It is deciduous, but considered a 4 season plant mainly because:
- It has lush dark green leaves.
- It flowers white in early summer.
- It has bright yellow fall color and cinnamon colored exfoliating bark.
As you can see it’s a great plant, but you need to be aware of its capabilities.
The first year or two it grows slow while it establishes. Then the pace picks up and it becomes quite vigorous.
As a climber I’ve yet to see its limit in height. Planted at the base of a large tree it will cling and climb until it reaches the top. I’m talking 60′ no problem.
The good news is you can control climbing hydrangea with proper pruning. But I say that with a warning. If you use it in a limited space, like the one we’re about to talk about, you must be diligent with your pruning or it will easily take over the area.
It’s Doing Well – Too Well!
How do you respond to a customer that says that to you?
“I’m glad your climbing hydrangea is doing well, but sorry it’s covering your house.”
You can avoid those embarassing moments by knowing a plant’s capability right from the start. Then you can advise your customer what to expect, how they can care for it or how others will care for it.
Notice that the real dominant growth is towards the top. It wants to climb and get as tall as it can. I’ve used climbing hydrangea on homes where it is maintained just below the second story eaves. Not easy to do, but the look is beautiful.
How To Go About Controlling This Climber
The best time to prune climbing hydrangea is after it flowers.
The new flower buds are formed soon after flowering and remain on those stems for the following year. So you’d rather not cut those off if possible.
However, unless you operate with a “calendar of tasks” for your maintenance accounts, you will most likely prune the hydrangea when you’re there pruning everything else.
Site-specific care (doing tasks for a particular property when and if they are needed) is something I’m a strong proponent of. Not many landscape maintenance companies follow a “site-specific” program. Most are more “cookie-cutter”. Clients are always asking me to recommend a company with higher level service like this, but there are simply too few to meet the demand.
So regardless of when you prune climbing hydrangea, cut back the long shoots and those growing outward from the wall to just above a bud or leaf point. Prune selectively using hand pruners.
Often I’ll follow an aggressively growing branch to its “point of origin” and make my cut there. This is the point where the lateral branch connects to a larger stem.
- Installing the plant so it deliberately leans and touches the wall or structure.
- Tying some of the main branches to the wall or structure temporarily till they attach. Several materials and methods will do this, but be careful these ties don’t constrict around the branches.
These aerial roots will sometimes leave a mark and organic residue on the surface after they attach. On this home some of the branches attached to the white shutters. It took extra time and effort to scrub them clean.
Like with all plants, when you know and understand their characteristics you can use them creatively and effectively. How have you used climbing hydrangea in your landscapes? Did it perform as you expected or surprise you? Let us know in the comments.