I Love Hydrangea paniculata – Panicle Hydrangeas!

Aug 6, 2021 | Gardens, Love This!

Name:  Hydrangea paniculata –panicle hydrangeas!

Type of Plant: These are the white to pink flowering hydrangeas that are in or approaching full bloom in early August. They are hardy in Zones 4 through 9

Why I Love/Hate this plant: These hydrangeas are hardy, long-flowering shrubs. There are varieties that stay short (see photos below) and those that grow to the size of small trees. They flower from mid-summer into fall, often retaining blooms through September and onward to hard frost. And there are many flower shapes, from big balls to lacy cones.

Panicle hydrangeas can be a good addition to perennial gardens, foundation plantings, and mixed shrub borders. They are perfect where a truly small tree is needed. And they grow well in part-sun to full sun.

A Word to the Wise: Match the right variety of panicle hydrangea to your site. Read the projected size and then add one to four feet more, because tags often underestimate mature growth.

Although these plants aren’t as thirsty as the Hydrangea macrophylla varieties, they do appreciate a deep soaking (using a sprinkler not by hand-watering) once a week. This will help keep their flowers from browning.

Prune these hydrangeas in the early spring, removing deadwood, crossed branches and any stems headed into the center of the plant. Only after those cuts might you trim from the outside in, knowing that where you cut you’ll double the growth for the coming year.

Starting with the smallest panicle that I’ve grown, here is Fire Light Tidbit. This one is just coming into flower and is a newer shrub, so not as full as it will be next season. But if you’re looking for a panicle variety that’s under 4 feet tall, so far, this is the one for you.

Bobo is a shorter panicle type, but it can grow to about five feet tall. Slow it down height-wise with a hard pruning in the early spring. Here it’s growing in the back of my perennial bed, and this Bobo is about four feet tall and wide.

I love Fire Light hydrangea. Earlier to come into flower than most, a nice round shape all on its own, and flowers that turn pink in early August and wine-red in the fall. One of my favorites!

Lavalamp Moonrock, from Bloomin’ Easy, is new to me. The flowers are HUGE so I’m going to be staking the canes for a year or so to make sure they stay upright. This panicle variety has great potential for a tree-form.

I’ve been impressed with how stem-sturdy the Zinfin Doll panicle hydrangea has been in my garden. As you can see here, the flowers are very large and round, but I have not had to stake them in any way. This shrub is about 5 years old in my garden and I’ve not had to shape it (so far) in order for it to grow so full and round. Zin Fin Doll is wonderful with shrub roses.

Do you need a panicle hydrangea that tends to grow more upright instead of round? Look no further than Pinky Winky. Stem-sturdy, upright and large, lacy blooms that turn pink from bottom to top.

Don’t ignore the old tried and true varieties such as the original pee gee hydrangea. Pee gee is a shortening of the botanic, registered name: Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ and the flowers are indeed grand. This one often gets lost as the branded, trademarked varieties are pushed to the retailers. But it’s a lovely plant, especially when grown in tree form. This is just beginning to bloom in early August. See how large the flowers will grow below!

No wonder this was named ‘Grandiflora’! the flowers are often larger than an adult’s head. My pee gee hydrangea is in full, fantastic flower in late-August into October. 


  1. JoAnn Green

    I have 2 panicle hydrangeas, but didn’t mark them. Is there anyway of telling what there name is? I also have another question about a lace cap that I’m having problems with. If you can help me with either, please respond. Thanks for all your great information.

    • CL Fornari

      Some panicles are very distinctive and can be id’d by a photo. I’d suggest that you take pics and take them into your local garden center (not box store) for id since the varieties that are popular and sold in a particular area are different from other regions. Post your question about the lace cap here – if I can help, I will.

  2. Diana VanHorn

    I have a Vanilla Strawberry hydrangea in need of pruning. I was going to prune it this Fall but after reading your blog, it says I should wait until spring. I live in NE Ohio and am concerned that a heavy snow could damage the overgrown plant. Thoughts?

    • CL Fornari

      These plants are pretty flexible, so don’t usually get damaged in heavy snow. But if you want to take out crossed branches, and those heading into the center of the plant in the fall, using thinning cuts, that will lighten it up and you can cut back using heading cuts in the spring. Crossed branches and those heading toward the center are the first steps in the proper pruning of this plant anyway…

  3. Laura Bolter

    I have a Vanilla Strawberry hydrangea. It’s been doing so incredibly well, but just started dropping leaves and some blooms are turning brown. It’s been VERY hot here—90s and 100°. Should I cut the browning blooms off? Any other suggestions? Thank you!

    • CL Fornari

      If the flowers are brown, by all means clip them off….or spray paint them? Even these very sturdy paniculata varieties can get toasted in hot, sunny weather.

      • Maryellen Comer

        Hi CL
        About a week ago, my incredible arborescence suddenly began turning yellow, now the leaves are all wilted but most of the flower heads are still white.
        I gave it as much water as my macrophilers, perhaps I should not have but my macros are doing fantastic. I’m just thinking that the incrediball doesn’t need as much water.

        By the way they were my pride and joy. Second year in the ground.
        I will try and post a picture of it in Cape Cod gardening.

        I don’t think it’s going to survive and next year I will have nothing.
        Me thinks I may have overwatered and perhaps it has root rot.

        • CL Fornari

          It’s probably suffered from the drought. Even plants under irrigation have been totally stressed this year. These plants don’t wilt at the end of a hot day like the macrophylla’s do, but they do need a deep soaking of the entire area around them once a week to keep them happy. And this year it takes a lot longer for a deep soaking to happen because it’s been so hot and dry. I can set my sprinkler on an area and leave it on for 4 hours, only to see the area as dry as moon-dust a day later. It might survive – pray for rain!

    • Philip Comer

      My wife MaryEllen was under the weather for the last half of the summer and has now passed away. She had close to 20 hydrangeas.because of her illness they have been neglected.they where her pride and joy.I don’t know how to winterize them.i need help, thank you

      • CL Fornari

        I don’t know what type you have, Philip. It makes a difference. Did she cover them in the past?

  4. Nancy Bukantis

    I’m need recommendations on a flowering bush for my back yard. Shade in morning afternoon full sun. Something dwarf smallish any ideas? Thanks for any ideas given.

    • CL Fornari

      Nancy – I have no idea where you live, so it’s kind of impossible for me to recommend something. The smallish plant that’s appropriate in Florida or Texas, wouldn’t be right in Maine…


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