Few flowers besides the rose share such widespread popularity as the hydrangea. Though originally cultivated by royalty in Japan, they are also native to North America. For the past 200 years, gardeners have been perfecting them to grow as shrubs, trees, and vines in every growing zone of the country. All share the common quality of big, stunning blossoms, many of which magically change color throughout the season. Here are our favorite hydrangeas that thrive in Illinois and Iowa!
Quickfires are known for their early blooms that unfurl by the Fourth of July. Their panicle flower clusters start out white, blush to pink through the summer, and glow fiery pink-red in the fall. This hardy and easy-to-grow variety blossoms each year on new wood, which means it flowers even after a harsh winter. The Quickfire grows to a stately height of 6-8 feet. Its cousin, the Little Quickfire, is a dwarf shrub with the same beauty that rises only to 3-5 feet at maturity.
The Summer Crush is a Bigleaf hydrangea, known for their huge flower heads and impressive leaves. They grow to a manageable height of 2-3 feet. The flowers typically bloom raspberry-pink and neon purple, but change depending on the pH of your soil. If you make your soil more basic with aluminum sulfate, the flowers change to blue. If you raise the acidity with compost or lime, the flowers turn pink. In the midst of a transition, you may see both colors on the same plant. But whether the blossoms are pink, red, blue, or all three, the Summer Crush is sure to win your admiration.
Limelight hydrangeas steal the spotlight with their large cones of flowers. These legendary blossoms emerge white with a tint of lime green that subsides throughout the summer. By mid-season, they are pure white. They finish the year with a blush of pink or red, and the flowers stay on the branches even through the first frost. A long time favorite of professional gardeners, the Limelight is sure to draw a crowd. For a dwarf variety with the same blooms, check out the Little Lime.
The Ruby Slipper is one of the Oakleaf hydrangeas, native to the southeastern states. Against the backdrop of oak-like leaves, they display white panicles of flowers that darken to ruby red. A newcomer on the market, horticulturalists have recently perfected this variety, making it hardy for our Quad Cities Zone 5 temperatures. It reaches a compact size of 3-4 feet, and like an oak tree, displays burgundy leaves in the fall.
The Bobo is engulfed in huge white flower heads that keep growing throughout the summer. The green leaves are often barely visible beneath the colossal display of blooms. Despite the weight of these hefty flowers, the strong stems stay upright. As a dwarf variety, it reaches a convenient size of about 3 feet. But even at this height, it’s sure to stand out, especially as the flowers turn a shade of light pink.
While all hydrangeas are known for their stunning blooms, each variety has its own specialty, and these five are only a few that you’ll find at our garden center. Most are easy to prune and care for, especially if you choose the right location. Many are ideal for hedging, curb appeal, and even containers, and their colorful, changing blossoms will always bring some magic to your landscape.