Schizophragma Climbs in Popularity

Schizophragma hydrangeoides, while called the Japanese Hydrangea-vine, is not actually a hydrangea. It is, however, in the Hydrangea family. At first glance, at a distance or when out flower, it can look very much like Hydrangea anomala petiolaris the Climbing Hydrangea. But upon closer inspection the two are easy to distinguished because true Hydrangea has 4 petals (actually sepals) while Schizophragma has one solitary heart-shaped sepal. Another useful clue is that Schizophragma hugs a tree or wall more closely than does Climbing Hydrangea. Both are beautiful vines to be sure, but if I had to choose between the two I would choose Schizophragma because the flowers are showier and there are more cultivars to choose from. 

Schizophragma climbs and clings by means of small aerial roots. It looks great growing on a wall or on a tree. It is hardy to zone 5 making it a bit less hardy than Climbing Hydrangea. It can be slow to get started but grows rapidly once it gets going. It can take full sun, partial shade or shade but seems to do best in partial shade.

An elegant vine when grown on brick

This vine is a tower of white when grown on a large tree

The blooms range from 8 to 10 inches in diameter. They appear in late June to early-July and last for around four weeks.

Schizophragma has showy pure white blooms with tear-drop sepals

The cultivar 'Moonlight has the added bonus of attractive, colorful foliage. The leaves are steel-blue with contrasting green veins. The sepals are typically larger and showier. This is perhaps the most popular cultivar.

'Moonlight' has showy steel-blue leaves

The cultivar 'Rosea' is, as the name indicates, pink. The sepal color can vary from year to year based on the weather. It can range from pure white to a rich pink. Every years is a surprise! The sepal size is larger than typical and can be quite showy.

The cultivar 'Rosea' has pink sepals

The cultivar 'Strawberry leaf has distinct foliage with deeply toothed leaf margins. The sepals are pure white and typical in size.

'Straberryleaf' has a distinctive dentate leaf margin.

There are two variegated selections, however, I don't think they are yet available in the United States.  I found the gold variegated form at Liss Forest Nursery in England and a Silver form at a small nursery in Japan. Both plants add extra color after the flowers have faded.

Liss Forest Gold

A silver variegated form

Windmills-TM is a new selection of Schizophragma integrifolium commonly called the Chinese Hydrangea vine. It has long narrow, pure white sepals. It is rated as a zone 7 plant so it is best reserved for milder climates. I selected this plant out of a batch of seedlings and have been evaluating it over the last 10 years. The extra large flowers are both remarkable and elegant.

Windmills is a new selection of Schizophragma integrifolium

Schizophragma is gaining in popularity, however, it is not easily found at your local garden center. If you want to try this vine you will most likely have to buy it via mail-order or over the internet. I really like this vine and I think you will too.


  1. I've tried 'Moonlight' twice and the climbing hydrangea once, all three plants died. What kind of conditions are best for them? I had mine growing in part to mostly shade at the base of a telephone pole. The area is fairly dry but I watered.

  2. Moist well drained soil, good fertility and partial shade is best. I think that you may have some issues with the telephone pole's wood preservative.

  3. How could you not like the tower of white grown on a large tree! Keep us posted.

  4. Interesting...I totally would have mistaken it for a climbing Hydrangea...that last one is stunning, so elegant!

  5. Ooh Ah! This one's really a standout, Tim. I think I've decided on 'Moonlight' Now I just need a big tree. ;-)

    Ironically I found this vine on the mail order site Hydrangeas Plus. The poor vine must be having an identity crisis.

  6. Moonlight is a good one! "Love the foliage!

  7. I've used Rosea near or alongside var petiolaris and they seem to cohabitate quite well. The effect is really best against red brick.

  8. Anonymous5:38 PM

    I have my heart set on Schizophragma hydrangioides rosea climbing up my new arbor in sun/partial sun. It seems to be difficult to find. Do you know of online nurseries that will ship it? Thanks!

  9. Hi Tim - I have had this beautiful vine in container for several years, and last year put it in a larger and tall container. It's never bloomed in the 7 or so years I have had it. I amend the soil with compost and water well.

    It has put on tremendous growth since being re-potted, and it's climbing the east side of my garden house, which has cedar shiplap for siding. What can I do to encourage blooming?

    Thank you!

  10. Anonymous3:05 PM

    I just purchased the Rose Schizo. for my Maple that is dying b/c of root girdling. (I want to keep it for wildlife habitat.) It has a light canopy yet but that is quickly dwindling. Can the plant survive on a dead tree with minimal shade? I planted a Red Maple near it but it is such a small tree at this point, not sure what benefit it will give any time soon.
    I also wondered if it will send out roots to invade other areas it is not wanted.

  11. Moonlight is growing well for me in its first year. I have it in two spots that get both sun and shade, and water frequently. No blooms yet, but I have read it takes a few years before it will flower. The foliage is strong and healthy.

  12. Anonymous4:02 AM

    Got 4 spots of Schizophragma integrifolium. Plants seem to start climbing already with 2Ft height. Vines are huge but grows slow but steady. I keep them on a half sunny spot

  13. Anonymous4:46 PM

    My two 'Rosea' came back beautifully from the winter (zone 5) and are twisted around the trellis they came with. Do I need to do anything to encourage it to grab the brick? So far no aerial roots or tendrils! Thanks, K Bunting

  14. It the trellis is butted up against the brick your Schizophragma will find the brick and start attaching itself.

  15. Louise Harris2:02 PM

    I've just purchased "moonlight" (about 2 ft tall wrapped around a center post. I want to install onto a trellis. must i unwind this thing or can i just take a couple longer branches and train them onto the trellis? Will the rest of the branches find their way onto the trellis?

  16. You can leave it as is and the branches find their way onto the trellis. Eventually you will have to cut the strings that hold the vine to the stake.


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