Content Detail

Climbing hydrangea is a handsome woody vine that clings and climbs by attaching itself with tiny rootlets to a wall, trellis, or other support. In early July, it has flat, lacy clusters of fragrant small white flowers that show up well against the glossy green leaves. The horizontal branching pattern can create interesting, sculptural effects against a wall, and the cinnamon-brown bark on older stems peels to create an interesting texture that is attractive in winter. Over the course of years, it may reach 30 to 80 feet in length. This vine can also be used as a ground cover in shady areas. Also known as Hydrangea anomala ssp. petiolaris.

  • Family (English) Hydrangea
  • Family (botanic) Hydrangeaceae
  • Tree or plant type Ground cover, Vine
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Large plant (more than 24 inches)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily), Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil
  • Season of interest early winter, midsummer, late summer, early fall, mid fall, late fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Fragrant, White
  • Shape or form Vining
  • Growth rate Slow

Size and Method of Climbing:

A true clinging vine that can grow 30 to 80 feet long. Clinging vines attach themselves directly to a surface by means of holdfasts (adhesive discs) or by small aerial roots. This type of vine grows best on a flat surface, such as stone, masonry walls, and wood.

Native geographic location and habitat:

Native to Japan, Korea, and Siberia.

Bark color and texture:

Stems are dark cinnamon-brown with exfoliating bark that splits and peels. Instead of lying flat, the stem develops 3-dimensional branchlets that protrude from the structure it is growing on.

Leaf description:

Simple, opposite, broadly oval leaves are 2 to 4 inches long with toothed margins. Leaves are glossy, dark green in summer, and persist into fall before changing to a clear yellow.

Flower description:

Produces large, 6 to 8 inch fragrant, lacecap-type clusters of white flowers in late June to early July. New plants may take several years to bloom.

Fruit description:

The actual fruit is a dry capsule which is not ornamentally important, but the remains of the dry flower heads that surround it do provide winter interest.

Plant care:

Climbing hydrangea needs moist, well-drained soil. Water in dry periods. Best flowering occurs in full sun but will grow in full shade. Blooms on old wood, so the buds can be damaged by late frosts. Little pruning is required, but if necessary to control size, prune in late winter. A true vine, clinging to rough surfaces by root-like hold fasts. Can attach to buildings, fences, and arbors or spread as a ground cover. Growth is slow in the first three to five years, accelerating once roots are established.

Firefly climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris ‘Firefly’):

A cultivar with variegated leaves.

Miranda climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris ‘Miranda’):

Variegated form that features serrate, heart-shaped, dark green leaves with yellow margins which can revert to green in summer heat. Exhibits very little fall color.


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