With their lush, colorful blooms and easy care requirements, hydrangeas are a coveted shrub for many gardeners. But to unlock their full potential, site selection is key – especially when it comes to sun exposure. So what side of house do you plant hydrangeas? The short answer depends on the hydrangea type. Let’s unravel sun needs based on popular hydrangea species and cultivars. We’ll also explore other microclimate factors that allow these beauties to thrive!
East-Facing: Suitable for Bigleaf and Oakleaf
If your goal is big, bodacious blooms from June through fall, consider the east side of your home. An east-facing garden with morning sunshine and afternoon shade suits both mophead and lacecap types of bigleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla).
The same goes for oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) with their showy white blooms and gorgeous fall foliage. These two species can better tolerate more intense summer morning light than other hydrangeas, benefiting from 4 to 6 hours of sun.
Just be sure to supplement sun access with regular moisture. Dry soil leads to wilting and shriveled blooms – especially problematic on hot, windy western exposures. Mulch and consistent watering helps hydrangeas withstand heat while enjoying sufficient early day sun.
Northwest for Mountain and Climbing Types
Cooler, northwest exposures also work well when growing climbing hydrangeas. With vining stems that can reach 60 feet, climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomola ssp. petiolaris) and the aptly named mountain hydrangea (Hydrangea serrata ‘Bluebird’) appreciate protection from intense midday sun.
Again, 4 hours of morning light fuels beautiful blooms while the gradual afternoon shade keeps their foliage healthy and strong. Mountain hydrangeas also display gorgeous red-purple fall color, making the northwest garden that much more striking.
West is Best for Smooth and Panicle Varieties
Unlike mophead, oakleaf and climbing hydrangeas, smooth hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens) bloom on new wood each year. This gives gardeners in colder climates the chance to enjoy their flowers. But it also means they have higher light requirements to grow new branches and buds annually.
Thus, opt for a western placement where smooth hydrangeas will soak up 6 to 8 hours of sun during the growing season. Protect from hot afternoon sun by situating near a structure, hedge or taller plants. Be sure to provide rich soil and consistent moisture.
The same guidance applies for panicle hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata) like the ever-popular ‘Limelight.’ These cone-shaped blooms flourish with ample sunshine followed by a touch of afternoon respite from the hottest rays.
Southeast and Summer Sunscreen
Finally, southeast sides split the difference nicely when it comes to hydrangea sun needs. Offering midday shade yet ample morning and evening sun, this exposure blocks the most intense summer light while still providing the fuel these shrubs require.
If planting on a southern or fully sun-drenched western exposure, be sure to safeguard hydrangeas during summer’s peak. Strategies include situating near shade trees, using temporary shade cloth barriers, providing irrigation and applying protective leaf sprays. With extra care, they can adapt.
Mind the Walls: Reflected Heat & Light
Here’s one more consideration depending on your planting site – the effects of reflected light and heat from structures. South or west-facing walls radiate intense warmth and amplify sunshine. The resulting hotter, drier microclimate challenges hydrangeas.
If planting close to walls, use them to advantage by tucking hydrangeas on the east side of north/south facings walls or the north side of east/west facing walls. This squeaks them out of harshest solar effects. Allow ample space between the wall and plants for airflow. And what side of the house do you plant hydrangeas can be easily answered.
Ideal Hydrangea Soil – Woodlands Inspired
Beyond sunlight, healthy soil is vital for happy hydrangeas. Although adaptable to many conditions, hydrangeas thrive in evenly moist, richly organic soil, just like their native woodland habitats.
When planting, break up compacted soil, mixing in ample compost and leaf mold. Top dress annually with compost or shredded leaves as mulch to maintain soil nutrition, dampen moisture fluctuations and keep roots cool.
If drainage is problematic, amend soil to improve texture or consider raised beds that can be customized based on plant needs. Container gardening also offers control over soil quality and moisture.
Whether grown as feature focal points or part of perennial borders, most sites can support hydrangea success with careful variety selection and the right cultural care. Then you can fully enjoy these iconic, head-turning shrubs!