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Can Hydrangea Grow in Full Shade? 3 Facts to Consider

Depending on the hydrangea type, the light exposure needed can range from full sun to partial shade. If your garden gets very little to no sun exposure, growing hydrangeas may be all effort and no reward.

Except for one hydrangea variety — the climbing hydrangea.

The climbing hydrangea is the only variety that can grow in full shade, all other hydrangea types need a few hours of sunlight.

If your garden gets partial shade with a few hours of light per day, there are other shade-loving hydrangeas that you can grow in your garden. I cover these and their growing requirements below.

Hydrangea Varieties for Shade

There are degrees to how much light reaches the plants in a garden. Deep, complete shade would mean that the rays of the sun don’t ever touch the ground. If this is not the case with your garden, you may try your hands at growing certain hydrangea varieties.

Full shade, on the other hand, means the absence of direct sunlight, but it does not exclude some level of filtered light.

If your garden isn’t completely out of the sun, there’s a lot to be hopeful about in terms of plants you can grow, including certain hydrangea varieties.

A garden with light shade (there are several areas that get over 5 hours of full sun) or partial shade (areas that get less than 5 hours of direct sun) work great for several hydrangea types.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the climbing hydrangea is the only type of hydrangea that will grow in full shade.

That’s because it grows tall and spreads only a little compared to its height, allowing it to reach for just enough light.

The following hydrangea varieties are most suitable for growing in light to partial shade:

Big Leaf Hydrangea

As one of the most popular hydrangea varieties in the U.S., the big leaf hydrangea enjoys morning sun and shade in the afternoon, especially in hot climates.

Smooth Hydrangea

While a sunny location is ideal for the smooth hydrangea, protection from strong direct light is best in hot climates. Therefore, morning sun and shade in the afternoon works best in hot climates.

Oak-Leaf Hydrangea

In cooler climates, the oak-leaf hydrangea enjoys full sun exposure. In hot climates, afternoon shade is required to keep the oak-leaf hydrangea from becoming scorched.

The amount of light a hydrangea receives influences its blooming, growth rate and general vigor and health.

If your hydrangea that grows in light shade or partial shade is not blooming or it’s otherwise doing poorly, it may be struggling with inadequate light conditions.

That said, as long as your hydrangea gets 5-7 hours of bright light per day, it should do fine even if it gets light shade or partial shade in the afternoon.

Growing Hydrangeas in Shade

To ensure that your hydrangeas do well even in light shade or partial shade, there are a few things you should watch out for:

– Watering

Hydrangeas enjoy moist soil, but those that grow in shade may not need as much water as those that are exposed to direct sun.

Hydrangeas that grow in full sun need supplemental watering compared to those that grow in part shade, which may do fine with the hydration offered by rain only.

That said, watch out for signs of dehydration in your hydrangeas regardless of where it’s planted. If the leaves are droopy, your hydrangea is signaling that it needs more water.

– Fertilizing

Adding compost to the soil of hydrangeas is one way to meet the plant’s nutrient uptake requirements. Another way is to fertilize your hydrangea at least a few times during the growing season.

Look for slow-release or immediate action fertilizers that are formulated specially for hydrangea plants.

Slow-release fertilizers may only need two or three applications, while liquid formulation may require biweekly applications.

– Soil Type

Rich, fertile loam is best for hydrangea growth and development, but hydrangeas aren’t picky, they can grow in poor soil too, as long as it’s well-draining.

Slightly acidic soil is what hydrangeas prefer. If the soil is too alkaline (a pH meter can help you determine that), you can use various soil amendments formulated for acid-loving plants to increase the acidity of the soil.

Don’t be surprised to see some hydrangea blooms changing color when the acidity of the soil is altered. Acidic soil can turn pink hydrangea blooms blue.

One challenging part of growing a hydrangea in a relatively shady garden is getting them to bloom.

Will Hydrangeas Bloom in Shade?

We’ve established that some hydrangeas can grow in various degrees of shade. But can they also bloom? The climbing hydrangea certainly can and will bloom even in shade.

But what about your big-leaf and smooth hydrangeas or oak-leaf hydrangeas? Do they bloom in shade?

The situation is a bit different with other types of hydrangeas. Whether your hydrangea will bloom or not depends on how much light it’s getting per day.

The amount of light it’s receiving will also determine the quantity of the blooms, but also the size and color even. Sometimes hydrangea blooms can turn out green if there simply isn’t enough light.

Therefore, you can expect your hydrangea to bloom in light shade and even in partial shade if it’s getting 5-7 hours of sun per day.

Wrap Up

Except for the climbing hydrangea, full shade is not your ideal light exposure for hydrangea plants. Light shade to partial shade works best, especially in hot climates.

The level of sun exposure will affect not only the growth rate and development of your hydrangeas, but also their ability to produce blooms.

And even if some hydrangeas do manage to put out blooms, these may not be as spectacular as those produced by hydrangeas that grow in full sun or partial shade.

If your hydrangea struggles in part shade, it will have stunted growth and will not produce blooms, therefore, forcing you to dig it up from your garden and relocate it to a sunnier spot.

Updated: February 22, 2021

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