13 Low Maintenance Hydrangeas that Thrive on Neglect
Hydrangeas are not difficult plants to grow if you choose the right variety for your garden. Gardening expert Madison Moulton discusses 13 easy-to-grow hydrangeas that will manage neglect well, ideal for beginners.
Hydrangeas are one of the most popular garden shrubs around the world, renowned for their unique flowers that brighten backyards and delight floral designers. Their intricate look may make new gardeners believe these plants are tough to grow, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
There are several acclaimed and tested hydrangea varieties suitable for even the most inexperienced of gardeners, adapting well to different conditions and not requiring much attention. Many can even be neglected and will still flower reliably each year.
As long as you plant one of these 13 varieties in the right spot from the start, you won’t experience any trouble growing these hydrangeas.
Tried and tested award-winner, there is no better hydrangea option for beginners than ‘Limelight.’ As one of the most popular panicle hydrangeas on the market, thousands of gardeners can attest to this variety’s resilience and ability to flower all season long.
When they open, ‘Limelight’ flowers emerge a fresh and light pale green, hence the name. The impressively large flowers fade to pink and then red to usher in the fall season. This panicle hydrangea is also popular amongst florists, making it a wonderful addition to cut flower gardens.
‘Limelight’ is particularly useful for those in cooler climates. It grows best in USDA Zones 3-9 and will continue to flower throughout fall, even when frost looms. It flowers reliably year after year without much input from gardeners, giving you endless blooms even with a little neglect.
If large flowers are your goal when growing hydrangeas, look no further than the famous Incrediball®. This smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) produces massive, almost perfectly round white blooms that fade to green in fall.
Incrediball® is known for its impressive ease of growth, also suitable for growing in USDA Zones 3-9 like ‘Limelight’. With stronger stems and an upright growth habit, you can be sure the large flower heads will shine without toppling over.
For the best possible flowering, plant this smooth hydrangea in a spot that receives around 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. That, plus consistent watering, is all you really need to ensure these plants flower prolifically season after season.
Oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) are generally considered one of the more beginner-friendly types, and ‘Alice’ certainly fits this description. When growing this variety, you’ll be treated to masses of gorgeous white flowers that slowly fade to pink toward the end of the summer.
If you need to fill a large empty space with little effort, ‘Alice’ is ideal. This oakleaf hydrangea grows to about 10 feet tall and spreads just as wide, with large flowers that explode from every angle. A little mulch and the right position will keep them healthy without much extra attention, living happily in your backyard for many years.
Another bonus of growing this hydrangea is its limited issues with pests and diseases. Besides the occasional issues with powdery mildew in humid climates, you won’t have to worry about hydrangea pests and diseases often when growing ‘Alice.’
Endless Summer® The Original
Hydrangea lovers will already be familiar with the Endless Summer® series, a best-seller displaying masses of blooms on both old and new wood. Of the many options in the series, The Original is a great choice for beginners for its wonderful ease of care.
The Original is a mophead or bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla). Perhaps the most well-known characteristic of this type is its ability to change flower color depending on the pH of the soil. Acidic soil will produce adorable pastel blue flowers, while alkaline soil will turn the blooms a soft pink.
Like ‘Alice,’ Endless Summer® hydrangeas are quite disease-resistant and are little trouble when planted in the right position. They grow across a wide range of USDA Zones and look great in any spot, from perennial beds to large container gardens.
‘Annabelle’ is another smooth hydrangea and the precursor to Incrediball® hydrangeas, tried and tested in gardens around the US. In summer, large rounded flower heads emerge in a pristine white, making them great additions to any landscape.
One of the great benefits of growing ‘Annabelle’ is its adaptability. It is tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions (as long the soil is well-draining) and blooms prolifically in both full sun and partial shade. Once established, it is not too fussy about watering requirements, continuing to flower into fall.
The large flower heads are also great for cutting, allowing you to enjoy their beauty indoors and outdoors all season long. For some added fall and winter interest around your home, hang a few flower heads upside down in a dry and warm area to dry naturally, preserving their beauty even when the flowers die back outdoors.
Moving away from the most popular hydrangea shrubs, this unique climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris) is next on the list. This vining species grows to a massive 40 feet in length when mature, producing clusters of white flowers along the stems in early summer.
The unique growth habit and impressive size of the vines make climbing hydrangeas great for attaching to walls, pergolas, or other garden structures to maximize their potential. Use them to cover unsightly garden objects or over fences, providing essential support as the plant matures.
Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris may take a while to establish but doesn’t require much attention once the roots have settled in. You won’t need to worry about many pests or diseases, leaving you to enjoy the flowers and overall shape until winter.
Gatsby Pink® may be less widely purchased when compared to some other oakleaf hydrangeas, but they are just as easy to grow and come with impressive color that makes them well worth planting.
The flowers of Gatsby Pink® start white in early summer but quickly fade to a stunning deep pink, hence the name. The plant will continue to flower into fall, although this variety is slightly less tolerant of the cold, growing best in USDA Zones 5-9.
The flowers aren’t the only attraction either. Gatsby Pink® features large, lush green leaves that turn a gorgeous burgundy color when temperatures drop in fall. There is always a feature to look forward to no matter the season.
If you love the look and feel of Gatsby Pink® but don’t quite have the space for a larger shrub, the compact ‘Ruby Slippers’ is a wonderful alternative. Rather than the towering 8 feet in height, ‘Ruby Slippers’ grows to around 4 feet if given space to expand.
However, shorter growth by no means translates to less impressive flowers. The cone-shaped flowers cover the entire plant in summer, emerging white and maturing to a dusty pinkish red over time. The flowers remain large even on a smaller plant, creating a spectacular show into fall.
As ‘Ruby Slippers’ remains compact, it is a great option for larger containers on patios or balconies. Give them around 6 hours of direct sun per day and some consistent moisture (slightly more when growing in containers), and you won’t need to do much else to keep these plants happy.
‘Nikko Blue’ is one of the most famous – if not the most famous – blue hydrangeas on the market. Like Endless Summer®, it is a bigleaf hydrangea most well-known for its impressive color. Blue is not a common color in the garden, making this variety incredibly sought-after.
Despite its delicate look, ‘Nikko Blue’ is not at all difficult to care for. It is one of the tougher species, tested in many gardens around the US and giving no trouble to their owners. Consistent moisture will deliver the best flowers, but beyond that, you can largely forget about them.
To ensure the blooms remain a stunning blue, monitor your soil pH. Acidic soils are required to maintain the blue color. If your pH or aluminum levels are not quite right after conducting a soil test, amend the soil with aluminum sulfate to create the right environment for blue flowers.
The award for the most adorable name (and most adorable plant, depending on who you ask) has to go to Bobo®. Growing to only 3 feet in height, this compact panicle hydrangea is a must-have for gardeners in small spaces.
Whether you’re growing in containers or in the ground, Bobo® doesn’t demand much attention in care. However, it certainly demands attention when it flowers, enveloping the leaves in a carpet of white that covers almost the entire plant. As the season continues, the flowers will fade to a stunning pink, signaling the coming of fall.
This adaptable hydrangea can handle a range of climates and soil conditions, flowering reliably year after year. An annual prune will keep them looking their best, but you won’t need to complete much maintenance beyond that.
Mountain hydrangeas are not as common as other hydrangea types for a range of reasons. They usually don’t grow well in USDA Zones below 6 and may not flower as prolifically as other types. But that’s where Tuff Stuff™ comes in.
This mountain hydrangea (Hydrangea serrata) is called Tuff Stuff™ for a reason. It is much tougher than other Hydrangea serrata varieties and even some bigleaf hydrangeas, particularly regarding cold tolerance. Growing in Zones 5-9, Tuff Stuff™ is a great option for gardens across the US.
Tuff Stuff™ is a reliable bloomer, producing deep purple or bright pink flowers, depending on the soil it is planted in. Monitor pH and aluminum levels in your soil before planting if you’re after a specific color. Otherwise, plant in fall or early spring and enjoy the profusion of summer flowers.
Continuing the trend of easy-to-grow oakleaf hydrangeas, ‘Pee Wee’ is an adorable option for small gardens or containers. Growing to about 3 feet tall, the leaves and blooms are smaller than other types and far less unruly if you like to keep your garden neat.
The early flowers are a delicate white and take on a pink hue as they mature. The flower stems are strong, giving the entire plant an upright and stately appearance in summer and throughout fall.
Moisture is the only condition you really need to monitor when growing this variety. However, with the help of a healthy layer of mulch, you can retain moisture in the soil throughout the warm summer months to keep the roots happy.
King in the color department, Vanilla Strawberry™ is the perfect hydrangea for lovers of pink. This panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Renhy’) does not disappoint, producing cone-shaped flowers that slowly transform from creamy white to pastel pink and, eventually, a stunning strawberry red.
These blooms first appear around mid-summer and continue to draw attention throughout fall. You don’t need to put much effort in for a carpet of flowers – plenty of sun and the occasional watering are all you really need. They grow well in USDA Zones 3-9, suitable for planting in most regions.
This unique hydrangea deserves a prime spot in your garden where its transformation can be enjoyed between summer and fall.
Hydrangeas may look complex, but their care doesn’t have to be. Choose one of these reliable varieties proven to grow well for a trouble-free growing experience.