Zone 5 Hydrangeas – Growing Hydrangeas In Zone 5 Gardens

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By Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

Hydrangeas are an old-fashioned favorite in the garden, all around the world. Their popularity started in England and Europe but quickly spread to North America in the early 1800’s. They have continued to be a garden favorite since. With several species being hardy all the way down to zone 3, hydrangeas can grow in just about any location. However, in zone 5 and above, gardeners have more hardy varieties of hydrangeas to choose from than zone 3 or 4 gardeners do. Continue reading to learn more about zone 5 hydrangea varieties.

Zone 5 Hydrangea Varieties

All the different varieties of hydrangeas, with their different bloom types, can seem a little confusing or overwhelming. Advice from other gardeners like, “Don’t prune that or you’ll won’t get any flowers,” may have you scared to do anything to any of your hydrangeas. While, it’s true that if you cut back certain hydrangeas, they won’t bloom the following year, other types of hydrangeas benefit from being cut back each year.

It is important to know what types of hydrangea you have to properly care for it. Below are brief explanations of zone 5 hydrangea varieties and tips on caring for hardy hydrangeas based on what type they are.

Bigleaf Hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) – Hardy to zone 5, bigleaf hydrangeas bloom on old wood. This means that you should not prune or cut them back in late fall-early spring or they will not bloom. Bigleaf hydrangeas are all the rage these days because they can change colors. In acidic soil or with the use of acidic fertilizer, they can achieve beautiful true blue blooms. In more alkaline soils, the flowers will bloom pink. They can consistently bloom from spring through fall, and in autumn, foliage will take on pink-purple colors. Bigleaf hydrangeas may need a little extra winter protection in zone 5.

Popular varieties of Bigleaf hydrangeas for zone 5 are:

  • Cityline series
  • Edgy series
  • Let’s Dance series
  • Endless Summer series

Panicle Hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata) – Hardy to zone 3, panicle hydrangeas, sometimes referred to as tree hydrangeas, bloom on new wood and benefit from being cut back each fall-early spring. Panicle hydrangeas usually start blooming in midsummer and the blooms last until fall. Flowers form as large panicles or cones. Panicle hydrangea blooms usually go through natural color changes as they grow and fade out, starting out white or lime green, turning pink, then browning as they fade and dry out. No fertilizer is required for this color change, but no fertilizer will turn the blooms of a panicle hydrangea blue, either. Panicle hydrangeas are the most cold hardy hydrangeas and also the most tolerant of sun and heat. Popular varieties of panicle hydrangeas for zone 5 are:

  • Bobo
  • Firelight
  • Quickfire
  • Little Quickfire
  • Limelight
  • Little Lime
  • Little Lamb
  • Pinky Winky

Annabelle or Smooth Hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens) – Hardy to zone 3, Annabelle or smooth hydrangeas bloom on new wood and benefit from being cut back in late fall to early spring. Annabelle hydrangeas produce large, round flower clusters from early summer to fall. Usually white, a few varieties will produce pink or blue flowers, but they cannot be changed by certain fertilizers. Annabelle hydrangeas prefer more shade. Popular Annabelle hydrangeas in zone 5 are the Incrediball and Invincibelle Spirit series.

Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris) – Hardy to zone 4, climbing hydrangea is a woody vine with white flowers. It is not necessary to prune climbing hydrangea, except to manage its growth. They produce white blooms and quickly climb to a height of 80 feet by way of sticky aerial roots.

Mountain or Tuff Stuff Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla v serrata) – Hardy to zone 5, mountain hydrangeas are tough little hydrangeas that are native to the moist, wooded valleys of mountains in China and Japan. They bloom on new wood and old wood, so you can prune and deadhead them as needed. In my experience, it seems almost no care is needed and these hydrangeas are really tough. They are tolerant of sun and shade, salt, clay to sandy soil, highly acidic to lightly alkaline soil, and are deer and rabbit resistant. Shaping is usually not necessary, as they grow in low rounded mounds and bloom continuously in summer and fall, with blooms that get more purple-blue in acidic soil or remain bright pink in neutral-alkaline soil. In fall, the foliage develops pink and purple hues. In zone 5, the Tuff Stuff series performs well.

Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) – Hardy to zone 5, oakleaf hydrangeas bloom on old wood and should not be cut back in the fall-early spring. As the name suggests, they have large attractive foliage, shaped like oak leaves, that also develops beautiful fall colors of reds and purples. They flowers are usually white and cone shaped. Oakleaf hydrangeas have become quite popular in zone 5 gardens, but they may need some extra winter protection. For zone 5 gardens, try the Gatsby series.

Hydrangeas can be used in a variety of ways in the landscape, from specimen plants to tough, durable borders to wall coverings or shade vines. Caring for hardy hydrangeas is much easier when you know the variety and its specific needs.

Most zone 5 hydrangeas bloom best when they get about 4 hours of sun each day and prefer moist, well-draining, somewhat acidic soil. Oakleaf and bigleaf hydrangeas in zone 5 should be given extra winter protection by heaping mulch or other organic material up around the plant crown.

More Information about Zone 5
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