7 Evergreen Hydrangea Varieties for Year-Round Appeal

While beloved, commonly grown hydrangeas drop their leaves in winter, a few evergreen hydrangea selections and relatives in the Hydrangeaceae family hold lustrous leaves year-round. In addition to attractive foliage, their flowers, fruits, and growth habits inspire a doubletake in the garden. Join gardening expert Katherine Rowe in exploring unique evergreen hydrangea varieties for all-season interest.

Hydrangea petiolaris, an evergreen variety, boasts lush, glossy foliage and cascading clusters of white lacecap flowers that bloom against a backdrop of climbing vines.

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Most of the hydrangeas we know and love in our gardens are highly ornamental woody shrubs and climbing vines with large, colorful summer flowers. While exceptionally cold hardy, these bigleaf, panicle, oakleaf, mountain, and smooth hydrangeas drop their leaves and enter winter dormancy when temperatures drop. The family, Hydrangeaceae, houses numerous shrubs, vines, and perennials with surprises for the cool-season garden.

Some selections offer year-round interest with lustrous leaves, even in winter. Unique and unexpected related evergreen shrubs and climbers in the Hydrangeaceae family delight the garden with showy flowers, fruits, and forms, from loose shrubs to towering climbing vines. Here, we’ll explore hydrangeas that hold their leaves year-round and their relatives with evergreen qualities (and more!) worthy of a spot in the garden.

Evergreen Climbing Hydrangea

Hydrangea integrifolia is known for its rounded, leathery leaves and small, white lacecap flowers.
With lacy white blooms and glossy green foliage, it transforms landscapes.
botanical-name botanical name Hydrangea integrifolia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to full shade
height height 40-60’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-9

Hydrangea integrifolia is a graceful climbing vine with aerial roots that cling as they climb. Large flower clusters appear in summer and bear lacy white blooms resembling the lacecaps of bigleaf hydrangeas.

The new growth of evergreen climbing hydrangea emerges bronzey-red and matures to deep, glossy green. Stems are reddish brown and darken with age. The vigorous vines are slow to establish and bloom, even taking a few years for flowers to appear, but gardeners who grow these agree the bloom spectacle is worth the wait.

Evergreen climbing types are native to Taiwan and the Philippines and commonly grow in woodlands. They bloom well under canopy cover and in dappled sunlight. They grow best with regular moisture and well-draining soils.

The self-clinging aerial roots of these woody vines train well along a rough wall or on tree bark. As large vines, they make good screens for walls and fences. However, they’re hefty vines and require substantial support for vertical growth. Evergreen climbing hydrangea is beautiful, growing up trees or sprawling as a woodland groundcover. Let vines spill over a rocky slope or low wall to soften the look.

Seemann’s Hydrangea

Hydrangea seemannii features glossy, dark green leaves and large, fragrant white flowers that form in dense, rounded clusters.
Adorned with fragrant, ivory-buff blooms and lustrous foliage year-round.
botanical-name botanical name Hydrangea seemannii
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to full shade
height height 10-30’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-10

Another woody evergreen climber, Hydrangea seemannii, has thick, leathery leaves and lacecap blooms in late spring and early summer. The ivory-buff blooms have a greenish tint and a delicate, sweet fragrance.

This species doesn’t reach the great heights of H. integrifolia, making it suitable for (slightly) smaller growing areas on large trellises and arches, along walls, and among small to medium-sized trees. These climbing vines won’t harm the trees that support them.

This variety hails from Mexico and grows best in partial shade, though it tolerates sunnier conditions. Its dark, lustrous leaves are attractive year-round.

Dichroa

Dichroa febrifuga is characterized by large, ovate leaves with prominent veins and clusters of small, blue flowers in terminal panicles.
A botanical jewel cherished for its vibrant blooms and berries.
botanical-name botanical name Dichroa febrifuga
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 3-7’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-10

Also called Chinese quinine and blue evergreen hydrangea, Dichroa febrifuga is native to southeast Asia from Nepal to China. In the Hydrangaceae family, Dichroa is a unique garden specimen with visual appeal through attractive foliage, flowering, and fruiting. It makes a lovely woodland or grouped shade planting.

This is a broadleaf shrub with small, flat-topped flower clusters in summer. White buds appear in late spring and open to starry blue flowers. Like bigleaf types (Hydrangea macrophylla), soil pH affects the bloom color. Acidic soils produce rich, dark blue blooms, while more alkaline soils yield lighter blue or lilac flowers. To adjust your soil pH, amend in advance of blooming with aluminum sulfate, pine straw, or broken-down oak leaves for darker blue flowers and lime or wood ash for lighter blue to pink flowers.

Arguably, the most ornamental feature of Dichroa is its metallic, iridescent, indigo berries that follow flowering in late summer. The showy fruits persist into winter for heightened seasonal interest among the evergreen foliage, and they provide food for foraging birds.

Blue evergreen hydrangea is a low-maintenance grower in moist, organically rich, and well-draining soils. With winter temperatures in the low 20s°F (-7°C), plants may defoliate and, in lower temperatures, die back to the ground. With good mulching, new growth emerges in spring where hardy.

Dichroa is well-suited to containers and overwinters indoors in a cool room with 50 to 55°F (10-13°C) temperatures at night and 60 to 65°F (16-18°C) temperatures during the day. Chinese quinine has particular uses in herbal medicine to treat various conditions, from fever to blood pressure to malaria.

Serrate-Leaved Hydrangea

Hydrangea serratifolia displays serrated, dark green leaves and flattened clusters of small, purple-blue flowers.
A rare, sturdy climber with striking foliage and delicate summer blooms.
botanical-name botanical name Hydrangea serratifolia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to full shade
height height 16-40’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-10

Serrate-leaved hydrangea is another slow-growing evergreen climbing selection with large, coarse foliage with prominent veins and toothed margins. In late summer, creamy white flowers emerge in loose panicles. 

Native to Chile and Argentina, this is a hard-to-find evergreen specimen. It’s not as ornamental in flower as traditional climbing hydrangeas (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris) but is hardier and retains its leaves year-round.

Serrate-leaved varieties grow best in a sheltered spot during cold winters. These evergreens are borderline winter hardy down to zone 6 when grown against a protected wall and protected from winter winds.

Versicolor Dichroa

Hydrangea × versicolor shows mid-green, ovate leaves and large, rounded clusters of purple flowers.
An elegant choice for shaded gardens, boasting large, colorful blooms.
botanical-name botanical name Hydrangea × versicolor
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 3-4’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-10

Versicolor is a Dichroa species with prominent features and multi-season appeal. In late summer, huge pink or blue blooms reach up to 12 inches across. Big leaves in rich green create a lovely backdrop to the blooms.

Versicolor dichroa resembles bigleaf in appearance and cultural requirements. They grow best in partial to full shade, with morning sun or dappled light preferable, and rich, moist, well-draining soils.

Versicolor dichroa is native to the high elevations of Taiwan. It may drop leaves with temperatures consistently in the low 20s°F (-7°C). Versicolor’s loose, rounded habit creates a beautiful informal hedge or specimen in woodland settings. Pair it with shade-loving plants like Solomon’s seal, salvias, and hostas for varied interest in scale, foliage color, and texture.

Climbing Hydrangea ‘Winter Glow’ 

Hydrangea anomala subsp. anomala ‘Winter Glow’ features large, heart-shaped leaves and terminal clusters of creamy-white flowers.
A stunning climber with year-round glossy foliage and abundant white blooms.
botanical-name botanical name Hydrangea anomala subsp. anomala ‘Winter Glow’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 8-20’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-9

This climber features large, domed, creamy white flower clusters in late spring and early summer. While it bears the bountiful blooms of the traditional climbing hydrangea species, ‘Winter Glow’ differs in its evergreen quality. Other H. anomala drop their leaves in cold temperatures.

‘Winter Glow’ features heart-shaped, toothed leaves that are dark green and glossy. The veined leaves blush purplish-red in fall and winter.

Grow ‘Winter Glow’ in a warm, sheltered site against a wall for winter protection. Provide growth support like a sturdy trellis for woody stems until clinging aerial roots take hold. 

‘Winter Glow’ pairs well with vertical interest to large, blooming shrubs like viburnum and camellia at their base. Evergreens like podocarpus, juniper, and yew provide good contrast in color, form, and texture. A Japanese maple or flowering dogwood makes a lovely deciduous complement to climbing hydrangeas as their backdrop.

Woodvamp

Hydrangea barbara exhibits serrated, dark green leaves and domed clusters of small, white flowers.
An elegant, resilient vine with cascading greenery and delicate summer blooms.
botanical-name botanical name Hydrangea barbara
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 15’-30’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6-8

We must include Hydrangea barbara on our list even though, technically, these plants are semi-evergreen. Hydrangea barbara (formerly Decumaria barbara) is a graceful woody vine native to North America. 

In early summer, clusters of small white flowers appear and attract pollinators. Glossy and deep green leaves cover the vines from tip to toe. The variety ‘Vickie’ has leaves in attractive shades of creamy yellow to rich, dark green. These are delicate-looking sprawling vines that work well on brick or concrete walls.

Decumaria sinensis (woodvamp or Chinese hydrangea) is another unique and rare grower in the Hydrangeaceae family. Leaves pack high luster: shiny and rich green. Masses of small, yellowish-white flowers appear in loose pyramidal clusters in spring.

Decumaria grows well on a wall or trailing down rocky slopes. Protect plants from drying winter winds in lower zones.

Yamaguchi White

Hydrangea febrifuga ‘Yamaguchi White’ is known for its glossy, dark green leaves and panicles of white flowers.
A standout in the hydrangea family with stunning white blossoms.
botanical-name botanical name Hydrangea febrifuga ‘Yamaguchi White’
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 3’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-9

Yamaguchi flowering Hydrangea is notable among the genus for its bursts of white flowers. While most feature rich blue or delicate pink flowers, ‘Yamaguchi White’ holds budded pearls that open to starry bright white and showy bloom clusters.

‘Yamaguchi White’ also differs from other cultivars in its lighter leaves. New growth is a fresh, bright green.

While the ‘Yamaguchi White’ bloom form is showier than evergreen blue hydrangeas, the prized ornamental metallic berries appear after cross-pollination with another. So, if you’re lucky enough to find cultivar variations, it’s best to plant more than one.

Pileostegia

Hydrangea viburnoides is recognizable by its lanceolate, dark green leaves and small, white lacecap flowers that bloom in early summer.
A century-old beauty, its dark green foliage and starry blooms enchant.
botanical-name botanical name Hydrangea viburnoides
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to full shade
height height 15-30’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-10

Pileostegia (Hydrangea viburnoides) is commonly called evergreen climbing hydrangea, like other similar selections. This vining type is a selection from Japan, southwest China, and Taiwan. Pileostegia has been in cultivation for over a century, and the vines resemble the newer selection H. seemannii. Sprawling stems hold narrow, elliptical leaves. The long leaves are leathery and dark green with coarse textural interest. New growth emerges in carmine tones and tinges.

Loose clusters of small, star-shaped flowers with long stamens emerge in late summer and fall. Like little starbursts, the bright white, finely textured blooms beautifully contrast the rich leaves. The blooms attract butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects, and the Royal Horticulture Society recommends it as a plant to attract pollinators. 

Hydrangea viburnoides is another slow-growing woody climber with self-clinging vines. It may take up to five years to become fully established and flower and from 10 to 20 years to reach mature heights.

This evergreen climber grows well on a wall to protect it from winter conditions. It grows best in average soils that are moist and well-drained. Train these woody vines – and any other climbing hydrangeas – up dead trees as an ornamental feature and to soften bare trunks.

Final Thoughts

Opt for an evergreen shrub or vine in the Hydrangeaceae family for unique garden specimens with all-season appeal. These uncommon species and genera relatives have unexpected seasonal delights in store with attractive foliage, flowering, fruiting, and form

While some evergreen selections are not widely available in cultivation, others, like Dichroa, grow commercially. Hydrangeas and many of their relatives propagate easily through cuttings, so if you spot one growing, it may just be worth asking the gardener for a piece. 

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