Plant a Hydrangea on your Tree

There are few plants that create as much excitement as does Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris) especially when seen in full bloom, lighting up the trunk of a tall oak tree. This is an outstanding plant that deserves greater use. Climbing Hydrangea is native to the woodlands of Japan and coastal China. The lacy, creamy-white blooms are 6 to 10" in diameter and appear in late June or early July. The blooms are actually comprised of numerous small flowers, some fertile and some sterile. The sterile flowers are larger and showier and encircle the smaller fertile flowers in the center of the bloom. The effect is unforgettable! Climbing Hydrangea is an attractive plant even when not in bloom. It has glossy heart-shaped leaves and cinnamon colored stems with exfoliating bark that make this plant interesting all year long.
Climbing hydrangea can reach heights of 50 to 80 feet if it has the support of a large tree to do so. It looks great on tall trees, on stone pillars, on brick walls or cascading over a rock pile. It is not overly aggressive like some vines can be. Dr. Michael Dirr, author of the Manual of Woody Landscape Plants calls it "The Best Vine!"

Climbing Hydrangea is most often sold as a container grown plant. Planting can take place from spring until fall. Plant it next to a brick wall or aside tall tree with an eastern or westward exposure. The planting depth should be the same depth as it was grown in the nursery. On poorly drained soils, planting depth may be raised several inches and soil should be sloped up to the original soil level of the container. The addition of organic matter such as compost, aged manure or peat moss will improve plant growth. Once situated at the proper depth in the planting hole firm the soil around the root ball and water thoroughly to remove any air spaces. The addition of a surface mulch of 3-4” will help retain soil moisture. Climbing Hydrangea is not the fastest plant to establish and growth will be slow for several years after planting. Once established the growth will improve with each passing year.

Climbing Hydrangea is a great plant that has tremendous potential. Few people have ever seen this plant. Once they have they will never forget it and will most certainly want one of their own!

There are several new cultivars of climbing hydrangea that are worth looking for. 'Skyland's Giant' (see above image) is a new variety selected for especially large flowers. 'Fire Fly' is a new variegated selection of climbing hydrangea that is simply spectacular in in the spring when the plant flushes. It has the same great flowers as the species. As the season progressed the variegation becomes less pronounced.


  1. Anonymous8:00 AM

    I have two of the climbing hydrangea. Good advice for planting. Mine are still in pots waiting for a fence to be finished. We live on the Puget Sound overlooking the northwest bay and the Protection Island.I think these plants should thrive here. I do enjoy your site. Keep them coming!


  2. I am looking for a giant hydrangea for zone 5. What are some names to help me identify those that can be extremely large, white and take full sun?
    Adding 1 rooftop garden at a time!

  3. Some really good tips. I will have to take a leaf out of your book- no pun intended!

  4. We planted two 3 weeks ago, but the soil settled and is now several inches below the lawn. It is heavy subdivision clay, but on a slope so should drain tolerably. Could we just gradually add mulch over the next couple of years to correct the depth?

  5. I did them up and replant them as they have not been in the ground that long. Fix it now.


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