Three pictures of Hydrangea paniculata Vanilla Strawberry

Why and how to plant a vanilla strawberry hydrangea shrub

One Of My Favorite Summer Shrubs- A Show Stopper!

One of my favorite summer shrubs in is unquestionably the  Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea. The large flower panicles are stunning hydrangea bushes that look like a large strawberry sundae.

I want to share why I love this plant so much, and why you should consider planting this blooming shrub in your landscape too.

The reason I love this shrub is it is not only the most show stopping blooming shrub, but is also one of the easiest and most reliable hydrangeas to grow hands down. I transplanted my multi-stemmed deciduous shrub on the corner of home where is gets enough of late afternoon sun and partial shade in the morning.

I can’t say enough good things about this hardy shrub. It makes for the optimal landscape plants available.

Hydrangea paniculata Vanilla Strawberry
My Hydrangea paniculata Vanilla Strawberry in the backyard

Relative Of The Classic Panicle Hydrangeas

The Strawberry Vanilla shrub is the relative of the classic peegee hydrangea. Panicle hydrangeas – also known as peegee hydrangeas. Peegee hydrangea is a popular type of Hydrangea paniculata, which takes the form of a shrub or a small tree.

It is one of the most popular and widely grown of the panicle hydrangeas, and it is also known as ‘Grandiflora.’ Peegee hydrangea is usually grown as an upright tree with pointy leaves; it can be trained to heights of up to 25 feet tall, but it is most often found growing at heights of 10 to 15 feet tall and 8 feet wide.

The Blooming Cycle Of Panicle Hydrangeas

The bold conical white flowers go through a captivating blooming process. The wonderful white panicles are a dense conical flower cluster. The texture of the blooms are more dense and sturdy than a typical mop head bloom.

The flowers begin as a creamy white color and then turn pink. The pink color then turns to a strawberry red (or raspberry pink color) later in the season with the cooler night temperatures. Since new flower heads continue opening into late summer, plants can exhibit all three color stages at any one time. The blooms are formed on red stems, too, making quite a contrast against the green leaves.

Hydrangea paniculata Vanilla Strawberry

The Cone Shaped Hydrangea Blooms All Summer Long

Because Panicle Hydrangeas bloom on new growth, they typically flower normally even if the twigs have been wiped out by frost. Plant this shrub in a sunny, well-drained spot; some early afternoon shade is beneficial in hot southern regions. Prune in late winter or fresh spring.

The enormous cone-shape blooms form continuously all summer long, giving this shrub a multi-colored effect with bright-white, beautiful new blooms complementing reddish-pink blooms. The unique rosy coloring lasts for several weeks; plus, this popular hydrangea variety also features showy stems with a coarse texture. This show-stopping shrub will grow in most areas of the country and is easy to care for.

Peewee hydrangeas sit next to a wall of rock field stone

Where and How to Plant Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea

The hydrangea plant flourishes all over North America, from chilly USDA zone 3 through balmy USDA zone 8 (even USDA zone 9 in the case of ‘Limelight’). Panicle hydrangeas offer the best cold and heat tolerance of all the types of hydrangeas.

Panicle hydrangeas are the most sun-tolerant of all hydrangeas, and in chiller climates (say, USDA zone 3-6), it is recommended that this plant gets at least four hours of bright sun each day; four or more is preferred, as it encourages the strongest stems and the lots of flowers. In warmer climates (USDA zone 7 and warmer), the afternoon shade is beneficial.

The Best Time To Plant

The two best times to plant ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ is in spring before rapid growth sets in, and in late autumn, just as this panicle hydrangea is going dormant. Choose a spot with rich, well-drained soil or add thick manure if the soil is insufficient. When planting, dig a hole that’s deep enough and wide enough for the root ball to sit in comfortably. Make sure the stem is at the same depth of soil as it was in its container.

Once planted, make sure you water your ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ hydrangea. This hydrangea has average water needs and the more established the shrub, the less you need to worry about the watering. Depending on the size you’re starting with, expect your plant to begin blooming a year or two after planting. Pests and diseases are not typically a problem.

Flowers of hydrangea closeup, lat. Hydrangea paniculata, isolated on black background

How To Prune The Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea

This type of hydrangea blooms on new growth which means you don’t need to worry about cutting off the next season’s blooms when you trim your plant. Plus, the blossoms that remain at season’s end still look pretty as they’ll dry and turn a parchment color. To remove the old flowers to make way for new ones, and to encourage fresh growth, the best time to prune your hydrangea is in February or March. You can trim it back by as much as a third every year.

Fresh Cut Hydrangea Bouquets

If you need another reason to plant this audacious shrub, the fresh cut pink flowers make for unique flower arrangements. ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ makes an excellent cut-flower. I just snip off blooms and group several together for stunning hydrangea bouquet. Or, add complementary blooms in blues and yellow as well as foliage for more variety in hydrangea bouquets.

Hydrangea paniculata Vanilla Strawberry in blue ginger jars

What to Plant with Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea

Because of its size, ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ hydrangea is perfect foundation shrub. It also makes an incredible flowering hedge plant. While it can stand alone, the pretty white, pink, and red blooms are well-complemented by smaller shrubs or plants in purples, similar shades of pink.

Whether you’re looking for a new flowering shrub for your garden or a cut flower for your vase, this hydrangea’s huge cone shaped blooms, will provide a splash of long-lasting color you can enjoy all summer long.

For the top 16 shade garden plants, here are my favorites. If you are looking for the ideal evergreen shrub, consider the Teddy Bear Rhododendron. 

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