By Kerry Ann Mendez
Not all Hydrangeas are created equal. In beauty, yes; but in ease of care, not so much. Smooth Hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens) are a no-brainer.
Smooth Hydrangea is native to the southeastern United States and will flower on new wood. Translation: it doesn't matter how windy and cold the winter is, flower buds will form in spring after Old Man Winter's shenanigans. The same cannot be said for Mophead Hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) which develops buds in the fall, making them susceptible to winter damage.
Until recent years, white flowers were the only color choice. 'Annabelle' has been popular for a long time. But now there are cultivars with various shades of pink flowers including 'Invincibelle Mini-Mauvette' (pinkish-purple) and 'Invincibelle Ruby' (ruby-pink). Flowers can be ball-shaped, flat or slightly mounded.
New introductions include many shorter, compact stars that are ideal for small beds (or used in the front of large ones) and containers. Hydrangea 'Invincibelle Wee White' tops out at 30". The large airy flowers start out soft pink and then mature to white. On the other end of the spectrum, there are also some varieties that grow as large as 4 to 5 feet.
The time to prune Smooth Hydrangea is in late fall or winter, while the shrub is dormant. Most sources recommend pruning the shrub back by one third, although you can cut it to the ground if needed.
Smooth Hydrangeas do best in part sun to part shade. They can tolerate full sun but may require extra water to look their best. They range in hardiness from zone 3 to 9.