21 Different Hydrangea Varieties That Love Full Sun
Thinking of planting some hydrangeas but aren't sure if they can take full sun? Well the good news is, there's actually plenty of different hydrangea varieties that are sun tolerant! In this article, gardening expert Jill Drago takes a deeper look at her favorite full sun hydrangea varieties.
Are you wondering whether or not it’s a good idea to plant some hydrangeas in a sunny spot in your garden? We hear so much about hydrangeas being excellent plants to grow in partial shade, which is true. This is probably because many plants that grow well in the shade tend to have abundant foliage, and minimal flowers. This is part of what makes hydrangeas so well loved.
On the same hand, so many hydrangea varieties can do very well in full sun. You may have seen rows and rows of hydrangeas just basking in the sunlight, decorating a front walkway, softening up a fence, or enclosing a patio. As always- what it comes down to is “right plant, right place”.
When choosing a hydrangea to plant for the full sun areas of your garden, be sure to choose the right variety, and be prepared for the extra watering the plant may, or may not, need. Continue on, and take a look at some of the top varieties of hydrangea for garden spaces that get full sun.
Hydrangea arborescens Varieties
Also known as the “smooth hydrangea” the arborescens is a medium sized shrub that’s native to the eastern parts of the United States. There are many popular hydrangea varieties in this species. Some of the most popular are more shade friendly like the ‘Annabelle.’ The ‘Incrediball’ is also one of the most popular when it comes to sun friendly hydrangeas. Let’s take a look!
This plant adorns impressively giant, white or pink, ball shaped flowers that bloom in the middle of the summer. The flowers will slowly turn to green as Autumn approaches. The stems of ‘Incrediball’ are upright and strong enough to hold the weight of the blooms with minimal dropping. This mounded shrub will grow from four to five feet high and wide, and would make a really pretty addition to a perennial garden.
Plant these as a border for a really stunning show enduring the summer months. ‘Incrediball’ is very cold hardy (USDA zones 3-8), and luckily blooms on new wood so you won’t have to worry about losing your blooms in a harsh winter. Don’t forget to cut a few of these blooms for your vases inside, they will last for over a month!
This is a new and improved pink version of the variety ‘Annabelle’. Hydrangea ‘Invincibelle’ sports a very nice dark green foliage, covered with deep pink flowers. These flowers are reblooming and will continue to do so through autumn. The pink flowers will lighten in color finally drying out as green in the fall.
Another mounded grower, ‘Invincibelle’ will grow to four feet high as well as four feet wide. It would do well mixed in with your perennials in a border, or as a hedge.This variety does equally as well in chilly zone 3 as it does in the heat of zone 8 as it is hardy in USDA zones 3-8.
This is a fun one! The large, disc-like blooms on this shrub start out as light green, they will age to a darker green accented with pink pollen as the season progresses. This pollen can attract bees and butterflies. This hydrangea has an upright form with very strong stems that can withstand the storms of summer without any flopping of the flowers. It will grow from four to five feet high and wide.
This compact size gives you a lot of options for uses in your garden. You could use it in a container, plant a pair on either side of your front steps, or plunk this popular perennial hydrangea into your garden. These flowers make a really pretty fresh cut addition to your arrangement, and will dry nicely as well. This very reliable plant is hardy in USDA Zones 3-8.
Hydrangea macrophylla Varieties
The macrophylla varieties are considered “long leaved.” Plants from this species are native to Japan, and have spurned many varieties. The most popular of these, are the ‘cityline’ series of plants, all of which are big leaf hydrangeas. These tend to be smaller, which means they are great perennials for low growing areas, and can even be used as landscaping border plants.
There are about five varieties in this series of sun loving big leaf hydrangeas. The majority of them come in shades of rich purple and blue. They will all do well in full sun. They are smaller shrubs, topping out at three feet tall, which makes them a versatile choice for your gardens. The whole series is hardy from USDA zones 5-9 and does really well in hotter climates.
H. macrophylla ‘Cityline Paris’ has deep green foliage and bright red flowers.
H. macrophylla ‘Cityline Venice’ has bright pink flowers that will change to green as they age.These blooms are reactive to your soil pH. Be sure to protect this one over winter.
H. macrophylla ‘Cityline Mars’ has really pretty blue or pink flowers with a white border. The soil pH of your soil will affect the color of the blooms. Add aluminum for bluer shade, and lime for redder shades.
H. macrophylla ‘Cityline Vienna’ is a very neat plant covered in large mophead flowers. Blooms may be pink or blue depending on your soil pH. ‘Vienna’ is salt tolerant making it a good option for roadside planting.
H. macrophylla ‘Cityline Rio’ is really unique depending on your soil pH the blooms will be blue or pink. Regardless of the main color of the flower, the center will be accented with a shade of blue or green.
Hydrangea paniculata Varieties
Also known as the panicled hydrangea, this plant originates in Asia and is most commonly seen as shrub, or grow into a tree. Many different varieties of panicled hydrangeas are sun tolerant. ‘Grandiflora’ and ‘Limelight’ are typically two of the most popular shrubs you’ll see out on display in full sun.
‘Bobo’ is a Dwarf panicle hydrangea topping out at three feet in height. Don’t let the height fool you, this shrub is covered in lots of large white flowers. The white blooms turn a really pretty antique pink as they age. ‘Bobo’ flowers from early summer to early fall. The small upright habit of this plant makes it a great candidate for a container, or a perennial garden where you only have a small amount of space.
Due to the compact nature of this plant, it will grow a little slower than is normally expected of hydrangeas, but it will reach its full height in about two years. This plant is very cold hardy and can withstand harsh winters in USDA zones 3-8.
Compact in habit ‘Candelabra’ is covered in flame shaped flowers that change color as they mature. Red stems are a great contrast to the pretty green leaves, and offer beautiful winter interest once the leaves have dropped.
Growing from four to six feet high, this shrub blooms in midsummer and will last through fall. The flowers start off as white and change to red; making them especially beautiful in cut arrangements and also especially loved by pollinators. Hardy in USDA zones 3-9.
Similar to ‘Limelight’, but more compact; ‘Candy Apple’ only grows to about four or five feet tall. The flowers bloom in summer starting as green and slowly turn to a pure white, finally ending on as a red in the fall. The dark green leaves are an amazing backdrop for the white flowers, making them truly stand out.
‘Candy Apple’ would be really nice in a container or as a focal point in a small garden. This compact yet upright nature of this plant would make it a nice addition to a formal garden or hedge as a specimen. Very cold tolerant, ‘Candy Apple’ is hardy in USDA zones 4-8.
Also known as Pee Gee Hydrangea, this variety can be grown as a shrub or in a tree form. Whichever form you decide is right for your garden will be covered in large blush colored blooms that will endure throughout the summer.
If you keep the shoots on this plant limited to five or ten, the flowers will reach up to 12 or 18 inches in length. These plants can grow up to 15 feet in height, making them a really nice point of interest in your garden. Can adapt to a wide range of climates as it is hardy in USDA zones 3-8.
The tried and true sun lover. This shrub is large, growing to six to eight feet high and wide. Very large flowers open as a fresh green and age to pink, red, or burgundy and last through the frost. The height of this plant makes it a great option for a hedge or privacy screen in the summer months.
These flowers are gorgeous when cut and used in arrangements. These summer lovers pair well with any of your sun loving perennials, enhancing your gardens or border plantings. Very cold and heat tolerant ‘Limelight’ is hardy in USDA Zones 3-9
‘Little lamb’ has the smallest and most delicate flower petals of any hydrangea making it very unique. There are many tiny flowers on each flower head. They are held in tight creating the appearance of the fleece of a lamb jumping over the leaves of the shrub.
The flowers bloom white in the mid summer and may turn pink in the fall. ‘Little lamb’ will grow four to six feet high and wide. The uses for this variety are endless, they are wonderful as cut flowers, in mass plantings, or as specimen plantings throughout a perennial garden. Hardy in USDA Zones 3-8.
‘Little lime’ is the dwarf variety of limelight measuring in at only three to five feet tall. Similar to its bigger cousin it sports fresh green flowers that turn pink in fall.This variety has very strong stems that keep its flowers upright through the season.
‘Little Lime’ is a good option for containers. Like its larger variety, it makes a nice hedge. However its height doesn’t lend well to a privacy screen. Prune this reliable bloomer in the early spring to encourage new flower buds to form. ‘Little Lime’ is hardy in USDA zones 3-9. You may be able to get away with them in zone 10 with proper care.
This hydrangea has really pretty white cone shaped panicle flowers growing on top of sturdy stems with deep green leaves. The moon dance hydrangea blooms from summer through the fall maintaining its white color throughout the growing season.
Growing from six to eight feet tall, and four to five feet wide ‘Moon Dance’ would make a lovely focal point in your garden, and will double as a great source for some cut flowers. Use as a mass plating, hedge, or border plant. ‘Moon dance’ is tolerant of the heat and humidity and is hardy in USDA Zones 4-9.
‘Pinky Winky’ is much loved by gardeners. Large flowers will open as white mid-late summer and the base of this perennial will turn pink as season progresses.The panicles will continue to bloom as the season goes on producing pretty white tips to the tops of the flowers. These flowers can grow to 16 inches in length! What a stunner!
Growing from six to eight feet tall and wide, ‘Pinky Winky’ is a great option for some summer privacy if grown in a hedge. It is upright in nature, making it a good choice for a large container. Easy to grow, and drought tolerant ‘Pinky Winky’ is hardy in USDA zones 3-9.
Unlike other panicle hydrangeas ‘Quick Fire’ has really nice fall foliage in showy shades of gold and burgundy. When the lacecap panicle flowers bloom in early July they are pure white and turn to pink. In the fall the blooms will continue to darken to a deep red.
‘Quick Fire’ grows six to eight feet tall. If you like the look of this plant but it is too large for your garden, there is a dwarf variety called ‘Little Quick Fire’. A reliant bloomer even after a harsh winter ‘Quick Fire’ is hardy in USDA Zones 3-8.
A rapid grower, ‘Strawberry Shake’ will grow four to five feet tall. Flowers start white and age to a pretty pink giving you that classic strawberry milkshake pink. A rapid grower ‘Strawberry Shake’ will reach four to five feet tall. Use this plant in containers, or in smaller foundation plantings. Be sure to cut the blooms for arrangements because they dry really nicely. Hardy in USDA zones 4-8.
White dense flowers cover this midsize hydrangea. As the season cools off the flowers will turn pink. This is a quick growing shrub that will get to four or five feet tall, making it a versatile plant in your gardens. Slightly less tolerant of the cold and the heat ‘Sweet Summer’ is hardy in USDA Zones 4-7.
Just as the name suggests these flowers begin creamy while and turn pink, and red later in the season. Since new flower heads continue opening on the panicle blooms all season long, plants may display all three color stages at once. ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ blooms mid summer into the fall. When the blooms pass, and the leaves drop you will be left with beautiful red stems to please your eye through the winter. Grows to a good size of six to seven feet. Hardy in USDA Zones 4-8.
Covered in abundant white fluffy flowers, on a background of deep green leaves ‘White Wedding’ adds a crispness to your garden. ‘White Wedding’ grows four to six feet high, and three to five feet wide. The blooming period is lengthy, starting in the spring and lasting all of the way into the fall. Hardy in USDA Zones 4-9.
Pure white blooms that slowly turn pink from bottom up. They will age to red and maintain color for months. Similar in color to pinky winky, but with mophead flowers instead of panicles. Blooms will appear in the early summer and last into the fall, giving you great fall interest. Will grow four to six feet in height and width. A great choice for colder climates, hardy in USDA zones 3-8.
Hydrangea quercifolia Varieties
Also known as oakleaf hydrangea, these shrubs can grow quite tall. It’s not uncommon to see them grow up to 8 feet or taller. They are easy to identify due to their leaves being shaped like an oak tree’s leaf (hence the name). These shrubs are less common than others on our list, but one in particular is worth mentioning.
Another beautiful variety, Hydrangea quercifolia is typically tolerant of more shade, but ‘Gatsby Gal’ is a sun lover. Growing from five to six feet high and wide, this shrub is more compact in nature than other oakleaf hydrangeas. There are lots of fragrant white panicle blossoms covering this plant in the early summer that will age to pink in the fall.
A great characteristic of the oakleaf hydrangea is the deep red foliage in the fall, what a treat. Pair those leaves with the peeling bark and you’ve got yourself a perfect fall plant. If you are looking to use an oakleaf hydrangea in a container, this is a great option as it is more compact in habit. Hardy in USDA Zones 5-9.
Hydrangea serrata Varieties
The serrata varieties are native to Japan and Korea. This shrub is more compact than others, and is the perfect border or edge perennial. They usually grow no taller than 2 feet, and can be hardy down to zone 5, with a little additional care. There is one variety above the rest that stands out when it comes to full sun exposure.
Tiny Tuff Stuff
This compact hydrangea lives up to its name. ‘Tiny Tuff Stuff’ is a cute shrub that only grows from 18 inches to two feet. The leaves on ‘Tiny Tuff Stuff’ are small and narrow, and the shrub is covered with lots of dainty flowers that really pack a punch.These reblooming flowers are lacecap and are typically blue but may range to pink or white.
The color of these flowers are affected by aluminum sulfate, which will encourage more blue blooms. Be careful when pruning this shrub, it will flower on both new AND old wood. Luckily, because of its small mounding habit you should not need to prune this shrub other than to remove some broken branches. This mountain hydrangea is tolerant of winter conditions and is hardy in USDA zones 5-9.
Full Sun Hydrangea Care
Taking care of hydrangeas in the full sun, is just about the same as taking care of them in partial shade. To officially be living in full sun hydrangeas should be getting 6 hours or more of direct light.
Hydrangeas need a moderate amount of water. Once established you should be able to get away with watering once a week, and occasionally more often when the temperatures rise. Pay attention to the leaves, if they are drooping towards the ground be sure to add an additional watering!
Prune correctly to your new wood or old wood varieties. New wood blooming varieties, H. arborescens and H. paniculata, can be pruned at any time because the blooms are set on new growth that will take place early on in the growing season.
Old wood blooming varieties, H.macrophylla, H.serrata, H.quercifolia, and H. anomala, take a bit more care.
It is best to prune your own wood bloomers in the late summer or early fall before they have a chance to produce flower buds. It should be said though, these old wood bloomers tend to require less pruning for size control. If you wish to shape due to broken branches or if you want to improve the overall shape of the hydrangea you can do so as soon as the plant finishes flowering.
You can’t go wrong with any of these sun loving hydrangea options. Don’t worry if you have a little less than six hours of direct sunlight, these hydrangeas will still thrive. Panicle hydrangeas are a sure thing in the sun and would be an excellent choice, especially if you are looking for a slam dunk of a plant.
These plants are so commonly used in the sun, that it would be really fun to try a H.macrophylla instead. It might take a bit more patience and care but with the variety of colors in the Cityline series, you will find a perfect match.