Planting & Landscaping

Are Hydrangeas Annuals Or Perennials?

There are all types of Hydrangeas for all climates and positions, from large rambling climbers to dwarf cultivars. Many people ask whether hydrangeas are annuals or perennials.

Hydrangeas are perennial woody ornamental shrubs as they live for many years, provided you choose the correct type of hydrangea for your growing environment.

I've had an old fashioned mop head hydrangea in my garden, which is more than 30 years old and performs beautifully every summer. Recently I've added a new addition to my garden - Endless Summer, which is a rebloomer.

Most hydrangeas love morning sun and afternoon shade. An ideal spot to plant them will be on the east side of your house, or anywhere that gets dappled sun, under trees. Afternoon sun on the plant, and you will have an unhappy wilting plant. Unless you live in the Northern areas, then they will be able to tolerate full sun.

Hydrangeas like a nice rich soil with lots of added compost. They do not like a hot, dry location, so remember to water often.

They are deciduous, which means they drop their leaves in the wintertime.

What Is The Difference Between Perennials And Annuals?

Annuals and Perennials

Perennials last for many years. Some have a dormancy period if you have icy winters and come back again in the springtime.

Annuals have a life cycle that will only last for one year. They grow from seed to fully mature plant then die off once they have produced new seeds.

Do Hydrangeas Come Back Every Year?

Hydrangeas in the winter

Hydrangeas are deciduous and lose their leaves in late fall or early winter.

Place a thick layer of mulch over the root area and cover the plant if you have very cold freezing winters. In warmer regions such as zone 7, there is no need for winter protection.

Are There Annual Hydrangeas?


All hydrangeas are perennials.

However, if you purchase a plant that is not suited to your location and climate, it will probably not survive the first winter.

Hydrangeas In Containers


Hydrangeas grow well in large well-draining pots planted with a good potting mix and kept well watered. They will not do well in a small container.

If you live in an icy area, either choose a cold-hardy variety or try moving the container to a garage or shed during the winter. Alternatively, cover them with a protective covering.

Gift Hydrangeas


Many plants are bought or gifted as a pot plant to enjoy in the home.

These gifted hydrangeas are easy to care for as long as they are kept well watered in a well-drained pot, and kept in an area with lots of light.

Plant your gift in your garden if you live in Zone 6 or warmer. Choose a shady to semi-shady spot in the garden that is suitable and keep well-watered—plant in early to mid-summer.

If, however you live in Zone 5 or cooler, they may not be hardy enough. Then I'm afraid you will have to treat your hydrangea as an annual.

Types Of Hydrangeas

There are many varieties of hydrangeas from small and compact like the mountain hydrangea to rambling climbers. 


Big Leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)

This type is the most common hydrangea found in the United States.

Bigleaf hydrangeas are easy to propogate taking a softwood cutting in early spring and growing in moist potting soil.

Three of the macrophylla variety are:


Mophead Hydrangea

These are the most popular hydrangea. They grow 3 - 6 feet (1-2 meters) tall.

Mopheads can grow in full sun but do best in partial shade.

Don't let them dry out especially in the summer and deadhead them often to produce more blooms.


Lacecap Hydrangea

Large gorgeous flowers that are more delicate looking than the mophead.

Lacecaps have sterile florets on the outside of the flower with fertile florets unopened on the inside, which give it their unusual delicate lacy look.

They usually get to 2-4 feet (.5-1.2 meters) in height and width.


Mountain Hydrangea

This lacecap hydrangea has excellent cold tolerance.

It is small low growing shrub 3-5 feet (1-1.5 meters) with a moderate growth rate.

The Mountain Hydrangea flowers on old wood.


Panicle Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata)

Panicle hydrangeas have large cone-shaped flower heads, which usually change color from white to pink.

Very easy variety to grow.


Smooth hydrangea (hydrangea arborescens)

These hydrangeas are native to the United States and have giant dome-shaped blooms that go on for most of the summer.

They can be grown in full sun in cooler or semi-shaded areas if the climate is very hot.


Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

The oakleaf hydrangeas leaves get their name from their leaves shaped like the oak tree.

These plants can take deep shade, drought and cold better than the other hydrangeas.


Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris)

This hydrangea is a deciduous climber that can reach 30 - 80 feet (9-24 meters).

They are slow-growing until established, then become vigorous climbers and cling to surfaces by aerial rootlets.

When Do Hydrangeas Bloom?

Bigleaf Hydrangea.

Depending on which hydrangea you have, they start blooming from the end of spring to the beginning of summer.

A new development is reblooming hydrangeas, which will bloom most of the summer. They flower on new and old growth. These rebloomers will be marked as such when you purchase. Growers introduce new rebloomers each year.

Hydrangeas planted in large groups form a stunning display.

How To Prune Hydrangeas


Firstly distinguish which variety of hydrangea you have. Some varieties bloom on new growth, some on old wood and some on both.

Prune hydrangeas that bloom on new growth in fall or early spring. These can be cut back just above the first new bud. Hydrangeas that bloom on new growth are the Hydrangea arborescens or smooth hydrangea and Hydrangea paniculata.

Cut back by a third, the hydrangeas that bloom on old wood, once they have finished flowering. Hydrangeas that bloom on old wood are the macrophylla variety - mophead, big leaf and lacecaps.

Removing dead blooms can be done at any time. Dried or fresh hydrangea blooms are beautiful arranged in a vase.

Oakleaf hydrangeas bloom on the previous years' growth, so will only need a light pruning.

When Is The Best Time To Plant Hydrangeas?


The best time to plant hydrangeas is when they are dormant - from the time they have lost their leaves or in the spring after the last frost.

Remember to leave ample space for the mature plant to grow.

Hydrangeas are easy to grow and give you countless years of enjoyment.  They color the dullest dark corner.

Visit your local garden center, and they will be able to advise you on which hydrangea grows best for your local environment and micro-climate.

Some pests such as deer don't like the taste of hydrangeas as the leaves are slightly toxic. 

Easy To Grow Hydrangeas


Plant in dappled shade or morning sun

Water well and keep moist

Prune according to the variety

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