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Iowa Gardening: The Hydrangea Hunt

Discovering the Best (and Possibly Bluest)
Bloomer for Your Iowa Garden

Story by Veronica Lorson Fowler

What’s not to love about hydrangeas? They are low-maintenance shrubs that each summer showcase huge clouds of tiny flowers in white or pink, sometimes purple or pale green, or — in the right conditions — a coveted sky blue.

The blooms are long-lasting, stunning in a vase, and so easy to dry that they often do so right on the plant. (Winter interest, anyone?)

Good-looking foliage from spring through fall, when leaves often turn wonderful golds and russets, adds to the appeal. Some hydrangeas even spread, so you can dig up root slips and share with friends.

The trick to successfully growing hydrangeas in Iowa, as with any horticultural endeavor anywhere, is choosing the right plant for the right spot.

Twist-n-Shout (top) photo courtesy Proven Winners (

Good Bets

Several types of hydrangeas perform beautifully in Iowa because they bloom on current season’s growth.

Smooth hydrangea (Hydranagea arborescens) is a U.S. native that produces big, white clouds of flowers. ‘Annabelle’ is an old-time favorite, a sure bet for any Midwestern garden. It will do well in full sun and grows to 6 feet tall. It spreads readily — so much so that you might need to dig up its edges to control growth. (Give the divisions to friends!)

Invincibelle Spirit is a newer type that boasts pink flowers, as does Bella Anna, a member of the Endless Summer collection that blooms on both old and new wood.

(Read more The Hydrangea Hunt)

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