Hydrangea Arborescens Care: How To Grow Smooth Hydrangea Shrubs

Hydrangea arborescens, known as smooth hydrangeas, make a lovely addition to landscapes, plus they're native to North America. Here's how to grow these gorgeous shrubs at home.

Blooming smooth hydrangea bushes
(Image credit: IKvyatkovskaya / Getty Images)

Wild hydrangea shrubs are more often called smooth hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens). They are deciduous plants native to the southeastern United States, but can be cultivated in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9. The wild hydrangea plant flowers from June until the first frosts. Read on for information about growing smooth hydrangeas.

About Hydrangea Arborescens

This species of hydrangea forms a low mound of heart-shaped green leaves and sturdy stems that turn dark yellow in the fall. The plant foliage has a coarse texture, and grows to about 3 to 4 feet (1 m.) tall with an even wider spread by the time fall comes around.

The flowers are fertile and of a uniform height, slightly flattened and displayed atop sturdy stalks. When they open, they are slightly green. The color changes to creamy white as they mature and then to brown as they wilt. Don’t try to change the color by changing the acidity of the soil; this species of hydrangea does not alter the blossom shade according to soil pH.

Various cultivars are available in commerce offering different flower shapes and colors. For example, the 'Annabelle' cultivar bears pure white blossoms, round like snowballs and 8 to 12 inches (20-31 cm.) in diameter. Some newer cultivars produce pink flowers.

Planting Smooth Hydrangeas

Smooth hydrangea care starts by selecting an appropriate planting location. A wild hydrangea plant won’t perform well in full sun in a hot location. Choose a location that gets sun in the morning but has some shade during the heat of the afternoon. When you are planting wild hydrangeas, find a spot with well-drained, moist, acidic soil. Work in a few inches (8 cm.) of organic compost before planting to enrich the soil.

Smooth Hydrangea Care

Once you finish planting wild hydrangeas and after they are established, irrigate them occasionally if the weather is very dry. These wild hydrangea shrubs do not support extended drought without suffering. If you need to rejuvenate a wild hydrangea plant, prune the shrub to 6 inches (15 cm.) in springtime. It blooms on new wood and should produce stems and new blossoms by summer.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.