The hydrangea is the queen of the summer months. They are popular across Asia, Europe, and North America not only for their graceful beauty, but also for their immense flower heads and blossoms that change color throughout the summer. It can be a challenge sifting through the many varieties, so we’ve narrowed down the top five that thrive right here in the Chicagoland area.
The Bobo blooms with an abundance of white flowers that blush pink by the end of summer and into fall. These 5-inch flower heads grace branches that grow only 3 feet tall, making it a dwarf variety. Well-adapted to our climate, it survives winters even colder than ours and thrives through our hot summers with little maintenance. It’s a member of the paniculata family of hydrangeas, which are known for their “panicles,” or cone-shaped blossoms.
Little Quick Fire
Another panicle hydrangea, its cone-shaped flowerheads open to white, before deepening to burgundy-pink like a sunset in mid- to late summer. A smaller version of the Quick Fire, it has the same early blooms but grows to a more compact size. Rising up to 3-5 feet, it’s a great choice as a thriller for a container garden or as a dainty shrub anywhere in your landscape. The Little Quick Fire is one of the most popular choices across the country.
The Summer Crush is a member of the macrophylla hydrangeas, which translates from Greek as “big leaf.” Like other Bigleaf hydrangeas, it produces an abundance of rounded flowers that change color according to the soil conditions. With Summer Crush, neutral to alkaline soil produces stunning raspberry-red flowers, and acidic soil makes them bright purple. The attractive waxy coating on its leaves helps retain water in the midday heat. Its modest height and spread reach 18-36″. Most of all, the large leaves and grand flowerheads give it a look of abundance.
The cone-shaped flowers of the Strawberry Sundae start creamy white, before blushing to pink and then darkening to strawberry red. You’ll barely notice its small, dark green leaves beneath the abundant blooms. In mid-summer, the beautiful contrast of half-pink and half-white flowers might remind you of a strawberry sundae. They look beautiful as cut flowers, and will brighten any location in your landscape, most often reaching heights of 4-5 feet.
Developed nearby in Michigan, this low-maintenance, easy-to-grow hydrangea readily thrives in our Zone 5 climate. The blooms open to crisp white, but its flower heads soon change to a blazing, pomegranate red. Its strong stems keep the heavy flowers upright at heights of 6-8′. Disease-resistant and more tolerant to droughts than most hydrangeas, the Fire Light makes a sensational hedge and enhances the beauty of any place in your garden.
The hydrangea is among the goddesses of the flower world, and are as tough as they are beautiful. Though they have a few particular preferences, like moist soil and shelter from the afternoon sun, the popular varieties listed here are hardy and easy to maintain. With a little seasonal pruning, you’ll be rewarded with masses of exquisite flowers that bloom right through the summer. We’d love to help you bring these beauties into your landscape. Feel free to visit our garden centers to see them in-person or give us a call if you have more questions about hydrangeas!
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Platt Hill Nursery is Chicago’s premier garden center and nursery.