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Do Hydrangeas Like Sun or Shade?

Hydrangeas, known for their large and bushy appearance, make a beautiful addition to gardens. To ensure they reach their full potential, it’s important to understand their preferred growing conditions.

These plants thrive in environments ranging from full sun (exposure to more than 6 hours of sunlight daily) to part sun (receiving 4-6 hours of sun). While hydrangeas are adaptable to some shade, the specific timing and kind of shade matter. For optimal growth, they should experience full shade during the most intense heat of the day, provided they receive ample morning sunlight.

The most common types of hydrangeas in North America are:

  • Mophead hydrangeas
  • Mountain hydrangeas
  • Panicle hydrangeas
  • Smooth hydrangeas
  • Oakleaf hydrangeas
  • Climbing hydrangeas

Hydrangeas that prefer partial shade

Mophead Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas favor moderate conditions for optimal growth. In warm and sunny climates like those found on California’s East Coast or in Southern Texas, it’s crucial to plant them in locations where they aren’t exposed to direct sunlight all day. Excessive sunlight can cause them to dry out and wilt. Conversely, in more temperate climates, hydrangeas flourish in full sunlight.

To aid in cultivating plants in various regions, the US Department of Agriculture employs a zone-based system, known as hardiness zones. Hydrangeas are well-suited to hardiness zones 5 through 9, indicating their adaptability to a range of climatic conditions within these zones.

Smooth Hydrangeas

This variety of hydrangea, indigenous to the United States and often referred to as wild hydrangeas, can thrive in slightly warmer climates compared to mophead hydrangeas. They are suitable for growing in a range of environments, from zone 3 to zone 9 on the USDA hardiness scale.

Like mophead hydrangeas, they prefer conditions where they receive ample sunlight during the morning and less in the afternoon, particularly when the sun heats the ground and the temperatures rise, which might be too intense for them.

Similar to mophead hydrangeas, these hydrangeas flourish in soil that is consistently moist but not saturated with water. Pruning of dead and damaged branches is recommended during the winter months after they have shed all their leaves, to maintain their health and encourage robust growth in the following season.

Hydrangeas that can grow in full sun

Panicle hydrangeas are recognized as the most resilient among hydrangea varieties, capable of thriving in full, direct sunlight throughout the day. They are an excellent choice for those seeking low-maintenance hydrangeas due to their robust nature and ability to endure extreme conditions.

These hydrangeas are adaptable to both cold and hot climates. The typical panicle hydrangea variety is well-suited for USDA zones 3 through 8. However, there are specialized varieties, like the ‘Limelight’ hydrangea, that can flourish even in warmer conditions, performing well in environments as mild as USDA zone 9. This versatility makes them a versatile option for gardeners in a wide range of climates.

 

Hydrangeas that can grow in full shade

Among hydrangeas, two varieties are particularly adept at growing in shaded areas: Panicle Hydrangeas and Oakleaf Hydrangeas.

Panicle Hydrangeas excel in shaded environments, such as beneath large trees or in the shadow of buildings and overhangs. Remarkably versatile, they also thrive in conditions of direct, all-day sunlight, as previously mentioned.

Oakleaf Hydrangeas, on the other hand, are well-suited to both partial and full shade. These hydrangeas are unique for their climbing vine characteristic, yet they still produce the signature beautiful hydrangea flowers. Typically, Oakleaf Hydrangeas can reach a maximum size of 4-6 feet in both height and width (approximately 1.3-2 meters).

Additionally, there are various sub-varieties of Oakleaf Hydrangeas, offering options for larger or smaller growth, catering to different garden spaces and preferences.

How do you find the best sun exposure?

To optimize sun exposure for hydrangeas, one effective strategy is to select a planting location that naturally provides varying degrees of shade throughout the day. Hydrangeas typically flourish when they receive morning sunlight followed by afternoon shade. This can be achieved by planting them east of a structure such as a building, wall, or tree.

This positioning ensures that as the sun moves westward, the hydrangeas are shaded in the afternoon by the object blocking the western sunlight. If you have trees that can cast a shadow over the full height of the hydrangeas, it’s ideal to plant them on the eastern side of these trees. This way, they’ll enjoy sunlight in the morning and be protected from the more intense afternoon sun.

To plan this effectively, you could sketch a side view of your garden, noting the estimated times when different areas receive sunlight and shade. This visual aid can help in determining the best location for your hydrangeas to ensure they get the right balance of sun and shade.

Conclusion

In North America, the most prevalent hydrangea varieties thrive when planted in areas receiving morning sunlight and afternoon shade, especially during times of higher temperatures. However, depending on whether you reside in a hotter or colder state, adjustments to their planting location may be necessary.

For instance, in hotter states like Arizona, it’s crucial to plant hydrangeas where they will consistently receive afternoon shade to protect them from intense heat. Conversely, in colder states, choosing a location where the hydrangeas can receive more sunlight throughout the day is advisable to compensate for the lower temperatures. These location adjustments help ensure the hydrangeas’ optimal growth and health in varying climatic conditions.

Charles Reynolds

Sunday 19th of November 2023

This article is very good, a photo next to each description would be very helpful! Much appreciated! Charles

Dena Lucy

Wednesday 16th of August 2023

My hydrangea is probably 15 years old and has never bloomed. Had beautiful greenery. It gets morning sun and afternoon shade. What could I be doing wrong

Igor Viznyy

Sunday 20th of August 2023

Hi Dena. Try fertilizing it with a special fertilizer for hydrangeas in early spring. Also water it several times a season with liquid fertilizer.

Jean

Thursday 3rd of August 2023

very useful info! Thanks

Bernice

Wednesday 21st of June 2023

Why my hydrangeas don’t bloom?

Igor Viznyy

Friday 23rd of June 2023

Hi Bernice. There can be several reasons why your hydrangeas may not be blooming. Here are some possible explanations:

Age of the plant: Hydrangeas generally take a few years to establish themselves before they start producing abundant blooms. If your hydrangea is relatively young, it may simply need more time to mature.

Improper pruning: Hydrangeas have specific pruning requirements, and improper pruning can result in a lack of blooms. Some hydrangea varieties bloom on old wood (last year's growth), while others bloom on new wood (current year's growth). Pruning at the wrong time or cutting off flower buds can prevent blooming. Make sure you know the specific pruning guidelines for your hydrangea variety.

Insufficient sunlight: Hydrangeas typically require a good amount of sunlight to bloom properly. If your hydrangea is not receiving enough sunlight, it may not produce many or any blooms. Ensure that your hydrangea is planted in a location that receives the appropriate amount of sunlight for its variety.

Soil pH: The pH level of the soil can affect the color and blooming of hydrangeas. For most varieties, a slightly acidic soil pH (around 5.5 to 6.5) is preferred. If the soil pH is too high or too low, it can impact the availability of nutrients and affect bloom production. Consider testing your soil pH and adjusting it if necessary using appropriate soil amendments.

Nutrient deficiencies: Hydrangeas require certain nutrients, particularly phosphorus, to encourage blooming. If the soil lacks essential nutrients or if there is an imbalance, it can hinder flower production. Consider applying a balanced fertilizer specifically formulated for hydrangeas, following the recommended application rates.

Environmental factors: Unfavorable weather conditions, such as late frosts or extreme heat, can damage flower buds and prevent them from blooming. Additionally, excessive moisture or drought stress can impact blooming. Ensure that your hydrangeas are adequately watered and protected from extreme weather conditions.

By evaluating these factors and addressing any potential issues, you can increase the chances of your hydrangeas blooming successfully. Remember that different hydrangea varieties may have specific requirements, so it's essential to understand the needs of your particular plant.