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Hydrangea arborescens Plant of Merit

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Kemper Code:  K520

Common Name: smooth hydrangea
Zone: 3 to 9
Plant Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Hydrangeaceae
Missouri Native: Yes
Native Range: Eastern United States
Height: 3 to 5 feet
Spread: 3 to 5 feet
Bloom Time: June - September   Bloom Data
Bloom Color: White
Sun: Part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low

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Plant Culture and Characteristics

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  Uses:       Wildlife:   Flowers:   Leaves:   Fruit:
Hedge Suitable as annual Attracts birds Has showy flowers Leaves colorful Has showy fruit
Shade tree Culinary herb Attracts Has fragrant flowers Leaves fragrant Fruit edible
Street tree Vegetable   hummingbirds Flowers not showy Good fall color   Other:
Flowering tree Water garden plant Attracts Good cut flower Evergreen Winter interest
Gr. cover (<1') Will naturalize   butterflies Good dried flower     Thorns or spines

General Culture:

Best grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soil in part shade. Tolerates full sun in the northern part of its range, but needs constant moisture. Intolerant of drought, with foliage tending to become significantly less attractive in dryish conditions. If left alone, this hydrangea can become somewhat weedy in appearance and can spread rapidly by root suckers to form colonies. Blooms on new wood, and in cold winter climates, it is perhaps best grown as an herbaceous perennial (e.g., cut back to 1-2' from the ground in late winter).

Noteworthy Characteristics:

Smooth hydrangea is a Missouri native, deciduous shrub which typically occurs on wooded slopes, ravines, along streams and at the base of bluffs. In the wild, this shrub has a rounded habit and may reach 10' in height. In cultivation, it is frequently cut back hard in late winter, but will rapidly grow 3-5' tall in a single growing season. Features clusters of fertile flowers (few if any showy sterile flowers to give a lacecap effect) arranged in symmetrical, rounded heads (corymbs) which typically grow 4-6" across. Oval, serrate, dark green leaves (to 8" long). Blooms on new season's growth throughout the summer. Native Americans formerly used the roots of this species for various medicinal purposes.


No serious insect or disease problems. Many species of Hydrangea, including this one, are susceptible to a number of diseases including bud blight, bacterial wilt, leaf spot, rust and powdery mildew. Watch for aphids, mites, scale and nematodes.


Mass or group in a part shade area of the mixed shrub border or naturalize in native plant or woodland gardens.

Missouri Botanical Garden, 2001-2011

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