From lining paths to perking up garden borders, landscaping with hydrangeas is a wonderful way to add beautiful color and eye-catching structure to your backyard.
Everyone wants a hydrangea or two in their garden right now as our love affair with these gorgeous blooms just keeps going and going. They have shaken off their rather old-fashioned image and have been reinvented as the flower of the moment.
It's easy to see why too. With so many different varieties and colors to choose from, hydrangeas are one of the most versatile shrubs around to work into your landscape design. They can be used in a multitude of ways, from star of the show to elegant supporting role in a planting combination. What's more, they're long flowering too and even the foliage adds to the picture.
It doesn't matter what the size of your garden is or whether it's sunny or shady, hydrangeas can easily be worked into your landscaping ideas. Here's how to get more of these stunning blooms in to your outdoor space.
12 gorgeous looks for landscaping with hydrangeas
We've brought together all the inspiration you need, whether you're searching for front yard landscaping ideas to add curb appeal, or simple ways to pep up your garden with an injection of pure hydrangea style.
1. Line a winding path with romantic lace cap hydrangeas
The lace cap hydrangea has a lovely vintage feel. Its flattened flowers have frilly edges rather than the rounded showy pompom blossoms that are more usual choice people go for when learning how to grow hydrangeas. The centre of each bloom features dense clusters of tiny flowers and these are surrounded by florets with larger petals.
Their growing requirements are the same. Lace caps prefer a part-sun, part-shade location, with rich, well-draining soil that's moist. A site with morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal.
Lace caps are hardy plants that work well for landscaping borders, especially if you let them flop over on to paths as a feature in your garden gravel ideas. They come in the usual range of colors to suit your scheme, which will veer towards pink or blue according to the pH of your soil type.
2. Add an attention grabbing focal point
A hot pink hydrangea such as 'Elliott's Red' or 'Magical Ruby Red', which both have massive blooms, makes an eye-catching feature potted up in a large container. If you prefer blue, white or even lime green there are plenty of other varieties to choose from too.
The joy is that if you plant a hydrangea in a pot it's moveable, so you can position it by the front door as a big and bold welcome then switch it to the patio or into a border to fill a gap as other plants come and go.
Mop-headed hydrangeas are well suited to container gardening ideas and will thrive in partial shade or sun. They will produce long-lasting clusters of flowers too, from mid summer to mid fall.
3. Introduce luminous white hydrangeas into shady spaces
Plenty of varieties of hydrangea will thrive as part of your plans for landscaping with shrubs. They may not be covered in as many blooms due to being exposed to less sunlight but instead of a densely packed bush they develop a more floaty, airy structure that's just as pretty for landscaping purposes.
'Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ is usually a bushy shrub that prefers full sun or partial shade,' says Susanna Grant author of Shade (available on Amazon). 'In my garden, with just a few hours of afternoon light, it’s a much airier-looking plant, and I prefer it this way.'
4. Fill gaps in borders fast
The hydrangea should be your new favorite plant if you're aiming for a full look in your garden borders and don't want to wait. Reaching up to 15ft (4.5m) in height, the hydrangea grows quickly and works well as a space filler in just one summer with its leafy foliage and huge blooms.
Hydrangeas are classified as rapid growers, with some varieties growing an average of 25in (60cm) per year until they reach maturity.
They partner well with sun-loving agapanthus, as well as part-shade loving plants like astilbe, penstemons, foxgloves, hostas and ferns. Why not choose all-white flowers for an instantly co-ordinated scheme. Hydrangeas are also great for landscaping with grasses if you want a more unstructured look.
5. Use hydrangeas to transform an entrance
A hydrangea in full bloom makes a stunning welcome home as part of your front porch ideas. If you're looking to frame your front door, give your entrance personality or add curb appeal this is the plant for you. It works potted up in the porch or as a pretty detail in borders.
Hydrangeas smarten up any entryway. If you want to plant them in a container choose one that complements your home’s style and color, and make sure it’s large enough to make a statement and be seen from the street.
If you're adding hydrangeas to front garden borders they are good for seamlessly fitting into your landscaping and will soon look like they have been there for ever.
6. Screen a section of your plot with a climbing hydrangea
Climbing hydrangea grow vigorously and are a quick way to cover a north-facing wall or fence to take your boundaries up a notch. New plants usually need support such as wires or trellis attached to the wall or fence until they become established so tie in new shoots to start with. They are one of the best climbing plants in terms of being low maintenance.
They grow well in sun or shade, and as well as the attractive leafy foliage the pretty flowers are a bonus. Some evergreen climbing hydrangeas such as Hydrangea seemannii and Hydrangea serratifolia offer year-round interest so put them first when it comes to landscaping with hydrangeas. But it's worth pointing out that they do need a warm, sheltered position to thrive.
7. Make hydrangeas the star of a small garden
If space is tight in a courtyard garden, terrace or rooftop make sure the plants you choose punch above their weight and really deliver. In terms of looking good, and being long-flowering and low maintenance you can't beat landscaping with hydrangeas if you want a hard working plant.
The lime green ones such as Hydrangea arborescens 'Lime Rickey' and Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight' add a cool contemporary edge to urban spaces, and this variety also comes in a 'Little Lime' version to suit smaller gardens.
8. Glam up steps with symmetrical planting
If you have a split-level garden, framing the steps either side with the same plant really works a look. The idea of creating a stairway of blooms is one of our favorite landscaping with hydrangeas looks.
For stunning deep blue blooms choose a variety like Hydrangea macrophylla 'Blue Danube' which has large, showy dinner plate sized flowerheads that are 8in (20cm) across and grow up to 39in (1m) in height so are good for garden edging ideas in a project like this.
Remember that an acidic soil will give blue flowers, whereas an alkaline soil produces pink blooms. The easiest way to acidify your soil and turn them blue is with aluminium sulphate from the garden center.
9. Use hydrangeas for repeat planting
Dot plants at repeat intervals throughout your borders to create a cohesive theme that adds a professional touch to your planting. A trick used by garden designers is to always apply the rule of three when it comes to planting shrubs and this works particularly well if you're landscaping with hydrangeas.
You might think this sounds like hocus-pocus but it's good advice. Choosing just one plant of a particular variety is one of the more common landscaping mistakes. Instead an odd number of plants (three or more) can be arranged in an irregular cluster, which looks more natural than a straight line or block shape and results in more a more dynamic planting style.
10. Disguise a boundary
A froth of hydrangea blooms tumbling en masse over a white picket fence looks fabulous, softening the hard edges with pretty detail. It's a way of beautifying painted wood with a vintage vibe that's straight out of Anne of Green Gables, so be sure to include it in your cheap landscaping ideas. It works a treat in cottage gardens too, for a truly a dreamy way of landscaping with hydrangeas.
11. Style up an alfresco dining spot
When it comes to summer lunch in the garden, if you're making the effort to pull together an elegant look that will be appreciated by your guests you definitely need hydrangeas in the mix.
If you're aiming for a more formal table setting with crisp white china and stylish glassware choose big bloomed snowy white hydrangeas to set the scene to perfection. As well as styling up the space with large pots of them, snip a few blooms to create an additional centerpiece. Nothing beats seasonal blooms hand-picked from the garden to elevate your outdoor dining ideas.
12. Underplant trees with hydrangea ruffs
Although many varieties of hydrangea grow tall they can still be a good choice for planting under trees where they will enjoy the dappled shade. Go for a popular variety like Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' for landscaping around trees. While it can grow to 7ft (2m) after five years, it's easy to keep it contained to the height you want with regular snipping.
If you want to try this look, elegant acer are a good place to start as the finely etched leaves contrast beautifully with the mop heads of the hydrangeas.
What are the best ways of landscaping with hydrangeas?
'Hydrangeas are fantastic against the north face of a house or in a shady corner,' says plant expert Sarah Raven. 'Throughout the summer and autumn they completely transform what can be a really dull place into something that’s just so full of life and color.
'Brilliant for filling a border, there are a wide range of varieties available including traditional mop heads and lace caps, elegant shrubby species and also the invaluable climbing type.
'Hydrangea flowers are very long-lasting, both in the garden and as cut flowers, and they can also be dried.
What are the best varieties to plant when landscaping with hydrangeas?
Plant expert Sarah Raven talk us through some of her favorite varieties for using in garden landscaping:
- In my garden at Perch Hill, I have what I call 'Hydrangea Alley' with several hydrangeas, including one called 'Wim's Red'. This delicate yet statuesque hydrangea goes through a wonderful change of colors, starting cream with a deep red stem, deepening to rich pink and finishing a beautiful pewter.
- Next we have 'Incrediball', a new breeding from the grandiflora heritage like 'Annabelle'. They have been bred with stronger necks, so their vast pompom heads stay perky and upstanding.
- Then we’ve got 'Limelight', which is my all-round favorite hydrangea. It opens the cleanest, brightest, acid green. Then the flowers fully flatten and turn pure ivory, before being washed with rich pink.
- It's also worth mentioning smaller hydrangea varieties like 'Little Lime', which are brilliant for garden planters and small gardens.
Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, Easy Gardens and Modern Gardens magazines. Having studied introductory garden and landscape design, she is currently putting the skills learned to good use in her own space where the dream is establishing a cutting garden.
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