How to Plant, Grow and Care For Hydrangea Anomala

Are you looking for a unique hydrangea to plant in your garden this season? The hydrangea anomala may be slightly less popular than others, but it's no less beautiful. In this article, gardening expert and hydrangea enthusiast Jill Drago examines everything you need to know about the hydrangea anomala and their care.

Hydrangea Anomala growing in the garden with white flowers blossoming off the vines.

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Hydrangeas are beautiful flowering shrubs, but did you know that there are also climbing hydrangeas? These climbing plants offer all the beauty of the traditional hydrangea shrubs but with the ability to fill the vertical spaces in your garden.

These climbers can grow up fences, rock walls, and other vertical spaces. But they can also be grown as a ground cover underneath trees. The flowers on Hydrangea anomala are traditionally creamy white, making them an easy fit into any style garden.

If you are in search of a strong climber or an interesting ground cover, read on, and let’s learn all about the most popular climbing hydrangea, Hydrangea anomala.

Hydrangea Anomala Plant Overview

White Flowers of Climbing Vine
Plant Type Perennial Vine
Blooms Early Summer
Pests Aphids, Spider Mites
Family Hydrangeaceae
Genus Hydrangea
Species Hydrangea Anomala
Maintenance Moderate
Maturity Date 3-5 Years
Growth Rate Rapid
Soil Type Well-draining, Acidic
Native Area East Asia
Plant Spacing 5-7 feet
Attracts Bees, Butterflies, other pollinators
Hardiness Zones 4-8
Plant With Low-growing perennial accent plants
Planting Depth Depth of Root Ball
Watering Requirements Moderate
Height Up to 50 Feet

Plant Basics

Close-up of a white flowering vine. Numerous large lacy flower buds bloom surrounded by dark green ovate leaves with finely serrated margins. The inflorescences consist of many small creamy white flowers in the center, surrounded by white showy fertile flowers with 4 rounded petals.
Hydrangea anomala is a deciduous vine that produces white lacy flowers in summer.

Hydrangea anomala are deciduous vines that are native to Asia. These flowering beauties produce white lacecap flowers in the summertime. Similar to standard hydrangea shrubs, the foliage is rich green, and heart-shaped. Their leaves will drop in the fall.

These plants use suckers or aerial roots to attach themselves to surfaces and successfully hold on. They have better luck climbing independently on surfaces that are textured, such as rock walls. However, with a little help from you and some plant ties, you can train them to climb up pretty much any surface.

They start off as very slow growers in their first few years, but once they get growing, they can reach up to 50 feet tall.

These climbing vines fill a gardening void, providing coverage in partial sun areas. The flowers will bloom in the summer, yet the leaves remain attractive all season long.

Propagation

There are two simple ways to propagate your Hydrangea anomala: ground layering and through plant cuttings. Both of these processes can be done easily at home without a lot of extra materials.

Layering

Close-up of a gardener's hand peeling a branch for propagation with a knife blade. The branch is thin, brown with a peeled white area in the middle. Blurred leafy green background.
It is necessary to scrape off part of the bark from the branch and place it in a dug shallow hole.

This is the easiest way to propagate this subspecies, and you already have everything you need right at home.

In the springtime, find a low branch that looks healthy and has a few sets of leaves. Scrape some of the bark off of the branch, exposing some growth points. Next, dig a shallow hole a few inches deep and lay the hydrangea branch in it.

Backfill the hole, and cover the branch with garden soil. Use a brick or stone from your garden to keep the branch in place. Keep the area watered.

You will soon have roots sprouting from this area. You can leave the new plant attached for the rest of the season, giving it more time to strengthen. Or you can cut it from its mother plant and move it to another place in your garden.

Cuttings

Close-up of stem cuttings in a black plastic container on a wooden porch in full sun. Two bright green stem cuttings, planted in a black plastic pot, have several ovate leaves with serrated edges, some of the leaves are cut in half. The soil in the pot is moist.
Dip the cutting in the rooting hormone powder and place it in a sterile planting medium.

After the plant has pushed out some new growth, you can take softwood or green wood cuttings to propagate new plants. You will want this cutting to be a few inches long and have a few sets of leaves on it.

Strip the cutting of the lowest set of leaves, and dip the cutting into some rooting hormone powder. Stick the cutting into some sterile planting medium, and keep the soil moist but not too wet, or the plant may rot and fail to root. Keep the plant in bright, indirect sunlight until roots form.

Roots should appear in about a month or so. I would suggest letting the cutting hang out to grow a stronger root system before planting in the ground.

It is important to harden off your plant before you plant it in the ground. Give the plant about a week outdoors in the shade to get used to the elements, and then you should be safe to start planting.

Planting

Close-up of a gardener's hands in yellow gloves planting seedlings into the soil. The seedling has bright green heart-shaped leaves. The soil is loose, dark brown.
Find a suitable spot next to a stone wall or tree, dig a hole twice the size of the root ball, and start planting.

Before you get started with the actual planting, you will need to find your planting site. More importantly, you will want to find a planting structure that you will train your Hydrangea anomala to climb on.

They use both vines and aerial roots to cling to vertical surfaces. Be careful where you start planting. The aerial roots create a sticky glue-like substance that can leave stains.

Hydrangea anomala grow beautifully up the trunks of trees, a stone wall, or any rougher surface that they can cling to. They also grow nicely up trellises, fences, or smoother surfaces. If you choose one of these smoother surfaces, you may need to use some plant ties to keep the vine supported until it has grown strong enough to hold itself up.

Once you have located the right spot, begin by digging a hole that is about twice the width and depth of your plant’s root ball. This is a good time to amend your soil with compost if it is needed. Keep the base of the plant at soil level to help reduce any rot that could occur. Backfill with garden soil!

Now that your plant is in the ground, it’s time to give it a really thorough watering. Keep your eye on your new plant and water regularly until it is established in your garden. Aim to provide about one inch of water per week, and always water at the base of the plant.

How to Grow

This climbing vine is a bit more forgiving than other species of hydrangea. But there are still some important factors that contribute to proper plant growth. Let’s take a look at the optimal growth conditions for this plant.

Sunlight

Close-up view from below, flowering vine against the background of a soft blue sky. The round lacy blooms consist of many small non-showy creamy white flowers in the center, surrounded by beautiful showy white sterile 4-petaled flowers. The blooms have a bright yellow-green hue due to the fact that it is illuminated by full sun.
This subspecies prefers to grow in partial shade.

Hydrangea anomala grows best when grown in partial shade. Partial sun is anywhere from 3-6 hours per day. If planted in direct sunlight, plan for morning sun and afternoon shade. If planted in afternoon sun, it can be too harsh.

This will cause problems and possibly the death of the plant. If they receive filtered sun for most of the day, even better!

Water

Close-up of a flowering bush covered with water drops, under a dappled sun. Large, dark green leaves with finely serrated edges. White lacy inflorescences, consist of small round non-showy flowers with protruding thin stamens which are surrounded by spectacular sterile white flowers.
It is recommended to water at the base of the plant, at about one inch of water per week.

As a rule of thumb, hydrangeas require one inch of water per week. This rule applies to Hydrangea anomala as well.

The best way to know how much water your gardens are getting is to use a rain gauge. This will simply tell you how much rain your garden gets from both precipitation as well as irrigation.

When you are watering by hand, either with a hose or irrigation system, do your best to water at the base of the plant. This will lessen the risk of potential fungal diseases.

Soil

Top view, close-up of a gardener's hands in white and yellow gloves planting a shrub into the soil. The hydrangea bush has several branches with bright green ovate leaves with coarsely serrated edges. The soil is black, loose, slightly moist. A black plastic pot and a garden shovel lie next to a freshly planted shrub.
This subspecies prefers well-drained soil.

Plant your Hydrangea anomala in well draining soil. You may need to amend your soil if you are planting close to your house. Remove rocks, and add compost and other garden soil to create the perfect soil for your plant.

While other hydrangeas may be sensitive to the pH of the soil that they are growing in, this subspecies is not.

Climate and Temperature

Close-up of a flowering vine in a sunny garden. Large flat-topped white clusters consist of many lacy non-showy cream flowers surrounded by white, large, fertile flowers. The bush is densely covered with dark green heart-shaped leaves with pointed tips and serrated edges.
This subspecies grows well in temperate climates.

Hydrangea anomala is hardy in zones 4-8 and will perform best in climates that are temperate. This subspecies does not love hot and humid climates but is a great choice if you live near the coast.

Fertilizer

Close-up of a gardener's hands in blue gloves holding chemical granular fertilizer against the backdrop of a rose bush. The gardener is dressed in black trousers, a light pink long-sleeve sweater, a pink vest, and colored slippers with a closed toe. A blue garden shovel is stuck into the soil. A little pink granular fertilizer is scattered under the bush.
Use a balanced fertilizer and compost when appropriate.

Hydrangeas, in general, are pretty low maintenance when it comes to fertilization. Providing your Hydrangea anomala with a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, will provide a boost of nutrition.

However, it is not always necessary to fertilize if you have quality soil. Adding compost into your garden beds is a great way to maintain fertile soil and improve soil structure.

This subspecies is not sensitive to the pH of the soil. Amending your soil in hopes of changing the color of your flowers will not be successful.

Maintenance

When it comes to plant maintenance, Hydrangea anomala are fairly easy to care for. Depending on where they are planted, they may require a bit more upkeep than other species. Let’s take a deeper look.

Deadhead

Close-up of a dry vine against a blurred background of a blue sky and a tree trunk. The dry blooms has many small non-showy dry flowers in the center, surrounded by orange-brown fertile 4-petaled flowers.
Deadhead all wilted flowers from the branches to keep the plant looking neat.

If you would like to keep the appearance of your Hydrangea anomala looking neat and pristine, deadheading is a task you should add to your to-do list. Simply snip the spent blooms off of the branches when their blooming period has ended.

This task can get tricky as your vines get taller and taller. The good news is that if you cannot or do not wish to deadhead, this will not damage the plant at all. In fact, the little flower skeletons will remain pretty throughout the rest of the season.

Tying up Your Vines

Close-up of a climbing vine with green-yellow leaves growing up a gray copper mesh and wooden fence. The hydrangea bush has curly brown branches covered with ovate green leaves with yellow spots and finely serrated edges.
If necessary, take care of the growth direction of new vines using plant ties.

As your young Hydrangea anomala begins to push out new growth, you may need to direct the growth of the new vines a bit, depending on what they are climbing on. If you are happy with the plant doing its own thing, by all means, leave it alone.

However, if you have a trellis or another surface that needs to be maintained, you will want to use some plant ties to hold your vines in place and growing in the right direction.

Mulch

A close-up of a bare shrub covered with bark mulch at the base. A small modern black LED garden light buried in the ground of a flower bed. Dry brown leaves lie on the mulch. The hydrangea bush has strong thick branches with several small bright green shoots.
Be sure to add mulch to retain moisture in the soil and suppress weed growth.

Adding mulch to your gardens has many benefits. Mulch will help the soil retain moisture, ensuring that your Hydrangea anomala will not dry out.

Mulch also keeps weeds away, which are infamous for robbing our ornamental plants of water and other nutrients. There are many different types of mulch you can use, with cedar mulch being a great option in most climates.

Pruning

There are a few reasons you may need or want to prune your Hydrangea anomala. Whichever reason suits your plant’s needs, you will want to start with clean pruning shears and a bucket to collect your snippings.

Pruning For Size

Close-up of an green shrub climbing under a white wooden window. The bush is dense, covered with dark green heart-shaped leaves with serrated edges and several green inflorescences with tiny green buds.
Prune immediately after flowering if you want to restrict growth.

Once the plant really gets climbing, you may need to contain the plant a bit, depending on where you have it growing. Maybe you just need to give the plant a little trim. You may be able to train these overgrown vines to climb up your trellis without any pruning at all.

Do this type of pruning just after blooming ends. This will preserve the blooms for next season.

Pruning for Winter Damage

Close-up of bare branches of shrubs dying from the winter along a brown brick fence. The bushes were bent down with metal arcs to the ground. Bushes consist of climbing bare branches. A lot of dry brown leaves lie under the bushes on the lawn.
Anytime you see harsh winter damage, you’ll want to cleanup in the spring.

If you experience a particularly harsh winter, winds or the weight of the snow may cause your vines to lose their grip or just break. If this has happened to your Hydrangea anomala, you will want to clean up the mess in order to get your hydrangea climbing again.

This pruning should be done very early in the spring.

Hard Pruning

Close-up of a gardener's hands in white gardening gloves cutting branches of a plant with blue pruners in a spring garden. On one hand, the gardener is wearing a black smartwatch with a square screen. The hydrangea bush consists of heavily pruned brown branches and a few green stems that have not yet been pruned, with large yellow-green heart-shaped leaves with serrated edges.
Hard pruning is good if the plants are getting a little out of control growth-wise.

Sometimes climbers can get out of control, or maybe you inherited a tangled mess of a Hydrangea anomala vines. The good news is you can cut them all the way to the ground, and they will rejuvenate.

Cut them down in the fall or the spring. The timing does not really matter with this type of pruning because you will be sacrificing your flowers no matter what, so prune at the time that is best for you.

Pests

Close-up of a green plant stem covered with a swarm of green aphids and a single ant on a blurred green background. The ant is black in color, has a large head and a thin oval abdomen joined to the thorax and has 6 legs. Aphids are tiny, soft-bodied insects with an oval green body and thin legs.
Some of the most common hydrangea garden pests are aphids and spider mites.

This subspecies can fall victim to your typical hydrangea pests such as aphids and spider mites. Both of these tiny insects are very difficult to see, but don’t worry. They are quite easy to remove!

Aphids are tiny green insects that appear in extremely large quantities. Sometimes you can notice these little guys crawling on stems, but you are more likely to notice unexpected yellow leaves.

Aphids are also often accompanied by ants who feed on the aphids sugary waste called honeydew. Try knocking the aphids from your hydrangeas with your hand, using the stream of your garden hose, or using neem or an insecticidal soap.

You likely will not see an actual spider mite crawling around on your hydrangea, but you will notice their webbing if you have an infestation.

This webbing protects the spider mites as well as their eggs from being eaten by predators. Use your garden hose to spray the mites right off of the surface of your plant. You can also use a spray, such as neem, to rid your plant of the little insects.

Diseases

Close-up of a leaf infected with a fungal disease. The ovate leaves are dark green in color with serrated edges, covered with yellow and brown spots. In the blurred background, there is thick, fungus-affected hydrangea foliage.
This subspecies can be susceptible to fungal diseases as it is grown in shady and humid conditions.

Most hydrangeas can struggle with fungal and mildew diseases. This is also true with Hydrangea anomala. Due to the density of the leaves and branches, paired with the shady growing conditions, it is a perfect recipe for some minor fungal diseases.

The best way to prevent diseases is by keeping your garden neat and clean. Remove any branches that could be rubbing together and leaves that appear off-colored or diseased.

If you still find yourself with some powdery mildew, you can treat with copper fungicide, and your plant will recover beautifully. 

Plant Uses

Curly hydrangea on a stone gray wall as a green background in a botanical garden. The leaves are dark green, heart-shaped with serrated edges. White, large, flat-topped flower clusters, composed of many petalless, creamy white lacy flowers surrounded by white, showy 4-petaled flowers.
This subspecies can grow next to fences, stone walls, in containers, and as a ground cover.

We call Hydrangea anomala a “climbing hydrangea”, which is absolutely true. But its uses do not just stop at climbing up fences, stone walls, or trellises.

Try using this subspecies in containers as a trailing plant. These plants would look really pretty in a mixed container as a spiller but would also make a stunning statement on their own.

You can also plant them as a flowering ground cover. This makes it a great option if you are looking to plant them underneath some trees. Many plants will root too deeply to be plants under trees, and both the ground cover and the tree can suffer. The good news about this plant as a ground cover is that the plant will only feed from the true root system and not the suckers or the aerial roots.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why isn’t my Hydrangea anomala blooming?

There could be a few reasons that your plant is not producing blooms. The first is the simplest, the plant is just too young. It may take three years for this subspecies to really start pushing growth, this includes flowers.

The next could be your pruning practices. You could have pruned too late in the year and accidentally snipped off your flower buds. The good news here is that the flowers will return in the next growing season.

Are they evergreen?

No, sadly this subspecies is not evergreen. Once the cold weather hits, the leaves will start to drop. If you are looking for an evergreen vine, give Ivy or Honeysuckle a try.

What color does Hydrangea anomala bloom?

The flowers of Hydrangea anomala are strictly white. While the flowers may differ from variety to variety, the color will always be a shade of white.

If you are looking for something with a bit more color give Schizophragma hydrangeoides a try This false hydrangea vine has a very similar growth and some colorful flower or foliage options.

Final Thoughts

Be patient with your Hydrangea anomala. These climbers are infamous for taking their time. After a year or two, their growth will take off. Once they really start growing, be prepared to prune as needed to maintain the size and shape of your plant.

Pruning should only be done as needed. However, depending on the climbing or growing surface, you may need to prune regularly to ensure that the plant does not become too heavy or large. These are truly beautiful plants that offer a whimsical feel to any garden.

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