Hydrangea paniculata, commonly called panicle hydrangea, or simply hydrangea, is a robust, upright, fast-growing, deciduous shrub native to China and Japan.


In Southern California, this plant is common in cottage (English garden) landscapes, giving the property an informal, lush aesthetic.


Hydrangeas in an English garden


Hydrangeas can grow to up to 15 feet (even 25 feet), however this is almost unheard of in Southern California. Our climate, being much dryer than hydrangeas’ natural habitat, keeps these plants around 3 to 4 feet tall, and often around 2 to 3 feet wide. Still, hydrangeas are mid-sized shrubs with large flower clusters, making them a noticeable landscape focal point.


Landscape Planting – Hydrangea paniculata basics 


Common Name: hydrangea, panicle hydrangea

Type: Deciduous shrub

Family: Hydrangeaceae

Native Range: Eastern and southern China and Japan (including some outlying islands)

Zone: 3 to 8 (they tend do prefer wetter climates than ours here in Southern California)

Height: 2 to 3 feet in Southern California, 8 to 15 feet in wetter climates

Spread: 1 to 3 feet in Southern California, 6 to 12 feet in wetter climates

Bloom Time: July to September

Bloom Description: White

Sun: Full sun to part shade

Water: Medium

Maintenance: Medium

Suggested Use: Hedge

Flower: Showy – their beautiful flower clusters bloom in the late summer and early fall


A hydrangea flower cluster, called a panicle


For landscape planting, hydrangeas tend to grow best in organically rich soils. Creative Concepts Landscape regularly amends soil to increase its organic and nutrient levels. Our soil in Southern California often needs extra organic/nutrient material to support hydrangeas.


Hydrangeas need medium moisture levels. These plants will need irrigation systems or regular hand watering. Creative Concepts Landscape has installed many irrigation systems (drip and sprinkler), and we would be happy to take a look at your property to come up with a design that could meet hydrangeas’ needs.


These plants also prefer well-draining soils. Most of the natural soil in Southern California is somewhat sandy, well-draining soil.


Lime-green leaves of Hydrangea paniculata


Hydrangeas should be planted in areas with full sun to partial shade. In the perfect world, these plants like full sun throughout the morning and partial shade in the afternoons.  Our designers can take a look at your property and see if these needs can be met. We create a design plan for all of our consultations to determine what plants and needs match each individual property.


Pruning & Maintenance 


Hydrangeas can be pruned and trained as a small single trunk ‘tree,’ however due to their smaller stature in our region, they are best left as a multi-stemmed shrub.


Many hydrangea specimens display their fullest shrub form if they are pruned back annually. Blooms occurs on the current season’s growth, so prune in late winter to early spring. Creative Concepts Landscape has options for maintenance schedules. Many of our clients have us maintain their property weekly or two times a month, however we also offer periodic cleanups. These cleanups range from four times a year, twice a year, and sometimes once a year. We will be happy to talk with you and determine a maintenance/cleanup schedule that fits your property needs.


There are many cultivars of Hydrangea paniculata. Some stay smaller and more compact than others.


Larger flower panicles (clusters) can be encouraged by pruning the plants to 5-10 primary shoots. When these hydrangeas are in full bloom, the weight of the flower clusters will often cause the branches to droop downward.


Landscape Uses 


Creative Concepts Landscape creates a landscape plan and design for your specific property characteristics along with your wants. Our highly experienced designers will be able to see what plant types and layout will complement your landscape’s existing features to come up with a planting design plan.


Hydrangea paniculata are often planted in a row as an informal hedge or border plant


Hydrangeas are often grouped together to form a shrub border or open woodland garden. They are also excellent as a singular specimen, accent plant or hedge row.


What’s in a Name? 


The genus name, Hydrangea, comes from hydro, meaning “water” and aggeion meaning “vessel.” Water vessel refers to the cup-like capsular fruit.


The specific epithet, “paniculata” refers to the arrangement of the flowers in panicles (clusters).


Thank you for joining us again in this week’s horticultural adventures. Please come back next Wednesday for out next blog post, and as always, contact us for all your landscape needs!


By Daniel Williams

Client Liaison for Creative Concepts Landscape