In search of the elusive blooming hydrangea

Written by Doug Oster on .

invincibelle spirit'Invincibelle Spirit' is nearly indestructible and blooms every year reliably. Photos by Doug Oster

It's no secret to most gardeners that hydrangeas can be fickle bloomers in our climate. Hydrangea macrophylla is the most common variety, often called the mophead hydrangea. Improper pruning is one culprit, don't start cutting then unless you know what you're doing. That type of hydrangea puts on buds right after blooming. Trim those off and you've just removed next year's flowers.

Two tough winters have took their toll also, freezing out the buds.

native hydrangeaNative hydrangeas are the toughest of all.I grow lots of different varieties, some bloom reliably and others, not so much. Oak leaf hydrangeas (H. quercifolia) are cool and flower consistently for me. As do a few different H. paniculata plants.

There are a couple others though which are almost indestructible. 'Invincibelle Spirit' (H. arborescens) is the first pink 'Annabelle' variety. Not only is it tough, purchasing a plant helps people with cancer. One dollar from every 'Invincibelle Spirit' sold goes to breast cancer research.

I've got them all over the garden, they even bloom in the shade. The flowers are smaller without full sun, but there's plenty of them. I grow them in front of white 'Annabelle' hydrangeas. These varieties can be cut to the ground at the end of the season as they bloom on what's called new wood. The buds are formed in the spring, flowering in early summer.

The toughest of all hydrangeas is the native variety which also shares the arborescens name. It likes the grow at the edge of woodlands and has a beautiful white flower. My woods are covered with them, they need nothing from the gardener and happily provide flowers every summer. If you'd like to try one, check out Sylvania Natives in Squirrel Hill.

tight native hydrangeaNative hydrangeas don't ask anything from the gardener, but will happily bloom every year.


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