Vanilla Strawberry™ HydrangeaHydrangea paniculata 'Renhy' (PP# 20,670)
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Hydrangea paniculata 'Renhy' (PP# 20,670)
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea is a breakthrough in panicle hydrangeas, because it has bright strawberry-pink flowers in fall, not dark red ones, as most hydrangeas of this type do. The flowers begin creamy-white in mid-summer, gradually turning pink, and for weeks the shrub carries both colors, becoming completely pink by late fall. It grows to around 7 feet tall and 5 feet wide, with branches that are upright at first, and then arch over to create a colorful fountain effect. Easily grown in beds or as specimens, this reliable plant is especially useful in colder gardens, where other hydrangeas won’t bloom.
The Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea is hardy in zones 3 and 4, but it grows well all the way into zone 8. It grows rapidly even on ordinary garden soil and in urban conditions, and it is relatively drought tolerant, needing very little attention. It has no pests or diseases and it just needs a simple spring pruning for the best growth. The harder you prune the larger the flower heads, but the fewer of them there are, so you control their size and quantity.
Reliable flowering shrubs that are easy to grow almost anywhere are always in big demand. Combine that with the universal love of hydrangeas, and you can see why panicle hydrangeas are always popular. These easy shrubs are reliable bloomers even in the coldest zones, yet they grow well in warmer areas too, except for zone 9. Medium-sized shrubs – not too tall and not too short – are especially useful in all but the smallest gardens, for backgrounds, around your home, and as specimens in smaller spaces. That’s why we love the Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea, because it ticks all the boxes for easy growth, cold-hardiness, versatility and beauty. Its huge white flowers turn delicious shades of strawberry pink as the weather turns cooler, so you never know quite what to expect from day to day – but it will always be lovely.
The Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea grows quickly and easily into an upright shrub with arching branches, reaching between 5 and 7 feet tall, and 4 to 5 feet wide. The dense foliage is rich green, and each leaf is about 4 inches long, oval, with a bold serrated margin. The blooms begin to emerge in mid-summer, at the ends of every new stem, and at first they are upright, becoming more arching and fountain-like as the flowers mature. Each enormous flower head is 7 inches long and 5 inches across, packed with over 200 large flowers, each one with 4 flat petals, almost an inch across. When they first appear the flowers are greenish, but they quickly turn creamy white, creating a great impact in the summer heat. As the cooler nights of fall arrive, the lowest flowers turn pale pink, and this coloring spreads and darkens across the blooms. For a while the blooms are a delightful mixture of pink and white, just like the popular ice-cream, then by October they are deep strawberry-pink all over the bush – a wonderful fall effect in your garden. The flowering stems can also be cut for vases. They last well when cut fresh, or you can hang them to dry in a dark place, and they will last all winter, keeping their color perfectly, which you control by when you choose to cut them.
Grow the Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea in beds of all sizes – simply adjust where you put it to match the arrangement of shrubs in the bed. It is large enough to make a great specimen on a smaller lawn area, to mark the corners of a patio, or flank an entrance in a beautiful pairing. If this plant is too large for the location you have in mind, and you want a similar but smaller plant which also grows well in planters, we can suggest the Strawberry Sundae® Hydrangea, which is very similar, but grows less than 5 feet tall. Both these plants have the same white flowers that turn into delicious strawberry delights.
The Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea is the hardiest of all the garden hydrangeas, and it blooms reliable even in zones 3 and 4. Why struggle to grow mopheads, when you can grow a beauty like this? It grows well in full sun or light partial shade, and in the hottest zones some afternoon shade is beneficial. It is also not particular about soil, and it grows well in ordinary garden soil, if it is not very dry, or constantly wet. It grows well in urban gardens too, and this reliable plant is very low-maintenance. It has no pests or diseases, and it needs just a simple pruning in early spring, when the new buds begin to swell. Remove any broken or dead stems, and thin, weak ones, leaving a framework of stronger branches. You can train this plant to one or two main stems, or you can keep it as a multi-stem bush. Once you have cleaned out the plant, trim back the remaining branches to just above a pair of healthy buds. You can control the size of the flower heads by how much you trim. If you take off just a few inches, you will get many flower heads, but they will be smaller. If you trim back about one-half of the length you will get fewer heads, but larger ones. You can also cut back to leave just a few inches of the stems that grew last year, and that will give you the biggest flower heads, but not so many of them. You can decide what you want, and prune to achieve that.
The panicle hydrangea, Hydrangea paniculata, comes from China and Japan. It naturally grows into a large bush or small tree, over 15 feet tall, and old forms with large white flower heads are often seen in older gardens in cold regions. That plant, called the PG Hydrangea, is too large for most modern gardens, so newer, smaller varieties have been bred. Most stay white, or turn dark burgundy red in fall, so Jean Renaud, who breeds plants in Gorron, France, decided to improve things. He began in 1987 with a variety called ‘Unique’, which grows about 10 feet tall, with burgundy fall flowers. He collected seed from it, and grew many seedlings, repeating his breeding until he had many unique seedling plants. In 2002 he selected a particular seedling that had wonderful pink coloring, instead of the old red, and named it ‘Renhy’. After he had grown it for several years to assess its value to gardeners, he patented it in 2010. It is sold in America with the trademark name Vanilla Strawberry™ and released by Bailey Nurseries as part of their First Editions® range of unique garden shrubs. This plant is as popular as ice-cream in summer, so order now while we still have a supply available.