The strawberry vanilla hydrangea tree is a unique and captivating hydrangea. Its rich red blooms, resembling ripe strawberries, and intoxicating vanilla scent make it easy to see why this hydrangea has become so popular. This article will explore everything you need to know about growing, caring for, and enjoying this eye-catching shrub.
An Overview of the Strawberry Vanilla Hydrangea
The strawberry vanilla hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Renhy’) is a deciduous shrub praised for its brilliant reddish-pink blossoms, which emerge in mid-to-late summer. The large, rounded flower heads can grow up to 12 inches across and resemble luscious strawberries, hence the name.
This type of hydrangea is known for its incredible vanilla scent, which perfumes the air when the flowers are in bloom. You have to experience it to fully appreciate it. The intoxicating fragrance is subtle yet unmistakable.
The strawberry vanilla hydrangea typically grows 3-5 feet tall with an equal spread. It has a compact, mounded form with sturdy stems. The leaves are oval to heart-shaped with serrated edges. In the fall, the leaves turn vibrant shades of burgundy and red, extending the seasonal interest.
This particular hydrangea variety does best in full sun to part shade exposure. Once established, it prefers moist, well-draining soil and has some tolerance for drier conditions. Due to the large flower heads, stems may need staking in windy areas.
The strawberry vanilla offers fantastic ornamental qualities, from its luscious blooms to its sweet scent. It’s the perfect shrub to build visual interest and fragrance in the garden.
The Origins of This Unique Flower
The strawberry vanilla hydrangea is a relatively new cultivar bred in the United States and was first introduced in 2003. It was developed by Spring Meadow Nursery in Michigan as part of their Proven Winners line of plants.
This type of hydrangea comes from the paniculata species, which refers to the panicle-shaped flower heads. Panicle hydrangeas are known to be cold and hardy and tolerate drier soils than bigleaf or macrophylla hydrangeas.
The strawberry vanilla cultivar was specially bred for its distinct large, cone-shaped blooms that take on bright pinkish-red hues. The goal was to replicate the colors of ripe, juicy strawberries. The incredible vanilla scent was also developed through selective breeding, amplifying the similarities to fragrant, sweet strawberries.
Other newer hydrangea cultivars from the Proven Winners breeding program share the strawberry vanilla’s large, vivid blooms and heavenly fragrance. Similar varieties include Strawberry Sundae, Marshmallow, and Phantom.
Thanks to meticulous breeding efforts, gardeners now have access to these sensational modern hydrangea varieties that feast for the eyes and nose. The strawberry vanilla has undoubtedly proven to be an exciting new take on the traditional hydrangea.
How to Grow Strawberry Vanilla Hydrangeas
One of the appeals of the strawberry vanilla hydrangea is that it’s relatively easy to care for. Here are some essential tips for successfully growing this eye-catching shrub:
- Choose a location with full sun to part shade exposure. For ideal results, 4-6 hours of direct sun are ideal.
- Select a site with well-draining soil. Avoid wet, poorly draining areas.
- Plant in early spring once the threat of frost has passed. Fall planting can also be done a few weeks before the ground freezes.
- Give plenty of space between plants, at least 4-6 feet apart. Their mature size can reach 5 feet wide.
- Dig a hole twice as wide and deep as the root ball. Set the plant at the same level it grew in the nursery pot.
- Water thoroughly after planting and provide 1 inch of water per week during the first year to establish an extensive root system.
- After establishment, water regularly during droughts, aiming for 1-2 deep waterings per week.
- Apply a balanced fertilizer like a 10-10-10 in early spring.
- Supplement with a second application in summer if plants need a boost. Always follow label instructions.
- Prune immediately after flowering by cutting the stems to just above a set of healthy buds. This encourages new growth and abundant blooming.
The strawberry vanilla hydrangea will thrive in gardens with proper site preparation, planting, and pruning. Pay attention to its care needs, and you’ll be rewarded with sensational floral displays year after year.
Unique Features of the Strawberry Vanilla Hydrangea
Beyond the ruby red blooms and vanilla bouquet, there are a few other noteworthy traits that set the strawberry vanilla hydrangea apart:
The blossom color progresses through phases, unfurling lime green in early summer before transitioning to bright pinkish-red. In more alkaline soils, colors stay in the pink-red range. In acidic soils, blooms can shift to bluish hues.
Long Bloom Time
Large panicles of flowers emerge in early summer and continue over an extended 4-6 week bloom period. Flowers age to deeper red tones before drying on the plant for winter interest.
This is a cold, hardy variety, tolerant to temperatures as low as -20°F once established. It can handle icy winters in USDA growing zones 3-8.
While it thrives with regular watering, it can tolerate some drier conditions after a few years, making it lower maintenance.
The flowers, bark, and foliage have properties unappealing to deer and rabbits. It holds up well to browsing with minimal damage.
The compact, hardy nature allows flexibility in planting as a hedge, accent, foundation planting, or stunning standalone specimen.
These fantastic qualities make the strawberry vanilla hydrangea a great choice, even for beginner gardeners. It brings long-lasting appeal with minimal care required.
How to Care for Strawberry Vanilla Hydrangeas
Caring for strawberry vanilla hydrangeas consists of the following best practices to maximize growth and flowers:
- Provide 1-2 inches of water weekly from spring through fall, adjusting as needed based on rainfall.
- Water at the base, not overhead, to reduce disease risk.
- Allow soil to dry between waterings to prevent root rot partially.
- Fertilize in early spring, mid-summer, and fall with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer.
- Avoid high nitrogen formulas, leading to leafy growth instead of flowers.
- If blooms decrease, increase phosphorus in fertilizer to promote more buds.
- Prune immediately after flowering by cutting back stems above healthy buds.
- Remove up to one-third of the total stems each season to rejuvenate growth.
- Prune damaged, diseased, crossing, and oldest stems at their base to improve air circulation.
Protecting in Winter
- Wrap or mound the base with burlap to protect from frost heaving and wind damage.
- Apply winter mulch over the root zone after the ground has frozen to insulate the roots.
- Avoid salting sidewalks and driveways near the drip line, as salt can damage roots.
With attentive care focused on water, fertilizer, pruning, and winter protection, the strawberry vanilla hydrangea will continue providing gorgeous blooms year after year.
Common Pests and Diseases
While generally robust, some common hydrangea problems can affect strawberry vanilla hydrangeas. Being aware of these potential issues along with prevention and treatment allows prompt action to keep your shrubs healthy:
Fungal diseases like leaf spots, rust, and powdery mildew can occur. Improve air circulation and avoid overhead watering. Remove and destroy affected leaves. Apply neem oil or fungicides as a last resort.
Root and stem rot caused by fungi can be a problem in wet soils. Allow soil to dry between waterings and apply mulch to improve drainage.
Aphids and other sucking insects will feed on new growth and distort leaves. Knock off with a strong water spray, or use insecticidal soap sprays.
Bacterial wilt leads to sudden wilting even in well-watered plants. Prune out infected stems and disinfect tools between cuts.
Spider mites are tiny pests that cause stippling damage. Hose off plants and introduce predatory mites if needed.
Designing With Strawberry Vanilla Hydrangeas
With its compact form and gorgeous blossoms, the strawberry vanilla hydrangea is endlessly versatile in garden design. Here are some ideas for beautifully incorporating this shrub into your landscape:
Accent Planting – Place a solitary hydrangea in a prominent place near a patio, walkway, or entryway. It will serve as a focal point and dress up the space with its bright flowers and sweet scent.
Grouped Planting – For a high-impact display, plant three matching hydrangeas near an outdoor living space. When covered in huge, red blooms, they’ll stop people in their tracks.
Hedges and Borders – Use a staggered line of hydrangeas spaced 3-4 feet apart to create a flowering border or low hedge. You’ll get uninterrupted color all summer long.
Containers – Plant in pots on decks, patios, or entryways. Combine with annuals or perennials in complementary hues like purple and red.
Cut Flowers – Once blooms are fully open, cut whole panicles to create striking holiday centerpieces indoors. The scent will fill the room.
With some creativity, the opportunities are endless for showcasing the strawberry vanilla hydrangea’s captivating beauty in your garden. It pairs nicely with many other plants and can transform even small spaces into fragrant wonderlands when in bloom.
Enjoying Strawberry Vanilla Hydrangeas
Part of the joy of growing the strawberry vanilla hydrangea is finding fun ways to appreciate its fantastic floral display:
- Sit near your hydrangeas in the evenings and enjoy the lovely vanilla scent wafting on the breeze.
- Look closely at the frilly, cone-shaped flower heads and admire their strawberry resemblance.
- Watch quietly for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds visiting the petals for nectar.
- Capture photos of the blooms to share with friends and family.
- Pick a few stems to grace a vase indoors and perfume your home.
- Press some flowers between pages of a heavy book to preserve their color for crafts.
- Collect dried seed pods in the fall for floral arrangements or winter wreaths.
- Use hydrangea leaves as natural green or red party napkins for outdoor events.
Finding new ways to interact with and enjoy this hydrangea will deepen your admiration for its beauty. It’s sure to provide many seasons of sensory delight in your landscape.
The strawberry vanilla hydrangea has it all for gardens bursting with color, fragrance, and summer charm. Its abundant strawberry-like blooms and sweet vanilla perfume promise a sensory experience like no other hydrangea. This low-maintenance, cold, hardy shrub thrives with minimal care and provides season after season of enjoyment. We hope this article has provided helpful tips for growing and appreciating the strawberry vanilla hydrangea, one of the most captivating plants on the market today. Let its luscious blossoms and dreamy scent fill your landscape with delight.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much sun does it need?
The strawberry vanilla hydrangea thrives in full sun to partial shade exposures. It needs a minimum of 4-6 hours of direct sunlight daily. Morning sun with afternoon shade is ideal.
What size does it grow to?
This is a compact shrub that, at maturity, will reach 3-5 feet tall and wide. Proper pruning encourages bushy growth within this typical size range.
When is the best time to plant it?
Aim to plant in early spring once the danger of frost has passed. Or plant in the fall a few weeks before your ground typically freezes. Avoid summer planting unless you can ensure adequate watering.
Does it require a lot of watering?
During the first year, provide 1 inch of water per week. After establishment, water during droughts but allow some drying between waterings. Mature plants have some drought tolerance.
Should it be fertilized?
For optimal growth and flowering, apply a balanced fertilizer like 10-10-10 in early spring, mid-summer, and fall. Avoid high-nitrogen products.
How should it be pruned?
Prune immediately after flowering by cutting stems above healthy buds to encourage new growth and blooms. Remove up to one-third of the contents annually to rejuvenate.