- USDA Hardiness Zones 4 - 9
- Height - Quickly Reaches 5 Feet Tall
- Spread - Quickly Reaches 5 Feet Wide
- Full Sun to Partial Shade
Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'
Annabelle is the best known variety of Hydrangea arborescens. Until recently, this is the only arborescens variety easy to find in garden centers or even recognized by the public.
Annabelle is a stunning white hydrangea, often producing heads over 10" in diameter. Unlike the better known blue and pink hydrangeas (macrophyllas), Annabelle blooms every year even after severe pruning or intensely cold winters. The huge, white "drumstick" blooms appear in profusion without fail. Some people plant 'Annabelle' as a hedge since it can be cut back severely in the winter for a tidy effect.
'Annabelle' makes a spectacular show in colder regions as well as very warm ones. We've had reports that it is hardy even into Zones 2 and 3 in the United States (officially rated to to Zone 3). Forms of Hydrangea arborescens are actually native to eastern parts of the United States. If your climate is too harsh to grow macrophyllas, 'Annabelle' would make a wonderful alternative.
Annabelle Hydrangea Care
Like most other hydrangeas, they prefer morning sun and afternoon shade or dappled shade all day, especially in the south. In northern areas of the U.S., 'Annabelle' thrives in all day sun. Although some books say it does better than other hydrangeas in heavy shade, I have not found this to be the case. The more morning sun it gets the better it blooms for me. Arborescens will thrive in the deep south as well as cold northern climates. (zones 8-3)
Supporting Annabelle's Heavy, Droopy Bloom Heads
Everyone who grows this beautiful hydrangea is aware of a very important challenge. The blooms on Annabelle are so large that they tend to bend to the ground after a rain. This can become a problem so severe that the entire shrub is flattened. Here are a few tricks one can use with all large blooming arborescens to reduce and even eliminate the problem.
1. Plant Annabelle next to a decorative fence. This is one of the best ideas we've seen for staking the heavy blooms of Hydrangea arborescens.
2. Plant at least three Annabelle shrubs together. As Annabelle's mature they will grow together and support one another somewhat. Plant them three to four feet apart.
3. Prune plants only sparingly. If your hydrangeas tend to flatten in the rain, it may help to prune Annabelle to about 18"-24" tall rather than cutting it to the ground every year. This will allow the stems to thicken a little each year, becoming stouter and better able to support the other branches and blooms. In addition, the heads will be more plentiful but slightly smaller (not so small that you will be disappointed). The slightly smaller heads will be less likely to droop. If you live in a more northern area, you may not be able to use this tip. The Annabelle stems may not survive the winter, and thus they will be new from the ground each year.
4. Put a short wire fence around each plant. If young Annabelle plants are surrounded by wire fencing before they put out new branches in the spring, the blooms will be held up off the ground. Garden centers often sell short (18"), green wire fencing for lining flower beds. Cut these into lengths that would encircle the base of the Annabelle (sort of like a short tomato cage). Then when the Annabelle leafs out, the wire is completely hidden.
Annabelle Hydrangea Pruning
The Annabelle Hydrangea grows blooms on new wood each year. These shrubs are vigirous bloomers, and can handle aggressive pruning. However, as stated above, only prune to 18"-24" if you would like the plant to have stronger limbs. But, you can prune back all the way to the ground each year and these amazing plants will bounce back with beautiful flowers no problem. The only time you should not prune is in the spring, as that is when the shrubs are preparing to bloom.
Annabelle Hydrangea Spacing
If you are planting a hedge, or want the shrubs to connect and help support each other, plant these 3 to 4 feet apart. Otherwise, plant these shrubs 5-6 feet apart.
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