Botanical Names: panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata), French or bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla), oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia), smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens), climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris)
Discover the timeless beauty of white hydrangeas. These old-fashioned shrubs are multi-generational favorites, bringing charm to any garden setting. Adding a white hydrangea bush to your yard isn’t difficult because white blends effortlessly with other plants and colors. There are many white hydrangea varieties to choose from, including classic PeeGee and oakleaf types. When you consider hydrangea, white may not be your first choice, but hold on. Check out the beauty that white hydrangeas have to offer.
Bigleaf or French hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) are one of the most popular hydrangea shrubs. These have spherical flower heads or dainty lacecap blooms. Among these hydrangeas, bold and pastel hues tend to rule, and white hydrangea blossoms are more the exception.
With oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia), flowers open white in long cone shape clusters. As blossoms on most oakleaf hydrangea varieties age, they fade to pink shades. ‘Snowflake’ oakleaf hydrangea opens double blooms with twice the number of petals. These flowers are the longest lasting of all the oakleaf hydrangea varieties. ‘Snow Queen’ and ‘Alice’ are single flowered oakleaf hydrangeas. When buying oakleaf hydrangea varieties, wait to purchase plants that are in bloom. This is the only way to ensure you get the flower type you want.
Panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) is an all-time favorite hydrangea that opens flowers in shades of white and pink. White hydrangea varieties in this group include the heirloom ‘Grandiflora,’ which was introduced in the 1860s. Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ is called PeeGee for short (from its initials PG). This white hydrangea bush forms flower heads up to 18 inches long on plants that grow to 25 feet tall.
Although there is truly only one PeeGee hydrangea, many Hydrangea paniculata varieties are sold as PeeGee. Although Hydrangea paniculata is the only type of hydrangea that can be pruned into tree form, some of the newer varieties have a small stature that’s perfect for small gardens and containers. ‘Bobo’ is a white hydrangea that grows roughly 3 feet tall and wide. Its flowers blush to pink in autumn. Some varieties, like ‘Pinky Winky,’ offer bicolor blooms — pink and white. While these aren’t solely white hydrangeas, the blend of pink takes the beauty to a new level.
Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) is a native hydrangea shrub. A naturally occurring variety, ‘Annabelle,’ is the traditional favorite in this group. It opens white flowers in wonderfully symmetrical, rounded heads that can measure up to a foot across. This is the plant known as the snowball bush. ‘Annabelle’ makes a lovely specimen shrub and a terrific hedge that brings on the color as summer heats up.
Another white hydrangea is climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris). The flowers on this perennial vine are flattened and white, almost fuzzy in appearance. This white hydrangea plant scores big because it’s a flowering vine that grows in shade, a rare commodity in horticultural circles. Consider growing this white hydrangea when you have a part sun to part shade area that’s begging for a vine. Just be sure to use a sufficient support, because the vine can be quite heavy as it matures.