Panicle hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata), also known as tree hydrangeas and peegee hydrangeas, are a type of flowering shrub that grows quickly and upright.
At first glance, these plants may appear as though they’re high-maintenance plants that require a lot of care and work. However, that is not the case.
Given the right conditions and the proper care, they are easy to grow and fairly self-sufficient.
What is a Panicle Hydrangea?
Unlike other flowering bushes, panicle hydrangea bushes don’t bloom until late summer. H. paniculata has dark, green leaves shaped like ovals.
When they blossom, they produce cone-shaped clusters of small white flowers. Each group can reach seven inches in length.
As the flowers fade, they develop a pink hue before turning tan or brown in the winter. Panicle hydrangeas are unique: they usually have branches that are low to the ground.
They are nicknamed “tree hydrangeas” because they typically have more than one trunk and can grow between 15 and 25 feet tall and 10 to 20 feet wide. H. paniculata is easy to care for, and with a long blooming season, they are truly a wonderful addition to any garden.
Growing Hydrangea Tree
Tree hydrangeas are pretty easy to grow and can thrive in a wide range of conditions. They can grow in areas with more pollution, such as cities. These plants can also grow in areas with salty soil, meaning they can be grown on the side of roads.
Panicle hydrangea shrubs do need soil that is well-draining as well as some protection from strong winds. Moist, sandy loamy soil is best, especially if it is rich in nutrients. You don’t want to grow your plant in an area with soil that is too sandy because its roots may dry out. You also don’t want to plant in areas or use soil mixes that get too wet because of the risks of root rot.
Most of these shrubs prefer acidic soil. However, the oakleaf variety prefers soils with a pH of 7. These plants thrive in areas with partial sun; although they like being in the full sun in the mornings. The warmer your climate, the more shade your hydrangea trees will need.
How to Plant Hydrangea Tree
Plant your shrub in the late spring or early summer if possible. You can also plant them in the fall. Most people prefer to buy plants instead of planting hydrangea directly from seeds or clippings.
Once you have removed the root ball from the container, loosen some of the roots. Pay particular attention to the roots along the side and the bottom of the ball. In order to prevent the roots from encircling the other roots as the plant grows, pull the loosened roots carefully outward.
Dig a hole twice as wide as the plant’s original container and just as deep. At the bottom of the hole in the middle, mound up a mixture of potting soil and the original dirt. Place the root ball on top of the mound, carefully spreading the roots out around the sides of it.
Fill the hole about halfway with the soil-dirt mixture and water. Once the water drains, fill the hole the rest of the way until the top of the roots are level with the top of the soil. If the root crown is not level with the top of the soil, you may have to carefully pull the plant up.
Once the hole is filled and the roots are level, tamp the soil. Use any of the extra dirt-soil mixture to create a three-six-inch high levee around the roots. This levee will help trap soil above the roots, allowing the soil to absorb water in this area. Then water.
Caring for Hydrangea Tree
H. paniculata is relatively easy to care for. Here are some hydrangea care tips.
For your hydrangeas first growing season, you want to make sure you keep it well watered. If you plant your hydrangea during the fall, you only need to water it once a week or once every two weeks. However, if you plant your hydrangea during the growing season (later spring or early summer), you will want to water it every day or every other day for the first few months.
During dry spells or if your shrub was planted in sandy soil, you will need to water your plant every day during the first couple of months. After a year, you won’t need to water your plant as often. In fact, they can survive moderate dry spells. Water them only if it hasn’t rained in more than four weeks.
Weeds don’t affect H. paniculata as much as they do other plants because of the shrub’s size. Regular weeding is recommended to keep your garden looking nice, but you don’t have to do it as often as with other plants. Adding mulch can help reduce the number of weeds in your garden.
You should only need to fertilize your hydrangeas once a year. Experts recommend fertilizing them either in the late winter or early spring using a fertilizer that is high in phosphorus. Phosphorus promotes flowering while nitrogen fertilizer diminishes flowers in favor of leaves. You can also try using a slow-release fertilizer to promote growth throughout the year.
Other Tips for Growing Hydrangea Paniculata
The most beautiful thing about tree hydrangeas is that they can be trained to look like a small tree. While technically a shrub, if you prune them the right way, you can cause them to grow like a tree. However, most gardeners say they look their best when they are allowed to grow like shrubs.
If you want to prune your tree hydrangea to remove dead branches or to thin out some of the clusters, you will want to prune them in the late winter or early spring before flowers develop.
Types of Hydrangea Trees
There are many types of H. paniculata. Each variety is similar to the others but also has its own unique characteristics.
The ‘Bobo’ is classified as a dwarf tree hydrangea. This variety only grows to an average of three feet tall and three feet wide.
Another popular variety is ‘Limelight.’ This variety grows between six and eight feet in height and five to seven feet wide. Unlike other varieties, the flowers of this shrub have a greenish tint to them.
When choosing companion plants for limelight hydrangea, make sure those plants have contrast colors to make your garden look good.
These plants are easy to grow and have white blooms that transition to pink in the later summer. Their flowers change color from the bottom to the top, which creates a one-of-a-kind ombre effect. This variety grows to be about eight feet tall.
With one of the longest blooming periods, ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ hydrangeas truly live up to their name. Starting as creamy vanilla, their flowers gradually transform to a strawberry red. When fully mature, these flowering shrubs may reach heights of seven feet.
Also known as peegee hydrangea, the ‘Grandiflora’ variety is the largest. These towering shrubs can reach heights of up to 25 feet tall and at least 10 feet wide with beautiful, white flowers.
Another small variety is ‘Little Lamb.’ This shrub has the smallest flowers of any of its relatives and only grows between four and six feet tall.
The “Pinky Winky” variety only grows to about eight feet tall. It is most known for its two-toned flowers that are white on the top and pink on the bottom.
‘Big Ben’ stands out with its deep, vivid pink flowers. These beautiful flowering shrubs can reach heights of between six and eight feet and can reach five to seven feet in length.
Growing to between six and eight feet tall, ‘Quick Fire’ produces vivid white flowers that transform into a beautiful rosy pink as the season winds down.
One of the most beautiful hydrangeas is the “Diamond Rouge” variety. These plants produce raspberry red blooms and grow to be about five feet tall.
As you can see, H. paniculata is easy to grow, low-maintenance, and worth the effort. With huge, vivid blooms it is easy to see why homeowners love having them in their gardens and yards.
Check our blog for more types of hydrangea to grow.
University of Florida: Hydrangea paniculata Panicle Hydrangea http://hort.ufl.edu/database/documents/pdf/tree_fact_sheets/hydpana.pdf
*image by Smlyubov/depositphotos