Dichroa is weirdly similar, but wonderfully different than bigleaf hydrangea.
Even though it's called "blue evergreen hydrangea" the flowers turn pink in alkaline soil and purple in neutral - this trait is the main floral similarity to bigleaf hydrangea.
Texture and shape of Chinese quinine leaves are similar to bigleaf hydrangea, but the color is darker green and the leaves are thinner. The rounded form is also similar.
The first noticeable weird difference is the showy flower buds. They are plump and, in my opinion, more eye-catching than the open flowers
When the flowers open, they have reflexed petals, in a very un-hydrangea-like position. Take a gander at the photo and you'll see immediately.
Then the showy blue fruit arrive. Show fruit is a trait that's very different than our diva hydrangea's bland brown capsules. Dichroa fruit are standouts! It's been years since I've seen a fruit, so I don't have a picture. I am on high alert to get one this year.
Dichroa is marginally hardy in 7b where I have seen it growing near a house. It is more comfortable in zones 8a and warmer.
Cultural conditions are similar to bigleaf hydrangea: dappled shade or morning sun, moist soil, rich soil, and climates with mild winters.
blue evergreen hydrangea, Chinese quinine
USDA Hardiness Zones
flowering shrub, deciduous, semi-evergreen
- Spring: medium green
- Summer: medium green
Fall Leaf Color Quality
Soil Moisture Requirements
moist-but-draining, no standing water
Soil pH Requirements
acid, neutral, alkaline
part shade, shade
To Make It Thrive
Dichroa especially likes warm climates, but otherwise simply provide it with the same conditions you'd give a bigleaf hydrangea, such as rich soil plus consistent moisture in a soil that drains. It may require extra watering, but avoid standing water. Grow it in full shade or afternoon shade in the deep south (zones 8 and 9), not only for the foliage, but so the flowers don't get sun scald. Full sun is okay farther north. For flowering in cold climates, situate it in a warm, sheltered location. During the ups and downs of spring temps here in Zone 8a - we cover to protect flower buds.