Perfection doesn't really exist in the plant world—or on any planet where living things thrive. But hydrangeas come pretty close. With long-lasting blue, violet, pink, white, or chartreuse blooms and an easygoing disposition, these reliable summer-flowering shrubs look right at home in a wide range of situations, from carefree cottage gardens to more formally manicured ones. When many other flowering shrubs and perennials have passed their peak, these deciduous beauties continue their season-long performance, with abundant, attention-grabbing flowers that dry to shades of linen for autumn and winter interest.
For all their versatility and showmanship, hydrangeas are not particularly picky about where you plant them. They'll happily grow in just about any landscape that offers well-drained soil, moisture, and some shade during the hottest part of the day. New varieties have even been bred to rebloom throughout the season. They've also shed troubles that plagued hydrangeas of previous generations, like floppy flowers. You can find types with colorful fall foliage and smaller stature, perfect for small yards. There are varieties that boast more sun tolerance and extra cold hardiness, too. So if you haven't explored the nursery lately and wonder if these old-fashioned garden favorites are right for you, this is the place to find out.
Shown: Bigleaf hydrangeas (shown) are found in gardens across the United States, but the iconic shrub actually hails from Japan. North America has its own native species, however; both oakleaf and smooth hydrangeas grow naturally in our eastern woodlands.