The Best Hydrangea Varieties To Plant With Peonies For A Bright & Cheery Garden

Flower gardening can seem like a very simple operation — you just plant your favorite flowers, wait for them to bloom, and then enjoy them outdoors or cut and placed in a vase. In reality, however, a beautiful and interesting garden actually requires a great deal of planning, along with an eye for design. When a long-lasting bright and cheery flower garden is your goal, it's important to pair together flowers that are vibrant, but also thrive in the same conditions.

Traditionally, peonies and hydrangeas — two of the most eye-catching spring and summer blooms — require different quantities of sunlight, meaning that they can't both thrive when planted together. This makes is difficult to create a garden where your summer hydrangeas can step in and take the place of your garden's gorgeous spring peony blooms once they've withered. Fortunately, though, through the miracle of modern gardening, there are now varieties of hydrangeas that qualify as the perfect perennials to grow alongside your peonies for year-round color. Let's take a look at hydrangea arborescens and panicle hydrangea to see how they fit the bill.

For a round flower: hydrangea arborescens

Hydrangea arborescens — often sold under the brand name Incrediball — is a variety of smooth hydrangea that produces larger flowers on stronger stems. The oversized round flowers start out a creamy ivory color in mid-summer, fade to a pure bright white by late summer, then morph into a vibrant shade of green that remains until the first frost. This can provide a lovely contrast to the rich warm shades of pink, purple, and red that peonies typically offer during the transition period when both plants are in bloom.

This variety of hydrangea requires at least four to six hours of full sun each day, which sets it up perfectly to coexist with peonies. Hydrangea arborescens also prefer well-draining soil, just like peonies do. This means that the soil can retain enough moisture to keep plants from drying out, but does not experience pooling when exposed to heavy watering or rain. 

For a conical flower: panicle hydrangea

If you're searching for a full-sun hydrangea and prefer a more conical or pyramidal shaped bloom to a classic round flower, panicle hydrangeas are likely the variety for you. Panicle hydrangea flowers — often referred to as limelight hydrangeas — have the ability to change color over time, much like the giant blooms of hydrangea arborescens. However, this variety skips the exaggerated size in favor of packing much more of a colorful punch.

Panicle hydrangea blooms start out a creamy greenish hue in early summer that transitions to a vibrant light lime green by mid-summer. By late summer, its flowers take on a lovely pink tinge that will darken into shades of red and purple as the blooms persist through fall and into early winter. These hearty, long-lasting hydrangeas thrive on eight hours of full sun each day and require well-draining soil — making them another perfect cheery companion for your sun-loving peonies. Just make sure you adhere to best pruning practices and know the only time it's okay to cut panicle hydrangeas in the fall.