Hydrangea Arborescens ‘Ryan Gainey’ – Smooth hydrangea – Native Woodland Hydrangeas – Summer Blooms Even in Deep Shade

One of our most common requests is from folks looking for summer blooming shrubs to brighten up shady spots, especially deep shade. Quite frankly, there aren’t many good choices.

Mother Nature created flowers to attract bees to pollinate the flowers and carry on the species. And, bees prefer sunshine. That’s why there is so little to choose from. To fulfill this requirement, for years we’ve recommended a selection of our eastern native (from New York to Florida) Hydrangea arborescens, called ‘Annabelle.’

This variety has only one major defect; the flowers are so large they tend to flop, especially after a rain. Recently a new selection of Hydrangea arborescens was discovered: ‘Ryan Gainey.’

This selection has thicker stronger stems, darker green leaves that stand up better to the stress of summer and smaller flowers, but a lot more of them.

For moderate to heavy shade, Hydrangea ‘Ryan Gainey’ will make the most spectacular display of any summer-flowering shrub I have ever grown.

White, snow-ball shaped flowers literally cover ‘Ryan Gainey’ starting in late May and lasting almost two months.

Hydrangea Arborescens ‘Ryan Gainey’ – Smooth hydrangea

These blooms make excellent cut flowers and can also be dried to enjoy in arrangements year round. This blooms on current year’s growth allowing it to bloom year after year, even after severe pruning or extremely cold winters.

As soon as the flowers start to turn brown, remove them and you will be rewarded with an entire second bloom just about as fulsome as the first and lasting until the first hard frost.

‘Ryan Gainey’ can reach heights up to three and a half feet tall, and about as wide, but can easily be trimmed in the late fall to keep it to the size you prefer.

An excellent hydrangea for colder climates (hardy to Zone 4), It can be cut to within six inches of the ground for the winter and still come back to full height, bearing the masses of white flowers for which Hydrangea arborescens is known.

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Hydrangea Arborescens ‘Ryan Gainey’ – Smooth hydrangea

Planting and Care

Like most hydrangeas, ‘Ryan Gainey’ prefers morning sun and afternoon shade, but will perform handsomely with virtually no sun – the kind of deep, dense shade where you would expect only mosses and ferns to grow.

With adequate moisture this Hydrangea will also flourish in full sun in the north. Even in the south, with afternoon sun and dry soil, this will perform.

However, under these conditions the first bloom period will be shorter than the typical six to eight weeks and rebloom may not occur.

  • Very easy to grow!
  • For best results plant in spring to late fall.
  • Prefers afternoon shade, will tolerate full sun especially with sufficient ground moisture.
  • Plant 3 to 5 feet apart in moist, well-drained soil.
  • Amend soil with compost when planting.
  • Water regularly until established.
  • Hardy in Zones 4-9.
  • Fertilize with Plant-Tone in early spring and late fall.

Hydrangea Arborescens ‘Ryan Gainey’ – Smooth hydrangea

Alan Summers, president of Carroll Gardens, Inc., has over 30 years experience in gardening and landscape design.

He has made Carroll Gardens one of America’s preeminent nurseries, having introduced more than 20 new perennials and woody shrubs over the years and reintroduced numerous “lost” cultivars back to American gardeners.

read More – Nikko Blue Hydrangea – Growing, Propagating and Making Them Bloom



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