Garden magazines and other sources of information rave about Hydrangea shrubs. In a recent gardening magazine, it was listed as the number one plant that people should have. Since my wife is a fan, I pay attention to this genus of plants. There are some Hydrangeas that would make the right plant list and many Hydrangeas that are proclaimed in nationwide campaigns haven’t even made a whistle stop in Kansas.
The hullabaloo may have been caused by the marketing of a Hydrangea macrophylla that would bloom on new growth. Flower buds of macrophylla typically are injured in the winter so there are never any blooms. This is normally true in Kansas. A cultivar named ‘Endless Summer’ with 18 million sold since its release in 2004 reportedly bloomed on both old and new growth. Since being planted in my yard and other Kansas gardens it goes by various names. My printable name for it is endless watering with few blooms.
Macrophylla have the flower structure and color that attracts people. These flowers can be pink or blue depending on the soil pH. They make nice cut flowers either fresh or dried. It takes a perfect microclimate in Kansas to grow them the way we desire. Magazine and book pictures of these are not taken from Kansas landscapes.
Other Hydrangeas have done well here. Arborescens called smooth Hydrangea or snowball is a good one for us. ‘Annabelle’ is a dependable white cultivar. This plant is typically cut back in the spring like a butterfly bush.
Oakleaf Hydrangea is another good one for Kansas. The flowers aren’t as showy and it is used more for its foliage. ‘Munchkin’ and ‘Ruby Slippers’ are two new cultivars to consider.
The last one is Hydrangea paniculata. This one will need a little extra care compared to oakleaf and smooth. Wind protection and some shade are desirable for all hydrangeas.
The right hydrangea in the right place can be an excellent choice. To me, Viburnums are easier to grow with interesting plant characteristics. They would be my top shrub of choice.
If you would like additional information on a horticulture topic, please contact Gregg Eyestone at the Riley County office of K-State Research and Extension. Gregg may be contacted by calling 537-6350 or stopping by 110 Courthouse Plaza in Manhattan or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and at www.riley.ksu.edu