If the only smooth hydrangea you're familiar with is the Annabelle hydrangea with the bodacious mophead flowers, please pause here to consider the lacecap flowers of 'Mary Nell'.
The stems of 'Mary Nell' are stout and easily hold aloft the 6-8" lacecaps without flopping over to the ground (flopping is the bad posture exhibited by some big hydrangea flowers - especially mopheads - that have spindly, weak stems).
Nature tasked lacecap flowers as the original flowers of the species to disperse seeds. We explain this fascinating situation in our article on lacecap flowers. In brief, our beloved pollinating insects are attracted to the outer, gaudy, sterile florets and they end up pollinating the inner, homely-looking, fertile florets.
So, if you enjoy plant and pollinator theater, 'Mary Nell' is perfect for your garden and you can cut some of the flowers and bring them in to enjoy in a vase.
'Mary Nell' and all wild hydrangeas are remontant. Meaning, cut of the flowers as they fade, and maybe prune them back a little more to create fatter plants; then a second flush of growth and therefore flowers are produced by the end of the summer.
She does well withstanding hot summer heat here in our Zone 8a North Georgia garden, but her foliage does look tired by the end of summer (like it does on all plants in our climate that like cooler summers). I'll admit I have summer envy toward Zone 6 and 7 climates. 'Mary Nell' was discovered in Illinois so does equally well (or better) in cooler summers like that.
The other smooth hydrangea we offer is 'Haas Halo'. 'Mary Nell' differs from 'Haas Halo' by having a double ring of sterile florets growing along the rim of the lacecap.
Grower's Note: We grow smooth hydrangeas in RootMaker pots so we induce the best, well-branched, non-circling roots possible. These pots are expensive, so we take your plant out of the pot, then we clean and reuse the pot (recycling!). To ship your plants, we carefully wrap the roots in a compostable plastic bag, then put them in a paper bag; then they are boxed. This triple packaging holds together very tightly during shipment. Please have a pot on hand to shift them up into, but they will hold as-is in the packaging we send them for several days before planting (please water them!). The goal of this system is to have good roots and reduce trash.
remontant, pollinator plant, long flowering period, cut flowers
Mary Nell smooth hydrangea, smooth hydrangea, wild hydrangea
USDA Hardiness Zones
flowering shrub, deciduous
- Spring: medium green
- Summer: medium green
- Fall: yellow
Fall Leaf Color Quality
Soil Moisture Requirements
moist-but-draining, no standing water
Soil pH Requirements
acid, neutral, alkaline
sun, part shade, shade
To Make It Thrive
Give 'Mary Nell' smooth hydrangea rich soil plus consistent moisture in a soil that drains. It may require extra watering, but no standing water. Smooth hydrangeas loves a layer of compost, then a layer of mulch on top - both to provide a rich and cool root zone. Place it in full shade or afternoon shade in the deep south (zones 8 and 9), but full sun is okay farther north. Best flowering is with some sun.