbing hydrangeas are great in that they offer slow-growing vines which can extend to 50 feet, offering clusters usually comprising both small fertile and more showy sterile flowers style flower, embedded in green foliage during the summer. These do require a sturdy support structure to which they can cling. They also need soil that has great drainage, with at least partial shade and they absolutely thrive in very shady areas. Bear in mind that climbing hydrangeas may take between 3-4 years to get established. One thing many people like about these is that pruning is next to none.

Hydrangea petiolaris

The most popular is the standard hydrangea petiolaris which is available at most garden centres but some more interesting varieties include a variety known as a firefly, (not to be confused with the mophead variety called firefly) brings white flowers in clusters and leaves edged in gold. The Kuga varietal shows similarly green leaves that are stippled with gold and cream colors. Skylands Giant is another petiolaris variety that offers extra large flowers.

Mophead Hydrangea

There are many popular hydrangeas but one of the most popular is the mophead hydrangea. This is the one almost all gardeners and florists are acquainted with best and if you purchase flowers from a florist it is likely a mop head variety.

The mophead hydrangeas have the quintessentially large, puffy flower balls, indicative of old-fashioned elegance. If you see cut flowers at a store, they are likely mophead. These are best suited for places with afternoon shade, also requiring well-drained soil. With mophead you have to prune annually after the pink or blue blooms have appeared.

Hydrangea Macrophylla

This variety, known as “Big Daddy” offers the large blue or pink flowers. Buttons ‘n’ Bows does lavender-blue and pink flowers all of which are edged in white. Another variety of macrophylla is Cityline Venice which has stronger stems while Color Fantasy offers richer red flowers adorned atop dark green foliage. For those who want a brighter, summer color the Lemon Daddy variety has golden-yellow foliage topped with pink or blue flowers and forever pink provides a brighter, righter pink/lavender shade.

Lacecap Hydrangea

Growing lacecap hydrangeas is very simple so long as you follow some basic rules. The lacecap hydrangeas are also referred to as bigleaf hydrangeas because, as the name implies, they have rather large leaves but they also have attractive flower clusters that are blue and pink with edged flowers around the center.

These varieties have a refined appearance with tiny blooms all ringed by larger blooms, great for adding color near the end of summer. Lacecap hydrangeas actually prefer afternoon shade and well-drained soil. With lacecaps you can influence the color of the bloom, creating blue or pink, by changing the pH balance in the soil. Acidic soil lends itself to blue flowers or lavender shades while alkaline soil produces pink flowers.

Hydrangea Macrophylla

Bits of lace will reach 5 ft tall and produce pale pink flowers. Those who want something a bit more stunning can choose lady in red which offers burgundy stems, purple-red colors, and red flowers. White flowers can be produced on a more compact shrub with Lanarth white. Lemon wave is quite striking with its edged foliage covered in white, yellow, and cream, with light blue or pink blooms on top.

Whichever of these you choose it is always best to offer the shrubs morning sunlight and afternoon shade if at all possible while making sure the soil remains moist.

Photo by Joey Kyber on Unsplash

Last update on 2022-01-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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