Annabelle is the kind of hydrangea that has long been a must-have in every yard. And really, what is a better way to decorate the outside of your home than with large white flower heads?
Fortunately, Annabelle belongs to the species Hydrangea arborescens (Smooth hydrangea), which is native to the USA. This makes Annabelle low-maintenance, unlike, for example, Bigleaf hydrangeas.
But I want to tell you how to take care of this hydrangea so you can avoid the usual mistakes and get great results.
|Annabelle Hydrangea||Care instructions|
|Hardiness:||USDA zone 3-9|
|Size:||Height 3-5′ and width 4-6′|
|Shape:||Rounded with upright stems.|
|Type:||Perennial, deciduous, shrub.|
|Light requirements:||Full sun and partial shade.|
|Soil:||Loam or amended soil.|
|Soil pH:||5.5-7.0 Grow best in slightly acidic to neutral soil.|
|Watering:||1-2 times per week in drought. Don’t water in the winter.|
|Blooming:||June-September. On new wood.|
|Flowers color:||White, light-green, pink.|
|Leaves:||Dark green, 3-8 inches long.|
|Best time for planting:||Early spring and early fall.|
|Pruning:||Pruning can be done at any time of year, except for pruning new wood before flowering.|
|Space:||3-4 feet apart (center to center).|
|Winter care:||In 4-5 zones can die back for the winter.|
|Spring care:||Clean the hydrangea and remove all the deadwood.|
|Fall care:||Keep the soil around it slightly moist. Avoid the use of fertilizer. Remove all deadwood and fallen leaves.|
|Fertilizer:||Balanced NPK formula, once per year in early spring.|
|Propagation:||By cuttings in early spring.|
Caring and planting for Annabelle Hydrangea
For Annabelle hydrangea to thrive you need to plant it properly. Dig a hole twice as big as the root ball of the plant. Fill the hole partially with amended soil and place the hydrangea so that the surfaces overlap. Fill all the space around the roots with the prepared soil and compact slightly. Do not put soil on the stems or where they come out of the roots.
The best time to plant Annabelle hydrangea in early spring or fall. In the spring the plant is still dormant and it will be easier for it to get used to the new conditions. Also, conditions are usually milder this time of year than in the summer. In autumn, it is best to plant hydrangeas a month before the first frost; this time of year the climate is also more favorable for taking root.
The best place to plant Annabelle hydrangea is in a location with plenty of sunshine and plenty of moisture. This variety is hardy and can generally grow almost anywhere. Don’t plant it very close to the house, leave 2 feet of space between the house and the hydrangea.
Plant Annabelle hydrangea 3-4 feet apart from other plants. That is, it should have space around it equal to its mature size and an extra foot for better air movement. Often this variety is used as a hedge, in which case it should be planted 2-3 feet apart.
Sun or shade?
Annabelle hydrangea needs plenty of light to have large white clusters of flowers. It needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight in most states, but 8 hours would be an advantage. In zones 3 and 4 it is best planted in a location with 10 hours of sunlight. In the south in zones 8 and 9, morning sun and half-day shade will be ideal conditions for this hydrangea.
Annabelle hydrangea can receive full sun and in most cases, nothing bad will happen to it. But you must make sure you water it regularly because in full sun the plant evaporates much more moisture than in the shade. Also, if you plant in full sun, you must mulch the hydrangea so the soil does not dry out around it.
As for shade, Annabelle cannot thrive in full shade. With a lack of light, her stems will be brittle and it will not bloom or the number of flowers will be miserable. You have to give it at least a few hours of direct sunlight; the rest of the time it can be in full shade or semi-shade.
With too much light and not enough moisture in the soil, the leaves of Annabelle hydrangea may droop. This is especially true in the hot climates of zone 9. So make sure that you water hydrangeas regularly in full sun; we will talk about this in more detail later in this article.
The main thing Annabelle hydrangea is valued for is its large white flower heads. Their shape is almost a perfect sphere but slightly flattened. They can be up to 12 inches across, although usually young plants have flower clusters 8-9 inches across.
The color of the flower clusters is snowy white, which is why Annabelle is sometimes called a snow bush. When there is a lack of light or when some of the flower heads are shaded, their color becomes light green, which also adds interest. In this way, you can get a bicolor effect. In the autumn the color changes to pink.
Annabelle hydrangea is not a type of plant which changes color depending on the soil pH. Whether you have acidic or alkaline soil Annabelle will always stay white.
Annabelle hydrangea blooms from June to August, which means that the flowering period lasts more than two months. Sometimes, if the climate allows, this variety can bloom again in autumn, but the number of flowers is much lower than in summer.
This variety blooms on new wood so you can almost always count on flowers. In colder climates, it often happens that Annabelle dies out in winter, in which case you will still get flowers.
The reason why Annabelle hydrangea does not bloom is the lack of light. Other reasons for the lack of blooms can be overwatering, lack or excess of nutrients, or drought.
Annabelle hydrangea can reach 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide. It is a medium-sized, rounded shrub that can be grown even in a compact garden. Size can be controlled by pruning if desired. With enough sun, water, and fertilizer, the size can be more than 5-6 feet. The growth rate is fast, 3-4 feet per year.
Stems are erect, with side stems sloping slightly to the sides. They are quite stiff and can withstand the considerable weight. But sometimes in a heavy storm, the leaves and flower heads become too heavy with moisture and the stems can sag downward. As a result, the bush falls apart in strong winds. This is a small drawback that can easily be corrected by installing support or a cage.
Annabelle hydrangea leaves are quite large, they can be up to 8 inches long and 4 inches wide. The color is dark green in the mature leaves and bright green in the young leaves. Their shape is serrated, which definitely adds interest to this hydrangea.
Annabelle hydrangea can tolerate a wide range of soils. But she will not be so comfortable in heavy clay soil, because it will be harder for the roots to develop and stagnant water can lead to root rot. Also in too sandy soil, water drains out very quickly and in hot weather, the Hydrangea can suffer from a lack of water.
For Annabelle to thrive, you need to improve your soil if it is very clayey or very sandy. To do this, use compost. It is better to choose compost from well-known manufacturers, in this case, it will be free from diseases and pests. At the time of planting, add a few buckets of compost to the planting hole and mix everything well. Planting hydrangeas in this kind of soil will give you good results for a long time.
The best pH for Annabelle hydrangea is 5.5-7.0. Slightly acidic soil will make it easier for the hydrangea to absorb nutrients from the soil. It will also grow well in neutral soil. Avoid planting in alkaline soil as this can lead to chlorosis.
As I mentioned above, soil pH does not affect the color of Annabelle hydrangea flowers as it does with Bigleaf hydrangeas.
You need to water Annabelle hydrangea once or twice a week when it is not raining. If the weather is even slightly rainy, you don’t need to water at all. Of course, there are many other details you need to be aware of.
Firstly, different soil dries up at different speeds, so in sandy soil, you have to water a little more often than in clay soil. There will still be a difference in the frequency of watering depending on your soil, even though you will improve it as I recommended above.
Secondly, in hot climates in full sun Annabelle should be watered much more often than in the north in the penumbra.
So as not to be overloaded with information, check the soil around the hydrangea for moisture as often as possible. If the soil is more than 1-2 inches dry, water Annabelle with sufficient water to keep it well moistened. Usually, 2-3 gallons of water is enough for one plant.
One of the most common problems in growing Annabelle hydrangea is overwatering the plant. As a result, the foliage will turn yellow. To avoid this, allow the soil to dry 1-2 inches deep between waterings. Use well-drained soil and drainage.
Also, Annabelle hydrangea may drop its leaves if the weather is too hot and there is not enough moisture. If this happens, you need to water immediately and the plant will come back to life in a short time. Avoid underwatering in the future. If necessary, install automatic watering and mulch the hydrangea.
You don’t have to trim Annabelle hydrangea, but if you want you can do it almost any time of the year. This hydrangea blooms on new wood and so you can trim it whenever you want except for new stems in the spring.
In most cases, the deadheading of the hydrangea after it has bloomed is sufficient. This will produce larger flower heads the following year. Also, in cold climates, this variety sometimes dies off almost to the ground, so you should remove all the deadwood in the spring.
If you want to fully prune Annabelle hydrangea, it is best to do so in the second half of the fall. Cut the stems 10 to 15 inches above the ground, leaving the short parts of the stems sticking out of the ground. This will support the young stems next year and keep the hydrangea from falling apart.
When pruning, use only sharp and sterile tools. When deadheading, cut the stem as close to the flower head as possible to avoid damaging the buds that will grow next year.
The best time to transplant Annabelle hydrangea in early spring before the leaves unfold. It is best transplanted in cloudy weather when there is no bright sun. The best time of day is morning or evening. Water the hydrangea well a few days before transplanting.
Dug up the hydrangea very gently. It is best if you do not damage any roots, as a severely damaged root system can lead to the loss of the plant. The more roots that remain intact, the faster the hydrangea will establish itself.
Move the plant to its new location without shaking the soil off the roots. Place the root ball in the planting hole and fill it with well-drained soil. This process is very similar to the planting I described at the beginning of this article.
If Annabelle begins to unfurl her leaves, shade hydrangea with mesh for a few weeks. Also, keep the soil around her slightly moist. Be sure to mulch the surface around the plant.
Annabelle is a very hardy hydrangea. It can grow in zones 3-9, which means that it can be planted almost anywhere in the U.S. and even in southern Canada. The reason for its hardiness is that Hydrangea arborescens (of which Annabelle is a variety) is native to the wild in northern America. As a result, Annabelle is well adapted to survive in such conditions.
It is worth noting here that in zones 3 to 5, Annabelle can die back in winter. But nothing crucial will happen as a result. We will talk about how to properly overwinter this hydrangea below. You just have to be aware that it can happen.
As for the south, Annabelle is one of the best hydrangeas for hot climates. It can easily grow in full sun in zone 8 and even zone 9, but still, the partial shade will be beneficial. Also, in dry and sunny climates, it needs more watering, as the plant cools itself by evaporating moisture.
For Annabelle’s hydrangea to overwinter well, you need to prepare her for it. In the fall, remove any fallen leaves from under the shrub, as rotten leaves are a source of spreading rot and other diseases. Next, mulch the hydrangea with fresh and properly prepared compost. Water hydrangeas sparingly if the autumn is dry. This is to ensure that the hydrangea stores enough moisture for overwintering.
As I mentioned above in the northern states Annabelle hydrangea can die off over the winter. You can shelter it for this period or you can do nothing and it will regrow and bloom on new wood in the spring. You can also trim Annabelle 10 to 15 inches above the ground for the winter and thus avoid dieback.
Spring care for Annabelle hydrangea consists of removing deadwood and cleaning up plant debris. You can also fertilize it, about that next. Make sure no pests have settled on your hydrangea and get rid of them if necessary.
Hydrangeas can also often suffer late frosts in spring. So if frosts come, you will need to cover the Annabelle hydrangea to protect the young leaves and stems from frostbite.
The best fertilizer for Annabelle hydrangea is slow-release pellets with equal parts Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. This ensures that the hydrangea gets all the nutrients it needs evenly throughout the growing season.
The best time to fertilize Annabelle is early spring. This will give the plant the energy it needs to develop foliage and large flowers. If you fertilize later, you may not get big flowers.
Usually, one fertilizer application is enough for a hydrangea to thrive. Too much fertilization can lead to excessive growth and thus to a fragile plant. Also, overfeeding often results in a higher susceptibility to disease.
You should avoid feeding Annabelle hydrangea in the autumn as this can cause new stems to grow. These stems may not mature by winter and may die out.
Annabelle hydrangea is not deer resistant. These animals can easily damage the hydrangea’s foliage and it will look terrible afterward. If deer are often around your yard, then you need to take care of protection. The first thing you can do is use a deer repeller. The second is to enclose your hydrangeas with netting.
The second problem Annabelle hydrangea owners have is pests. Many different insects like to feed on hydrangea sap and leaves. These include aphids, spider mites, thrips, and others. If you see them, spray the plant with garden oil. Acaricides should be used for the mites.
Another problem is diseases, which first become noticeable as spots on the leaves. To cure Annabelle you need to spray the leaves with fungicide, in addition, there must be free air movement near the hydrangea.
Annabelle hydrangea leaves can turn yellow because of too much water. To avoid this, use well-drained soil and allow the surface to dry between waterings.
Sometimes it can happen that Annabelle’s hydrangea leaves wilt. In most cases, this is caused by too much sun and not enough watering. If this happens to your hydrangea, move it to a place with at least some shade and water it a little more often.
Annabelle hydrangea is best propagated by cuttings. In this case, you can count on the varietal characteristics being transferred from the mother plant to the daughter plant. By seed propagation, the characteristics are poorly transferred.
In early spring, you will need to cut cuttings 4 to 6 inches long with a few nodes. This should be done before the leaves emerge.
Next, you need to fill the pots with sterile seedling soil. The size of the pots should be at least 4 inches across and they should have drainage holes.
Insert the cuttings into the pots one-third of their length. Two-thirds of the cuttings should remain above the ground. Water the soil well and move the cuttings into the greenhouse. The rooting process can take a year.