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Do Hydrangeas Like Sun or Shade?

Hydrangeas grow large and bushy and are a lovely addition to any garden. But, to get them to grow as large and full as they should, you should know what conditions they like. Also of great interest to gardeners is how much light these plants can withstand.  

Most popular varieties of hydrangeas prefer early morning sun and shade in the afternoon. There are, however, varieties that do well in less or more sun. Commonly used hydrangeas will produce fewer flowers if kept in the shade. As well as, wilt if planted in direct sunlight for the whole day.

If you don’t have anywhere that can accommodate these conditions, then there are varieties of hydrangeas that will do well in more or less sunlight. The most commonly found hydrangeas also vary a little in what climates they grow well in. So, below I’ll give you a list of where the commonly found varieties grow well, where you should plant them, and varieties that do well in more extreme conditions.

The most common types of hydrangeas in North America are:

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

The typical hydrangea that people mean when they talk about them are Mophead or Smooth hydrangeas. They have large round flowers and large leaves.

The ideal conditions for Mophead and Smooth hydrangeas

Mophead Hydrangeas

They prefer moderate conditions. If the climate is warm and sunny such as on the East coast of California or Southern Texas, then you should plant them where they won’t be in direct sunlight for the whole day. If you do, so they will dry out and begin to wilt. If you are planting them in a moderate climate, then they will do well in full sunlight.

The US department of agriculture has a zone-based system to assist in growing plants in different regions. They are categorized as hardiness zones. Hydrangeas do well in hardiness zones 5 to 9.

How to grow these types of hydrangeas:

Plant them in well-draining soil that you have pre-moistened. Ensure they have adequate spacing. They will usually grow like 6 feet (2 meters) wide in all directions. Give enough room so that they won’t grow into each other. If you are making a path in between them for easy pruning, then you should allow space for this as well.

You should keep them damp when the plants are young. Once they have grown to the medium size, then they don’t need to be watered as regularly. You should only need to water them if it hasn’t rained for about a week, or if the soil has become quite dry. These plants will reach a maximum size and maintain it. You don’t have to periodically prune them, but if you do, make sure to do so after they have flowered. All hydrangeas will lose their leaves in winter.

Smooth Hydrangeas

This type of hydrangea is native to the United States and is also referred to as wild hydrangeas. These will do well in climates a bit warmer than mophead hydrangeas, up to a zone 9 and as low as a zone 3 on the USDA hardiness scale.

They like similar conditions to the mophead hydrangea above, such as a good amount of sunlight in the morning and less in the afternoon when the sun has warmed up the ground, and the heat can get a bit much for them.

They, like the mophead hydrangeas, like soil that is moist, but not waterlogged. You should prune back any dead and damaged branches in the winter months when they have dropped all their leaves.

Are there species or varieties that can withstand a lot of sunlight?

The hardiest of all hydrangea varieties that can grow in all day direct sunlight are Panicle hydrangeas. These are also the best for people who want low maintenance hydrangeas. This is because they are so hardy and will withstand extreme conditions.

They can do well in cold and hot conditions. The standard variety does well in USDA zones 3 through 8. There are, however, varieties that do well in more extreme conditions such as the ‘limelight’ variety, which can do well in zones as warm as a zone 9.

Though many varieties of hydrangeas can withstand full sunlight, they do best in conditions where they get sunlight in the morning until the hottest part of the day, and then are shaded during the afternoon when the sun has warmed the ground, and the temperature is a lot warmer. This is because the sun, with the warmth of the surrounding area, can dry them out and cause them to become dehydrated.

Some types can grow in the shade.

The two hydrangeas that do best in the shade are Panicle Hydrangeas and Oakleaf Hydrangeas.

Panicle hydrangeas. These do well in shaded conditions, such as underneath large trees or under cover from buildings or overhangs. They also do well in direct all-day sunlight, as mentioned above.

Oakleaf hydrangeas. These do well in partial and full shade. These are a climbing vine type of hydrangea but still, have the beautiful hydrangea flowers. They have a maximum size of 4-6 feet tall and wide (1.3-2 meters). There are also sub-varieties of Oakleafs which grow larger or smaller.

Plant hydrangeas on the east side of the house.

There are a variety of ways to protect hydrangeas from the sun. The easiest way is to plant them in an area that is shaded in different parts of the day. Hydrangeas do better when they get morning sun and afternoon shade. This would mean that there is a building, wall, or tree to the east of them.

That way, there is something that blocks the sun from the western side. So, as the sun sets, the plant will be shaded by whatever is blocking it. If you have trees large enough to shade the full height of the hydrangea, you should plant the hydrangeas on the eastern side. That way, they will get the sun before midday and then get shade in the afternoon. You can draw a sideways plan view of your garden and approximate at what time of day your hydrangeas will be in sunlight and shade.

Places where they will grow best.

You should plant hydrangeas in a place where they will get sun during the morning, and shade during the afternoon. This is ideally, however, and they will still grow reasonably well in a range of conditions. You can achieve this by planting them where this will occur, such as next to the house or trees large enough to shade them in the afternoon.

Some varieties are hardier than others and will grow well regardless of the amount of sun and shade they get. So, you should look at the conditions that are recommended by the grower to see how they could be affected by more or less sun.


The most commonly found hydrangeas in North America grow well if you plant them where they will get the sun in the morning and are shaded during the increased temperature in the afternoon. If you live in a hotter or colder than State, you should modify where you plant them accordingly. For example, if you live in a hotter State such as Arizona, you should strictly plant them where they will get shaded in the afternoon. If you live in a colder state, you should plant them where they will get more sun.