Climbing Hydrangea in Dry Shade - Knowledgebase Question

Pelham, NY
Question by nimfitz
December 10, 1997
Would climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris) be appropriate for the base of an oak tree? It would be lovely climbing up this big, wide trunk, but the gound is shady and dry. Daffodils have done well there but impatiens and wax begonias have not, even with lots of extra water. I have tired of pampering annuals there and would love to have something both perennial and vertical.


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Answer from NGA
December 10, 1997

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I am attempting the same thing in my garden! I've had the hydrangea in the ground for 2 seasons now and although it's healthy enough, it hasn't really flourished. It has not bloomed and has not really done much climbling either. However, hope springs eternal...so I'll keep trying!
Hydrangeas need rich, well drained, moist soil and either full or partial sun. It doesn't sound much like what we have at the bottom of our trees, does it? But, like you, I want that hydrangea there,so I'll keep babying it with water and mulch.

Plants which might do better in that situation (shade and dry soil) include:

Vinca spp. (periwinkle) - ground cover
Epimedium (bishop's hat or barrenwort) - ht. 1 foot
Dicentra eximia (eastern bleeding heart)
Ribes sanguineum (flowering currant) - shrub, ht 6-9 feet
Liriope muscari - ht 1 ft

All these will provide some season of color and should thrive in those conditions.

If you do decide to try the Hydrangea:plan to prune annually, cutting each branch back to a single pair of buds. Also, prune any weak branches. Give them lots of winter protection because they are not really considered very hardy.

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