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The Best Hydrangeas for Gulf Coast Gardens

Updated on February 11, 2011

Hydrangeas are one of those plants that everyone seems to recognize. The large mophead type is the most recognizable of all. They are the doorstep variety that historically lined the porches of homesteads in the Deep South, and are still a favorite in the area today. Climbing hydrangeas are another favorite of southern gardeners. Oakleaf types are often chosen for their ability to thrive in poor growing conditions.

Growing hydrangeas is easy enough for the novice gardener while offering enough diversity in growth habits, bloom shape, size and color and landscape placement choices to please the experienced gardener. In general, providing moderate to heavy shade along with well-drained organic soil and plentiful moisture is sufficient.

Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris)

Climbing hydrangea offers the gardener with less space an opportunity to enjoy this southern standard by planting it on an arbor or trellis. Blooms are white lacecap type sprays on far-reaching vines. Allowed to grow unchecked, climbing hydrangea climbs up to 80 feet. Cascades of blooms appear to fall from vines beginning in early summer and lasting throughout the summer. When grown in USDA zone 8, give climbing hydrangea a full to mostly shaded spot in the yard. The plant will need some sun for best show of blooms however, too much harsh southern exposure and the vine is likely not to survive. Plant in rich garden soil, mulch well and keep moist without allowing water to stand around roots.

Variegated Lacecap Hydrangea
Variegated Lacecap Hydrangea | Source

Lacecap Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla normalis)

Lacecap hydrangea blooms are more open with a lace-like appearance. Given their name, this is not a surprising. Lacecap blooms are two-toned in varying shades of white, blue and pink. They appear more delicate than they actually are, as they are known to thrive in the sand hills of northwest Florida, especially if grown in the dappled shade of one of the many live oak trees in the area. Lacecaps like a good helping of organic mulch around their roots and soil that receives regular moisture.

Blue Mophead Hydrangea
Blue Mophead Hydrangea | Source

Mophead Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)

Mophead hydrangeas stand out in the landscape with their huge mophead-like blooms in pink, blue and white. Depending on the makeup of the soil, the blue flowers and pink blooms of mophead hydrangeas change colors. The pH level should be between 6.0 and 6.2 for pink blooms.[1] The pink blooms will turn blue when shrub is grown in acidic soil with a pH between 5.2 and 5.5. Changing the growing medium will not affect the color of white blooming hydrangeas. Whether you choose to have blue, pink or white blooming mopheads, mulch them well and water them regularly for the best and longest lasting show of color.

Mountain Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla subsp. serrata)

Mountain hydrangea is a subspecies of the big leaf or H. macrophylla variety. Depending on the cultivar, blooms of mountain hydrangea can be mophead or lacecap type. Leaves on this bush are deep green and smaller than those of the H. macrophylla. Long lasting light blue flowers open from June to August. Mountain hydrangea grows as far north as USDA zone 6 however, it does quite well in zone 8 when situated in a shady area of the landscape. Apply plenty of organic material around the base of mountain hydrangeas. Water regularly.

Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

Oakleaf hydrangea is a native of the United States. This hydrangea has panicles rather than mophead-like flowers. This tough hydrangea will thrive where others struggle to survive. The sandy, nutrient poor soils of the gulf coast are no match to the hardiness of the oakleaf hydrangea. It will thrive under these conditions reaching 6 - 8 feet tall at maturity; some may even grow larger than 8 feet. Flowers are creamy-white when they open in early summer turning various shades of pink as they age. The foliage of oakleaf hydrangea changes colors in the fall from medium green to shades of orange, red and purple. Oakleaf hydrangea is an exceptional choice for gardeners with large spaces and woodland areas to fill. Although the oakleaf will survive and even thrive under the poorest of conditions, it will not hurt to give it some extra attention while it becomes established. Cover root area with plenty of organic mulch and water deeply once or twice per week. Once established, the oakleaf can survive on far less attention, much of the time, drawing from what nature provides, alone.

New Bloom of a Young Oakleaf Hydrangea
New Bloom of a Young Oakleaf Hydrangea | Source


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    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      Thanks for this overview of hydrangea. My oak leaf is in full bloom right now and I'm getting new photos to post. They are amazing! I was glad to learn of the climbing hydrangea--interesting.

    • Meadow Kelly profile image

      Meadow Kelly 6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Tobey - That would take me all of two minutes without pulling out the research files. I've had little success with Hostas in my zone. When I had them in zone 7a, they were beautiful and healthy plants. More due to the good soil, plentiful moisture and near perfect temperatures than anything I ever did with them.

      I'll be digging into my research later this evening to see what is in there on hostas... :-)

    • Meadow Kelly profile image

      Meadow Kelly 6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Thanks Seeker. They are one of my favorite plants, as well.

    • profile image

      Tobey100 6 years ago

      Tell me everything you know about Hostas

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      What a beautiful hub - the photographs are stunning. Hydrangea are one of my favourite plants. I was familiar with the mopheads but not some of the others. The Lacecaps are so beautiful and I thought the oakleaf very pretty indeed!

      Many thanks for sharing this great info on this beautiful plant.

    • Meadow Kelly profile image

      Meadow Kelly 6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Hi plinka! Thanks so much for coming by. I'm working on more hubs now. :-)

    • plinka profile image

      plinka 6 years ago from Budapest, Hungary

      Hi, I love reading about plants and your hub is really great. Some more hubs, please! :-)

    • Meadow Kelly profile image

      Meadow Kelly 6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Thanks, tobey100. I'm looking forward to doing just that! I have moved things around (dropped some of the load) so that I can spend more time over here at HBs.

    • tobey100 profile image

      tobey100 6 years ago from Whites Creek, Tennessee

      Great hub! Give us more.

    • Meadow Kelly profile image

      Meadow Kelly 6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Hi Dirt Farmer! The climbing hy hasn't done well for me in zone 8b. I haven't given up on finding the 'right' spot for one, yet. I'm a little partial to the lacecaps these days but the mopheads will always have a place in my yard. They represent the "Old South" to me - Live Oaks dripping with Spanish moss, azaleas, jasmine, scupplins (scuppernongs), swamp creatures screaming in the night, mosquitoes as big as your fist (ok - not quite). Thanks for stopping by my lonely little hub. ;) I'll be adding more soon.

    • Meadow Kelly profile image

      Meadow Kelly 6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Thank you, Lyric Writer - These plants seem to be in every yard in my area. They are beautiful, indeed.

    • Meadow Kelly profile image

      Meadow Kelly 6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Thank you, Eiddwen.

    • Meadow Kelly profile image

      Meadow Kelly 6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Healing Touch - They do like some shade. My 'best' one is a mophead that grows under a Live Oak tree in the corner where the porch meets the house. It simply thrives in that spot while every other one on my place struggles a bit.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 6 years ago from United States

      I've never seen the climbing hydrangeas. My favorites (probably like most people) are the mophead varieties. Nice hub!

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 6 years ago from West Virginia

      Very good article Kelly. You really laid out some key points and I never knew of any of this, little along hydrangeas. Voted up and useful, plus interesting.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      Beautiful hub.

    • Healing Touch profile image

      Laura Arne 6 years ago from Minnetonka, MN

      Meadow Kelly,

      I have a tough time keeping them alive here in MN. They get so brown with our hot sun.

    • Meadow Kelly profile image

      Meadow Kelly 7 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Thanks Sterling. It is hard for me to choose a favorite. Each one has its own unique characteristic. I just love them all. :)

    • Sterling Carter profile image

      Sterling Carter 7 years ago from Indian Mound, Tennessee

      Nice article, I love the blue Mopheads. I have the Oak Leaf variety in my own yard they add a special something to the plant beds. I guess it is more the unique shaped leaf that really stands out among the other plants.

    • Meadow Kelly profile image

      Meadow Kelly 7 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Thanks Loren's Gem.

      I like the lacecap hy's as well, especially the variegated. Hydrangea's are beautiful plants to have in the landscape & so easy to grow.

    • Loren's Gem profile image

      Loren's Gem 7 years ago from Istanbul, Turkey

      I don't know very much about hydrangeas until after reading this - yet those lacecap and blue mopheads aren't just beautiful but they do look familiar to me. Thanks for this interesting share! :-)

    • Meadow Kelly profile image

      Meadow Kelly 7 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Ah yes, I remember that scene in 'It's a Wonderful Life' my favorite Christmas movie. I tormented my girls by making them watch it every year. :)

      Thanks Will.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      And who can forget that when Donna Reed lost her bathrobe in 'It's a Wonderful Life', she hid in the hydrangeas?

      Great Hub!