3 Tips for Growing Hydrangeas in Full Sun

It is tempting to plant a hydrangea in a full sun spot (anywhere that gets six or more hours of direct light), but unless you’re happy to run an experiment you might want to know just how to have success. Let’s touch on the three things you need to know about growing hydrangeas in full sun:

1 – Where you can grow hydrangeas in full sun
Northern gardeners get all the luck in this situation. Anyone living in zone six and below can ordinarily grow a hydrangea situated in full sun. Southern gardeners will have the best success growing their hydrangeas in afternoon shade. This protects the plants from the most intense sun exposure and gives you the most handsome display.

Fire Light Tidbit Panicle Hydrangea with multicolored blooms.

2 – Best hydrangeas for full sun
Out of the five most common hydrangeas – panicle, smooth, oakleaf, bigleaf, and mountain – you’ll have the best luck with panicle hydrangeas. They are the most sun tolerant.

3 – How to care for hydrangeas in full sun
Your biggest priority will be water. The two things that will help you give your plant the best care are a layer of mulch to increase water retention and a water meter to check the soil moisture before you give it a drink. There’s a common misconception that hydrangeas need to be practically drowning in water to thrive and that is just not the case. They like moist soil, but there absolutely needs to be oxygen in it for them to thrive. Check out this video on water meters if you’d like to learn more about knowing when to water.

Other Options

If your dreams of growing hydrangeas in a full sun garden spot have been crushed, you can still have a bold floral display! Check out a few of our favorite large-bloomed beauties for full sun, maybe one will step in and save the day. 

  • ‘Diamond Ball’ Clematis

    Big flowers give your garden big appeal! Each rounded bloom on ‘Diamond Ball’ clematis reaches an average of 4.5 inches wide. Visible even when you’re driving by at 50 mph. It’s a prolific bloomer, starting in June through August, so you’ll plenty of time to enjoy its flowers and debate with your neighbors whether they’re very pale blue or white. Plant it on a trellis or fence for the best display.

    Why grow ‘Diamond Ball’ clematis?

    • Impressive large flowers
    • Long bloom time
    • Easy care
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  • ‘Viva Polonia’ Clematis

    This cheerful, easy-to-grow variety has pink-red flowers accented by a white inner star. The flowers are borne in abundance in June to July, then rebloom later in the summer.

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  • CENTER STAGE® Coral Crapemyrtle

    Trialed and tested and the University of Florida, the breeding goal of the Center Stage crapes is to bump up the bloom date, intensify the foliage color and reduce the mildew. Megan Mathey has done all that and more, delivering a vigorous growing, coral flowered beauty to round out this top flight series.

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    DOUBLE PLAY® Pink Spirea

    Spring foliage emerges dark red before changing to dark green; abundant pure pink flowers cover the plant in early summer. This variety has a superior, dense habit and exceptional flower display.

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  • PUGSTER BLUE® Butterfly Bush

    A smaller habit, but not smaller blooms. Pugster Blue® buddleia has the same impact as a full size plant, but with a much smaller footprint. You’ll love how its massive dark blue blooms (measuring up to six inches long) decorate the stocky habit. Each bloom pops up, almost like a firework. Its quirky habit cheers up the border, makes a fun low hedge, or integrates easily into a pollinator garden. After it’s established, it is extraordinarily drought tolerant and doesn’t need any deadheading to bloom from summer straight through to frost. You’ll only need to give it a quick trim in spring to encourage that vigorous new growth each season. Pugster Blue butterfly bush is a Blue Ribbon Winner for performance in the University of California low irrigation landscape trials.

    Why grow Pugster Blue buddleia?

    – Impressive bloom size
    – Impactful dark blue coloring
    – Very low maintenance

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  • PUGSTER WHITE® Butterfly Bush

    Full sized blooms on a dwarf plant! Thick stems give it better winter hardiness.

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  • PUGSTER® Amethyst Butterfly Bush

    A smaller habit, but not smaller blooms. Pugster® Amethyst buddleia is bursting with massive pale purple blooms non-stop from early summer through frost. Each tiny flower has a yellow-orange eye in the center, acting as a bullseye for pollinators and adding handsome detail to its overall appearance. Thanks to thick, sturdy stems, the Pugster® series offers vastly improved hardiness and winter survival over other types of dwarf butterfly bush.

    Why grow Pugster® Amethyst buddleia?

    – Impressive bloom size
    – Impactful dark blue coloring
    – Very low maintenance

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    Ruffled SATIN® Rose of Sharon

    Looking more like a tropical hibiscus than a hardy plant, this variety has large pink flowers accented with an intense burgundy-red eye. The dramatic flower display is enhanced by its nice full habit. Very low seed set. Like other H. syriacus, this durable plant adapts to most conditions, including black walnut and clay soils.

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  • STILL WATERS™ Clematis

    Large, icy violet-blue flowers contrast with the dark red stamens of this stunning, easy-to-grow variety. The early flowering, long-lasting blooms appear from late spring to late summer. Plant it on a trellis or fence for the best display.

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  • TEMPLE OF BLOOM® Seven-son flower

    Four seasons of beauty. Heptacodium has always been an under-used shrub: let’s change that! Temple of Bloom® heptacodium was years in development and improves on the straight species with a more compact habit and an earlier bloom, which means that its cherry-red bracts show up sooner for a memorable fall display. Handsome, high quality foliage and attractive peeling bark make this truly a plant for all seasons.

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  • CENTER STAGE® Pink Crapemyrtle

    Earlier blooming bright pink crapemyrtle with intense dark foliage.

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  • La Vida Grande® Indian Hawthorn

    Lots and lots of showy, rich pink flowers on large panicles and dusky peach-colored new growth make this one of the most colorful Indian hawthorns we’ve ever seen. A top performer in our Florida trials, where the foliage remained clean and healthy. Live large!

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Have a full sun shrub that is totally crushing it in your garden? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Written by
Kristina Howley

Kristina Howley

I am all in when it comes to gardening. Almost every part of the experience delights me – new leaves emerging in spring, pollinators buzzing in summer, birds devouring berries in fall, and the somber beauty of seed heads in winter. Thanks to a background in horticulture and gardening my own clay-filled, flowery USDA zone 5b plot, I’ve learned plenty of practical things as well. I like sharing these joys and lessons with my fellow gardeners and soon-to-be gardeners any way I can.


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