Types of Hydrangeas: Complete Guide

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Meta description: Wondering what variety of hydrangeas is best for your garden? Here’s a fully compiled list of different types of hydrangeas to help you figure out.

Did you know that several types of hydrangeas exist?  Because of the different hydrangeas varieties, you can pick one based on your needs and preferences.

Whether it’s your geographical location, climate, or the color of blooms, you can always pick the plant type you want. So, to help you figure out which variety to look for, we’ve compiled a complete list of the types of hydrangeas you can get your hands on.


5 Common Hydrangeas Plant Types Available

These five common types of hydrangeas are distinguished by their species. However, when it comes to appearance and other significant characteristics, you will not only find five types planted in gardens. There are myriad hydrangea varieties you can incorporate into your garden.

Nonetheless, the one thing all varieties and species of hydrangeas have in common is their long lived, deciduous shrub-like finish with showy blooms. Hydrangeas are also easy to care for and typically bloom during the summer to fall season.

Now, let’s take a close look at the five main types and key varieties they offer:

1. Hydrangea Macro Bigleaf

  • Hardiness zone: USDA 6-9
  • Season of interest: June – August (summer – fall)
  • Light needs: Partial sun
  • Water needs: Once a week
  • Soil type: Heavy clay
  • Soil drainage: Moist, well drained
  • pH level: 6  to 7
  • Temperature level: 64.4 to 84.2 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Best for: Seaside gardens (thanks to their toughness and withstanding of wind and other extreme conditions)

Popularly known as big leaf or French hydrangea, this species of hydrangeas is what you will find in most home gardens. In fact, this is the reason why you may sometimes hear people refer to the big leaf hydrangeas as the florist’s hydrangea due to their commonality.

While they are native to Japan, they have become a pretty popular species in the US and other countries, surviving various climates.

Originally, big leaf hydrangea grow large, rounded pink or blue flower heads in the summer and fall season while their shrubs can extend up to 8 feet tall.

The color of the flowers is typically affected by the acidity of the soil the plant grows in. Unlike other species, bigleaf hydrangeas grow ultra thick and rugged leaves that withstand somewhat harsh conditions, like windy areas.

There are three main types of hydrangea Macrophylla.

These include:

Mophead Hydrangeas

Large rounded bloom heads with small white or colorful florets that typically flower during summer and begin to change color in fall. They last the longest, about 3 to 6 months.

Lacecap Hydrangeas (Hydrangea Macrophylla normalis)

Clusters of flattened flowers that form a pattern (made of very tiny florets) starting from the center. Lacecap varieties bloom around summer but tend to fade faster, usually lasting only a month.

Mountain Hydrangeas (Hydrangea Macrophylla serrata)

The least common type of big leaf hydrangeas, mountain hydrangeas, tend to have darker and serrated leaves, but their shrubs are much smaller and compact. They usually grow blue purple to pink blooms, depending on whether the soil is acidic or basic, respectively.

But, you can also find some special cultivars that change up to four colors per season. These varieties tend to bloom from early to late summer. Unlike mop heads, the mountain variety can be alittle susceptible to the cold climate but handles the spring frosts pretty well.

In addition to the different big leaf varieties, you will also find over hundreds of cultivars of these varieties. Some of the popular varieties include the All Summer Beauty mophead, the deep red colored Alpengluhen mophead, or  the giant whitish pink Beauté Vendomoise lacecap, to name a few.

2. Hydrangea Arborescens (Smooth Hydrangea)

  • Hardiness zone: USDA 3-9
  • Season of interest: Early summer – fall
  • Light needs: Full or partial sun
  • Water needs: Once a week (but, also drought tolerant)
  • Soil type: Loam, rich acidic clay
  • Soil drainage: Moist, well drained
  • pH level: 6  to 7
  • Temperature level: 70 to 84.2 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Best for: Mixed border, shrub, or hedge

You will generally find smooth hydrangea in the eastern part of the US due to its wider hardiness range between 3 and 9. This species of hydrangea tends to have a wider branch profile and usually grows cream to white colored flowers in clusters.

Thanks to the cluster look and bright color, smooth hydrangeas are a perfect option if you want to bring your garden to life. Throughout their blooming season, from early summer to fall, you will observe their color transition from lime green to creamy white to tan shade (as a sign of fading).

As their flower color changes, so does the leaf color, transitioning from dark green to intense yellow.  Like big leaf hydrangeas, you will also find a variety of smooth hydrangeas cultivars, with popular options such as the Annabelle and the greenish creamy Lime Rickey.

Also check: Why Are My Hydrangeas Wilting? (7 Reasons)

3. Panicle Hydrangeas (Hydrangea Paniculata)

  • Hardiness zone: USDA 3-8
  • Season of interest: Midsummer to fall
  • Light needs: Partial sun or full sun (at a limited time)
  • Water needs: Once a week (but, also drought tolerant)
  • Soil type: Loam, rich acidic clay
  • Soil drainage: Moist, well drained
  • pH level: 5.8  to 6.2
  • Temperature level: 70 to 84.2 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Best for: Mixed border, shrub, hedge, or backdrop for perennials

The Panicle Hydrangeas species is native to China and Japan, but it has become popular across the world. This variety is known for its tough and cold hardiness, yet, it remains long lived and pretty low maintenance. Its shrubs feature familiar flower head clusters, also almost identical to the smooth hydrangeas.

The panicle shrub grows large conical snowy like blooms that appear from the middle of summer to fall. You will notice during this time that the flower begins to bloom at pink and ultimately, turns brown as the fading period approaches.

During this time, you will also notice the leaves turn from green to fall red as a sign of seasonal changes. Now, the snowy flower clusters don’t just grow for their beauty, their manner of growth also helps to shield newer buds from the winter frost during the cold season.

4. Oakleaf Hydrangeas (Hydrangea Quercifolia)

  • Hardiness zone: USDA 5 -9
  • Season of interest: Late spring/early summer to fall
  • Light needs: Partial sun or full sun (in cool and moist areas)
  • Water needs: Once a week (but, also drought tolerant)
  • Soil type: Loam, rich acidic clay
  • Soil drainage: Moist, well drained (should never be soaked)
  • pH level: 5.0  to 6.5
  • Temperature level: 70 to 84.2 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Best for: Mixed border, shrub, hedge, or backdrop for perennials

Of the five hydrangeas species, oak leaf hydrangeas are the only US native. The plant is known for its stunning aesthetics all year round and offers a pretty versatile use, whether as a hedge, mixed shrub border, or even an accent plant.

The Oakleaf hydrangea can be easily identified through its oak-shaped leaf and a plenitude of creamy white flowers. In fact, its flowers grow pretty big to about 10 to 12 inches. You will notice the plant blooming from late spring to summer and well into early fall.

Like the panicle variety, the blooms on the oak leaf also change colors gradually, from creamy white to pink as the fading period in fall comes. On the other hand, the oak-shaped leaves turn bronze or burgundy to continue giving the plant its stunning looks well beyond the blooming period.

As this is not enough, as the now bronze or burgundy leaves fall off, the plant maintains a spectacular appearance, thanks to its rich brown bark.

5. Climbing Hydrangeas (Hydrangea Petiolaris)

  • Hardiness zone: USDA 4-8
  • Season of interest: Late spring/early summer to fall
  • Light needs: Partial shade to full shade)
  • Water needs: Once a week (but, also drought tolerant)
  • Soil type: Loam, rich acidic or neutral clay
  • Soil drainage: Moist, well drained
  • pH level: 5 to 7
  • Temperature level: 70 to 84.2 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Best for: Landscaping

Native to different parts of Asia, the climbing hydrangeas is a large deciduous shrub and as its name suggests, has a climbing habit. Typically, this plant tends to cling using aerial roots on the stems and produces pretty fragrant white flattened bloom clusters.

The flowers typically blow to about 8 inches from late spring to about early summer through fall. The flowers somewhat look like lacecap blooms due to their flattened manner. Unlike other types of hydrangeas, the flowers on the climbing variety usually have a two to multi-color tone.

As they begin to bloom, you will notice the center with showy white flowers that surround a layer of creamy white to greenish-yellow florets.  On the other hand, their leaves maintain a rich dark green exterior that transitions to golden yellow as it approaches the fading period in fall.

During the winter, with zero leaves or blooms, the shrub maintains a stunning red-brown bark. Due to its climbing habit, this hydrangeas variety is perfect for landscaping, climbing arbors, and pergolas, or for covering plain walls and fences.

More: How To Deadhead Hydrangeas (Easy Guide)


We’ve dedicated an FAQ section to give you answers to common questions about hydrangeas asked by gardeners like yourself.

How Can I Tell What Kind Of Hydrangea I Have?

You can always refer to the hydrangeas identification chart to make it easier to identify the variety you have in your garden. Here’s a simple summary;

  • Macrophylla Type:  Flower buds open with white and remain white till fading. Further, mountain Macrophylla tends to have serrated and darker leaves.
  • Arborescens Type: Flower bud opens with green, then, white to green or greenish brown
  • Petiolaris type: Simply by the way they grow (they climb through the rootlets on the stems)
  • Quercifolia type: Oak-like leaves
  • Paniculata type; conical shaped flower clusters

You have to remember that new cultivars may also have different colors. For example, you may also find a pink Arborescens variety.

What is the most common type of hydrangea?

The hydrangea Macrophylla (big leaf hydrangea) is the most common type of hydrangea you will find in gardens. This type of hydrangea usually features three common varieties, i.e. mophead, lacecap, and mountain (less common) hydrangeas.

How many different varieties of hydrangeas are there?

Hydrangeas come in five main varieties. These include hydrangeas Macrophylla (big leaf), hydrangeas Arborescens (smooth hydrangeas), hydrangeas Petiolaris (climbing hydrangeas), hydrangeas Quercifolia (oak leaf hydrangeas), and hydrangeas Paniculata (panicle hydrangeas).

But, this doesn’t only mean you will have five types of hydrangeas. The big leaf hydrangea alone is also divided into three sub-varieties, i.e. mophead, lacecap, and mountain. Further, each variety comes with a myriad of different cultivars.

What is the most hardy hydrangea?

The hydrangea Paniculata is the most hardy variety, with a hardiness zone of 4 to 8. This means that the variety can survive temperatures between -30 and -20 (zone 4) degrees Fahrenheit to warmer temperatures of 10 to 20 (zone 8) degrees Fahrenheit.

Which types of hydrangeas are great for the sun?

Panicle hydrangeas (hydrangeas Paniculata) grow best to their full potential in full sun. These varieties of shrubs are designed for summer and areas with abundant sunlight.

Which types of hydrangeas are great for shade?

The best hydrangeas type for shade is the climbing hydrangea (hydrangeas Petiolaris). The slow-growing climbing vine is designed to thrive best in full shade. Oakleaf hydrangeas are another great choice for shade-tolerant hydrangeas.


Knowing the different types of hydrangeas that exist doesn’t only help you identify the variety you have in your garden. With adequate information on each variety, you can also know which type is best for the climate and area you live in.

Further, you can also choose which type best suits your needs, whether a climbing type for your newly built pergola or a big leaf variety to survive your beach home environment.

Mike Smith

I love Gardening and this is my site. Here you will find some really useful plant-related tips and tricks.