One of the most spectacular shrubs in my Summer garden has got to be Hydrangea paniculata.
Usually referred to as Peegee Hydrangea, Hydrangea paniculata is the latest bloomer in the hydrangea family.
Peegee Hydrangea is also often called the Tree Hydrangea, since this shrub grows as large as a small tree, reaching up to 20 feet tall and about 10 feet wide. Hydrangea paniculata is beautiful when "limbed up" into a tree form, with the lower limbs removed as shown in the photo.
Blooms of Hydrangea paniculata are large white flower clusters in panicles at the end of the stems. These pointed bloom clusters are at least 8 inches long, but can be up to 18 inches and so heavy that they weigh down the branches, forming a lovely weeping effect. The bloom clusters open greenish white and mature to a creamy white, finally aging to a beautiful shade of rose by Fall.
Although this species will ultimately grow into a small tree about 20 feet tall, dwarf cultivars are available that mature at about 5 feet high.
Hydrangea paniculata can be grown almost anywhere in the United States, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 4 through 9.
Peegee Hydrangea grows well in part to full sun but flowers best with all day sun and regular water. This hydrangea is much more tolerant of sun than other hydrangeas. In the deep South, some afternoon shade is appreciated.
Hydrangea paniculata is quite drought tolerant once established, but regular watering is ideal for good flowering, especially in the deep South where summer heat is extreme and drought is common. Water weekly if your Peegee Hydrangea is planted in full sun.
Tardiva Hydrangea is a Peegee Hydrangea with glossy green leaves and creamy white panicle blooms that are held upright on the bush. Tardiva blooms a little later than the other cultivars, usually in mid to late August here in our Georgia garden. The creamy white blooms age to a purplish pink. This hydrangea will grow large, at least 15 feet tall.
Chantilly Lace is a dwarf Peegee Hydrangea, maturing at about 5 feet tall. This hydrangea has a very long bloom period lasting from mid-July into Fall. Blooms change gradually from creamy white to pink and finally to purple. Chantilly Lace is more cold hardy, surviving in USDA Zones 3 through 8.
Another dwarf hardy Peegee is Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight' which has huge bloom clusters shaped like a football. The flower panicles open very green in the summer but change to various shades of pink, red, and burgundy by summer's end. Blooms can persist on this plant even through frosts of Fall. The large rounded panicle blooms make an excellent cut flower and florists love using them in arrangements both fresh and dried. Limelight Hydrangea is a little larger growing dwarf, reaching up to 8 feet tall at maturity, but it can be kept smaller by pruning in winter once the blooms are no longer beautiful.
Hydrangea paniculata is great used as a single specimen in a mixed border, but I have seen them massed in a large landscape making a spectacular show for the late Summer garden. Remember the natural weeping appearance when in bloom and space widely, allowing that weeping form to show off without appearing crowded. The larger growing paniculatas should be planted about 10 feet apart, while dwarf cultivars can be grown closer together. Space Chantilly Lace and Limelight 5 to 7 feet apart for the best show. If you'd like to limb up your Peegee Hydrangea as a tree, just remove the lower branches as they appear.
With so much variance is size and such ease of care, surely you can find a spot in your garden for the very lovely and hardy Peegee Hydrangea!