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Native Hydrangea – A Sustainable Choice for Discriminating Gardeners

Proven Winners® ColorChoice®

Contributors: Natalie Carmolli

Gardening with native plants is a smart choice for gardeners who want easy care landscapes with a focus on sustainability. These gardeners know that plants that are native to their region have the advantage of naturally being well-suited to environmental conditions and therefore typically require less intensive management. Natives are also less like to be invasive and are naturally more disease-resistant, limiting the need for fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation; minimizing the negative impact on nearby waterways. If you love native plants, then you also have something in common with local insect communities! Studies have shown that these important pollinators prefer native plants to their non-native counterparts.

When thinking native plants, many people tend to cross hydrangea off their list, thinking there just aren’t many good choices in native varieties. It’s true that many of the showiest hydrangea varieties, like the bigleaf Hydrangea macrophylla, originated in Asia - but Hydrangea arborescens (smooth hydrangea) and Hydrangea quercifolia (oak leaf hydrangea) are native to North America. Plus, these two varieties come in a wide variety of shapes, colors and sizes. Here are just a few of the great choices for gardeners who would like to explore these native hydrangea cultivars:

Incrediball® Series smooth hydrangea
The Incrediball® series by Proven Winners® is the granddaddy of huge, showy, and simply awe-inspiring Hydrangea arborescens. The breeding goal for Incrediball® was to create an improved version of the native ‘Annabelle’ smooth hydrangea, that had stronger stems to eliminate flop. However, when that was achieved, an added bonus was that the plant also had incredibly large blooms! Shortly thereafter the powdery pink Incrediball® Blush was added to the series. Both plants in the Incrediball® series have four times as many flowers as their predecessor, which are held up on strong, beefy stems. Hardy down to USDA zone 3 and reaching heights of 4-5’, Incrediball® is a show-stopper in any garden.


Invincibelle® Series smooth hydrangea
All five hydrangea in the Invincibelle® H. arborescens series are reblooming on strong, supportive stems with the reliability of their native ‘Annabelle’ predecessor. Invincibelle® Ruby and Invincibelle® Spirit II bloom in dark-burgundy to rich pink, and reach heights of 3-4’. The three remaining plants in the series are dwarf hydrangea, with Invincibelle Limetta® blooming in green and Invincibelle Mini Mauvette® producing mauve-purple flowers on 2.5-3’ plants. Invincibelle Wee White® produces abundant flower heads that flush soft pink, aging to white, then green on a tiny, tidy habit that is just 1-2.5’ tall. Their native roots help to make all of the plants in this Proven Winners® series disease-resistant and hardy down to USDA zone 3.


Gatsby® Series oakleaf hydrangea
Just as the Great Gatsby is a classic of American literature, H. quercifolia is a classic native plant. Long prized by savvy gardeners, it’s time to shine a light on this intriguing North American beauty. Gatsby Gal® is the smallest of this four-plant series with full panicles of pure white blooms held upright above the foliage, reaching heights of 5-6’ tall. The other three plants in this series are beautiful, showy giants, reaching heights of 6-8’. Gatsby Moon® boasts white, doubled flowers on full, mophead panicles which are so densely-packed they create a unique “quilted” effect. Gatsby Star® has white, pointed, double florets -  so each one is like a little stack of stars! Finally, Gatsby Pink® boasts big, gorgeous blooms that quickly transform to pure white to an incredible rich pink. It’s dark green foliage also changes color, transforming to mahogany-red in autumn. All plants in the Proven Winners® Gatsby series are hardy to USDA zone 5.

These native hydrangea varieties are just as show-stopping as their Asian cousins, while retaining the native qualities that make them super-hardy and nearly maintenance-free. Plus, they have the added value of creating a unique sense of place, preserving the natural history of their region.



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