What type of hydrangea do I have?


Here are distinguishing features of some common hydrangea types. Hopefully you will recognize your plant in this list. If not, you can find more information in our guide Hydrangea How-to's.

Mophead and lacecap (H. macrophylla and H. serrata) hydrangeas

These are the classic hydrangeas and usually flower in blue, pink or purple (not white). Their leaves are thick, crisp, shiny, and coarsely toothed.  Lacecaps differ from mopheads in having smaller florets in the center of the bloom; these are fertile flowers.

The names of these plants can make identification confusing. Mophead hydrangeas are also sometimes called hortensia. Hydrangea macrophylla, with either flower type, are also called bigleaf hydrangea.

Lacecaps may be either Hydrangea macrophylla or H. serrata (also called mountain hydrangea), which are more compact plants with smaller leaves and flowers.

Note that there is also a  group of mopheads  called “ever-bloomers” (ENDLESS SUMMER® is a common variety). (see below)

Ever-blooming hydrangeas (such as H. macrophylla ENDLESS SUMMER®) 

The Endless Summer hydrangeas  are ever-blooming because they bloom on both old and new wood, thus they have a succession of mophead flowers continuously throughout the summer. Common cultivars include Hydrangea macrophylla 'All Summer Beauty', 'David Ramsey', 'Decatur Blue', 'Endless Summer', 'Mini Penny', 'Oak Hill', and 'PennyMac'.

Smooth hydrangeas (such as H. aborescens 'Annabelle')

These smooth hydrangeas have very large flowers made up of a large number of small individual flowers (often called snow balls). The blooms open green and turn white in 2 - 3 weeks. Their leaves are thinner and floppier than mopheads and lacecaps. In addition to 'Annabelle', popular H. aborescens cultivars include 'Grandiflora', and White Dome™.

Paniculata hydrangeas (such as H. Paniculata 'Grandiflora', or peegee, and ‘Limelight’)

There are a great number of varieties of paniculate hydrangeas, varying in size from small shrubs to small trees. Bloom shapes vary but are often cone-shaped. Their leaves are smaller, thinner and rougher than other hydrangeas, and characteristically 3 leaves grow from a node in a whorl. Paniculate hydrangeas tend to flower later in the season than other species. The large flower panicles can range from white to pale pink to lime green. H. paniculata cultivars include: 'Burgundy Lace', 'Chantilly Lace', 'Grandiflora'  (also called peegee), 'Limelight', 'Little Lamb', 'Pee Wee', and the late-flowering 'Tardiva'.

Tree of heaven hydrangea (H. serrata)

This species is sometimes confused with mophead hydrangea, but it has smaller, narrow, pointed leaves.

Oakleaf hydrangeas (H. quercifolia)

These can be distinguished by their leaves which resemble those of red oaks. They have ornate, peeling bark, large-flowering panicles that age well, and wonderful red fall leaf color. The blooms open white and turn pink as they age. Some popular H. quercifolia cultivars include 'Alice', 'Amethyst', 'Pee Wee', 'Snow Flake', and 'Snow Queen'.

Climbing hydrangeas (H. anomala subsp. petiolaris)

This is the only hydrangea that grows like a vine.

Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service


  • Last Updated Nov 28, 2023
  • Views 343
  • Answered By Leslie Coleman

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