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HYDRANGEA arborescens

Image of Hydrangea arborescens

Gerald L. Klingaman



Botanical Name

HYDRANGEA arborescens

Plant Common Name

Smooth Hydrangea

General Description

There is no better shrub for woodland gardens. The resilient and beautiful smooth hydrangea is a deciduous shrub native to the forests of the eastern United States. In the wild, it has a more rangy, open habit, but once nurtured in a garden setting it is elegant and lovely, especially forms with large, sterile mophead flower clusters.

Large, oval, coarsely serrated leaves of medium to dark green cover smooth hydrangea throughout the warm season and turn shades of lemon yellow and brown in fall. The yellow color seems to be better when fall temperatures are warmer and cool more slowly. In summer, dense, rounded flower clusters appear at the stem tips. The fertile flowers are small, prolific and occasionally surrounded by showy, sterile flowers (with white tepals) along the outside of the cluster. Garden cultivated forms tend to have mostly showy sterile flowers. This hydrangea is pollinated by the hydrangea sphinx moth (Darapsa versicolor) and is also a food source for the moth larvae.

Grow smooth hydrangea in partial sun to shade and fertile, moist, humus-rich soil. Once established, it will tolerate periods of drought, especially if planted in shade, though it always looks better with regular water. This is a fast-growing shrub that flowers on the current season’s growth. If pruning is needed, cut back stems in late winter or spring.

Smooth hydrangea is an outstanding woodland shrub for shaded, naturalistic landscapes. There are several exceptionally garden-worthy cultivars, which have big, snowball like flower clusters. Both 'Grandiflora' and 'Annabelle' have immense clustered flowerheads that ornately cover the stems in summer. They also dry well and will offer winter interest if left uncut.


  • AHS Heat Zone

    9 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    3 - 8

  • Sunset Zone

    A3, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21

  • Plant Type


  • Sun Exposure

    Partial Shade, Full Shade

  • Height

    3'-5' / 0.9m - 1.5m

  • Width

    5'-6' / 1.5m - 1.8m

  • Bloom Time

    Early Summer, Summer, Late Summer

  • Native To

    North America, United States, Northeastern United States, Mid-Atlantic United States, Southeastern United States, North-Central United States, Central United States, South-Central United States

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam

  • Growth Rate


  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit


  • Seasonal Interest

    Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest


  • Flower Color

    White, Light Green, Ivory

  • Fruit Color


  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Yellow, Dark Green, Yellow Green

  • Bark Color

    Sandy Brown

  • Fragrant Flowers


  • Fragrant Fruit


  • Fragrant Foliage


  • Bark or Stem Fragrant


  • Flower Petal Number


  • Repeat Bloomer


  • Showy Fruit


  • Edible Fruit


  • Showy Foliage


  • Foliage Texture


  • Foliage Sheen


  • Evergreen


  • Showy Bark


Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture


  • Usage

    Cutflower, Dried Flower/Everlasting, Feature Plant, Foundation, Mixed Border

  • Sharp or Has Thorns


  • Invasive


  • Self-Sowing