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Patience Pays Off: How Long It Takes a Climbing Hydrangea to Grow

Patience Pays Off: How Long It Takes a Climbing Hydrangea to Grow

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Gardening can be a great way to connect with nature, share beauty with the world, and give a little back to the environment. Gardening, however, isn’t an instant gratification activity, and the rewards can take time to be physically seen.

You may be wondering how long it will take for your new climbing hydrangea to grow and if the time invested will be worth the outcome. This handy guide has been written to help you set roots to grow into the most outstanding climbing hydrangea plantsman (or plantswoman) in your gardening club!

Getting to Know the Climbing Hydrangea

Climbing hydrangeas, also known as creeping hydrangeas or Japanese hydrangea vine, are native to Asia. They are known for their wonderfully fragrant clusters of white flowers that generally bloom in late spring or summer.

These hardy vines can climb trees, columns, or other support structures. These massive plants can reach heights up to eighty feet (but will tolerate controlled pruning). They will also grow as a shrub if they cannot grow vertically.

The climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris), unlike most vines that cling with invasive tendrils or need to be physically attached to their supports, climbs its support structure by two distinct methods, aerial roots growing along the main stem adhere to vertical surfaces and twining vines that encase the support structure. The flower clusters are made of a central body of tiny flowers that are fertile, surrounded by larger infertile blooms.

Climbing hydrangeas can withstand colder temperatures and thrive in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 7. You can check with the USDA to find which plant hardiness zone you are located in.

Now that you know a little about the climbing hydrangea plant, let’s keep digging!

Is There More Than One Type of Climbing Hydrangea?

As with all plants, you’ll find different cultivars. The climbing hydrangea plant is no different. There are several variations of the plant, including:

  • Firefly has dark green leaves with broad golden margins
  • Skylands Giant has beautiful cream-colored blooms
  • Miranda has unique, small heart-shaped leaves with yellowed edges and peeling, brown bark
  • Silver Lining is very similar to the original of the species but with silver coloring in the leave
  • Flying Saucer has enormous blooms
  • Climbing evergreen hydrangea has red-tinged stems and gorgeous elongated leaves
  • Mexican hydrangea is another evergreen variety that boasts leathery, laurel-like leaves and domed flowerheads

Nothing is lacking with the standard plant, of course, but knowing that you have other options, especially if your plant hardiness zone isn’t compatible, at your disposal is a great feeling.

Let’s move on to planting.

How and Where Do I Plant My Climbing Hydrangea?

Early summer is the best time to plant your climbing hydrangea. If planted in the summer, be sure that it gets enough water to keep from drying out.

Plant your climbing hydrangea in a shady but not overly shady location, if that makes any sense. Four hours of indirect sunlight per day appears to be the ideal amount of sunshine. If you live in the south, avoid planting in full sun (a location that receives six or more hours of light per day), or you’ll risk having less than lustrous blooms.

Moist, well-drained soil is ideal for optimal growth of your climbing hydrangea, regardless of whether or not the soil is acidic or alkaline. Before planting, add a generous amount of compost to your soil if it needs improvement.

An hour or so before planting your new climbing hydrangea, you should water the plant well thoroughly. Plant your new climbing hydrangea in a hole twice the size of the root ball level with the ground. Make sure that the depth of the plant is not any deeper than it was in its original container.

Once planted, you should apply a three-inch layer of mulch, aged manure compost, or leaf mold to the ground around the root zone to help retain water and reduce the introduction of weeds.

During the first season of growth, you will need to train your climbing hydrangea using galvanized wires or a trellis. Once it has passed the first season of growing, your plant should be able to climb on its own via the aerial root system.

Hydrangea petiolaris foliage can irritate the skin, so use gloves when handling it to avoid any problems that may occur.

It is not recommended to plant your climbing hydrangea near aluminum or vinyl siding because rootlets can leave marks on these materials when removed. Preferred locations include sturdy fences, large trees, pergolas, or possibly masonry structures if you don’t mind a few rootlet marks.

How to Care for My Climbing Hydrangea

Your climbing hydrangea needs a consistent moisture level of one inch per week. If your garden isn’t seeing any rainfall, you can supplement to maintain the necessary moisture level.

When it comes to fertilizing your climbing hydrangea, apply a slow-release fertilizer during late spring and midsummer. You should avoid feeding your plants after August, as they are entering a dormant season to prepare for the coming fall and winter.

Now that you’re well versed in how to grow climbing hydrangeas, let’s get to the real reason why you’ve read this far: how long will it take to see progress in my beautiful new plant?

How Long Does It Take for My Climbing Hydrangea to Grow?

According to the little garden gnome, “the first year is spent sleeping, the second year is spent creeping, and the third year is spent leaping!” This old gardening adage is no more true than with a climbing hydrangea.

You won’t see much progress when you first plant your climbing hydrangea. These plants grow slowly, steadily establishing an extensive network of underground roots. The lack of visible, above-ground progress will leave you feeling like you’ve planted a dud.

During the first year of growth, it will seem as if your new plant is simply sleeping. The second growing year will yield a bit of actual development, but by the third year, your climbing hydrangea will be clambering towards the sky. It is common for these beautiful plants to take three to five years to begin producing blooms, but when they do, they’re amazing.

Let’s cover one last important topic for planting and caring for climbing hydrangeas, pruning.

Do I Need to Prune My Climbing Hydrangea?

Yes, your climbing hydrangea is a vine and vines require pruning. However, because climbing hydrangea takes its sweet time to mature, pruning should be avoided during the first two to three years.

When you begin pruning your climbing hydrangea, you should do so in summer after they have flowered. Pruning should be done lightly, as most buds are produced at the top of your plant.

Cut flowering shoots back to a new pair of buds to help control overgrowth, which will definitely happen! If your climbing hydrangea has grown out of control, you may have to sacrifice a few blooming seasons to regain space and prune more aggressively during autumn or spring.

Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve armed yourself with enough knowledge to qualify as a top-tier climbing hydrangea plantsman (or plantswoman), it is time to enjoy the beauty of your unique flowering vine!

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Sunday 24th of March 2024

Thank you for your straightforward advice on growing and pruning climbing hydrangeas. The best I've found.

Lisa Bridenstine

Tuesday 26th of March 2024

I'm glad I could help!

Happy Planting! Lisa


Tuesday 25th of July 2023

Thank you for your super advise!